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Motivation Module 11:

Diagnostic Teaching


Background Information

Diagnostic teaching involves creative problem solving that comprises a process of discovering student learning strengths and weakness, analyzing curriculum concepts to be taught, detecting gaps or misconceptions between the student knowledge base and the curriculum to be taught, and devising ways to mesh student learning needs with curriculum needs thus triggering student self-efficacy that motivates wanting to succeed. Tools to identify student learning needs that involve generic influences on learning are discussed in the chapter 5 Appendices and tools to identify curriculum needs are presented in chapter 4 in the section on developmental curriculum.



Encourage intrinsic motivation by engaging students in activities where no external reward such as a grade or badge is involved. Thus, base assessment upon student effort in relation to learning outcome. For example, focus on self-directed learning as described in Motivation Module 6. Intrinsic Motivation.

Given  literacy concepts and curriculum levels, match the literacy concept with its curriculum level.


Literacy Concept                                   Key            Curriculum level

Manipulating Phonemes                      d                 a.Concept

Summarizing                                          f                  b. Lower Level Generalization

Word Meaning                                      a                 c. Arbitrary Association

Alliteration                                             b                d. Higher Level Generalization

Hearing Syllables                                  e                 e. Lower Level Relationships

Sound/Symbol Relationships               c                 f. Higher Level Relationship

Given mathematics concepts and curriculum levels, match the mathematics concept with its curriculum level.


Mathematics Concept                        Key                            Curriculum level

1. Write digits                                      E                                a. Lower Level Generalization

2.One-to-one correspondence          C                               b. Higher Level Relationships

3. Equivalent sets                                A                               c. Lower Level Relationship

4. Shape                                               F                               d. Higher Level Generalizations

5. Number operations

   (+, −, x, ÷)                                         B                               e. Arbitrary Association

6. Place value                                      D                               f.Concept

Activities for the Teacher and Student


Diagnose the gap that explains why the following student, Donald, is having trouble learning addition with renaming as exemplified in 15 + 7.


Donald can bundle ten pencils to make one bundle of ten, but he cannot move to the written level - that is the symbolic level. Thus, he can focus on the units column and state there are twelve units but he’s lost at the symbols level. His answer is 112.

Answer: The physical bundling of concrete objects does NOT represent our number system where the count of 9, not ten, triggers the move to the tens place.

Diagnose why Keisha, a 4th grader, gets upset when she usually misses the point of a story and other situations.


Answer: Sounds like she has trouble noticing the salient aspects of situations, e.g., what she is reading or supposed to notice.


Suggested Pedagogy: Print reading passages and provide cues such as larger font, underlining, or coloring key words. Provide situations where she can practice noticing the salient aspects of situations.



Keep a journal where you describe a diagnostic interaction with a student and the outcome.

Perform a task analysis on the following topics:

            a. subtraction without renaming

            b. subtraction with renaming

            c. Addition of fractions with like denominators

            d. Time to the minute

            e. Find perimeter of a rectangle

            f. Name the number of syllables in a given word

            g. Tell the main idea of a reading passage

Reflect upon how you use diagnostic teaching to motivate learners.

Select 2 students at different academic achievement levels e.g., high and low performers,  and create 2 case studies that include i. demographic information (family data, social and emotional observations, generic influences on learning, classroom interactions, ii. academic achievements, iii. instructional plan as you go forward, iv. log results of your instructional plan.

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