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James P. Lantolf and Matthew E. Poehner The Pennsylvania State University


James P. Lantolf and Matthew E. Poehner The Pennsylvania State University

CALPER Publications University Park, PA 2007

CALPER Publications
The Pennsylvania State University 5 Sparks Building University Park PA 16802-5203 Website:

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ISBN-13: 978-0-9793950-0-0 ISBN-10: 0-979-3950-0-3 For information on all publications by the Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research (CALPER) visit our website at

Table of Contents

Prologue Acknowledgements 1. The Foundations of Dynamic Assessment 2. The Zone of Proximal Development 3. Dynamic Assessment 4. Dynamic Assessment and Second Language Learning 5. Case Studies Bibliography Appendix: Video Texts with Analysis

3 6 7 21 32 64 88 121 128

James P. Lantolf, Greer Professor in Language Acquisition and Applied Linguistics, Director of the Center for Language Acquisition; Co-Director of Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research (CALPER) at the Pennsylvania State University; he is past president of the American Association for Applied Linguistics and former North American editor of Applied Linguistics; his research focuses on sociocultural theory and L2 learning; in addition to articles and book chapters, his publications include Vygotskyan approaches to second language research (co-edited with G. Appel) Ablex Press, 1994, Sociocultural theory and second language learning (editor) Oxford University Press, 2000, Sociocultural theory and the genesis of second language development (co-authored with S. L. Thorne) Oxford University Press, 2006, and Sociocultural theory and the teaching of second languages (co-edited with M. E. Poehner) Equinox Press (forthcoming). Matthew E. Poehner, Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and Applied Language Studies, Coordinator for Research of the Center for Language Acquisition, and Assistant Coordinator of the Center for Advanced Language Proficiency Education and Research (CALPER) at the Pennsylvania State University. His research interests include sociocultural theory, second language teaching and learning, and classroombased language assessment. His work has appeared in The Modern Language Journal, Journal of Applied Linguistics, Language Teaching Research, and Critical Inquiry in Language Studies. His most recent work includes Dynamic Assessment: A Vygotskyan Approach to Understanding and Promoting Second Language Development Springer Publishing (forthcoming) and Sociocultural Theory and the Teaching of Second Languages (co-edited with J. P. Lantolf) Equinox Press (forthcoming).


This guide is designed to familiarize teachers with an innovative pedagogical approach known as Dynamic Assessment (well refer to it as DA throughout most of the text). DA brings instruction and assessment together into a seamless and unified process. It is based on the premise that a full picture of learner development not only requires evidence of what an individual is able to achieve when acting alone but it also necessitates knowledge of how the person responds to assistance, or mediation, when attempting to carry out tasks that are difficult or impossible to complete independently. More formally, DA can be defined as an approach to assessment that takes into account the results of an intervention (Sternberg & Grigorenko 2002: vii), the purpose of which is to help the individual not just to perform better on the assessment but to develop greater ability in the subject matter under study. In essence, DA integrates instruction as a central component in the assessment process. Without it, any assessment is incomplete. This means that while a dynamic procedure provides us with a broader picture of learners abilities, it also supports the development of those abilities. In The Teachers Guide we will consider how assessment and instruction can be fully integrated in order to optimally and simultaneously understand and promote development. Researchers and educators interested in language testing and assessment have recently called for a closer integration of assessment and instruction (see Bachman and Cohen 1998). In general, testing specialists have sought to bring instruction and assessment closer together through what they call the washback effect of tests. Although in a narrow version, this is often interpreted to mean that teaching must focus on preparing students for whatever tests are used in a curriculum to assess learner proficiency, achievement, placement, etc. In a broader version of

the proposal, washback means that instructional programs should establish goals and a means for evaluating these from the outset and that effective teaching, and effective testing, must keep these in mind. In short, there shouldnt be a mismatch between what is taught and what is assessed. While we think the weaker version of washback is an important development in improving the quality of instructional programs, we believe that it doesnt go far enough in bringing assessment into a nexus with instruction. The guide contains five chapters. The first introduces the general theory of human development on which Dynamic Assessment is based. The theory originates in the writings of the Russian psychologist, L. S. Vygotsky, who argued that human mental functioning is mediated by artifacts, concepts, and activities organized by human culture. It is important to understand Vygotskys theory in order to effectively implement DA procedures that are flexible and adaptable to the particular needs of students. As we will see, DA is not a technique to be rigidly followed, but is instead a principled approach to assessment and instruction that requires us to provide assistance that maximally promotes the linguistic and cognitive development of learners. It is therefore important to understand the central principles of human development that underlie DA. This is the major focus of Chapter 1. Chapter 2 addresses the specific theoretical concept that is most immediately connected to DA the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD, is the place, or perhaps better said, the activity, where mediated development takes place; that is, the activity whereby appropriately organized and enacted instruction leads to development. In Chapter 3, we will discuss the different approaches to DA that researchers and educators have developed since the concept was first introduced to North American audiences by Vygotskys colleague, A. R. Luria in 1961. Chapter 4 will focus on DA as it pertains specifically to foreign and second language education.

We will consider four studies that illustrate different uses of DA in language programs. Each of the first four chapters contains a number of reflection/discussion questions for you to consider either alone or together with your colleagues. Chapter 5 contains a series of case studies that provides you with the opportunity to gain some experience in how to conceptualize assessment activity from the DA perspective. Finally we include a set of video clips illustrating DA procedures as they were implemented with advanced learners of French. The full text of each video and accompanying analysis is included in written form in the Appendix. Even if you do not understand French you should have little difficulty appreciating the video. Each clip includes English subtitles and we also provide an explanation of the language feature at issue. Although we highly recommend that you read through each chapter of the Guide before viewing the video clips, you can probably appreciate the analysis of the clips without working through all of the case studies contained in Chapter 5. But we do recommend that you at least work through case studies 1 and 2. Once youve had the chance to read the Guide, work through the case studies, and view the video, we would very much like to receive your thoughts and feedback. We are particularly interested in learning about your use of DA in your own teaching. For this reason, we have set up a DA Discussion Forum that you can access on the DA project page of CALPERs website: In addition to the Guide, you can listen to a series of Pod Casts where the authors discuss DA and respond to questions posed by an experienced classroom teach who is familiar with DA. The Pod Casts can also be found on the DA project page of CALPERs website. Finally, you can find additional information and an exceptional bibliography on DA as it relates to general education at the following address:

Acknowledgements Research for this publication was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of Education (CFDA 84.229, P229A020010-03). However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and one should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. It was also partially funded by a generous gift from Mr. Gil Watz to the Center for Language Acquisition at The Pennsylvania State University. We would like to thank Gabriela Appel, Karen Johnson, Dorie Evenson, and Emily Duvall for their invaluable feedback and suggestions for improving earlier versions of our manuscript. We also thank Elizabeth Smolcic for her assistance in preparing several of the case studies included in Chapter 5. Finally, a special thanks goes to Arlo Bensinger for his lead role in preparing the video portion of the Guide. Any shortcomings in our work are, of course, the sole responsibility of the authors.

The authors are grateful to those who have given permission to reproduce the following extracts and tables of copyright material: Table 1 and extracts from Negative feedback as regulation and second language learning in the zone of proximal development by A. Aljaafreh & J. P. Lantolf, The Modern Language Journal, 78: 465-483, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 1994. Extracts from Teacher formative assessment and talk in classroom contexts: Assessment as discourse and assessment of discourse by C. Leung & B. Mohan, Language Testing 21: 335-359, Sage Publications Ltd. 2004. Extracts from Investigating Formative Assessment: Teaching, Learning and Assessment in the Classroom by H. Torrance & J. Pryor, Open University Press/McGraw Hill, 1998.


Dynamic Assessment is grounded in the theory of mental development elaborated by the great Russian psychologist, L. S. Vygotsky. Vygotsky, whose life was unfortunately cut short by tuberculosis at the age of 38 (1896 to 1934), produced a remarkably rich body of work on the nature and development of the human mind. His writings have become increasingly influential, not only in psychology, but also in general education, and even more recently in teaching and learning second and foreign languages (see Lantolf and Thorne 2006, Lantolf 2000 and Lantolf and Appel 1994). In order to fully appreciate the relevance of DA for teaching, it will be necessary to spend a bit of time considering the central principles of Vygotskys theory. These are rather straightforward, but they have profound implications for how we conceive of educational practice and the development that we expect to emerge from it. Vygotsky insisted that the true test of any theory was not to be found in the research laboratory but in the extent to which it led to improvements in the everyday practices of a community. Above all, Vygotsky argued that education is an area where the theory could have significant impact on improving the opportunities for students to develop to their fullest. To this end, he and several of his colleagues set out to radically reform the Russian educational system. Unfortunately, the political system in power at the time, led by Stalin, did not look favorably on these reforms and therefore closed down Vygotskys activities. Today, however, educators have rediscovered Vygotskys ideas and have been attempting to implement these in various parts of the world and with various types of learners and subject matter as their primary focus. For example, programs in bilingualism and literacy, math and science education, as well as afterschool enrichment programs have been set up on a foundation of Vygotskyan principles (see


Moll 1990, Cole 1996, Forman, Minick & Stone 1993, Kozulin et al 2003, Lee & Smagorinsky 2000, John Steiner et al 1994, Wells1999, Wells & Claxton 2002).

