Assessing to Empower Learners • Diagnostic Assessment

Let's this time talk about diagnostic assessment. Diagnostic assessment is the measurement of preexisting knowledge and skills and the identification of misconceptions in order for us to set goals for the learning. In other words, we conduct diagnostic assessment before the learning experience so we can be sure that it is exactly what our students need. I want you to know that diagnostic assessment can be either led by the teacher or led by the learner.

I want to provide a frame for diagnostic assessment. It's important for us to be able to assess two different aspects of our students. The first is their interests and attitudes. We need to be sure that the learning experiences that we give to our students are aligned with what they're interested in, what they can get engaged in because we really do want our students to start with motivation to engage in this whole project we're talking about.

Now, the best way for our students and for us to understand about their interests and attitudes is through self-reflection on the students part. There are a number of ways that we can help students tap into. What am I really interested in? What do I want to pursue? What do I already know and what gaps are there in what I know? We could do an interest survey. We could do a graphic organizer where they actually think about what are the gaps. What do I know? What am I interested in pursuing? That turns out to be pretty powerful because then students are reminded of what they're interested in and they can pursue that.

Now, the second big piece on diagnostic assessment and probably the one we do most often, is assessing their prior knowledge and their mental models. When we do that, what we're looking at is what kind of background knowledge do they already have? Then the idea of the existing mental models.

Mental models are ideas about the way the world works. We all form mental models all the time based on our experience. Mental models are very difficult to change. What research tells us is that unless you bring those to the surface and actually understand what your own mental model is, you're not going to change it even when you get conflicting information. By bringing that to the surface as diagnostic assessment at the beginning of an inquiry experience, we enable students to understand what they already think and then it is going to pop to them when they find information that doesn't agree with them.

I'll suggest a couple of strategies you might use for diagnostic assessment that I've used, that I've really actually love and one is a concept map They visualize what are the main ideas I know and how are those connected to other ideas I know and whoops, here's this whole of ideas that I don't know anything about. That can be pretty powerful. You can develop that as a class or individually.

The second way I wanted to share with you is the whole idea about misconceptions assessment. This is particularly important in areas like science where we have formed our vision of how gravity works. By the way we see it operating in the world and we may actually not have any idea how gravity works. What a teacher can do, what a librarian can do is you can figure out what is the common misconceptions that students might have about that particular content area. Or that particular skill actually, and do a list of statements that have true attributes and common misconceptions.

Then when students see the right answers, they go, "Oh, I thought that was true." It's going to prepare them to engage in a quality investigation and to realize that they have to be critical thinkers in the information that they gain.

MLA Citation Stripling, Barbara K. "Assessing to Empower Learners: Diagnostic Assessment." School Library Connection, November 2019,

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Entry ID: 2228079

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