Signs and Symptoms of Mindsets in Diagnostics

  • 3 minute read
  • 18 February 2021

Your term is running well! The students loved the Week of Inspirational Maths, perhaps you were even able to run lessons helping them understand workbook set out and some of the basics of your new classroom flow, the first diagnostic is in the bag all this AND you handled that extra assembly/yard duty/ additional class like the pro that you are. 

But then it happens… you have students starting to mutter about work being ‘too easy’, you can see on the History of Activity Report that they are chewing through modules. You keep being asked for more and more work to be unlocked and you start to question if this work is actually at the right level for this student…

It’s possible that it’s not, and it’s easily fixed. 

Teachers have the ability to let students retest the diagnostic. It’s best to do this as early as possible in the students’ journey but it’s crucial that we consider the why before we give students the chance to retest . If we don’t investigate and change the beliefs and behaviours that lead to those poor diagnostic results in the first place then a retest will not help to clarify student data. We are aiming to get through the first two diagnostics in term 1 but it’s important that we are able to hold data reliability and accuracy over meeting this timeline.

In many cases, poor performance on diagnostics is more of a sign of attitude and mindset rather than actual content knowledge. Over years of diagnostic experiences that might not seem to lead anywhere, students can develop unhelpful schema on what diagnostic testing is. In most cases, there have been very few ramifications for a student who performed poorly on a diagnostic test. For teachers it might mean changing the work, increasing scaffolding, or even meeting with the family and carers.  In comparison, student experience around pre-testing and diagnostics may have led them to believe that nothing really comes from these tests so they don’t need to try their best at all. You can get ahead of this understanding on a class level by running the diagnostic launch lesson. Touching base on these concepts before each subsequent diagnostic will help steer students away from their prior understanding of diagnostics.

You can also investigate student responses through the diagnostics page. Looking closely at how a student has answered diagnostic questions will give you a window into their mindset. Let’s say you open one student’s responses and see a ton of skipped questions and button-mashing. You may have found a sign of a fixed mindset. These may be questions that the student could have had success on given a different context or day, but their mindset has impacted their ability to engage within the diagnostic environment. If you see this pattern of behaviour, think about what might need to change to ensure the student values the diagnostic test and understands why they are being asked these questions. 

Mindset isn’t always the cause of poor diagnostic data collection. Completing a diagnostic assessment is a process, so students’ understanding and past experience can impact their ability to participate. For example, some students haven’t participated in online testing before so may not understand how particular a computer can be, in other situations the student might be experiencing test fatigue. These mistakes can cloud the data, and the solution isn’t to just try again. Look for what scaffolds the student might need to better understand how the questions should be answered.  Strategies can include asking them to write solutions on paper first and then re-read the question before submitting their solutions, enabling the text-to-speech feature or even breaking diagnostics down into more manageable chunks ( just remember to lock the diagnostic outside of your class!).

While the diagnostic responses will give you a great window into what may have gone wrong, the best source for the why is always the student. Once you’ve had a chance to speak one-on-one with them about both their diagnostic and the reasons the work is not quite right you can both plan for the retest

Author: Maths Pathway
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