Vygotskys Theory The theory of mind and mental development that originated in the writings of Vygotsky is variously known as cultural psychology, cultural-historical psychology, or sociocultural psychology. The basis of the theory is that culture has a profound influence on how humans think. According to Vygotsky, the relationship between humans and the world is not direct but mediated by culture and society. To appreciate the implications of this statement, consider that our relationship to the physical world is rarely direct but is instead mediated by the use of physical tools. If we want to dig a hole in our backyard to plant a flower, we generally do not use our hands. Instead we take up some tool, such as a shovel, that is suitable for digging in soil. The tool makes the task much easier and we can dig a more precise hole than we can with our hands. If we want to dig a wider and deeper hole, say to build the foundation for a house, we would most likely bring mechanized tools, such as backhoes, to bear on the project. As a result of the ability to build and use tools, humans have been able to reshape the world in which we live in ways that no other species can. One of the effects of this ability is that we have not only changed the world, but we have changed the way we relate to it and to ourselves. Because of our ability to build and use tools, we are not constrained by the limits of our physical bodies. Although our bodies are unable to match the flight of birds, we can build machines that fly higher and faster than any bird. Although our bodies cant move as fast as horses and cheetahs, we can build machines that transport us at higher speeds and for longer periods of time than either of these animals is capable of.


Symbolic Tools Vygotsky reasoned that in the same way that humans can build and use physical tools to mediate their relationship to and control over the physical world, humans construct and use symbolic tools to mediate our relationships to other humans and eventually to ourselves on a more abstract plane. Symbolic tools include such human creations as numbers, charts, music, paintings, and above all language, in both spoken and written form. These types of tools, generally referred to as cultural artifacts, are not only able to direct our attention and mediate our interactions with other people, but they can also be used to direct our attention and mediate our interactions with ourselves. Vygotsky argued that as children we learn to use symbolic artifacts, beginning with simple gestures and ending with complex language. We use these artifacts to influence others, while at the same time, others use these same artifacts to influence us. In this give and take we eventually develop our ability to use symbols to influence ourselves, including the movement of our bodies and, above all, the activity of our minds. Vygotsky refers to this special type of symbolically-mediated influence as regulation. Thus, as others tell us to do certain things (e.g., Drink all of your milk) and we tell others to also do things (Give me more milk), we learn to tell ourselves to do things in particular ways (e.g., Im going to get myself another glass of milk ; Lets see, 25 x 5 is 125). What at one point in our lives is a conversation between ourselves (I) and another (You) becomes a conversation with oneself where I develops an idea or a plan and Me listens and decides if the idea or plan is worth acting on (see Vocate 1994). Vygotsky refers to this type of intrapersonal communication as self-regulation. In other words, we develop the ability to control our own behavior, including our mental activity, by privately conversing with ourselves. Sometimes this happens at a level that is beyond our


conscious awareness, but it nevertheless is the primary means that we use to relate to and ultimately, act upon, the world. According to Vygotsky, humans are the only beings that have the ability to regulate their thinking and so we are not, like animals, compelled to directly respond to our bodily needs or to the forces of the environment in which we live. On the contrary, because of our ability to make tools and cultural artifacts, we are able to control our bodies, minds and the environmental forces impinging on these. The primary way we achieve this control is through our ability to plan our actions symbolically before carrying them out physically. Thus, when a human is motivated by some need (e.g., hunger, the need for shelter, the need to earn a living, the need to become literate, etc.), we generally first develop a plan in our minds, or even on a piece of paper, before acting on the need. Even a need as basic as hunger is usually met through a mentally constructed plan, as for example, when we decide what we would like to eat to satisfy our hunger and whether we will prepare a meal ourselves or buy it from someone else. In fact, for those of us who consider ourselves to be overweight, often a culturally influenced self-image, we may even decide to postpone eating altogether. Consider what happens when architects are contracted to construct buildings. One of the first things they do is develop a plan, or blueprint; in other words, they begin by symbolically creating the structure, either with paper and pencil or digitally on a computer. This plan is then converted into the physical building by the labor activity of construction workers who use the symbolic artifact the blueprint to mediate their construction activity. We can contrast the symbolic activity of the architect with the web-spinning activity of a spider. It seems clear that the difference between human architects and spiders is based in


mediation. Although spiders spin remarkably complex webs, they do not first develop a plan. Instead, they simply obey their biologically programmed instincts. Unlike the architect, spiders have no choice, and in fact, make no real decision with regard to the shape and size of their webs. These matters have been determined for them by the consequences of a long and complex evolutionary process through which they have adapted to changes in their environment. The ability to use symbols imbues humans with a great deal of power not only to adapt but to change our environment. One advantage of planning symbolically is that it saves resources, because, for example, architects can change the structure they want to build before actually building it. Another advantage is that planning allows us to anticipate risks that might arise in actualizing the plan. We can therefore change the plan or take other measures to minimize the risk before we actually implement the plan and therefore avoid costly reliance on trial and error processes.

Dominant Activities as a Form of Mediation Another type of culturally organized mediation is concrete goal-directed activity. Humans dont act randomly in the world. Our actions normally have a purpose. However, these actions are not completely free but are constrained in very subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways by the cultures and social groups in which we live. Our everyday practices are highly influenced at various stages of life by the particular types of activity that our culture makes available to us. These activities vary from culture to culture, and they have a profound effect on our development. In childhood, the dominant, or leading, activity is play. This activity is not just about having fun, but it fulfills an important function in which children learn how to behave under the constraints of rules or norms. Most importantly, through play, children begin to intentionally use


symbols; that is, they allow one thing to stand for, or represent, something else (Vygotsky 1978). In something as seemingly simple as pretending that a stick is a horse, children use one thing (a stick) to represent, or symbolize, something else (a horse). This is the beginning of childrens understanding of the power of symbolism, or the human ability to use language to represent the world. This power to represent the world through language is the source of the architects ability to design the building on paper before it is physically constructed. At a later point in life, formal education, at least for cultures that have organized such practices, becomes the dominant activity. For Vygotsky, formal education plays an important role in development, because for one thing, in schooling many aspects of the world that would otherwise remain hidden from observation become visible. Children, for example, are generally unaware of their language until they enter school and begin to develop literacy. By putting words on a piece of paper (or a computer screen), language, which to this point was primarily spoken and ephemeral and difficult to observe, becomes a permanent record and therefore more open to our own and others observation. Becoming literate, however, is not just a matter of learning to make particular marks on a page that represent sounds that themselves are symbols representing something else (e.g., the written word book represents a specific sequence of spoken sounds, which in turn represents a particular concrete object). Children also learn the primary function of writing, which is to address an interlocutor, who is not present. Prior to schooling, children predominantly experience language in spoken mode, where the interlocutor is usually directly visible and shares a good deal of information with the child regarding the topic of the interaction. In the case of written language, the situation is quite different. Because of the absence of the interlocutor, the child must learn to use language in a more explicit way, which means, among other things,


seeing things from the interlocutors (i.e., readers) perspective. In face-to-face conversation, it is often sufficient to make a comment such as really pretty when, for example, two individuals are looking at a painting hanging on the wall of an art gallery. If someone receives a piece of paper with really pretty written on it, it is difficult, if not impossible, to decipher the intended meaning of the author unless we have a significant amount of background information, including knowledge of the object being described. Producing a coherent written text requires the writer to construct a potential reader and to determine the necessary information and how to organize and present it in order for the reader to grasp the authors intended meaning. Vygotsky argued that the ability to manipulate written language effectively represents a major developmental step in the mental life of children. In addition, in school, students are expected to master academic, or scientific, concepts, which are yet another means we use to mediate our thinking processes. Scientific concepts contrast with everyday, or spontaneous, concepts. In the everyday world concepts are generally based on the superficial appearance of an object and are acquired without much intentional thought as we participate in the normal business of living. While spontaneous concepts help us to function in the everyday world, they generally conceal deeper principles about how the world is organized. For instance, on the face of things, a whale appears to be a fish, because it has fin-like appendages and swims in the ocean. This is a reasonable, but wrong, inference that children usually make until they are told that whales are mammals just like humans. To figure out that a whale is not a fish requires deeper knowledge of what determines the species of an animal. Similarly, children often assume that a needle, a penny and a thimble sink in water because they are small. Again, this is a reasonable conclusion based on the immediate observation of the specific objects involved. When they enter school they learn about the scientific concept of


buoyancy, which is determined by an objects density and the amount of displacement it produces in the water and not by its size. According to Vygotsky, as we learn scientific concepts in school our everyday spontaneous concepts are reshaped resulting in a different perspective on the world than we had when we entered school. In other words, mind has developed in new ways and is substantially different.

Work Activity Following education, work becomes the leading activity of life, at least in industrialized and technological societies. Work is also a culturally organized activity. For example, a company is often segmented into different departments each with its own responsibility for carrying out different tasks or producing different components of a final task or product. This is called division of labor. In an automobile company, for example, some individuals have the task of designing cars to be produced, others purchase the raw materials needed to build cars, develop the marketing plan to sell cars, and of course, others are responsible for actually building cars that are sold with the goal of making a profit. Not only do people carry out specific tasks in their work activity, but the work activity they engage in is eventually integrated into their psyche and forms part of their very identity as a member of a community. Thus, in addition to the familial identities we construct as a consequence of our role within the family structure (e.g., mother, father, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, etc.) we also construct identities on the basis of the type of work we engage in (e.g., teacher, construction worker, lawyer, business executive, salesperson, doctor, etc.). In addition to work, of course, adults engage in many other diverse activities, including religion, politics, and leisure time activities. Each of these, in turn, affects not only how we behave but also how we think about ourselves and our relationships to others. So mind


(and being) is again reshaped. The activities we participate in have quite significant consequences for who we are and for how we think and behave in our daily lives. It is important to keep in mind that because every culture organizes activities in its own way, its members not only speak differently but they think and behave differently. Thus, a person who fulfills the familial role of mother in Anglo culture is a very different individual from a person who fulfills that same role in Hispanic culture. This is because the role itself is defined in a different way in the two cultures. Conclusion The preceding brief discussion of the implications of the basic principle that human thinking in all of its manifestations is mediated by cultural artifacts and activities can be represented in the simple triangle given in Figure 1:

Artifacts & Activities



Figure 1: Mediated Nature of Human Thinking


The triangle, based on Vygotskys writings, is intended to show that for the most part our relationship to the world is not direct put passes through artifacts and activities organized by our culture. Notice that the arrows are bi-directional. This is intended to show that our connection to and impact on the world and the worlds connection to and impact on us is mediated by culture. The broken line at the bottom of the triangle represents the fact that in some cases the connection can be direct, as for example occurs when we reflexively move to avoid being struck by a hard object thrown at us. We do not need to think or plan our movement under such circumstances. If we do, we are likely to suffer a bump on the head, or worse! Although we have considered different leading activities in illustrating how culture mediates our relation to the world of objects and ideas, the remainder of our attention in this guide focuses on one of the most important leading activities, or as Ratner (2006) would put it, macrocultural instituitions education. One of the core concepts of education for Vygotsky, and the foundation of Dynamic Assessment, is the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). We need to first understand this important concept in order to set the stage for our discussion of DA. Therefore, the next chapter explains and addresses the educational implications of the ZPD.

