The issues of testing are highly important in the field of studying and teaching, and the propriety of using certain kinds of tests is widely discussed by both practitioners and theoreticians in the area of education. The article of Anderson (2006) is dedicated to the discussion of the diagnostic testing propriety in the educational setting. The commonalties and differences it has with the placement test are discussed by the author to outline the possible advantages the diagnostic test may have in the classroom.
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The uniqueness of a diagnostic test is in identifying the key strengths and weaknesses of students. It may be done not only to perform adequate placement according to the level of students’ proficiency but to design the suitable curriculum for the course of studies. This practice proves efficient to fit the study design into the realm of unique needs the students in a particular classroom may have (Anderson, 2006).
The reason for close attention raised towards diagnosis tests is that the traditional tests designed by teachers to test the knowledge students have managed to retain are usually of low quality and do not offer the immediate feedback to students on their performance (Anderson, 2006). It is a common problem of the modern education, as the higher the stake of the exam is, the more time it takes to provide the results for students.
Hence, the computer-based diagnosis tests are seen as the remedy from the discussed problem. The researchers in the field of testing indicate that holding diagnostic tests on a regular, classroom-based basis is impossible because of the high volume of such kinds of tests. Therefore, they prove inappropriate for the routine usage, and only the computer-based forms thereof are called to solve the problem.
The computer-based approach is likely to possess a high potential for the future of diagnostic testing, since this type of tests contains a great number of advantages for assessment and evaluation of progress, as well as the initial assessment of students’ competences. However, the difficulty associated with conducting it may be resolved only in terms of economizing the time for taking it.
There is much debate on the specificity of diagnostic testing features that it has to encompass in order to fit the needs of the teachers and students. Anderson (2006) argues that there is lack of agreement on the issue so far, but the most widely accepted issues are the necessity of focus tests on students’ weaknesses more, to provide consequent remediation in further instruction, to provide detailed analysis and report of the students’ responses to testing, and to provide students with the immediate feedback on the results they show during testing.
Some other issues widely discussed nowadays include the lack of necessity to check vocabulary by diagnostic tests, focusing more on grammar and listening skills (Anderson, 2006). Finally, there is much discussion on the issue whether the diagnostic testing should be based on some integration of linguistic theories and whether it may reduce the level of student anxiety in case it will be used as a low-stake test (Anderson, 2006).
The application of diagnostic tests in certainly a basic need of modern education, since it gives additional opportunities for assessment to the teacher in terms of defining the key strengths and weaknesses of students not for the formation of progress groups, but for tailoring the course adequately to fit the needs of students.
Surely, the volume of diagnostic tests and lack of agreement on the framework they should cover is the major set of challenges for testing in the modern period of time. However, the indicated need for research in the area of testing, diagnostic testing in particular, implies that testing issues are at the forefront of the theoretical and practical attention in education, and some advances and clarifications are the issues of the near future.