Grade 1 in Australia, testing and teachers

Woe are the children.

testing has raised its head again:

There has been news that the NAPLAN ( may be increased. The suggestion is that grade 1 students (essentially 5-7 year old children) will be tested. Essentially, there is a problem with testing anyway. ABC suggest that 1 in 10 teachers fail some of the kinds of tests that are asked of children ( And given that there are lots of problems internationally with the testing standards ( is there not a problem with asking grade 1 students to do these kinds of tests?

One news story is here:

I think its wrong, but I have no proof. I am speculating.

What is the benefit of giving younger students more tests?

Checking what the Gonski report says (

from page 217 of the Gonski report

“Academic goals are far more readily measured and reported by external testing than general capabilities. However, an excessive focus on what is testable, measurable and publicly reportable carries the risk of an imbalance in the school curriculum. Independence, confidence, initiative and teamwork are learned as much through elements of the curriculum that are not readily measured by an external test as through those areas in which outcomes can be readily tested and reported.”

So what constitutes a “balance in the school curriculum” for grade 1 students?

and yet, there is a key issue with the entry level numeracy and literacy of students:
“Firstly, the learning needs of students should be identified on entry to schooling. NAPLAN testing of literacy and numeracy at Year 3 is too late to be an entry-level diagnostic tool. In-school diagnosis of skills in reading and number sequencing when children enter schooling at age 5 is the key to a sound foundation for successful learning in the later years. Where children are found not to be at the expected proficiency level, intervention should be immediately available, either for small groups of children or as individuals.” (Gonski p. 218)

So, although we clearly need some kind of entry level benchmark testing, should we be taking up time in the grade 1 curriculum for it?
Should we not be relying on the teacher’s expertise to indicate student levels?
Are we already asking too much of teachers?

Again, I don’t know the answers to this. I am loathed to suggest that my daughter (5years) take some kind of test.

it scares me





Ceiling fans and coffee

It’s hot

I have no idea what the temperature is at the moment, but for the last few days/weeks at least the weather in Brisbane has been quite miserable. Today is not exceptional in any way, but it is yet another hot day in a string of brain melting, skin liquefying, soggy stains on the cafe chair as you stand up.

It’s hot.

I headed out to my local campus cafe (Rossa’s at Griffith Uni, I’m not under ethical requirements to deidentify) and got a coffee for some morning writing. As would be expected, the ceiling fans are on. There is no air-conditioning (an oversight on the construction to be honest) only ceiling fans and a through breeze. Why is this even noteworthy.

Well, the fans spin the wrong way.

I noticed this when the cafe opened last year or the year before (2015 or so), and told the management. They looked at me, looked at the fans, sold me another coffee and did nothing.

For those who don’t know, there are some ceiling fans that you can reverse the spin. Some say that the reverse spin helps to adjust the colder weather somewhat. Not sure of the physics on that, but it means that fans can spin the other way. If, for some reason, you set the fan to spin in “winter” direction, then you would need to set it back in a summer direction later.

they didn’t

I am watching the two fans closer to me spin in a clockwise fashion. This affords the blades to push the air down, creating breeze, and cooling (to some effect) the surrounding air. But those other two are spinning anticlockwise (counterclockwise).

I am too hot to tell them again. So I chuckle at them and return to my coffee.


They burned the coffee, too.


CA can help forensic linguistics: the Brendan Dassey case

This is a brief aside about the Brendan Dassey interrogation (see link below)

There is some conjecture in the analysis of the Brendan Dassey interview as to whether his confession was coerced or not. On this point, I wonder (and suggest) that the analysis of preference (Pomerantz 1984), affiliative response, aligning responses and stance (Stivers 2008) could greatly help. I suggest (as others have done) that the analysis of the entire sequence of sequences, and the analysis of single sequences may give insight into how affiliative/aligning Brendan’s responses were. This may give insight into whether there is a tendency for him to produce such affiliative/aligning responses and give weight to any evidence of coercion (or not).

It would need to be produced in a larger analysis of Brendan’s interactions. Perhaps there are other interactions (recorded either audio or video) where a baseline for his aligning/affiliative responses can be established (at least in terms of a general trend). It is here that a divergence from a general trend could be found. The question then becomes, is it that Brendan is responding to the interrogation in an affiliative/aligning way, AND is it the case that such responses are in keeping with his trend in responding?

This would constitute an aberrant case analysis and would require a statistician to come on board to evidence HOW aberrant (or not) his responses were.

In this light, the CA sequential analytical protocol will greatly assist in any findings. It may also lead to extra findings regarding the interaction (perhaps in terms of turn-taking, gaze or other such noticings) which will help such a case. As such, I see CA as a pivotal empirical method to analyse such important cases, rather than relying on another form of less clear and less evidenced interactional analysis.

CA can help forensic linguistics, and I think CA is NEEDED in this case (and many like it). I have made this claim elsewhere (Mitchell 2016 presentation at LIAR 4 conference, Manchester, under review for an article in Journal of Politeness Research, 2017).

Some surrounding discussing this case can be found above.

Importantly, any analysis that a CA practitioner undertakes in this (and any other such case) should be done in two major phases.

The first phase ought to consider the interaction itself (the Dassey confession) and consider the sequence and sequences of sequences. Then, as a secondary part of this first phase, the analysis ought to consider whether such questioning techniques are echoic of the rules and stipulations for such interviews.

The second phase ought to consider the general trend of Dassey’sinteractions. Specifically, it ought to consider the proportion of alignment and affiliation that he tends to produce when talking to others. This could possibly require a corpus of his own interactions, and  a similar corpus of other people within his own community (against which to map his general trends, an appropriate methodology in corpus linguistics).

How do you urge the people looking into this case to use CA practitioners to assist forensic linguistic findings?

Nathaniel Mitchell