How does the LANTITE affect pre-service teachers?
- It excludes teachers from the profession.
- It impacts well-being and self-worth.
- It supports empathy with students around standardised testing.
I remember when I was studying to become a teacher. The end of our degree was in sight, and we could almost taste it. At the end of a lecture about three weeks before our final assessments were due, the lecturer mentioned something called the LANTITE.
They said it was some kind of test that we had to do. It was to make sure that we could read and write, as well as do some simple maths. Surely, we’d proved these things by completing a university degree?
I didn’t think that it was a big deal at the time. I thought it would be simple, and a piece of cake. Surely the uni would organise for us to come in for an hour or so to fill out this easy test and it wouldn’t be a big deal. Turns out it was a big deal.
It excludes teachers from the profession.
Teaching already has a problem with being exclusionary. The nature of teacher education means that it disadvantages certain demographics of people in a way that is not representative of the work of an actual teacher. Students need people they can relate to, and this means having a greater variety of teachers in our schools.
When it comes to literacy and numeracy, sure; we need teachers who can read, write, and do the simple maths that is required to do their job. The question is, is this what the LANTITE is testing?
The LANTITE is a test that changes every time. The questions and difficulty changes, and to pass you need to score in the top 30% of the general population of Australia. There is debate about the efficacy of this; do we need teachers who are in the top 30% of the population for literacy and numeracy, or do we need teachers who have the literacy and numeracy to do their jobs?
One poster on Reddit described their experience with the LANTITE, and how it had no effect on their efficacy as a teacher. In fact, this teacher continues to excel in the profession despite never passing the numeracy component:
I was in a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching. I had to leave with just my Bachelor of Arts. I remember it was all very hush hush like they didn’t want this to get out. They basically told me to leave and if I did, I could pretty much automatically get my BA that week. That was that. My dream was broken and could never be fixed. To be a history and English teacher I failed the unassociated compulsory maths test.Unknown author, account deleted.
They did manage to skirt around the system though. Thankfully, they were able to get a job in a country that didn’t have this requirement, and then work their way back to working in Australia:
Then I got my British passport through my dad and travelled to the Britain. There I did the PGCE and graduated with flying colours, getting hired at the end of that academic at the most recent school I was in placement. I taught there for a year, gained my QTS. I then had an opportunity to teach at an international school in Switzerland for another year. That was amazing. Then I came back to Australia, and I started teaching. No mention of LANTITE. At the end of this year I got promoted to deputy head of history at my school.Unknown author, account deleted.
If the LANTITE can not only be avoided but blatantly ignored like this, then what is the purpose of it? The two often stated purposes are to prepare teachers for the profession, and to raise the standing of teachers in society. To put it simply, if you ensure that every teacher is in the top 30% of the population for literacy and numeracy, then surely you can’t complain that they aren’t qualified or ‘clever’ enough to be teaching your children.
If we’re not screening every teacher before they are employed though, then neither of these purposes really hold any water.
It impacts well-being and self-worth.
I spoke before about my own feelings about the LANTITE. About how when I first heard about it, I thought that it would be simple and easy. That it made sense, and that surely this is a good thing that would be no more than one of the many other administrative boxes that I needed to tick before I could get my Teacher’s Registration.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the fear. By my own admission, this should be easy. That means that if I do fail this, what does that say about me? Nothing that I had ever done before felt more like a cold, hard measure of my worth. My career, everything that I had been working towards, could be destroyed by this one test. This one 90 minute slot of time, that I can only repeat another three times before it’s decided.
The apparent ease of it and the idea that it’s ‘just another box to tick’ meant that it would be an even bigger deal if I couldn’t tick it. It was painted as the last, very low bar that we had to jump over to get our degrees. There were many who didn’t pass the first time, and a few who never passed at all.
I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. There is even a growing body of formal research into the impact that this high-stakes kind of testing has on pre-service teachers.1 In addition to your own abilities, there is always severe anxiety among many pre-service teachers around the administrative side of this test. If your internet cuts out, you can’t be a teacher. If the person invisibly watching you do your test through your webcam thinks that you looked out of the window for too long and are cheating, you can’t be a teacher.
It supports empathy with students around standardised testing.
All of this stress and anxiety can, however, make better teachers. It’s an unexpected side effect of the stress, anxiety, fear and failure around the LANTITE that it teaches the teachers to never put students through this if you can avoid it.
This has been a documented effect of the LANTITE; that being put in this high-stakes test environment has changed the way that pre-service teachers think about it as an assessment strategy.2 Pre-service teachers benefit from first-hand experience learning at university in many ways, and this is perhaps one of the most poignant.
Whatever your experience is with the LANTITE, you will learn from it. You will be better prepared to empathise with students that you may be putting in a similar position, and be better prepared to support them. You will also have great investment in analysing and criticising the usefulness of such tests. You’ll be more viscerally aware of the bias in basing so much on a single test, and hopefully adapt your teaching in response.
1Hilton, A. L., Saunders, R., & Mansfield, C. (2020). ” In LANTITE, no one can hear you scream!” student voices of high-stakes testing in teacher education. Australian Journal of Teacher Education (Online), 45(12), 57-72.
2Burke, J., Sellings, P., & Nelson, N. (2020). Pre-service Teacher Perceptions of LANTITE: Complexity Theory in Action?. In Teacher Education in Globalised Times (pp. 139-157). Springer, Singapore.