Teachers’ perspectives on digital access and factors impacting student ICT capability: Equity in national online assessments (NAPLAN) in Australia

Author Identifiers

Cindy Carboni


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Susan Main


Digital technology is an increasingly integral component of teaching and learning within schools and, with Australia’s National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) moving to an online assessment, students now require a level of ICT capability to undertake this national measure of achievement. Substantial research exists around the presence of a digital divide, indicating that students from lower socioeconomic status households typically have less access to digital hardware and schools with low socio-educational advantage (SEA) are less likely to offer the same opportunities to engage with digital hardware as high SEA schools. This research examined classroom teacher perspectives on their students’ digital access and ICT capability and its impact on their ability to undertake online assessments.

The research used a convergent mixed methods design to collect qualitative and quantitative data. The participants consisted of 107 self-selecting Australian teachers who completed an online survey. The participants worked in different school sectors representing a range of low to high socio-educational advantage schools. The findings of this research indicated that teachers identified inequity in digital access in students’ school and home learning environments. Students with access to their own devices, compared to students who share a device, were perceived by teachers to have significantly higher levels of ICT capabilities in both learning environments. Students accessed their own devices more prevalently in non-government schools, higher socio-educational advantaged schools, than in government schools and lower socio-educational advantaged schools, where students were more likely to share devices. The implications are important as the results identify that teachers perceive inequity in the level of digital ability students possess when undertaking online assessments like NAPLAN. The participants highlighted that the type of support schools provide to teachers and students to develop ICT capability influences the development of students’ digital abilities, with significant differences highlighted between school sectors.

It is, therefore, critical for school stakeholders and state and federal governments to acknowledge how access to devices influences the ‘success’ of a student participating in online assessments. In order to support students’ development of ICT skills, teachers in government and lower SEA schools require specific and ongoing support to progress their ICT capabilities. Addressing the inequity in digital access and ICT capability is imperative to ensure that the introduction of online national assessments does not further disadvantage students from low SEA learning environments.

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