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Educational Diagnostic Assessment: A Background Paper

Bejar, Isaac I.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Report
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Computer Assisted Testing, Diagnostic Tests, Educational Diagnosis, Test Theory


There seems to be a strong demand currently for testing instruments that are capable of providing a more informative and diagnostic outcome than typical tests offer. The purpose of this paper is to review approaches that have been proposed for educational diagnostic assessment. Three approaches were identified. One approach, deficit assessment, focuses on concrete weaknesses of the student. The second approach, error analysis, focuses on the kind of errors the student commits. The third and more recent approach is based on the integration of methods from cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence. It was concluded that the development of powerful diagnostic instruments may require a reexamination of existing psychometric models and possibly the development of alternative ones. It was also pointed out that the traditional approach to the specification of content in terms of static taxonomies may not be appropriate given the dynamic and sequential nature of diagnostic assessment. Finally, it was pointed out that the psychometric and content demands of diagnostic assessment all but require test administration by computer. (31pp.)

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