THE PROMISES AND PERILS OF DIAGNOSTIC LABELS
Diagnostic labels are commonly used in the educational field. Although research has shown that diagnostic labels can have adverse consequences on individual outcomes, there remain fundamental, unresolved questions in the literature. This study examines two fundamental questions:
(1) To what extent does the introduction of diagnostic labels affect students' academic performance towards the end of the school year?
(2) How do the effects of diagnostic labels for groups and individuals depend on the proportion of other individuals who are also labeled in the group?
(3) Is this effect mediated by the length of time spent by the teacher for a particular student?
To answer these questions, we propose a large-scale cluster randomized controlled trial among approximately 4,500 first-grade school children and 186 schools in one region of Russia. All students participated in standardized cognitive and non-cognitive assessment twice, in the beginning, and in the end of the first school year. The assessment instrument was produced by trained psychometricians. All teachers also participated in both a baseline and follow-up survey questionnaire.
After the baseline survey, the schools were randomly assigned to one of two treatment arms, where teachers received information about the performance of their students:
(a) without a corresponding diagnostic label for their students’ performance or
(b) with a label for students as being “basic” / “proficient” in their academic performance or “developing” / “mature” in their behavioral performance.
The research has not been finished yet. The first results demonstrate that diagnostic labels don't affect students' academic performance. However, it was found that the lower a student's academic performance was, the more time the teacher devoted to the student.