Thinking about assessment Part 2

Thinking about assessment – Diagnostic & formative

We use Diagnostic Assessment to identify existing knowledge and establish a base to develop from. Diagnostic assessment guides our planning by identifying strengths and weaknesses. What do we need to teach explicitly to achieve the end goals and outcomes and what can we briefly reinforce or accept as their knowledge base. Effective use of diagnostic assessment makes the learning we provide to the students focused and efficient.

Diagnostic assessment is completed prior to teaching and learning

Formative assessment provides on going feedback to the students for their development. Formative assessment require the students and teacher to work together, there has to be a partnership for learning trust and understanding. Formative assessment must be:

  • Timely – The end of the task is too late, we must provide feedback often and in detail during process.
  • Appropriate and reflective – The feedback must reflect the students ability, maturity and age. It must be understandable
  • Honest & Supportive – Feedback can be devastating, our role as teachers is to nurture and shape. We must provide feedback that is honest and supportive in a manner and mode that does not ostracise the recipient, but gives encouragement to go on.
  • Focused on learning and linked to the purpose of the task
  • Enabling – receiving feedback without the opportunity to act upon it is frustrating, limiting and counterproductive. Students must be able to learn from and apply this feedback


In Formative assessment we are asking and answering three core/key questions:

  1. 1.    What can I do?
  2. 2.    What can’t I do?

These first two questions are feedback on what the student can or cannot do in regards to a stated goal. Its learner and learning focused, appropriate, honest and supportive. It needs to be timely to have any relevance. Feedback, no matter how detailed, delivered a month after the fact is hardly relevant.

  1. 3.    How can I do better?

This question is the enabling aspect what can I do to do better at this? What do I need to do to improve.

Some people will also add in

  1. 4.    How does my work compare with that of others?

This is a challenging question. Should I know where I am in the class? Will this help me? How will it make other feel? We know that a degree of competition is useful and important. I feel this is something that you do when you have a very good relationship with the class and is dependent on the maturity and age of the students.

[Effective feedback and e-assessment School Based Assessment and Reporting Unit Curriculum K-12 Directorate]

Dr Jodi Nyquist has a useable and suitable model for delivering feedback

Level of feedback Descriptor
WEAK Knowledge of results (KoR)
  KoR + Knowledge of Correct results (KCR)
  KCR + explanation (KCR + e)
  KCR + e and specific actions to reduce the gap
STRONG KCR + e and activity

Nyquist J.D Feedback in higher education 2003 from Haynes A and MCDowell L, 2008, Balancing dilemmas in assessment and learning in contemporary education, Routledge p 275

Essentially the model the Nyquist presents conforms with the What can I do? What can’t I do? And How can I do it better? The strongest form of feedback is knowledge of the correct results (and implicit in this is therefore knowledge of their own performance), and explanation of the difference between their results and the correct one and an activity that they do immediately to support the required changes.

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