How can school personnel use data to make instructional decisions?
Page 5: Diagnostic Assessment
In the DBI process, teachers use a diagnostic assessment (Step 3) to determine specific instructional needs. When progress monitoring data indicate that a student is not sufficiently responding to the current intervention, teachers need to determine:
- Why is the student not responding?
- What type of change needs to be made to the intervention?
A diagnostic assessment can help teachers to answer these questions. A diagnostic assessment is a tool teachers can use to collect information about a student’s strengths and weaknesses in a skill area. These assessments can be formal (e.g., standardized achievement test) or informal (e.g., work samples).
Rebecca Zumeta Edmonds, PhD
American Institutes for Research
Before conducting a diagnostic assessment, it is important to rule out other factors that might be impeding student progress. To do this, the teacher should review a student’s graphed progress monitoring data, looking for patterns that might indicate the reason for the student’s performance. To help determine the reason for a student’s performance, a teacher might find it helpful to consider the questions associated with the student’s data pattern.
The student answers the same number of questions correctly even after the intervention has been implemented. This data pattern suggests either:
The student answers questions correctly on some days but not others. He appears to have the knowledge or skills being assessed. This data pattern suggests either:
The student answers very few, if any, questions correctly. This data pattern suggests either:
If school personnel determine that there are factors (e.g., lack of implementation fidelity, lack of student engagement) that may be hindering student progress, these factors need to be addressed. However, if school personnel are able to rule the factors out, the next step is to conduct a diagnostic assessment, which might include an error analysis.
Teachers can conduct an error analysis—the process of reviewing error patterns to identify a student’s skill deficits—with progress monitoring data and work samples. An error analysis can help a teacher determine what types of errors were made and why. By identifying error patterns, the teacher can identify a student’s skill deficits and can subsequently align intervention adaptations to the student’s specific needs.
There are a variety of ways to conduct error analyses, and these differ depending on the skills targeted in the intervention and the grade level of the student. Two common areas for which teachers might conduct error analyses are reading and mathematics. Each of these will be discussed on the following pages.