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One of the key elements mentioned on the Ontario College of Teachers website under Teaching Practice is

Members of the Ontario College of Teachers planning for instruction

- apply knowledge of student backgrounds, experiences and learning styles.

Before starting any unit or a lesson it is important for the teacher to know about the prior knowldge of the students, their learning styles, students' background etc. Based on the students' prior knowledge and experiences the teacher builds her lesson plan. To provide a student with the knowledge which he doesnt have any background of is of no use or repeating something which the student already knows only adds to the frustration of the student.

The teacher uses diagnostic strategies to find these out before actually going further with her lesson. During the course, we learned about different diagnostic strategies and came up with our own diagnostic strategies that we use or will use to know more about a student's background. 

Following is a small assignment that I did on diagnostics. The various diagnostic tests that I could use in the classroom to were enlisted by me and the tools for recording diagnostic assessments along with how to use the results of a diagnostic test were also stated in my assignment.

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1)One of the commonly used tools used for diagnostic assessments are pre-tests (already mentioned, and cannot be ignored) which I feel is a very good tool for the teacher to assess the prior knowledge of the student. It could be done at the beginning of the school year or before starting a new unit. A multiple choice test is an effective diagnostic tool.

2) A word web. for ex. AIR (what do the students know about air) is another tool to test the students prior knowledge. (Especially before starting a unit)

3) Oral questions as a group, interviews with a child to test the communication skills and knowledge (reading a text, mental math, Science facts) and keeping a record of it is another preferred way.

4) Before starting a Science unit it is important to test the students for the terminology.

5)The teacher has to take out some time to interview each child and to find out where the students stand to go further with her lesson. The DRA introduced this year in school boards is a tested diagnostic tool to test the reading skills of the student.

6)To go through the previous years portfolios of the students, report card copies of the students, the comments from the teachers and discussing a child's skills/weaknesses with his/her previous class teacher may help a teacher to understand the needs of her students.

7) Observing the students closely for every group work, behaviour etc helps a teacher understand the social skills of her students.

8) To test the learning styles of the students, the questionnaires, are good diagnostic tools.

Tools for recording Diagnostic Assessments:

1) I prefer a student file for every student where all the diagnostic test results can be filed. The notes on the child's behaviour, social skills etc. all remain in one file.

2) Constant monitoring of the child’s progress is necessary. To keep a chart with all the students names and keeping a record of which level a child is on and if the child goes from level 1 to level 2, to put stickers or sticky notes on the chart to monitor the progress of the child is a good idea. I learned this method on one of the PA days.

3) In the beginning of the year diagnostics, for the teacher’s convenience, a graph (after collection of data) could give a picture of the majority of the students’ weaknesses or strengths. Same can be done with the learning styles. In one class there may be 70% students who have the same learning style so the lesson can be planned accordingly.

To use the results of the diagnostic tests:

1) Reading improvement: Reading recovery class for the student. Volunteers in the classroom are a great help for reading recovery or for that matter any area which needs special help.

2) Personal attention to a child's weak area by conferencing etc. To work on vocabulary, ‘two words a day’ is a good way to build vocabulary of a child. Each word with meaning and 2 to 3 sentences.

3) Communicating with parents and take their help to strengthen the weaker areas of a child.

3) Peer modelling is a very good way to help the students

4) Adjustment of the lesson plan according to the learning style of the child.

 

 

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Manoshi Chatterjee