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Aboriginal Students and the Western Australian Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (WALNA Project)

Many Aboriginal primary schools students are not reaching the assessment benchmarks in the annual Western Australian Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (WALNA) tests. This is alarming because the benchmarks are considered to represent the minimum level required for success in school.

The reason for the generally lower than average performance of many Aboriginal students on WALNA is that they are not familiar with taking tests (that is, they lack test literacy), and so do not perform well in a test environment. It is not necessarily their lack of subject knowledge.

Therefore, in developing students' test literacy by developing their skills in areas such as time management, understanding written instructions and how to answer different types of questions, students are likely to achieve higher scores in WALNA.

Through the work of the pilot WALNA Project, researchers worked with teachers of Year 5 students in Perth and several regional areas of Western Australia.

As a result of the WALNA project:

  • Teachers have learnt more about:
    • the issues Aboriginal students face in a test-taking situation;
    • the skills needed to do well in WALNA;
    • how to develop the test taking skills of Aboriginal students; and
    • how to utilise the data generated by WALNA;
  • When teachers implement strategies to develop test literacy, students score better in tests because they are able to demonstrate their knowledge in a test environment; and
  • Policy makers are being advised about suitable strategies to improve the performance of Aboriginal students on WALNA tests.

The Centre for Indigenous Australian Knowledges conducted this project on behalf of the Aboriginal Education and Training Council of Western Australia.


Professor Gary Partington

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