Diagnostic Testing in Educational Settings


Diagnostic testing in education refers to an in-depth assessment of pupils' learning difficulties, whatever their causes. The way to conduct such an assessment is not obvious. An essential distinction should be made between an assessment that focuses on performance and an assessment that focuses on competence. The first section clarifies this distinction. The second and the third sections analyse the usefulness and the limits of each of these two levels of assessment.

Two Levels of Diagnostic Testing: Performance and Competence

In the field of linguistics, Chomsky (1965) made a fundamental distinction between performance and competence. Performance refers to the use of language in functional situations. Competence refers the underlying system of rules mastered by the speaker. The speaker's competence cannot be observed directly. This is only inferred ...

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