Questions for reflection/discussion: 1. What other examples can you think of to support the claim that humans use culture to break beyond the limits of biology? Consider, for example, the ways we go about fulfilling basic needs in everyday life, as well as advances in certain fields that have dramatically changed how we live. Are there advances in education that come to mind?


2. When Vygotsky spoke of scientific concepts, he was referring to conceptual knowledge presented in all academic disciplines, not just the fields we usually think of as science (e.g., biology, physics, chemistry). History, mathematics, and language study, for

example, also have their own internal logic organized around theoretical concepts. In your view, what are the principle scientific concepts in foreign language study?

Enrichment Activities: 1. Find a willing colleague, friend, or family member and ask them to perform a particularly complex task. You might consider asking them to map out directions from one location to another, to solve a challenging math problem, or to put together a puzzle or model. Carefully observe their behavior while they complete the task. Write down any gestures they make, speech they produce, whether you see their lips moving, etc. Keeping in mind what you learned in this chapter about mediation, self-regulation, psychological tools, and other concepts in Vygotskys theory, what do your observations suggest about the persons functioning? 2. Now ask the same person to complete a similar task but this time try to find a partner to help (if you cant find someone else, you could always help). How does this change things? What specific behaviors are now present or absent when you compare this performance with the first one?


Suggested Readings: Mind in Society. The Development of Higher Psychological Processes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978), one of the most well-known of Vygotskys books, was actually not prepared by Vygotsky himself but was published several decades after his death. The book is a translated and edited version of a collection of Vygotskys writings that Alexander Luria gave to the American researcher, Michael Cole, and it is largely responsible for popularizing the theory in the West. Mind in Society is a relatively short (about 130 pages) and condensed version of Vygotskys work, but it is an excellent introduction. In fact, this one needs to be read more than once each rereading brings something new.

Thought and Language (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986), Vygotskys most famous book, translated and edited by Alex Kozulin, is available at most book sellers. This is Vygotskys classic work but it is not an easy read. The style in which it is written and the ideas it contains make it a challenging but important text to study. For those who want to develop a solid understanding of Vygotskys theory, this is the book. Kozulins introduction, Vygotsky in Context, is an informative overview of the man and his work. Chapter 6, where Vygotsky explains scientific concepts, is especially important for educational contexts (note also Vygotskys remarks about grammar study and foreign language learning in that chapter).

Vygotskys Psychology. A Biography of Ideas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990) a nice introduction to Vygotskys theory by Alex Kozulin is written in fairly accessible language and provides an in-depth discussion of recurring themes and problems in Vygotskys theory. It is divided into seven chapters, each of which is devoted to an important topic that Vygotskys


work addressed, including an especially informative chapter on the relevance of tools and symbols for human development.

The Discursive Mind (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994), by Rom Harr and Grant Gillett, examines the psychological consequences, some positive and other negative, of appropriating the meanings that are connected to specific ways of talking about the world.

Cultural Psychology. A Perspective on Psychological Functioning and Social Reform (Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 2006), by Carl Ratner, expands upon the notions considered in The Discursive Mind in order to understand the impact of macrocultural activities (similar to what we have called dominant or leading, activities) on personality, emotions, perception, thinking, memory, mental illness, and memory. In particular, Ratner argues that our psychology results not just from exposure to specific ways of talking about things but from the concrete activities that we participate in. He offers potential solutions to some of the significant psychological problems that people experience today as a consequence of the general policies and behavior of governments, business, and industry.

Tools of the Mind. The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1996), by Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong, is specifically written for educators. The language is very accessible and the theoretical concepts are clearly explained. While it addresses topics of particular interest for readers concerned with early childhood education there is much that is relevant to second language teachers at all levels. A word of caution, however: this book presents the authors interpretations of Vygotskys theory and how it can be applied in educational contexts. The book is not an authoritative analysis or explication


of sociocultural theory. We strongly recommend that it be read along with one of the above volumes so that you can evaluate, for yourself, the claims it makes.



You can probably see from our discussion in the previous chapter why Vygotskys innovative research has had such an impact on psychology and education. His insights on how human mental processes are grounded in culture lead us to ask the obvious question: what kinds of interactions are best able to help learners develop their mental abilities? Fortunately, Vygotsky pointed the way for us with his discovery of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). There is a good chance you have already heard of the ZPD; it is the part of Vygotskys theory that has received the most attention in general education. In fact, since the concept first became known in the West more than forty years ago, researchers have continued to explore its implications for education. This has resulted in many different interpretations of the ZPD, some of which are contradictory (Chaiklin 2003: 40). James Wertsch, a leading authority on Vygotsky, has

expressed concern that the ZPD has been used in so many different ways and to describe so many different phenomena that it risks losing any explanatory power (Wertsch 1984: 7). It is important that we take the time to understand the ZPD because it is at the heart of DA. In this chapter, our goal is to return to the source, so to speak, in order to see what Vygotsky actually said about the ZPD. However, this will not be a simple task. The matter is complicated by the fact that there are few references to the ZPD in Vygotskys own writings. If we look at all of Vygotskys writings that are available (even in the original Russian; relatively few have been translated into English), we see that the ZPD appears for the first time one year before his death in 1934 and that he only discusses it in eight places, including manuscripts, transcripts of lectures, and book chapters (see Chaiklin 2003: 44-45 for a full listing). Moreover, it appears that Vygotsky was of two minds on the subject. He initially talks about the ZPD in


the narrow context of traditional intelligence testing and later he extends it more broadly to the problem of how education relates to the development of mental abilities (van der Veer & Valsiner 1991: 328-329). We will need to proceed carefully in order to avoid any misunderstanding the ZPD and to more fully appreciate how it brings assessment and instruction together into a single activity. For example, the description of the ZPD that is used most frequently is the one that appears in the book Mind in Society, where the ZPD is defined as the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers (Vygotsky 1978: 86, italics in original). Taking this definition out of the context of Vygotskys theory and the research it has inspired creates the possibility of different interpretations of the concept. For instance, no definition is given of adult guidance and collaboration and there is no mention of the goals of such a procedure (Wertsch 1984: 8). To arrive at an understanding of the ZPD that is in keeping with Vygotskys general theory, we will trace the development of the concept in his writings. As well see, Vygotsky foresaw various educational applications of the ZPD and his discussions laid the groundwork for the diverse DA methodologies that have arisen in the years since his death. Specifically, we will try to show you that Vygotskys use of the ZPD as an alternative to IQ testing paved the way for a type of DA in which mediation is standardized so that the results of the assessment can be easily quantified and analyzed statistically. That is, DA results are presented as scores and percentages. Well refer to this type of DA as interventionist. Researchers and educators following an interventionist approach would likely count the number of mediating moves used during the procedure and report this along with a learners score (e.g., a score of 89% with 7


clues). The mediation is usually placed on a hierarchy to indicate how much it is intended to help learners. This helps to distinguish a learner who needed, say, level 4 mediation from one who needed level 8 mediation. Descriptors of what these levels mean would also be included in score reports in order to help make sense of a learners performance. Vygotskys other way of conceptualizing the ZPD sought to produce qualitative changes in learners mental abilities, or what he described as revolutionary breakthroughs (Vygotsky 1984: 249; cited in Valsiner and van der Veer 1993: 41). This understanding of the ZPD inspired DA researchers who argue that mediation must be flexible and individualized. Because of the importance of open-ended interaction and dialogue between mediators and learners in this approach, well call it interactionist DA. In interactionist DA, mediators do all that they can to optimally help learners develop. The results of interactionist procedures are usually written descriptions of the kinds of problems learners encountered, the forms of mediation that were offered, and how learners responded. In chapter 3, we will consider interventionist and interactionist DA in more detail, and we will look at examples of both. In this chapter, we are taking a step back in order to understand the interpretations of the ZPD that underlie the two general approaches to DA. In fact, the origins of both interventionist and interactionist DA exist in Vygotskys descriptions of the ZPD in a presentation he gave at the Bubnov Pedagogical Institute in 1933 entitled Dynamics of mental development of schoolchildren in connection with teaching (van der Veer & Valsiner 1991: 336-341). The Russian manuscript of this talk provides the most detailed account of Vygotskys perspective on the ZPD and so we will use it as the basis for our discussion.


