One use of diagnostic testing is to better determine how much students learned during a module. This can be important when students come with widely different levels of experience, when evaluating an established curriculum, or when attempting to show instructional impact for something such as TPEP.
When using diagnostics in this way a “pre-test and post-test” scheme is usually devised. In a pre-test and post-test scenario, a similar task or test is given to students before and after a unit of instruction. The difference between the results of the pre-test and the post-test are attributed to the quality (or lack of quality) of the instruction.
A common example from language arts might be to have students read a paragraph of text and then answer some basic comprehension questions: what can the student tell us about the theme? The point-of-view? The genre? At the end of the course the same students are presented with a different but similar passage and asked the same set of questions.
Pre/Post tests are not only about skills or knowledge. A common scheme is to survey the student attitudes about a subject or topic, and look for an increase in the complexity or nuance of a students viewpoint. A student might be asked their feelings on immigration, for example, both before and after a segment on immigration. The hope is that even if the students positions on a topic are similar before and after that their post-instruction reflection demonstrates more nuance, knowledge, and critical thinking.
Next: Other Diagnostics