Diagnostic testing and changes to teaching practice in Year 9 mathematics classes
AffiliationMelbourne Graduate School of Education
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2014 Jacqueline Quenette
Teachers can use various means, including diagnostic tests, to determine their students’ knowledge. It is of interest to know the ways in which teachers interpret and act upon such diagnostic information. The aim of this study was to examine the use of a particular diagnostic testing system by six teachers in Year 9 mathematics classrooms. The focus diagnostic system was the SMART system (Specific Mathematics Assessment that Reveal Thinking), which provides teachers with an online diagnostic test, diagnostic analysis and teaching advice. This study focused on the use of the SMART system in two topics, linear equations and linear graphs. The participant teachers were interviewed before each topic to ascertain the ways in which they gathered knowledge about student understanding, current and intended teaching practices, and how they met individual student’s learning needs. On conclusion of each topic, participants completed a questionnaire and an interview to determine if any changes had been made. The teachers found the SMART system gave them some useful data on their students. The diagnostic analysis revealed gaps or misunderstandings in some students’ knowledge, the teachers realised that they could no longer assume that all students had the requisite prior knowledge. Through this discovery, teaching practice changed in a number of ways. First, the teachers were able to decide on a better starting point for the particular topic. For example, if many students did not have the expected prior knowledge the teachers began the topic with earlier concepts. Second, teachers could identify groups of students with similar learning needs and these students could be provided with activities that supported their learning. Furthermore, for some teachers it changed their view of students mathematical ability from, ‘some students do not have the ability to learn maths’ to, ‘these students have gaps in their knowledge and if these gaps or misconceptions are addressed they could progress to more complex concepts’. Most significantly, teachers reported becoming more prepared with appropriate materials for either individual students or groups of students. Hence the SMART system supported teachers to cater for individual student needs by highlighting the learning needs of students.
Keywordsdiagnostic testing; mathematics; teaching practice; SMART test
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