NAPLAN should not be nearly as scary for teachers as most seem to think. Great teaching should result in improvements. If you aren’t seeing growth, please check out this recorded webinar and read through the information below to work out why.
Leaders – you may wish to download these instructions on how-to-analyse-your-data to find out where you need to work.
Principles for improving NAPLAN results
Many schools that I work with seem to have missed out on understanding a few fundamental truths about NAPLAN. Here are four very important principles to know, as well as some free NAPLAN preparation packs to get you started in the next few weeks.
- NAPLAN is not a content test. If you have a good look through the tests from the past three years you will find very few Routine questions. What makes the questions on NAPLAN difficult for students is often not the content at all, but something about the way the question is written. In fact, in many of the questions the content is at quite a low level and it is therefore quite surprising to teachers that their students struggle with answering them. Why not take a copy of one of the NAPLAN tests from 2010 and see how many of the questions look like ordinary practice questions that your students would get in class or on a test?
- NAPLAN is primarily a Problem-Solving and Understanding test. In order to answer the questions on NAPLAN students don’t just need content, they need to transfer that content to a non-routine question. Often the questions fit the following types: multistep, working back-to-front, completing gaps or non-standard equations and non-standard questions about a range of topics such as fractions, shapes and place value. Very few of the questions can be solved using straight application of an algorithm or formula. They require interpretation and the ability to work out solutions to questions that are unrehearsed.
To find out about how to ask non-standard questions, click here.
- NAPLAN requires students to have dealt with their misconceptions and formed deep Understanding of the concepts. If you look through the answers in multiple choice questions you will find that many of them contain common student misconceptions. Students who have not had the opportunity to confront and self-correct these misconceptions (for example through Thinking Journal problems) tend to be caught out when the questions are not in a routine format and they are required to think for themselves.
To find out about fixing misconceptions, click here.
- Drilling content and routine procedures is far less effective at helping improve NAPLAN scores than problem-based teaching. A number of schools tend to throw out good teaching in the lead up to NAPLAN in the push to get all of the content covered. Unfortunately this approach does not develop the deep understanding necessary, and usually results in teachers tearing their hair out following the test with statements like, “I taught them that! They just forgot it all.”
Problem-based approaches, like Back-to-Front Maths target student misconceptions and constantly present students with unrehearsed and non-routine problems. This approach is what has led to the amazing improvements in NAPLAN scores by our schools in the past 12 months. Good teaching leads to good learning leads to deeper understanding and therefore leads to success at NAPLAN.
Please use the NAPLAN preparation packs with this in mind. While these packs will give your students practice at answering non-standard questions, they really should have spent the past 12 months developing deep understanding through problem-based teaching in order for the packs to be truly effective. Once you have had a look through this pack, you might like to check out the other FREE STUFF on our site.
Good luck everyone, and feel free to contact us once NAPLAN is over to find out how to prepare your students now in time for next year.
We do not usually provide answers, however the following are provided in case you need to check something: