Diagnostic tools: how they can measure and help improve literacy
Diagnostic tools can help you to assess students’ current knowledge in a particular subject area, such as literacy. Here, we look at:
✓ when to measure literacy with a diagnostic tool
✓ what insights diagnostic assessments can provide
✓ a selection of diagnostic tools that measure literacy
✓ what to do with the information in a diagnostic report.
1. When should I measure literacy with a diagnostic tool?
There are many instances when a diagnostic assessment of students’ current literacy may be helpful. You may be:
✓ teaching a new cohort or class
✓ supporting students’ transition to secondary school
✓ welcoming them back after a holiday or school closure
✓ looking to provide intervention support.
Dedicated diagnostic tools are not the only diagnostic assessments available. Bedrock Vocabulary can be used to determine students’ Tier 2 vocabulary level and target which words to teach on an individual student level.
2. What insights can diagnostic assessments provide?
Different tools provide insight into elements of literacy, including reading and writing levels, spelling, and phonics. They should indicate how individual students compare with the average ability for their age.
Armed with this baseline understanding, you can:
✓ tailor your curriculum to your students’ needs
✓ steer your lesson planning accordingly
✓ adopt intervention strategies for individual students.
Crucially, diagnostic assessments give you a benchmark to measure students’ progress (and the impact of any interventions) against if you repeat the assessment at a later date.
3. Which diagnostic tools measure literacy?
There are many tools on the market that measure literacy. Some assess different components of literacy or are aimed at students of particular ability levels. The tool your school chooses should be one that best matches your unique needs.
Here, we look at key features of three of the most well known. Our summaries are our impartial view and we have not received any payment for them.
New Group Reading Test (NGRT)
Arguably the most well-known tool for assessing literacy, the NGRT, from GL Assessment, quickly assesses students’ reading comprehension, identifying strengths and weaknesses. It has the following features and benefits:
✓ Fully adaptive, meaning it’s suitable for students of all abilities in Years 1-11
✓ Tells you students’ reading ages and Standard Age Scores
✓ Evaluates students’ ability to (1) decode what they read and (2) comprehend and apply meaning; in less able readers it can be used to measure phonemic awareness
✓ Enables you to identify vocabulary gaps – particularly important as reading is fundamental to the ability to access all areas of the curriculum
✓ Provides statistically-robust benchmarks based on up-to-date analysis of half a million students nationwide
✓ Recommended to be used each term to measure progress through the year
✓ Can be used alongside New Group Spelling Test (NGST) for enhanced diagnostics
✓ See a sample report from NGRT.
Literacy Assessment Online
Literacy Assessment Online, part of TES, is aimed at students in need of the most support and aims to provide data to inform your intervention strategies. Key features include:
✓ Quick to complete – each assessment takes just 20 minutes
✓ Consists of three types of assessment: reading, spelling, and phonics
✓ Well placed to measure impact of literacy interventions, rather than whole cohorts
✓ Assessment can be repeated as often as you feel it would be beneficial – reports show results over time to help you measure any improvement.
Diagnostic Reading Analysis (DRA)
DRA – Diagnostic Reading Analysis, from RS Assessment/Hodder Education, is a one-to-one oral test that enables you to standardise assessment of less able readers. Key features include:
✓ Offers assessment of (1) Single-word reading accuracy and age, (2) Reading accuracy, speed, comprehension, and age, and (3) Comprehension processing speed and age
✓ Progress can be measured by retesting
✓ It helps to create a pen portrait for students who may need special arrangements, such as additional time in national tests
✓ You can download sample pages on their site.
4. What can I do with the information in a diagnostic report?
Whichever diagnostic tool you use, you will want to use the assessment to tailor learning to suit your students’ abilities and maximise their progress.
Whatever your students’ ability level, we can support your literacy and vocabulary strategy. Bedrock Vocabulary is a ten-year adaptive curriculum for all students aged 6-16. It teaches advanced vocabulary, including Tier 2 words, while exposing learners to compelling fiction and non-fiction texts that develop their cultural capital. Find out how we can support your school.