“In LANTITE, No One Can Hear You Scream!” Student Voices of High-Stakes Testing in Teacher Education

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Published: 
December, 2020

Source: Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 45(12)

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study involved data collection in 2019 and examined the range of pre-service teacher (PST) experiences of undertaking the tests.
To date, no wide-scale studies have explored student perceptions of undertaking Literacy and Numeracy Test for Initial Teacher Educators (LANTITE) and little is known about the experiences of the high-stakes test takers.
Listening to the experiences of those who complete LANTITE will help understand the practical and affective dimensions involved for students, and consider ways in which they might be better supported through the process.

Method
This study employed a simultaneous mixed method design comprised of two separate phases (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998).
A pragmatic approach was selected to provide flexibility, in recognition that individual participants may have diverse perspectives and that student voice does not exist as a singular entity.
Student experience can be complex and a mixed method approach offers a richer understanding of the experiences and voices of this group.
Phase One involved participants completing a short online questionnaire, designed to gather both qualitative and quantitative data, and Phase Two involved in-depth semi-structured interviews which collected qualitative data.
Phases were conducted concurrently, Phase One participants who opted into Phase Two were contacted between one day and two weeks later to arrange interviews, thus minimising the possibility of differing responses for individual participants as their memory of the experience alters over time.
A convergent design approach was used to merge the results of quantitative and qualitative data analysis (Creswell, 2015), this approach provided the benefit of being able to explore the different experiences of students.
This also influenced the instrument design in both phases, by providing open-ended questions in Phase Two and avoiding leading questions to allow participants to share their voices in a way that was meaningful to them.

Participants
Participants in the study were volunteers and included any PSTs wanting to share their voice relating to LANTITE.
A total of 189 PSTs undertaking initial teacher education studies from 28 different Australian universities took part in the study.
However of these, 30 students did not indicate in the Phase One questionnaire whether or not they had attempted LANTITE and thus were omitted from these results.

Phase One – Data Collection
Pre-service teachers were invited by email to participate in an online short answer questionnaire hosted by the survey platform SurveyGizmo.
This questionnaire comprised of 13 short answer questions, taking approximately 15 minutes to complete.
A range of question types including rating scales, multiple choice questions and short text responses were used.
The questionnaire was open for an 8-week period commencing in February 2019.
A total of 189 PSTs participated.
At the start of the online questionnaire, participants were asked to provide general demographic data, and asked to identify their experience or outcome of LANTITE including; PSTs who had passed, failed, still waiting for results, and those who had not yet attempted LANTITE.
The following questions focused on direct and personal experiences of undertaking LANTITE.
These questions sought feedback on the different stages of the testing journey as well as inviting participants to provide general feedback.

Phase Two – Data Collection
From the 189 PSTs participating in Phase One, 27 PSTs opted-in to participate in Phase Two, a semi-structured telephone interview.
The semi-structured interview included 6 open-ended questions as well as an opportunity for participants to provide open-ended responses.
The first question asked students to share their story of LANTITE.
Follow up questions encouraged students to identify both positive and negative aspects of the test, as well as allowing students to explore the value of undertaking LANTITE for them as a PST and future teacher.

Results and discussion
The aim of this study was to explore how PSTs describe their experiences of undertaking LANTITE.
The findings show PSTs are experiencing a range of emotions and concerns regarding test anxiety and the pressure of having to complete an additional component in their degree.
Furthermore, students are frustrated with the process and format of receiving their test results.
The strong response rate from PSTs is indicative of the currency of this issue, with many wanting to have their voice heard.
Participants indicated their appreciation of being able to share their experience and to give voice to their journey (Mockler & Groundwater-Smith, 2014) even though they understood that their voice would not be directly shared with the testing provider.
Findings from this study are consistent with other student experience studies, with widely diverse views, experiences and perspectives shared by participants, reinforcing the idea that there is not one singular voice shared amongst the PSTs concerning their experiences (Cook-Sather et al., 2014; Mockler & Groundwater-Smith, 2014).
Voices that expressed empowerment and even indifference to the process, contrasted greatly with those that shared stories of extreme personal consequences as a result of undertaking LANTITE.

Student Experiences
Two frequently occurring themes in this study related to test results and test anxiety.
Analysis reveals concerns raised in relation to test results, specifically the type and timeliness of feedback provided from the testing provider at the release of results.
This concern was expressed consistently by both students who passed and those who failed the test.
Participants in this study were quick to identify the lack of feedback from the testing provider in relation to their test performance, impacting on their motivation and engagement with the overall process (Deeley & Bovill, 2017).
Providing detailed feedback would allow PSTs who do not meet the required standard to prepare for future attempts, and for those who have met the standard, feedback would provide information which could be used for the continued development of personal literacy and numeracy.
Providing feedback summaries to educational providers would allow teacher educators and their PSTs to identify gaps in personal literacy and numeracy and develop strategies on how to improve, or develop further.
Test anxiety and wellbeing also emerged as key themes.
Test anxiety amongst university students has been well documented as being a prevalent concern and key factor in academic performance (Gerwing et al., 2015; Trifoni & Shahini, 2011) and overall wellbeing (Baik et al., 2019).
Interestingly, PSTs provided detailed narrative accounts of individual nerves and test anxiety.
Some reported extreme reactions, with a number requiring psychological or other mental health support post LANTITE.
There are opportunities to better support students, particularly around test anxiety, by offering different preparation programs for PSTs undertaking standardised testing, which could be offered by universities or by the testing authority.
Support for PSTs undertaking LANTITE is important given they are the future generation of teachers, who for the foreseeable future, will be themselves administering standardised tests to their students and supporting them through that same process.
Whilst this study has provided a unique insight into the PSTs experiences of undertaking LANTITE, it is clear that further work in this area needs to be undertaken.
Future research could explore the different models and approaches used by Australian universities to inform and support students through the LANTITE process, with a view to identifying what is working well and sharing good practice.
In order to better understand student perceptions and experiences, there is also a continued need to engage them (and higher education providers) in a longer-term dialogue regarding LANTITE and its role in initial teacher education requirements.

References
Baik, C., Larcombe, W., & Brooker, A. (2019). How universities can enhance student mental wellbeing: the student perspective. Higher Education Research & Development, 38(4), 674-687
Cook-Sather, A., Bovill, C., & Felten, P. (2014). Engaging students as partners in learning and teaching: a guide for faculty (1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons.
Creswell, J. (2015). A Concise Introduction to Mixed Methods Research. SAGE Publications.
Deeley, S., & Bovill, C. (2017). Staff student partnership in assessment: enhancing assessment literacy through democractic practices. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(3), 463-477
Gerwing, T. G., Rash, J. A., Allen Gerwing, A. M., Bramble, B., & Landine, J. (2015). Perceptions and Incidence of Test Anxiety. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 6(3). https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1084598
Mockler, N., & Groundwater-Smith, S. (2014). Engaging with student voice in research, education and community: Beyond legitimation and guardianship. Springer
Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. (1998). Mixed methodology: combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. SAGE Publications.
Trifoni, A., & Shahini, M. (2011). How Does Exam Anxiety Affect the Performance of University Students? Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 2(2), 93-100. https://www.mcser.org/images/stories/2_journal/mjssmay2011/9.pdf 

Updated: Sep. 24, 2021
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