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Stevenson, DM 2007, 'ICT equity and the NSW computing skills test', MEd thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright DM Stevenson 2007


This investigation seeks to establish whether or not performance on the NSW Computing Skills Test is affected by three important equity considerations, and, if so, how. The equity considerations are: the adequacy of school infrastructures and technical support, the extent of teacher professional development, and the accessibility of computers at home and in schools. Of additional interest is the effect, if any, of gender on performance on the Test.

Survey data for the investigation were collected in 2005 from a sample group often private schools on the North Coast ofNS\V. The principals of these schools were interviewed; all Year 10 teachers were invited to complete a teacher questionnaire; and all Year 10 students were invited to complete a student questionnaire. The interview results were analysed using qualitative analysis. The questiollilaire results for teachers were analysed using descriptive frequency analysis. The questiOlmaire results for students were analysed using descriptive frequency analysis and a step-wise multivariate regression model.

The findings from the investigation are wide-ranging and important, even though the sample group of schools may not have been representative of schools across the State. The extent of variation between the schools in terms ofthe availability ofICT infrastructure, technical support and teacher professional development was striking. Also striking was the extent to which Year 10 teachers felt that they had a poor understanding of the kinds of computing applications that are, in fact, required to be understood by Year 10 students in order to be successful in the Computing Skills Test. Even more striking was the extent to which Year 10 teachers felt inadequately prepared to teach these applications to their students, even though it is an official expectation that all Year 10 teachers will embed learning about these applications across all curriculum areas.

The survey results from the Year 10 students point to the strong effect on Computing Skills Test performance of general levels of ability in English and Mathematics. A mastery of multimedia and graphics applications, and a willingness and ability to make use of a computer at home, were the other two important influences on Test performance.

Interestingly, gender did not have an effect on Test performance, once all other factors in the multivariate model were taken into account, and neither did parental social status, parental encouragement or teachers' expectations of success, though each of these variables was positively associated with better Test performance.

Perhaps the most important conclusion, then, is that, despite what State educational authorities are hoping for, the Computing Skills Test appears to act more as an indicator of general levels of academic ability than as a mechanism for ensuring all Year 10 students achieve a high level of proficiency in their ability to understand and use computing applications. Also important, though, is the insight provided by the investigation regarding the extent of variation betw-een schools and among teachers in the extent to which the learning support for students preparing for the Computing Skills Test is adequate.