The ZPD and IQ Testing Vygotsky gave his lecture at the Bubnov Institute in part to weigh in on a debate that was raging at the time over IQ testing. Not unlike today, some educators and psychologists in Vygotskys time questioned the value of IQ tests and the appropriateness of using IQ scores to make predictions about childrens likely success in school. Vygotsky began by informing his audience of a study in which children were given an IQ test just before beginning school and then were retested at various points over the next few years. This research found that during the first years of schooling children with initially high IQs tended to lose IQ points and children with low IQs gained IQ points. Should we conclude, Vygotsky may have asked his audience, that our teaching is having a positive effect on some learners and a negative effect on others? He explained that in order to understand what was happening, he and his colleagues had developed an alternative methodology for assessment, which included the use of hints and prompts during the testing procedure (van der Veer & Valsiner 1991: 337). Vygotskys reasoning was that the children would not all respond to assistance in the same manner and that some of them would benefit more than others (ibid.). In another one of his writings, Vygotsky explained this idea with an example: Having found that the mental age of two children was, let us say, eight, we gave each of them harder problems than he (sic) could manage on his own and provided some slight assistance: the first step in a solution, a leading question, or some other form of help. We discovered that one child could, in cooperation, solve problems designed for twelve-year-olds, while the other could not go beyond problems intended for nine-year-olds. The discrepancy between a childs actual mental age and the level he reaches in solving problems with assistance indicates the zone of his proximal development (Vygotsky 1986: 187).

Relying on examples like this, Vygotsky explained that while IQ tests help us understand learners abilities, cooperating with learners during the test allows us to see more fine-grained differences between individuals that we would otherwise miss.


Vygotsky and his colleagues used this approach to testing with a large number of children entering school. The results were used to group the children according to their IQ scores (high or low) and also according to how responsive they were to the assistance they were given. The more responsive children were said to have a large ZPD and the less responsive students a small ZPD. Following the children over time, Vygotsky was able to show that the size of the

childrens ZPD (large ZPD children were more successful than small ZPD children) was a better predictor of their success in school than their IQ score! Lets pause for a moment to think about the implications of Vygotskys findings.

Questions for reflection/discussion: 1. Youve probably never heard of a ZPD approach to IQ testing. If Vygotskys approach produced better results than the standard IQ test, why do you think we havent adopted his method? 2. How do the findings of Vygotskys ZPD research (large ZPD children did better in school than small ZPD children) help us to understand why some of the children in Vygotskys early study lost IQ points while other children gained them?

Vygotskys audience at the Bubnov Institute, upon hearing that he would address IQ testing, were no doubt eager to hear whether the illustrious psychologist would endorse existing IQ tests or propose an alternative. Given the impressive results of his ZPD research, we might expect that he would have opted for the latter. However, Vygotsky, in his characteristic way, chose a third possibility. He did not reject outright IQ testing but instead argued that IQ tests and ZPD assessments report two separate domains: independent and assisted performance (van der Veer &


Valsiner 1991: 341). Independent performance indicated the childrens present level of ability and assisted performance indicated their potential future IQ. Both are important, Vygotsky argued, if we are to understand the full range of learners abilities. We should keep in mind that this way of talking about the ZPD is markedly different from how the ZPD appears in Vygotskys later writings. Vygotsky initially conceptualized the ZPD as the difference between the IQ score children obtained when performing alone and the score they obtained when cooperating with a mediator. He also used his ZPD research to explain the finding that children could gain and lose IQ points during schooling by suggesting that the children who receive initially high IQ scores do so at the cost of their zone of proximal development, that is, they run through their zone of proximal development earlier, and, therefore, they are left with a relatively small zone of development, as they to some extent already used it (Vygotsky 1933: 53; cited in van der Veer & Valsiner 1991: 341). Elsewhere, Vygotsky is clear that there is no endpoint to development, and so the ZPD is always changing as we become capable of doing more and more both when we are mediated by others and when we perform alone (e.g., Vygotsky 1986, 1998). Of course, we should not lose sight of the fact that Vygotskys comments were made in the context of IQ testing, where mediation may certainly become irrelevant if a child is able to solve all or most of the problems on a test independently. Similarly, if a school curriculum is not adapted to continually challenge learners, those who are relatively advanced may reach a point where they no longer benefit from the instruction that is offered. In this case, learners assisted and unassisted performance will be the same, and we might say they have run through their ZPD. The alternative, of course, would be to continually present learners with tasks they are not able to solve independently and to provide the mediation they need to succeed. In this approach, teachers and learners are always working in an ever-changing ZPD. This development-oriented approach to the ZPD and to


schooling is the one Vygotsky focused on in most of his writings, so we will turn our attention to it now.

Using the ZPD to Promote Development through Instruction At the time of Vygotskys lecture at the Bubnov Pedagogical Institute, another issue that had captured the attention of educators, psychologists, and researchers was the relationship between schooling and the development of mental abilities. Although several models of this relationship existed, the one developed by the famous Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget ruled the day. In fact, Piagets work is still extremely influential in education around the world. While Vygotsky and Piaget agreed about many issues in psychology and education, their views on the connection between teaching and development were at odds. According to Piaget, teaching should follow development. In other words, mental

abilities develop in their own natural way. Once learners have developed the prerequisite capabilities, we can begin to teach them (van der Veer & Valsiner 1991: 329). Vygotsky rejected Piagets position because he said that it left no room for instruction to seriously impact upon development. This was a matter that Vygotsky felt strongly about, given his involvement in special education. Vygotsky argued that if a child has difficulty performing a given task or grasping a concept, she should not be left alone until she develops on her own a readiness to learn; instead, she should receive focused intervention designed to bring about development. To illustrate the difference between Piagets and Vygotskys views, consider the teaching of basic multiplication. From Piagets perspective, the childs mind will develop to a point where

multiplication instruction will make sense; that is, the child is ready to learn to multiply and so teachers should wait until this moment before introducing multiplication. Vygotsky, on the other


hand, argued that teaching should not wait for development to happen but should drive development. Teaching children multiplication is what helps them develop the abilities needed to multiply. In other words, they become ready to multiply by actually multiplying. Of course, Vygotsky also recognized that there are periods in a childs development when instruction can have an optimal effect. This is not, however, the same as Piagets notion of readiness. On the contrary, Vygotsky envisioned instruction aimed at a moving target, a timing that did not coincide with the childs present abilities but that was not too far beyond her current potential. As Vygotsky put it, for instruction to be most useful it should be oriented toward the future, not the past (Vygotsky 1986: 189). This means that instead of directing our instruction at what students are already capable of doing independently, we should target the upper threshold of their abilities, the point at which their independent performance starts breaking down (ibid.). It is at this point that they can benefit most from instruction, because teaching aimed at emerging abilities actually helps learners develop those abilities. The issue, then, is determining the range or zone in which teaching can optimally bring about the development of mental abilities. Vygotsky proposed that the method he used for elaborating IQ scores is precisely what is needed to find an individuals current range of abilities. He argued that the differences he found between IQ scores and ZPD scores represented much more than independent and mediated performance. Independent performance reveals abilities that have already fully developed. This range of ability is an individuals Zone of Actual Development (ZAD). The ZPD, on the other hand, is determined by what a learner cannot do independently but can do with appropriate assistance, or mediation. Learners are able to benefit from mediation, Vygotsky reasoned, when the abilities in question have not yet fully developed but are still in the process of forming.


Returning to his favorite example of two children whose independent problem solving is the same but who profit differentially from assistance, Vygotsky explained the meaning of such a circumstance: From the point of view of their independent activity they are equivalent, but from the point of view of their immediate potential development they are sharply different. That which the child turns out to be able to do with the help of an adult points us toward the zone of the childs proximal development. This means that with the help of this method, we can take stock not only of todays completed process of development, not only the cycles that are already concluded and done, not only the processes of maturation that are completed; we can also take stock of processes that are now in the state of coming into being, that are only ripening, or only developing (Vygotsky 1956: 447-448; cited in Wertsch 1985: 68). Vygotsky insisted that determining the actual level of development not only does not cover the whole picture of development, but very frequently encompasses only an insignificant part of it (Vygotsky 1998: 200). Making his point even more strongly, he concluded, To establish child development by the level reached on the present day means to refrain from understanding child development (Vygotsky 1935: 119; cited in van der Veer & Valsiner 1991: 329). Vygotsky also warned against using a learners ZAD as a basis for predicting the ZPD. As he tried to show with his examples, observing independent performance does not tell us what a learner will be capable of when offered mediation. In Vygotskys terms, this is because the processes that have led to an individuals current level of development are not necessarily the same that will bring about future development. That is, a learners future should not be assumed to be a simple extension or continuation of the present. A true diagnostic therefore involves a dual-level approach to understanding development through the ZAD and the ZPD. Vygotsky envisioned using the ZPD to understand the processes of development before they are fully matured. The importance of this for schooling is that instruction that targets a learners maturing rather than matured abilities will actually bring about their development.


Piaget suggested waiting until development takes place before beginning instructional programs in specific subject matter areas. Instruction in arithmetic, for example, should be delayed until children develop the concept of quantity. Vygotsky responded that development occurs through instruction that is sensitive to the ZPD. In his view, it makes little sense to teach people what they are already able to do on their own. Similarly, he cautioned that if instruction does not take account of the ZPD it will only lead to development on a hit-or-miss basis whenever it happens to coincide with the learners ZPD. In Vygotskys words, since teaching depends on immature, but maturing processes and the whole area of these processes is encompassed by the zone of proximal development of the child, the optimum time for teaching both the group and each individual child is established at each age by the zone of their proximal development. This is why determining the zone of proximal development has such great practical significance (Vygotsky 1998: 204). For Vygotsky instruction should guide children to develop a concept such as quantity, while at the same time demonstrating how numbers and basic arithmetic are used to organize and manipulate quantity. In this way, numbers take on a practical function in the everyday world. Now that we have an understanding of the ZPD and what it meant to Vygotsky, well turn our attention to how this concept led to modern DA methods. As you will see, both of Vygotskys ways of discussing the ZPD as a way of obtaining more accurate IQ scores and as a way of promoting development through teaching have appealed to DA practitioners working in various contexts.

