Lauren_Johnson_PhD_Thesis_July_2011.pdf (2.99 MB)
When system demands meet site realities in high-stakes literacy testing :aA Tasmanian education case study
thesisposted on 2023-05-26, 04:53 authored by Johnson, LM
Literacy testing is regarded as high and ever-increasing stakes, in Australia and beyond. The value and validity of testing and the tests themselves, uses made of test data and pressures to improve scores represent conflict for teachers. This topic has immediate significance for Tasmanian schools engaged in testing programmes, and for the wider education systems in Australia and internationally. This research examines these issues in this contested field with a focus on the lived experience of those most closely involved. This thesis explores the discursive tensions and conflicts within secondary teachers' experiences of standardised literacy testing in Tasmania. The research was conducted through a case study of one secondary-level State school in Tasmania involved with government mandated standardised literacy tests. Testing sessions were observed and interviews conducted during one round of testing. Two research questions focus the analysis on teacher perceptions and test administration in the classroom site. Through a combined constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2006; Charmaz & Mitchell, 2002) and discourse analysis (Carabine, 2001; Fairclough, 2001; Taylor, 2001a, 2001b) approach, emergent patterns and themes are examined. This analytic approach enabled the identification of dominant discourses (Gee, 1998, 2003, 2005, 2011), discursive tension and conflict. Of particular importance in this study are the various teacher perspectives on their roles as test administrators. Participants' words and voices are studied to examine the ways that teacher perspectives affect their administration of the tests, and how their perceptions of standardised testing can become transmitted to students through teacher language and behaviours. The recognition of often-competing demands within the education system and school sites (Freebody & Wyatt-Smith, 2004) is highly relevant to this research, given that standardised literacy testing happens at the intersection where system demands meet site realities. This research notes the discursive tension and conflict resultant of system-site (dis)connectivity. The research project contributes a critical understanding of standardised literacy test administration, necessary for deeper and more nuanced understanding of what is valued and devalued through such testing, and how school test actors respond to competing test demands. This research recognises the ways that system pressure for educational testing uniformity affects teachers, students and the wider school setting. Discursive tensions have implications for test administration and school management, within and beyond the Australian education context. The research identifies a number of such implications as findings, and makes considered recommendations for future research, policy and test design, and professional practice.
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