Dr Michael Nagel has been an outspoken critic of NAPLAN tests for 10 years.
Dr Michael Nagel has been an outspoken critic of NAPLAN tests for 10 years. Brett Wortman

'No two kids are alike': Professor slams standardised tests

IN THE wake of the 2018 NAPLAN results, a University of the Sunshine Coast academic says the tests place too much pressure on schools and students alike.

Associate professor in education Dr Michael Nagel has been an outspoken critic of the NAPLAN tests since their introduction in 2008.

He said "decades of research" showed standardised testing was flawed, and that using results as a marketing tool was "highly problematic".

"Standardised tests don't really tell us much given that they tend to focus on very surface-level learning," he said.

"They're often socially and culturally bias, and one of the biggest problems is they're often used to compare students and/or schools."

With a background in child development and educational psychology, Dr Nagel said he wasn't opposed to diagnostic testing.

"It's helpful to know where kids are at," he said.

"The problem is when you take something like a diagnostic tool, which is what happened with NAPLAN ... and use it to compare. There should never be any comparison between children or schools.

"Over 10 years we haven't seen many changes, and probably because NAPLAN is not a good device for finding out what kids actually know."

He said even though schools down-played the importance of NAPLAN to students, the tests still put unnecessary pressure on the children.

"They enter into a situation that's more artificial than anything they've ever done before where they're in a space, not their regular class rooms, where they have to sit through these exams.

"That creates a lot of anxiety and stress in kids.

"I would say any time you do anything that you know stresses or creates anxiety disorders in kids, that's an issue."

Dr Nagel said schools in Australia were a "market place" and students had become potential customers, creating harmful competition between private and public schools.

"You can't blame them. They use results as a banner for success," he said.

"But no two kids are alike, so how can two schools be anything similar? I think it's highly problematic when schools use NAPLAN as a marketing ploy."

Dr Nagel said rather than using NAPLAN, schools should given the autonomy to ascertain where students were at with their learning and provide that information to parents independent of other schools.

"Every parent wants to know where their child is at in terms of literacy and numeracy and where they're struggling ... and teachers know how to do that," he said.

"We don't need a systemic mechanism on a national level to make any kind of comparison."



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