Questions for reflection/discussion: 1. While Piaget argued that teaching should follow learner development, Vygotsky insisted that teaching leads development. How do these positions articulate with your own philosophy of teaching and learning and your classroom experience?


2. Think of some of the types of assessment you use in your language classroom. How do you think the knowledge and abilities you are assessing reflect the ZAD-ZPD distinction? Are these abilities in learners ZAD or ZPD? How do you know?

Enrichment Activities: 1. The ZPD is not just relevant to formal educational settings but to all instances of human learning. To understand how you can use appropriate mediation to help someone develop, try the following activity: identify someone in your life who struggles to complete an everyday task on his or her own but who can succeed when given guidance. For example, it may be a child, an elderly person, or someone you know with a disability. Try to help the person with whatever task they find difficult, but keep in mind that too little assistance will be ineffective and too much assistance does not give them the opportunity to realize their potential. Afterwards, write down your reflections on this experience. What happened? How exactly did you mediate this person? How did they respond? What does this tell you about their abilities? 2. If this is a person you have regular interactions with, pursue this. Continue to try to mediate them while they deal with the task that is so problematic for them. Be careful to note whether, over time, you are able to change the ways in which you support them. Are they able to perform with less help? Do they show signs of possibly being able to do it on their own?

Suggested Readings: Understanding Vygotsky. A Quest for Synthesis by van der Veer and Valsiner (1991, Cambridge: Blackwell) was drawn upon heavily in this chapter because these authors worked from the original Russian texts in which Vygotsky explains the ZPD. Their book is not for the fainthearted; it explores the development of the theory and its connections to other perspectives in psychology in considerable detail. Chapter 13 deals specifically with the ZPD. Seth Chaiklins (2003) paper The Zone of Proximal Development in Vygotskys Analysis of Learning and Instruction (in Vygotskys Educational Theory in Cultural Context edited by Kozulin et. al, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) is important because it explains exactly what Vygotsky said about the ZPD, but it is likely to appeal only to those interested in the finer details of the theory and how present-day Vygotskyan researchers are employing his ideas. A more easily readable account of the ZPD is given by Bodrova and Leong in chapter 4 of their (1996) book, Tools of the Mind. The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall). These authors also suggest several ways that the ZPD can be used as a basis for classroom practices.



Our focus in this chapter is on familiarizing you with the procedures followed in implementing Dynamic Assessment. Up to this point, we have described the theory of mental abilities on which DA is based Vygotskys Sociocultural Theory. In the last chapter, we focused particularly on how Vygotsky used his theory to address important issues in education: assessing intelligence and understanding the relationship between teaching and mental development. We saw that Vygotskys solution to both problems was a double-level approach in which learners are offered assistance, or mediation, while attempting to complete tasks that are slightly ahead of what they can do independently. Collaborating with learners in this way has two advantages: 1) it reveals their Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), or the range of abilities that are still in the process of developing; and 2) it enables a teacher/assessor to take an active role in leading learners development. In the prologue, we noted that when Vygotskys colleague, A. R. Luria, introduced idea of DA to researchers in the US, there were mixed reactions. As well see in this chapter, Western psychologists and educators were not sure how to make the ZPD fit with their own ideas about teaching and testing. As a result many different DA methods, all based on the ZPD, are currently in use. Well try to show you in this chapter that although we tend to think of teaching and assessment as distinct and separate activities, DA integrates them into a single activity in the ZPD that is focused on development. Some DA methods are more successful than others at unifying assessment and instruction. However, just as Vygotsky saw the ZPD

differently in the contexts of IQ testing and teaching, we can imagine situations when each of the DA methods we will look at has something to offer. That said, we will pay particular attention to


the DA approaches that fully integrate assessment and instruction because we believe, like Vygotsky, that this is the most appropriate way of helping learners develop. In addition, we think that the approaches that unify assessment and instruction are especially well suited to the classroom, and we will try to show you this with specific examples in this chapter and in the next. We will present a series of case studies designed to help you gain some experience in conducting DA. We will also provide you with a web address where you can find video examples of DA carried out with advanced learners of French. We begin with a brief account of the first time DA was introduced to a North American audience of educators and researchers by Vygotskys close colleague, Alexander R. Luria.

The Birth of Dynamic Assessment A. R. Luria played an instrumental role in introducing the ZPD and related concepts to the West (Wozniak 1980). Almost thirty years after Vygotskys death, Luria, who by then had become a world renowned neuropsychologist in his own right, was invited to the United States to deliver a lecture at a meeting of the American Orthopsychiatric Association. He was asked to address the issues involved in identifying children with learning disabilities and placing them in appropriate school settings. Luria (1961: 2-4) began his discussion by distinguishing four groups of children who perform poorly in school: (a) children of normal intelligence who under-perform as a result of emotional problems; (b) children with an actual biological impairment such as brain damage; (c) weak children whose school performance is adversely affected by their poor living conditions, including disease and malnutrition; and (d) children with partial defects who have normal intelligence but whose development is hampered by another problem such as hearing


impairment. He explained that traditional educational and psychological diagnoses often failed to distinguish between these groups and, consequently, children with mental retardation, deaf children, and children with poor attitudes toward school were lumped together into institutions where few received appropriate support that allowed for development to occur. One advantage to thinking of abilities in a quantitative manner is that tests can be created to measure the assumed amount of an ability that someone has and then scores can be use to more easily to compare individuals. Luria, on the other hand, took a stand against traditional approaches to understanding intelligence that conceptualized abilities quantitatively (e.g., 5 units of intelligence or 7 units of language proficiency). According to Luria, these

psychometric tests do not close the problem; they only open the problem (p. 5). In his view, assigning numerical values to individuals abilities does nothing to help them overcome the problems they face. He pleaded that we have to pay more attention not only to the diagnosis, but also to the prognosis of the developmental potential of these children (ibid.) [italics added]. It was in this context that Luria introduced his audience to a concept he translated into English as the zone of potential development, which has come to be known as the zone of proximal development. He explained that the ZPD led to impressive results in distinguishing the

underlying causes of childrens poor school performance and the insights gained from this approach to assessment helped in the design of appropriate interventions to support students development. Luria illustrated the concept with the IQ research he and Vygotsky had carried out years earlier, as we already discussed in the previous chapter. He surprised the audience by arguing that even though the first rule for every testing psychologist is to consider only those performances which are done by the child independently, the ZPD requires children to be given


assistance during the assessment (p. 6). The prognostic value of such an approach lies in the analysis of (1) the childs use of the assistance and (2) the extent to which the childs performance improves when given assistance. Additional insights can be gained by later testing the children again but without assistance in order to evaluate improvements in their independent performance, a concept Luria referred to as the principle of transfer (p. 7). Luria suggested that this multi-step approach to assessment allows for a more accurate picture of the childrens ability, as some children benefit greatly from assistance and others do not, and some children are able to maintain improved performance after assistance but others are not. He concluded, They [the three children in his example] may be quasi-identical in a statistical approach, but they are not identical in a dynamic approach, in the zone of their potential development (ibid., italics added). In this single paper, Luria laid the groundwork for much of what was to be known as dynamic assessment. We should not lose sight of the fact that Lurias presentation predated the publication of Vygotskys work in English, and so the ideas in Lurias talk were no doubt thought-provoking and perhaps even shocking for his audience. The paper had an immediate but limited impact on psychological and educational assessment in the US and elsewhere. For example, the earliest DA research to appear in English and gain widespread attention in education and psychology was the work of Milton Budoff (e.g., Budoff & Friedman, 1964; Budoff, 1968), who credits Luria with inspiring his particular approach to DA. Budoffs work, in turn, was built upon by other DA researchers, including Campione and Brown and Carlson and Wiedl. In addition, Lurias terminology his description of ZPD assessment as dynamic and his suggestion of transfer tasks proved important for DA.


Lurias presentation was generally well received but some researchers did not appreciate his objections to standardized testing. In particular, they were uncomfortable with the idea of flexible interaction whereby mediation was not standardized across examinees but was instead negotiated and tailored to the needs of individuals. It was felt that if the mediator behaved differently with each learner, then how could one say that two learners who earned a score of 70 had the same abilities? Could one of the children have received more or better mediation than the other? And if so, how can we compare one learner to another, or to samples of hundreds of learners? Luria responded that researchers must use objective methods in order to understand the qualitative differences in childrens learning problems. Unfortunately, not everyone

understood what Luria meant by objective methods. For Luria and Vygotsky, objective meant interpretation in a theoretically principled way. Thus Luria could speak of objectivity in his study because he interpreted the learners abilities according to what the mediated interactions revealed about their ZPD. For many in his audience, however, objectivity could only be

achieved through quantification and measurement. In fact, one member of the audience even remarked that what Luria called objective methods were the same as standardized tests! This confusion of the terms objectivity and psychometrics continues to the present day. Vygotsky, however, clearly insisted that we must not measure the child, we must interpret the child, and this can only be achieved through interaction and cooperation with the child (Vygotsky 1998: 204). In what follows we will consider the two main approaches to DA that emerged from the different ways researchers have construed objectivity. One of these, interventionist DA, continues to rely on standardization, measurement, and psychometric principles and the other


interactionist DA, is closely aligned with Vygotskys proposal that the educators task is to interpret and interact with learners.

