Diagnostic Second Language Assessment in the Classroom

Blood, Ian A.

The term diagnosis is familiar, and refers to the identification of disease or disorder in an individual. In the broadest sense, then, diagnostic second language (L2) assessment refers to any L2 assessment practice, whether in the form of a formal written test or informal teacher questioning, that yields diagnostic feedback—information on learner strengths and weaknesses. In low-stakes classroom contexts, where psychometric rigor is sacrificed for the attention and rich intuitions of teachers, informal diagnostic assessment occurs on a regular basis in the form of student questioning, explanation, and the provision of written feedback on quizzes, tests, and written work. Indeed, Huff and Goodman (2007) showed that K-12 science and language arts teachers highly value diagnostic feedback and prefer assessments which yield detailed information that can be used to identify the instructional needs of individual learners. Despite this apparent interest on the part of teachers in the diagnostic function of assessment, Alderson (2005, 2007) points out that diagnostic testing has been largely neglected in the L2 literature. Fundamental questions regarding the proper domain and application of diagnostic testing are unresolved: Must a diagnostic L2 test measure proficiency and be based on a theoretical model of L2 ability, or can diagnostic assessment be equally applied to achievement in a curriculum? Where does the boundary between formative assessment and diagnostic assessment lie? What kinds of feedback, and at what level of detail, are most beneficial to L2 learners?


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Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Published Here
November 5, 2015