Examination of images in Australian standardised writing assessments: a case for recognising social and cultural disadvantage

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Social Semiotics, 2018, 28 (2), pp. 257 - 285
Issue Date:
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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. From a socio-cultural perspective, individuals interpret meaning from images depending on multiple factors including life experience, values, attitudes, interests and background. As such, engagement with, preference for and interpretation of images differs amongst viewers. From this premise, it seems unlikely that one visual writing assessment prompt will effectively suit all participants. This paper offers new research into the use of image in large-scale referenced-based narrative writing assessments over a 10-year period in Australia reporting on phase one of a comparative case study. Findings identify changes in prompt design and content each year, with significant changes accompanying the introduction of the National Writing Assessment in 2008. Conclusions drawn from the analysis state that while image is a powerful communicator of meaning, providing visual representations in national assessment plan for literacy and numeracy may privilege some participants over others, and in doing so, impact on student outcomes and contribute to stratifying disadvantage.
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