Overview of Dynamic Assessment As we saw, Luria argued that from an educational perspective, traditional standardized tests are problematic because they are concerned only with the diagnosis of problems and they say very little about the prognosis of learners developmental potential. This idea of a prognosis, of bring learners past (i.e., ZAD) into contact with their future is a defining feature of DA. Through interaction, mediators construct a ZPD with learners, and in this way the learners potential future development is brought to light. In other words, DA does much more than to point out the problem; it offers recommendations for overcoming the problem and actually involves (re)mediation during the assessment. Thus, while traditional assessments may allow for

diagnosis, or a snapshot of an individuals abilities, DA is oriented toward the future, presenting a moving picture of development. When we make the ZPD our basis for assessment and instruction, we are taking a giant leap beyond most traditional ways of doing assessment. Most approaches to assessment do not allow learners to be mediated during the test. In fact, many would consider helping learners during a test to be cheating. Some DA researchers have used the term static assessment (SA) to refer to assessments that are not dynamic. Sternberg and Grigorenko (2002), for example, offer the following description of SA: the examiner presents items, either one at a time or all at once, and each examinee is asked to respond to these items successively, without feedback or intervention of any kind. At some point in time after the administration of the test is over, each examinee typically receives the only feedback he or she will get: a report on a score or set of scores. By that time, the examinee is studying for one or more future tests (p. vii).


We recognize that not all non-dynamic types of assessment fall under this characterization. For example, there are many forms of alternative assessment, including portfolio assessment, formative assessment, and project-based assessment that provide learners with feedback. However, the feedback is not necessarily sensitive to the ZPD and as such may or may not be effective in promoting development. Moreover, the feedback it is usually offered after the assessment procedures has been completed. DA takes into account the results of an intervention. In this intervention, the examiner teachers the examinee how to perform better on individual items or on the test as a whole (ibid.). Another way of capturing the difference between dynamic and non-dynamic approaches to assessment is that the latter seeks to produce a measure of learner abilities that is not contaminated by examiner-learner interactions. DA, on the other hand, focuses on modifiability and on producing suggestions for interventions that appear successful in facilitating improved learner performance (Lidz 1991: 6), and therefore sees such interactions as crucial to the assessment.

Formative and Summative Assessment In order to appreciate the departure DA represents from traditional approaches to assessment, it is helpful to review how the relationship between instruction and assessment is usually understood. Generally, researchers group assessment procedures into two kinds: summative and formative. Summative assessments report on the outcomes of learning after instruction is complete (Bachman 1990: 60-61). Summative assessments are consequently administered at the end of a period of study, and are sometimes referred to as achievement or mastery tests. Ratner (1997: 14) observes that such assessments assume that human abilities exist as discrete variables whose presence and intensity can be quantified for measurement. Learners scores on


summative assessments can be used to compare the abilities of large numbers of individuals, which is often used in making various high-stakes decisions, including the allocation of funds to schools and programs, the acceptance of students into colleges and universities, and the awarding of diplomas and certifications (Shohamy 1999). Complex statistical procedures are used to ensure that the scores themselves represent an accurate measure of underlying abilities. With summative assessments there is no direct relationship between instruction and assessment; they are two separate enterprises. In fact, when one of these activities affects the other, it is often regarded as a negative, as in the case of strong washback, which we discussed in chapter 1. For example, news stories about teaching to the test or a narrowing of the

curriculum because of a new test are all too common nowadays. Figure 2 below represents the relationship between instruction and assessment in a summative model.



Figure 2: Instruction and Assessment as Unrelated Activities

Unlike summative assessment, formative assessment is intended to directly feed back into teaching by providing important information about learners strengths and weaknesses and gauge the effectiveness of instruction (DAnglejan, Harley, & Shapson 1990: 107). This

information can help teachers make decisions about how much time and effort should be spent focusing on certain material. For example, giving a quiz to determine how well your students have understood a given topic; depending on the results, you may choose to move on or to spend time reviewing previously studied material. Formative assessments, then, do not take place after 42

learning has occurred but during the learning process. According to this view, assessment and instruction exist in a cyclical relationship. This model is represented in Figure 3.


Figure 3: Cyclical Relationship between Assessment and Instruction Ellis (2003: 312) points out that teachers have many different ways of carrying out formative assessments. One way is to plan the assessment beforehand. This might involve quizzes, as mentioned above, but also chapter tests and projects used during a course of study. Planned formative assessments are usually developed by teachers or groups of teachers for use within instructional settings, but are often modeled according to principles of summative assessments (e.g., students work alone to solve problems that have clear right and wrong answers, the tests are timed, the sequence of items are the same for everyone, etc.). Moreover, even during planned formative assessments, teaching and testing remain separate activities, with one focusing on learning and the other measuring or reporting on the outcomes of learning. In fact, in both summative and formative assessment, the feedback given to learners, whether it be a score, grade, percentile ranking, or set of comments and suggestions, is not intended to affect their performance during the assessment. The assessor observes and then gives feedback after the performance has been completed, perhaps intending that the feedback will help the learner in future endeavors. Feedback is thus very different from mediation, which is meant to support learner development and is an important component of the mediator-learner collaborative 43

activity that occurs during the assessment itself. For this to happen requires that the mediation be sensitive to the ZPD. Thus, the mediator has to pay attention to how the learner responds to attempts at mediation and he or she must be prepared to adjust mediation accordingly. The other type of formative assessment Ellis describes is incidental. Incidental

formative assessment occurs when teachers and students engage in conversations during regular classroom activities (Ellis 2003: 314). Ellis suggests that these assessments can be further divided into internal and external varieties (ibid.). Internal incidental formative assessment involves teacher questioning and probing as well as feedback on performance while learners are completing a task; external incidental formative assessment focuses on the teachers and students reflections on performance either while a task is being carried out or after it has been completed. As we will see below, incidental formative assessment bears similarities to DA, but there are also important differences. In particular, the research on incidental formative assessment suggests that these teacher-student conversations are not carried out systematically. For

instance, Torrance and Pryor (1998: 91) conducted a series of classroom observations and found that teachers create good openings for learners to develop but that these are often not fully explored. Instead, teachers tend to rely on intuition and their commitment to child-centered gentleness, to guide their interactions with learners. Thus, the effectiveness of these

interactions tends to be hit-or-miss. In other words, incidental formative assessment may be beneficial to learners, but its impact on learning may be unintended and may not even be recognized by the teacher (ibid.). According to Torrance and Pryor, incidental formative

assessments are not as effective as they could be due to their lack of grounding in a theory of development. Without a clear understanding of how learners abilities can be developed through


appropriate interaction (i.e., activity that is sensitive to learners ZPDs), opportunities to explore and promote development are frequently missed. Rea-Dickins and Gardner (2000) arrive at a similar conclusion regarding the lack of systematicity in formative assessment practices. In studying teacher performance during

incidental formative assessment, Rea-Dickins and Gardner found that the results of the assessments were more questionable than the teachers had realized (p. 238). The teachers did not have a theory of development to guide their interactions with their students and to help them interpret the students abilities. As a result, the teachers tended over-estimated some learners abilities while under-estimating the abilities of others. Rea-Dickins and Gardner argue that such problems must be addressed as high-stakes decisions are not just made on the basis of summative assessment but are often based on learners in-class performance (p. 237). They point out, for example, that teachers often rely on formative assessment not only to plan and manage instruction but also to gather evidence of student learning and effectiveness of teaching; to determine the extent to which curricular objectives have been met; and to make recommendations on future placement of students (pp. 229-230). They conclude that it is just as important to engage in formative assessment systematically and on principled grounds as it is to do so in for summative assessment. In the next section we consider DAs contribution to a more principled approach to formative assessment.

Questions for Reflection/Discussion: 1. Offer an example of both a summative and formative assessment that you use with your students. What is the role of the student in each example you offered? Identify the goal(s) of each type of assessment. What purpose do they serve in the teaching/learning process?


2. List several ways that formative assessment might be carried out on a daily basis in a language classroom? What are some possible pedagogic strategies that a teacher might use to implement a formative assessment? 3. What are some possible drawbacks or disadvantages of this type of assessment? In spite of these drawbacks, what are the advantages or benefits of formative assessment?

Rethinking the Relationship between Teaching and Assessing In DA, we can describe the relationship between assessment and instruction as follows: assessment is not an isolated activity that is merely linked to intervention. Assessment, instruction, and remediation can be based on the same universal explanatory conceptualization of a childs development (typical or atypical) and within this model are therefore inseparable (Lidz & Gindis 2003: 100). The explanatory principle these authors refer to is the ZPD, the activity where assessment and instruction exist as two sides of the same coin. As already explained, observing what an individual can do alone reveals only those abilities that have fully matured. In order to bring to light and develop those abilities in the process of ripening, it is necessary to provide learners with appropriate mediation. From the perspective of DA, it is difficult to determine whether an activity is assessment or instruction by simply observing teacher-student interactions. Figure 4 represents this integrated view of instruction and assessment.


