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Using diagnostic questions in the classroom: secondary

Secondary Science examples
So the lesson was set up that I gave them a ZipGrade, which is a quiz that you scan in on your phone. And I gave them that day before. And they started on a task appropriate to what they hadn’t got correct on their ZipGrade. So what I’ve done is put on your tables your ZipGrades that you did yesterday at the end. So can you just get that in front of you nice and quickly because it’s going to inform when you start on your task. So grab this so you can see it. So which one– so if you got a task one– so you got that wrong. So you’ve got to start here. Yeah, because you haven’t got 100% on it.
All right? In order to plan the next bit of learning that we’re going to do, I need to know what you do and don’t understand. So we’ve all seen these before. How do these work? [INTERPOSING VOICES]
Indeed. So I’m going to give you a quick ZipGrade quiz to see what stage you’re at in your learning, and whether or not you need any more support with this bit or we can move on to something else. So you’re going to get a question sheet and an answer sheet. Please don’t look at anybody else’s. When I get your reports back on this, I need to know what you do and don’t understand so that I can plan the next bit of learning that’s personalised for you.
We have seen the teachers using a diagnostic quiz. The examples that we have just seen are a quiz called a ZipGrade. It doesn’t have to be a technological solution. Teachers could make up their own quiz which they could use with the students in the class. Examples could be questions where students vote with their fingers what they think are the right answers or mini whiteboards to indicate to the teacher what their thinking is. The key point is that the teacher assesses students’ understanding quickly, and then gets them to close any gaps or work on areas where they need to improve their thinking on understanding. OK, 5, 11, and 14 are wrong. 4, 13, and 14 are wrong. The rest are correct.
So go back and review those questions.
Sodium chloride is an ionic compound. Which of the following statements are true? OK, so the reason a bond is formed between chloride ions and sodium ions is because they have opposite charges. B, the reason a bond is formed between chloride ions and sodium ions is because an electron has been transferred. Or C, a sodium atom can only form one ionic bond because it only has one electron in its outer shell to donate. OK, so have a think. A, B, or C?
Oh, we got some wrong answers.
Another idea to elicit and diagnose where students are in their learning is to use something like a confidence activity. Students can be given a range of options and try out different ones to find out where their current levels of thinking are. So which one do you think where are you– can you do this one? Yeah. Can you do this one? Yeah. If you can’t do it, do this one now. OK? The idea is that the activities increase in cognitive demand, and the students have a go at trying out where they think their thinking is at.
So if you are able to do number one, but want a bit more practise on identifying energy input and output in a Sankey diagram, then your table is over here. This is about interpreting Sankey diagrams. So if you want some more practise on that, come here. Once the teacher has elicited this assessment evidence, they and the students can then decide where next to go in the classroom. This is an ideal point to which to differentiate from.

Here we meet Kate R and Kate F and see them using different diagnostic activities.

We see:

  • Kate R using a diagnostic quiz (0:10) with a Year 9 class (13 and 14 year olds)
  • Kate F also using a diagnostic quiz (0:42) with a Year 10 class (14 and 15 year olds)
  • Kate R using a hinge-point question (3:21) with a Year 9 class (13 and 14 year olds)
  • Kate F using a confidence activity (4:00) with a Year 10 class (14 and 15 year olds)

We will meet them again later in the course and see how they differentiated the learning for their students. Although these examples are from secondary classrooms it is important to realise that they could be also be applied in any context.


Using ONE of the examples in the video, how did the activity help the teacher to identify what to do next?
How could you use this approach in your own context for a topic you have coming up soon?
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