The impact of neoliberalism on education within an increasingly globalised world is evidenced through an increase in performativity, accountability and measurement.  These trends are influencing global educational policies, gearing them towards the advancement of the world’s economy and positioning national educational systems within a global system of transnational spaces and processes.  This global impact of reform occurs through wide scale research and developmental activities that are conducted, documented and communicated globally through international organisations including The World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) (Lingard, Martino, Rezai-Rashti & Sellar, 2016; Schriewer, 2003).  Through processes of global convergence, these organisations function as authorities that create and contribute to discourses of global educational reform (Schriewer, 2003) as well contributing to the creation of a ‘globalized education policy field’ (Lingard & Sellar, 2013, p. 637), where national schooling systems become instrumental in supporting the global economy. 

These global processes and spaces are dominated by a ‘neoliberal policy paradigm’ (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010) and are transforming education practices all over the world.  These shifts are made possible through an increase in standardised testing (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010).  Specifically, testing regimes are advanced through increasing international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) such as the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study and the IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) (Martens, Niemann & Teltemann, 2016).   Such testing regimes are justified and promoted through the discourse that improved standardised measures of education will increase productivity of the work force and in turn promote global economic competitiveness, and are functioning as a ‘...mode of global educational accountability for national systems of schooling, complemented by national testing programs’ (Lingard et al. 2016, p. 3). The implementation of a national test, the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) was Australia’s response to this broader global policy context.  The enactment of NAPLAN has resulted in varied unintended consequences within schools and classrooms that require ongoing scholarly investigation.

In a time where our approach to education is being defined by neoliberal practices through an increase in test based data centric accountabilities, and a decade after the inception of NAPLAN, an investigation into the nature and effects of such reform in Australian schools is both timely and crucial.  This study aims to investigate the nature and effects of NAPLAN, particularly the impacts on student, teacher and school practices, over a school year.  Given that currently, research has largely focussed on adult conceptions of the nature of NAPLAN within schools, marginalising the ‘student voice’, this study also positions students as important to an in-depth understanding of change in ‘practice’ across the school, over a whole school year.

The Theory of Practice Architectures (Kemmis, Wilkinson, Edwards-Groves, Hardy & Grootenboer, 2014) will theoretically and methodologically guide this study, which seeks to uncover the ‘sayings, ‘doings’ and ‘relatings’ that characterize schooling throughout the school year. This includes identifying how practices are enacted within the cultural-discursive, material-economic and social-political arrangements associated with NAPLAN. Practice theory asserts that all human activity and transformation, including language, power and the creation of knowledge and meaning are occurring within a ‘field of practices’ (Nicolini, 2012, p. 2). This practice-based approach offers the capacity to explore and describe the features of our world including the durable aspects of life such as educational institutions, as they transpire (Nicolini, 2012). This approach is suitable for a yearlong investigation into the nature and effects of NAPLAN.  Finally, in order to take a critical look at the nature and effects of NAPLAN on student, teacher and school practices and gain a rich understanding of change in practice across the school, over a school year, this research will be conducted as an ethnographic study in one public primary school in Queensland.  Qualitative data will be gathered through semi-structured interviews with teachers, school leaders and relevant district and other education officers and government personnel associated with NAPLAN in relation to the school.  Further data will be collected through focus groups with students and parents, as well as observations, field notes, photographs, maps, diagrams and the analysis of relevant documents both from the site and from government and media agencies.  Data collection will begin in teacher preparation week in January and conclude in December, the last week of the school year.  This investigation aims to provide a deeper understanding of the conditions of ‘practices’ that emerge throughout the whole school year and provide consequential knowledge of the nature and effects of NAPLAN.

Date:           Wednesday 31 October 2018
Time:          2.00am – 3.00pm
Location:    24-s506

PANEL: Dr Obaid Hamid & Dr Vicente Reyes
Principal Advisor: Dr Ian Hardy
Associate Advisor: Dr Sue Creagh

About HDR Confirmation Seminars

The Confirmation Seminar is the first public presentation in the UQ milestone process.

Staff and students are urged to attend to support your colleagues at this first outing of their project.