How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress

Diagnostic assessment is a type of assessment that identifies an individual pupil’s level of understanding of a topic. Rather than simply testing what a pupil knows and giving them a particular score or grade, diagnostic assessments give an indication of what a pupil does and doesn't yet not know. They help pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses and, importantly, where they have gaps in their knowledge. 

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It's individualised learning that takes on board where children are at in their learning at school - plus it builds confidence. The children love it!

Angie Bailey, Deputy Headteacher, Giles Brook Primary
How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress

How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress

Diagnostic assessment is a type of assessment that identifies an individual pupil’s level of understanding of a topic. Rather than simply testing what a pupil knows and giving them a particular score or grade, diagnostic assessments give an indication of what a pupil does and doesn't yet not know. They help pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses and, importantly, where they have gaps in their knowledge. 

It's individualised learning that takes on board where children are at in their learning at school - plus it builds confidence. The children love it!

Angie Bailey, Deputy Headteacher, Giles Brook Primary

Four key principles for using diagnostic assessment in KS2

1. Assess early

Starting early in the school year helps track real progress, as it provides a comparative baseline assessment based on a pupil’s position as they’ve returned to school after the long summer holidays.

Each pupil chosen to receive our weekly online 1-to-1 maths lessons sits an initial assessment - called 'Mission Zero' - at the start of each term with us. This ensures that we're always starting from the correct point and teaching to their current gaps.

How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress
How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress

1. Assess early

Starting early in the school year helps track real progress, as it provides a comparative baseline assessment based on a pupil’s position as they’ve returned to school after the long summer holidays.

Each pupil chosen to receive our weekly online 1-to-1 maths lessons sits an initial assessment - called 'Mission Zero' - at the start of each term with us. This ensures that we're always starting from the correct point and teaching to their current gaps.

2. Use distractors to identify common misconceptions

When you conduct your own diagnostic assessment at school, make sure that any tool or questions you use include distractors so you know why a pupils has made a mistake. This can help provide more focused feedback, as you know exactly what misconception a pupil has for each topic and question. Whereas the answers to open-ended questions can be more difficult to categorise in this way.

The diagnostic assessment in our intervention programmes uses multiple choice format, and for each question we created one correct answer and three distractors. They’re not just random wrong answers but are designed to be an answer a pupil could potentially get to based on a specific misconception.

All pre- and post-topic diagnostic assessments on the Third Space Maths Hub also follow this structure, with answer sheets linking each distractor to a common misconception to help diagnose learning gaps quickly and efficiently.

How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress
How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress

2. Use distractors to identify common misconceptions

When you conduct your own diagnostic assessment at school, make sure that any tool or questions you use include distractors so you know why a pupils has made a mistake. This can help provide more focused feedback, as you know exactly what misconception a pupil has for each topic and question. Whereas the answers to open-ended questions can be more difficult to categorise in this way.

The diagnostic assessment in our intervention programmes uses multiple choice format, and for each question we created one correct answer and three distractors. They’re not just random wrong answers but are designed to be an answer a pupil could potentially get to based on a specific misconception.

All pre- and post-topic diagnostic assessments on the Third Space Maths Hub also follow this structure, with answer sheets linking each distractor to a common misconception to help diagnose learning gaps quickly and efficiently.

3. Low stakes, frequent testing is key to great assessment

Frequent testing ensures you're continuously diagnosing gaps and building upon knowledge learnt each week, month, term or year.

On all our intervention programmes, the initial baseline test is topped up with assessment throughout the term. This comes in the form of a couple of questions after their 1-to-1 lesson each week. Using these answers we can continuously diagnose gaps and our tutors will always use a question the pupil got wrong in the previous week to start of the next lesson.

There are also huge range of diagnostic assessments and quizzes in the Third Space Maths Hub to use as at various points throughout the year to find out how well pupils are taking on what you're teaching them.

How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress
How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress

3. Low stakes, frequent testing is key to great assessment

Frequent testing ensures you're continuously diagnosing gaps and building upon knowledge learnt each week, month, term or year.

On all our intervention programmes, the initial baseline test is topped up with assessment throughout the term. This comes in the form of a couple of questions after their 1-to-1 lesson each week. Using these answers we can continuously diagnose gaps and our tutors will always use a question the pupil got wrong in the previous week to start of the next lesson.

There are also huge range of diagnostic assessments and quizzes in the Third Space Maths Hub to use as at various points throughout the year to find out how well pupils are taking on what you're teaching them.

4. Look beyond subject knowledge

There are more things to assess than a pupils’ subject knowledge. Don’t dismiss the power of a Growth Mindset to transform a pupil’s confidence and results in KS2 Maths. We have seen time and time again that engagement and willingness can have a big impact on whether or not a pupil secures and retains any taught knowledge.

At Third Space, we don’t just look at a pupil’s pre and post score, but on mindset and confidence too. Lots of teachers tell us the 1-to-1 sessions make a big difference on pupils’ confidence, engagement and willingness to get involved in lessons so we make sure to measure this too. As well as the initial diagnostic assessment, we ask pupils to indicate how they feel about maths at the start and end of our intervention programmes.

That way, we can gain an insight into their confidence, enjoyment and effort in maths, as well as the value they put on learning. Once pupils finish their 12-14 weeks of 1-to-1 lessons with us, we ask them to respond to the same statements again to help us assess the impact the intervention has had on these soft skills, as well as their subject knowledge and maths attainment.

How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress
How to use Diagnostic Assessment to Boost KS2 Maths Progress

4. Look beyond subject knowledge

There are more things to assess than a pupils’ subject knowledge. Don’t dismiss the power of a Growth Mindset to transform a pupil’s confidence and results in KS2 Maths. We have seen time and time again that engagement and willingness can have a big impact on whether or not a pupil secures and retains any taught knowledge.

At Third Space, we don’t just look at a pupil’s pre and post score, but on mindset and confidence too. Lots of teachers tell us the 1-to-1 sessions make a big difference on pupils’ confidence, engagement and willingness to get involved in lessons so we make sure to measure this too. As well as the initial diagnostic assessment, we ask pupils to indicate how they feel about maths at the start and end of our intervention programmes.

That way, we can gain an insight into their confidence, enjoyment and effort in maths, as well as the value they put on learning. Once pupils finish their 12-14 weeks of 1-to-1 lessons with us, we ask them to respond to the same statements again to help us assess the impact the intervention has had on these soft skills, as well as their subject knowledge and maths attainment.