Pre-Topic Assessments

This is the stuff of every teacher training course:

“The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this and teach him accordingly.” David Ausubel

I know we need to do some sort of pre-assessment at the start of a topic and make changes to our plans based on the results. Usually learners appear convincingly ignorant and I’m free to teach what I’d already planned.

But I know they did it last year. So what’s gone wrong?

For any other assessment, I’d spend a fair amount of time revising before the assessment. I’d set revision homework and I might go over the material quickly before the final assessment. I want them to do well. I don’t do this for pre-assessments. I should.


  1. There is a lot of fuss up north about Primary entrance and exit assessment. The point of the first is to ascertain the skill of the newbie child. Your: “I should” seems superfluous in such a scenario. And indeed I believe that to be the case further up the school system. I am not clear how telling them the answers, thru revision etc, and then testing them on that – does not defeat the purpose of a pre-assessment.


    1. Hi Paul. If my aim is to show improvement, then it isn’t valid to support revision at the end and not at the start. But my point is more that if I really want to find out what learners know before I begin teaching, I shouldn’t test them cold.


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