Diagnostic assessments are typically non-graded assessments that help a teacher gauge students’ prior knowledge of a subject matter.
Some examples of diagnostic assessment include:
- Survey or questionnaire
- Introduction forum
In a Mosaic Literature course where some of the students have grown up in church and others have never read the Bible before, an introduction forum that asks students to share a bit about their religious background is a very useful diagnostic assessment. The teacher can learn about each student’s level of familiarity with the Bible in general, or the Old Testament or Pentateuch in particular, before any graded work is done in the course through what students choose to share in their introductions.
In a first-year language course, vocabulary quizzes could be part of the graded assessment strategy for the course, but they could also be conceived of as diagnostic assessments for the student. If students are encouraged to use the vocabulary quiz as a self-diagnostic tool, it provides feedback to them on how well they are doing at memorizing the definitions of new words. They can be encouraged to take the quiz multiple times until they have mastered the new words for the week. Although cheating is less of a concern with a diagnostic self-assessment, the teacher can incorporate a few words from previous weeks to check if students are retaining the earlier content. There are, of course, other ways to assess if students have memorized their vocabulary—for instance, if they can use it in translations.