Figure 4: Unified View of Instruction and Assessment in DA


Of course, the inseparability of assessment and instruction makes DA difficult to conceptualize. This is because we are used to thinking of instruction and assessment as two distinct activities with different goals. It should be clear by now that DA is guided by a general belief that individuals abilities can be intentionally developed with the appropriate form of mediation. As teachers, we generally do not find this claim controversial. However, when playing the role of tester, we tend to assume that learners do not change. In fact, if a learner improves during a test, this raises questions about how to interpret the test score because the score represents a measurement of a moving target! Therefore, great efforts are made in

traditional assessments to make sure that individuals do not improve or learn during the assessment. These include allocating a certain amount of time, standardizing the directions, not allowing students to use supporting materials like dictionaries and grammar references, etc. In DA, on the other hand, we intentionally set out to help learners change during the assessment. Indeed, if learners were not changing, then the DA would be regarded as a failure because it did not help the learners to move beyond their independent performance. This leads to the second important distinguishing feature of DA: the role of the teacher/tester. In DA the conventional attitude of neutrality that characterizes traditional assessments is thus replaced by an atmosphere of teaching and helping (Sternberg & Grigorenko 2002: 29). In fact, some DA researchers prefer to use the terms mediator and learner rather than examiner/assessor and examinee in order to highlight this new, collaborative relationship. The mediator offers some form of support to the learner, ranging from prompts and leading questions to hints and explanations. In this way, it is possible to move beyond a simple, black-and-white picture of students abilities that says they can or cannot do X; instead, DA offers a more nuanced view by revealing what kind of mediation learners need to do


X, recognizing of course that providing them with mediation also moves them closer to being able to perform independently. Of course, the extent to which the mediator is free to interact with the learner depends upon the DA methodology being followed. In the next section we will discuss different procedures for conducting DA. Before we do, however, it will be helpful to consider the following questions for reflection and discussion:

Questions for reflection/discussion: 1. In your school, what kind of connection do you see between how students are taught and how their learning is assessed? What about in your classroom? 2. How would you describe your philosophy of assessment? In what ways does it differ from your philosophy of teaching? 3. What is your reaction to Vygotskys claim that assessment and instruction should be two sides of the same coin? perspective? What problems and strengths do you see with such a

Different Approaches to Dynamic Assessment Most people working in DA realize that in order to optimally meet learners needs, mediation must be flexible so that it can be adapted to whatever problems arise. After all, effective teaching strives to provide appropriate kinds of interaction to help learners develop. If we take seriously Vygotskys position that instruction and assessment must be unified, then this same principle should guide our assessment practices. On the other hand, it has been pointed out that sometimes we must be prepared to share our assessment results with various stakeholders (e.g., students, parents, administrators), and that this can conveniently be done by assigning scores to


represent test performance. In order to produce such scores, however, the assessment procedures must be standardized. The central issue, then, is how one chooses to strike a balance between helping learners and scoring performance. Over the last forty years, DA researchers have devised many ways of meeting these goals. As we mentioned earlier, these approaches can be grouped into two broad categories: interactionist and interventionist. Well now take a look at each of these, keeping in mind the strengths and weaknesses of both.

Interactionist DA The distinction between the two approaches is characterized by the different kind of mediation each provides. Vygotsky (1998: 201) proposed that the mediator and the learner should work together in cooperation, which implies dialogic interaction. Proponents of interactionist DA understand mediation to be emergent, that is, an ongoing negotiation between the mediator and the learner, with each participant free to act and react as the situation demands. The precise forms of mediation are not determined before the assessment but instead emerge from the cooperative dialoguing between the mediator and the learner. Importantly, both participants share responsibility for performance and for development, although as learners develop they take on more and more responsibility. Because mediation is emergent in interactionist DA, it is

highly sensitive to the learners ZPD. Interactions will consequently vary from person to person, as well as for the same person over time, because individuals have different ZPDs. In

interactionist DA, this is not a problem but a necessary part of learner development. Thus, the concern that test developers and educators raised in response to Lurias presentation of dynamic assessment to the effect that some children may receive different assistance than other children is seen as a positive rather than a negative feature of interactionist DA. What makes assistance


appropriate or not is determined in the dialogue between the learner and the mediator. Hence, some learners will require more and qualitatively different mediation than other learners. From Vygotskys perspective, to do otherwise would be inappropriate because it would mean withholding assistance that could very well help the learner make progress.

Interventionist DA Interventionist DA pre-establishes an inventory of standardized and graded mediation and thus is closer to more traditional approaches to assessment than is interactionist DA. An interventionist approach might use reminders, hints, and leading questions that are weighted differently depending upon their level of explicitness. For example, a reminder such as, Remember to check your spelling might be worth 3 points because it is a general form of advice; whereas a hint like, Think about the rules we learned for words that are spelled with e and i might be valued at 5 points because it is much more specific. The mediator must not go beyond the prescribed forms of mediation since this would undermine standardization. At the end of the assessment, scores are calculated that represent learners performance as well as the amount and kind of mediation they required.

Other Factors in Administration of DA In addition to choosing between dialogic (interactionist) and standardized (interventionist) mediation, DA practitioners also have alternatives concerning when in the assessment procedure they provide mediation. Sternberg and Grigorenko (2002: 27) note that in some cases mediation is given in response to learners problems as they complete the assessment tasks. They refer to this as a cake format because the assessment tasks and the mediation are layered together. The


authors note that the cake format lends itself to individual administration, and is therefore especially common in interactionist approaches, although it is also used in interventionist DA. In the cake format, the learner is given feedback after each item on the test or task. This makes problem areas immediately visible to the learner. In the interventionist format, the mediation given in each case is, as we have mentioned, standardized and offered beginning with the most implicit hint and moving toward the most explicit hint, which includes providing the learner with the correct answer. In the interactionist format, mediation is also initially offered as an implicit hint, but from that point on, how explicit and how extensive the assistant needs to be is determined by the learners responsiveness to what the mediator offers. We will provide examples of each procedure in the next section. Sternberg and Grigorenko (ibid.) observe that mediation can also be administered after learners have completed the test. In this format, learners first undergo a traditional pre-test where they respond without support from a mediator. This is then followed by intervention in which the mediator takes stock of the learners problem areas and the strategies they used to respond to each item. The mediator shows the learners where and why they made the mistakes they did and explains how to arrive at the appropriate response. This is then followed by a posttest in which the learners again perform on their own. Learners performance on the post-test can then be compared to the pre-test in order to determine how much improvement they made as a result of mediation. Because mediation is sandwiched between two tests, Sternberg and Grigorenko refer to this as the sandwich format. Sternberg and Grigorenko (ibid.) also point out that these procedures can be administered in either an individual or group setting, and that in individualized procedures the mediation may also be individualized, while in group procedures the mediation tends to be the same for everyone.


The sandwich format appears to be similar to procedures carried out in many psychological experiments where participants are given a pre-test followed by a treatment, which in turn is followed by a post-test to determine the effect of the treatment on learning. There is however, an important difference between experimental research of this kind and the sandwich format of DA. In experimental research, the treatment is usually predetermined on the basis of the researchers hypothesis about how best to promote learning. In the sandwich format, mediation isnt determined beforehand; rather it emerges from learner behavior during the pretest and is tuned to this behavior. Before moving on, we want to point out that those working in both approaches to DA share similar concerns. For example, interventionist DA practitioners realize that by placing restrictions on the mediation they use they are potentially losing opportunities to understand and help learners; the mediation they offer may not be what the learners need. Similarly, those in interactionist DA understand the importance of sharing assessment results and have developed many ways of doing so, including learner profiles that describe performance, mediation, responsiveness, and changes over time. Both approaches have advantages, and the approach one chooses to follow should depend on ones goals and available resources. For instance, if one wishes to administer DA to large numbers of applicants in order to place students at the appropriate level in a foreign language program, an interventionist approach might be more feasible because it is easier to score and learners results can be readily compared. In a

classroom setting, where greater emphasis is usually given to learner development, interactionist DA, as a systematic and principled approach to formative assessment, is most likely the better alternative.


Questions for reflection/discussion: 1. What problems or disadvantages do you see with DA in general and with these approaches and formats in particular? 2. How do you see these approaches living up to DAs goal of unifying assessment and instruction?

Major Methods of Implementing Dynamic Assessment Now that we have outlined the two general approaches to DA, we will consider specific methodologies that DA practitioners have developed to meet a variety of goals in different settings. We wont discuss all of the variations used in implementing DA (but see Lantolf and Poehner 2004 and Sternberg and Grigorenko 2002). We will, however, discuss three procedures that we believe are especially useful in L2 classrooms: the Graduated Prompt method developed by American researchers Campione and Brown; Testing-the-Limits, a DA technique pioneered in Germany and the US by Carlson and Weidl; and finally, the Mediated Learning Experience developed by Reuven Feuerstein and his colleagues in Israel. Although the first two methods are examples of interventionist DA and the third interactionist DA, we believe that all three have much to offer and that their techniques can be usefully integrated to meet diverse pedagogical needs. We therefore urge you not to view these methods as set-in-stone procedures but rather as examples of how some practitioners have used Vygotskys ideas to implement appropriate forms of mediation in different educational contexts. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but the overriding concern is with meeting, as optimally as possible, learner needs in specific circumstances.


The Graduated Prompt Approach The Graduated Prompt Approach (GPA) developed by Campione and Brown is a variation on interventionist DA in the cake format (see Brown and Ferrera 1985; Campione, Brown, Ferrara & Bryant 1984). This method involves first developing a hierarchy of prompts that are

graduated, that is, arranged from most implicit to most explicit. The prompts are standardized with no room for deviation. During the administration of the test, whenever a learner encounters difficulties, the mediator begins with the most implicit prompt and moves step by step toward the explicit side of the hierarchy until the learner overcomes the problem or until the mediator finally reveals the solution and explains why it is correct. Campione and Brown have used their method with specific content areas, focusing especially on reading and math, and have worked with both normal and special children. An especially important feature of GPA, and one which sets it apart from other approaches, is the inclusion of transfer tasks intended to determine how well students can extend their learning beyond the assessment. You may remember from the last chapter that transfer was an idea that Luria (1961) suggested was crucial to determining the impact of mediation on development. Transfer involves determining whether or not learners have appropriated the mediation from DA and can carry out new tasks either independently or with much less assistance than at the outset of the process. One example of a transfer task in the GPA approach (described by Campione, Brown, Ferrara & Bryant 1984; Palinscar, Brown & Campione 1991) involves completing the pattern of a series of letters. For example, on the initial DA task children are given a string of letters such as NGOHPIQJ_ _ _ _ . They must realize that every other letter is sequenced alphabetically (N, O, P, Q and G, H, I, J). They then have to complete the sequence with the letters RKSL. Once learners have mastered this kind of problem, the task becomes more difficult. For example, they


might be asked to complete a series of letters in which the pattern was the same as the one above but ran backwards. On a still more difficult task, they could be asked to identify patterns not just within one string but within several strings of letters. In GPA the intervention focuses on teaching learners general principles or strategies that can help them complete the assessment tasks. For example, they may be taught ways of

identifying the main idea of a reading or basic principles for handling fractions. After students have learned to perform the assessment tasks independently, they are then presented with new problems that are more complex than those used on the original assessment. Learners

responses to prompts are analyzed in terms of how explicit they need to be and how well learners perform not only on the original but also on the transfer tasks. The insights gained are then used to (1) make predictions about how quickly the students will learn new material, (2) place learners in appropriate programs based on the problems they experienced and the gains they made through mediation, and (3) identify students in need of special services.

