by Kathleen Killick
Love it or hate it, NAPLAN is the only standardised way to measure student progress in writing. And it’s not such a bad yardstick because at its core NAPLAN values good writing. Eight of the ten NAPLAN assessment criteria focus on ‘authorial’ techniques, such as coming up with great ideas, engaging the reader, and creating a well-structured, cohesive text. These are the elements of writing that make for truly engaging, quality texts.
With spelling and punctuation allocated just 23% of the marks available, schools should avoid focusing so heavily on the mechanics of writing (grammar, spelling and punctuation) and devote more time to developing the critical and creative thinking skills that make the biggest impact on a piece of writing.
The key to success here is to not teach to the test but to simply teach great writing skills. Schools need to cultivate student writing skills and build their confidence throughout the whole year, not just in the final few weeks’ lead-up to NAPLAN.
Invest in support and resources for teaching, not AI
With the proliferation of AI-based tools in education, many are concerned about the potential disempowerment of teachers. There is a place for new technologies and AI in the classroom, but it shouldn’t detract from the essential role of educators: teaching students.
According to Professor Sam Sellar, Dean of Research in Education Futures at the University of South Australia, “The growth of education technologies is disconnected from teachers’ professional judgment. Educators do not generally get to inform how these systems and platforms are designed or implemented. Instead, it is teachers who are often represented as old-fashioned, deficient, and in need of replacement by new, commercially profitable, hi-tech solutions.”
Rather than investing in technology that removes human agency from teaching and learning, it’s crucial that schools support their time-poor teachers with tools and resources that empower them to do the job they signed up for.
Australian program Seven Steps to Writing Success is known for doing just that. Its simple and proven approach to teaching the craft of writing is being used by over 45,000 teachers all over Australia. Sarah Bakker, Strategy Manager of Seven Steps Teaching Resources, says: “When creating new products, our main priority is empowering teachers. We believe that technology has a very important role to play in education, but teachers are the real game changers.”
In November 2022, Seven Steps released NAPLAN Writing Success , a suite of videos and resources to support teachers in the lead-up to NAPLAN and beyond. This new resource has drawn praise from educators for its simple, fun, targeted and, above all, refreshing approach to NAPLAN. It also caught the eye of industry pundits, winning best Secondary Teaching or Reference Resource and Highly Commended in the Primary category at the Educational Publishing Awards. The judges were impressed by the breadth of the resource and its capacity for use beyond the test:
“Crafted for NAPLAN, this is an overarching and comprehensive resource which can be used by teachers and students in a diverse range of settings to improve outcomes beyond the NAPLAN parameters and beyond the NAPLAN years. Moreover, this resource is multi-disciplinary, multi-media, packed full of videos, resources, teacher notes and it is bursting with pedagogical approaches and ideas for engaging and improving student learning.”
Teachers are crying out for support
A recent report by the Australian Education Research Organisation recommended giving teachers greater access to evidence-based resources to improve student writing outcomes. And teachers themselves are crying out for this support, with two-thirds of teachers in NSW alone saying they’re poorly equipped to teach and assess writing.
Seven Steps has spent 20 years harnessing best practice writing pedagogies to provide exactly this: support to teachers who are dedicated to providing the best outcomes for their students. Seven Steps’ NAPLAN Writing Success is the culmination of that expertise and experience, granting teachers the power to progress – not just prep – their students’ writing skills.
Kathleen Killick is the CEO of Seven Steps to Writing Success, an organisation that aims to improve literacy outcomes by working closely with schools and teachers to inspire great writing.