NAPLAN tests are a ‘valuable tool', but the focus needs to change, says CSU academic Gene Hodgins

VALUABLE INFORMATION: CSU lecturer Gene Hodgins believes there is value in retaining NAPLAN testing.

VALUABLE INFORMATION: CSU lecturer Gene Hodgins believes there is value in retaining NAPLAN testing.

NAPLAN testing is a valuable tool for assessing educational standards and should be retained, a senior Wagga academic believes.

However, while he is supportive of retaining the testing, Gene Hodgins believes there needs to be a change in the way the community perceives NAPLAN.

Students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are this week undergoing the NAPLAN tests. The tests are annual, but individual children only do them every second year.

“From a psychologist point of view, my thought is that you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater because it gives us an evidence base,” the senior lecturer in psychology at Charles Sturt University said.

“When people say ‘compared to 20 years ago Australia’s literacy rates are decreasing’, the only reason we know that is through testing and through assessing that, and if we don’t assess, you don’t know what the data is telling you.

“We could be right down the bottom, but if we don’t do any testing, we won’t know. We’re in sort of just la-la land.”

Instead, Dr Hodgins said there should be a change in the focus that is put on the NAPLAN testing.

 Hodgins said NAPLAN, liked the HSC, lent itself to people being trying to figure out how they compared to their peers.

“As soon as you assign a number, people can rank themselves," he said.

Dr Hodgkins pointed out that individuals have different strengths and that there was a growing acknowledgment that there was more than one kind of “intelligence”.

Some children found the NAPLAN testing stressful, while others were not affected, he said.

Dr Hodgins suggested one of the best ways to begin address children’s anxieties about NAPLAN may be as simple as starting a conversation with them.

“It’s trying to understand what the anxiety is and that’s the same for anything: a job interview or whatever,” he said.

“Try to work on the cause, not the symptom. The symptom might be school refusal, but the cause might be something tinkering on in their head.

“It’s about non-judgmental empathy, positive regard and also perhaps just saying, ‘well what are you worrying about, what is it that actually worrying you?’ Focusing on the strengths, the function that you’ve currently got.”