Steiner Schools’ Week: looking more deeply into student engagement in writing and the continuing issue of NAPLAN

Steiner Schools’ Week: looking more deeply into student engagement in writing and the continuing issue of NAPLAN

In light of this article in TheConversation (2/9/2019), which places the issues of NAPLAN way beyond blaming teachers and students for poor results in writing, we present once again the important research on literacy development in Year 9 students, funded by Steiner Education Australia.

The article by academic Stewart Riddle highlights what is often not included in discussions about NAPLAN results:  postcodes and parents are by far the largest indicators of success in NAPLAN.  80% of variance between schools’ performance in NAPLAN is due to factors outside school. The article also highlights the fact that we must engage students more in critical and creative thinking, and rich, sophisticated language experiences on a regular basis across disciplines to improve writing.

The SEA funded research on improving literacy skills through creative writing shows that adopting such an approach not only improved Year 9 writing skills, but promoted empathy, and development of multiple perspectives. 

The researchers proposed that students learn deeply through narrative, emotional transportation and an approach to literacy based on Steiner’s developmental view of the child. Results clearly showed students deep literacy engagement ,which led to enlightened perspectives, empathy for others, and insights into their own learning – evidenced in interviews and creative writing samples, which showed improvement in student writing skills.  

There are also interesting findings from the research on the limited use of NAPLAN as a rating tool to assess the quality of student writing.

The research summary is here

The full research report is here

In Steiner Schools Week we want to emphasise that it is important for all voices to be heard in the important educational debates of our time. Too often the debate is reduced to ‘back to basics’, the crisis in teacher standards, students not trying on tests. The systemic, social and broad educational issues we are facing are not even put on the table.

With declining writing levels in students, we must urgently look to ways to engage students in authentic learning.  As the SEA funded research shows, creative writing as a craft can be scaffolded within a meaningful, integrated context which engages students and gives them a sense of agency. We know that students respond to this form of learning and the  results of this rigorous research provides evidence of improved writing skills as an outcome.