"The decline in writing scores and the flatlining of reading results should act as a wake-up call that some changes are required," Mr Birmingham said. Of course, it is much easier to draw attention to a problem than solve it. With NAPLAN, policy-makers are still in the former phase.
There is a problem with literacy results, particularly with boys, this much is true. However, in terms of policy, it has been seven years since the Liberal Government took the reigns. And five years since they took Federal control. What change has been implemented since?
WA and NSW have implemented minimum NAPLAN Band requirements as a prerequisite for high school attainment. This puts pressure back on schools and teachers under all the same processes, without without offering new, scalable, positive ways the minimums can be met. It's calling out the problem again, and adding a punishment, while missing a solution-based step.
And now, what is Simon Birmingham’s ‘wake up call’? Something must be done. What exactly is the ‘something’?
A solution needs to start with two steps:
- Just-in-time feedback to students
- Support for teachers
For years, research has shown us that these are the two biggest influences on a student’s success. This isn’t new and revolutionary, it’s tried and tested. Giving students time-of-need personal feedback is a decades-old, proven strategy for improving academic outcomes. So is it time yet, to take a proven method and apply it to improve students’ literacy performance?
1. Student feedback, at time of need
Our passion to help raise education outcomes in Australia is also buoyed by the consistent regard of educators, who constantly put Studiosity to the test. Here are just the most recent handful of university studies for writing outcomes:
- When compared against peers in their own performance bands, students who used Studiosity performed almost 1 GPA score higher. The correlation was most pronounced amongst students falling behind, with the most to gain from personal feedback. (James Cook University, April 2017)
- Students performed almost 1 GPA score higher than peers when they used Studiosity just 5 times. (Macquarie University, December, 2017)
- "On average students who utilise Studiosity receive 15% higher marks than those who don't." (Swinburne Online, November 2017)
- Studiosity users achieve an average 15 points higher cohort median than non-users, even including one-time users. (College study, Western Australia, June 2015)
2. Support for teacher workloads
Students are studying after 6:30pm, every night of the week, on weekends, and over breaks. Both students and parents now also have more communication options, to reach out to teachers 24/7 if they want. In fact, at higher fee-paying schools, it is almost the expectation that the teacher is a one-man-band of curriculum-delivery as well as after-hours and pre-exam skills and writing support.
In order to leverage the expertise of excellent teachers, those teachers need the focus to be able to drive a complex and nuanced curriculum, to apply their expertise to individual students as well as whole cohorts, and to have more confident, more capable students arrive in class each day after they have been studying alone.
"Teaching staff also had positive feedback [to Studiosity]. While there was no decrease in teacher workload (they still had to give the same level of feedback to students), marking assignments however was easier as submissions were easier to read." (Macquarie University study, December 2017)
That's why this necessary move to equitable, every-evening personal student feedback isn’t about decreasing teacher workload (unfortunately), but filling an after-hours gap: where personal feedback for every student is sorely needed to help raise writing performance at every opportunity; every night. Nothing less for a national wake-up call.
Read on: How are schools using Studiosity?