Roll out of online NAPLAN testing proving to be a success

In May this year, NAPLAN was transitioned from its current paper-based test to computer-based testing, with results so far suggesting it has been a positive move.

Whilst there have been a few minor technical glitches associated with the first trials, such as power failure, browser issues and failed internet connections, students, by and large, appear to favour the new format, in comparison to traditional pen and paper versions.

NAPLAN will move online over the next two to three years, with individual state and territory education authorities responsible for deciding when their schools will change to online testing. Across the country, approximately 200,000 students (or 20% of those who performed the test) sat their NAPLAN tests online; it is anticipated that all students will be online by 2020.

The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), was introduced into the Australian curriculum in 2008, aimed at annually testing literacy and numeracy skills of students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, in order to establish individual student performance, and compare these results to other Australian students in their year level. NAPLAN results are used for a number of purposes, including identifying areas of strength and development, to help schools set goals in literacy and numeracy, and to enable teachers to customise their educational instruction so it is more aligned with the student needs.

One of the major benefits of changing NAPLAN to an online system, is its ability to utilise ‘tailored testing’, an adaptive method which changes the difficulty of the questions as the test progresses, allowing students to answer questions that are better suited to their individual achievement levels.

The online version of the test is modern and convenient and said to generate faster turnaround of results, whilst providing teachers with more targeted information on individual students’ performance.

Some authorities, however, have expressed concern over the difference between the two tests, suggesting that it is unfair to compare the results obtained from the pen and paper version, to that completed in an online adaptive one. ACARA, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, has emphasised that students will not be disadvantaged by undertaking either mode of test delivery, as both tests are placed on the same NAPLAN assessment scale and assess student performance on the same curriculum content, therefore allowing comparable results.