real learning vs naplan

I haven’t blogged for a while but have been stirred to do so by the contrast I saw at school today. Immediately after they sat one of the NAPLAN tests, I had a group of Grade 5/6 students for ICT. Talking to them about what sort of day they’d had, I was disappointed to hear about how many of them had been stressed and upset about sitting NAPLAN. While I’m not suggesting that children should never experience pressure, it’s really sad that they feel this way about a test that was never supposed to be a measure of their individual performance or even their teacher’s performance but was supposed to be about gathering State/National level comparative figures. Isn’t it sad what it’s become. However we feel about it, the clearest indication that something just isn’t right is when a Grade 5 boy sat there telling me that he couldn’t sleep last night because he was so worried about sitting ‘the test’. Had he not slept because of a football match, a school play or a battle of the bands audition, that would have been fine – all passions he wanted to follow. But to lose sleep over a literacy/numeracy test which doesn’t even produce an accurate picture of what he can do? Not worth it.

However, contrast this with something that was definitely worth it – my lunchtime computer club. I started this last week with the focus on making movies. This week, we played with jellycam and some lego models to try out stop motion animation. In 40 minutes, there were so many ‘light bulb’ moments, I lost track. One boy who doesn’t like to work with others created a movie with his partner that showed their obvious teamwork and equal participation. Another who finds it hard to concentrate in class was completely focused and already thinking ahead to what he wants to learn next. All wished lunchtime had gone longer as they wanted to continue to ‘play’. They were self-directed, motivated, worked collaboratively and reflective – all the qualities we endeavour to instill in them. If only NAPLAN involved making lego models and creating animated movies…..