This page summarises the key findings and recommendations from AERO’s 2022 analysis of National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) writing data.
For background and explanation of this work, including methodology, read the full report. Further information on methodology is available in this externally reviewed technical note.
AERO’s 2022 analysis of student writing data is the most extensive investigation into this area ever conducted in Australia. Our researchers analysed more than 10 million NAPLAN writing results, spanning 2011 to 2021, and 366 samples of students’ NAPLAN writing. This report primarily focuses on analyses of students’ Persuasive writing from 2011 to 2018 (excluding 2016).
NAPLAN is an annual assessment of literacy and numeracy skills, undertaken with students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9. Our analyses demonstrate the value of NAPLAN data for tracking national performance in specific writing skills and how actual student performance aligns with the expectations of curriculum documents and the National Literacy Learning Progression.
Research into NAPLAN writing data was conducted as one element of AERO’s ‘Literacy and numeracy’ project. The overall aim of this project is to identify the areas of literacy and numeracy in which Australian students need the most support. As these areas are identified, AERO is also generating practical evidence-based resources for teachers and educators aimed at improving the teaching of these skills across all areas of the curriculum.
Students may be tested on Persuasive or Narrative writing as part of their NAPLAN assessment. Narrative writing exercises were provided for 2016, 2019, 2021 and 2022 assessments. The full AERO report includes limited analysis of Narrative data from 2016, 2019 and 2021. NAPLAN was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19 and thus is not included in this report
In NAPLAN, writing skills are assessed using a scoring rubric that describes the skills as ‘criteria’. The rubric and criteria are described at pp 12–13 and in Section 4 of the full report.
The findings of this research have strong implications for students, teachers and policymakers alike.
For students, writing well is a crucial skill for achieving success during the final years of school across all subjects, and in working life. The decline in students’ persuasive writing ability is something that needs to be acted on quickly through effective, evidence-based and explicit teaching.
Key implications for both policymakers and teachers:
- Increasing focus on teaching and learning writing across the curriculum can help reverse the decline in student performance.
- Existing syllabus and curriculum guidance expect students to write at levels beyond what the data shows they can demonstrate.
- Investigating the decline in performance of high-achieving students can help identify strategies to reverse this trend.
- Examining differences in performance between online and paper tests, considering the increasing expectation in school and beyond for online writing, can provide valuable teaching and assessment information.
- Providing targeted and intensive support for low-achieving students can stop them from falling further behind on their learning trajectories.
Based on the research findings and their wider implications, our recommendations focus on 3 areas – policy, teaching practices and research – to drive improvement in student writing.
Based on our research findings, AERO is developing practical guides for teachers and leaders to help students strengthen their writing skills in areas of greatest need.
These new resources will supplement our existing writing resources for school leaders and teachers:
- Sentence combining practice guide
- Writing instruction framework for primary level
- Writing and writing instruction literature review.