Testing-the-Limits Method Carlson and Wiedl (1992, 2000) developed their procedures in response to the growing belief that traditional tests tend to underestimate the abilities of some learners, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Their interest was in understanding how learners performances would be affected if the conditions of the test were altered. In particular, they reasoned that learners who perform poorly on tests may simply not orient properly to test items, (i.e., interpreting what test items are actually asking and developing a plan for how to respond), may experience difficulties maintaining focus, and may experience high levels of frustration (Dillon


& Carlson 1978: 437). Carlson and Wiedl therefore decided that the target of their interventions would be to remediate learners planning processes. These researchers have proposed two intervention techniques: (1) providing learners with extensive feedback on their performance and (2) encouraging learners to verbalize how they are approaching problems and what they will do to overcome them. In some cases, Carlson and Wiedl interrupt during administration of the test to offer feedback or to ask students to verbalize their thoughts, while in other cases they wait until learners have completed a task before interacting with them; sometimes they will ask learners to reattempt the task after they have discussed the initial performance. The importance of verbalization, from the perspective of SCT, is that it helps learners to externalize their thought process, and this externalization offers two advantages: 1) it allows the mediator to understand how learners are approaching the task and where they are encountering problems, which makes it easier to provide appropriate feedback; and 2) it affords learners the opportunity to mediate their own performance by thinking through the problem aloud. Carslon and Wiedl (1992: 163) have developed various levels of standardized verbalization prompts designed, in some cases, to encourage learners to think aloud so that the researchers can better assess where problems occur during task solution (Try to think aloud. I guess you do so when you are alone and working on a problem or Think, reason in a loud voice, tell me everything that passes through your head during your work searching for the solution to the problem), while in other situations the verbalization itself is a means of intervening in a learners thinking by encouraging them to approach a task in a particular way (Tell me what you see and what you are thinking about as you solve the problem. Tell me why you think the solution you chose is correct. Why is it correct and the other answer possibilities


wrong?). In their research, they have found verbalization is an especially helpful form of mediation for learners who usually perform poorly on tests (Kar et al 1993).

Mediated Learning Experience Reuven Feuersteins work has focused on immigrant populations and children with learning disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, attention deficit disorder, and hearing impairment. An early pioneer in the field of special education, Feuerstein criticized the educational practice of simply labeling individuals with some disability and declaring that little can be done to help them improve. While not denying that there often is a biological element to many of the problems children experience in school, Feuerstein, like Vygotsky, argued that we must not use this as an excuse to give up on learners. In fact, for Vygotsky, while the source of a learning problem may be rooted in biology, the solution to overcoming the problem resides not in treating the source, but in developing alternative culturally organized means of mediating the individual. Thus, even though the cause of a learning disability may be biological (e.g. autism, schizophrenia), the rehabilitation of the individual depends on mediation (Vygotsky 1993: 269). In practice, this means that if we assume that learners future success can be perfectly predicted on the basis of their present performance, we are in fact ignoring a possibility that the predicted destiny may not materialize if powerful intervention takes place(Feuerstein et al 1988: 83). For Feuerstein, this is the role of education: to provide appropriate kinds of experiences to help individuals develop beyond their current abilities. Feuerstein distinguishes direct learning experiences from mediated learning experiences. In direct learning, individuals interact with their environment in a trial-and-error,


experimental manner. They have no guidance and are left on their own to try to learn about the world and objects in it. For most people, direct learning experiences are not sufficient to develop their mental abilities. They remain trapped in the here-and-now situation, unable to interpret the world or to construct meaning in a way that will allow them to see connections between events, situations, and individuals. When they enter school, because they have not learned to make such connections, they are poorly equipped to handle academic content. In other words, they have not learned how to learn. Recall from our discussion of sociocultural theory in chapter 2,

Feuersteins analysis is very similar to Vygotskys. In Vygotskys terms, the childrens lack of interactions that are mediated by others and by cultural artifacts means that they have not internalized the ability to self-regulate. Feuerstein goes on to explain that in mediated learning, on the other hand, children are not left to their own devices but instead interact with an adult or more knowledgeable peer, who selects, changes, amplifies, and interprets objects and processes for the child (Kozulin 1998: 60). In fact, Feuerstein argues that this kind of learning is universal among human cultures: adult members of a community mediate the world for their young through language, gesture, ritual, and by including them in the various activities of daily living. These experiences enable children to become fully competent members of the community. Through mediated learning children develop the ability to plan, to make comparisons of similarities and differences, and to formulate and test hypotheses, and all of these are necessary for learning both in and out of school (Kozulin 1998: 68). Feuerstein summarizes the relationship between mediated and direct learning as follows: The more a child is subjected to mediated learning experiences, the greater will be his capacity to benefit from direct exposure to learning. On the other hand, a lack of MLE will produce an individual who will benefit very little from direct encounters with learning tasks (Feuerstein et al 1988: 58).


In fact, Feuerstein rejects the term retarded individuals, preferring instead retarded performers in order to emphasize that it is performance rather than the person that is retarded and that needs to be modified. This immediately moves the problem from the biological to the social plane where with appropriate forms of mediation chances of development are greatly increased. Vygotsky similarly saw little hope for improvement of children with learning disabilities if education directly targets the biological basis of the deficit and ignores the central role of social mediation in development (Vygotsky 1993: 269). Feuerstein and his colleagues have established their own center in Israel for the modification of retarded performance, the International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential. Based on his belief that retarded performers have not had the appropriate kinds of experiences, Feuerstein attempts to compensate for this by providing learners with intensive sessions of mediation. His approach to DA is therefore known as the Mediated Learning Experience (MLE). During MLE, an adult mediator engages in a task with a learner and provides as much mediation and as many forms of mediation as necessary to improve performance. The interaction between the mediator and the learner is highly flexible, with the mediator constantly noting the learners responsiveness to mediation and making changes accordingly. The mediators goal is to diagnose the learners potential for cognitive change. This is accomplished by actually helping the learner to change during the assessment itself. In Vygotskys terms, MLE facilitates the learners internalization of social interaction with the mediator since this interaction serves as a model that the learner can imitate and transform as needed in future performance. The outcome of MLE is described in terms of (1) the degree to which the learner changes and (2) the mediation required to bring about that change.


Feuerstein has created a list of characteristics (Feuerstein, Rand & Rynders 1988: 61-62)that interactions must have if they are to optimally help learners during the MLE. These attributes are not a recipe for doing DA; instead they are guiding principles that Feuerstein and his colleagues have found useful for helping teachers and assessors learn to mediate their students. For convenience we summarize these in Table 1. Table 1: Attributes of Mediated Learning Experience 1. 2. 3. 4. Intentionality and reciprocity Transcendence Mediation of meaning Mediation of feelings of competence offering various forms of assistance to help the learner to successfully complete a task previously perceived as too difficult and interpreting to him the meaning of his success. 5. Mediated regulation and control of behavior regulation of the childs impulsivity and attention in ways that lead to the child gradually taking on more and more responsibility for the control of his own behavior. 6. Mediated sharing behavior involves the mediator communicating to the learner her own orientation to the task, her perception of its demands, reactions to problems that arise, and feelings at various stages of task completion while also attempting to elicit the childs feelings and perceptions, emphasizing the joint nature of the interaction. 7. Mediation of individuation and psychological differentiation emphasizes the learner as an individual with thoughts, feelings, and abilities that may be different from but can certainly complement those of others. 8. Mediation of goal seeking, goal setting, goal planning, and achieving behavior proposing and perceiving goals; planning specific actions, including the achievement of sub-goals, that will lead to task completion; using representational modes of thinking; and execution of problem-solving strategies. 9. Mediation of challenge: The search for novelty and complexity attempts to mediate an activity the learner has already mastered will not produce the feeling of competence described above and may lead to boredom and frustration. MLE tasks should target what the learner is not yet capable of doing independently. 10. Mediation of an awareness of the human being as a changing entity the core of Feuersteins SCM theory, the belief that all human beings are modifiable. 11. Mediation of an optimistic alternative related to the above, the insistence that individuals can be more than their present abilities suggest.


According to Feuerstein the first three attributes are the heart of MLE. Intentionality refers to the adults deliberate efforts to mediate the world, an object in it, or an activity for the learner. Intentionality is what distinguishes MLE from the unsystematic learning that usually characterizes direct trial-and-error learning. MLE focuses on creating a ZPD with learners so that they may be guided through various activities they would otherwise not be able to complete on their own. Lidz (1991: 74-75) explains that intentionality requires the mediator to engage in

various behaviors, including initiating, maintaining, and terminating the interaction as well as regulating and refocusing the childs attention and participation. Feuerstein, Rand, and

Rynders (1988: 62-63) further illustrate intentionality with the example of a mediator who wishes to call a learners attention to a particular object. The mediator may point out significant features, ask questions, make suggestions, gesture, and constantly read the learners responses in order to make adjustments and changes to maintain engagement. Reciprocity is the term Feuerstein uses to describe the learners contributions to the interaction, acknowledging that the actions of both participants are necessarily intertwined. According to Feuerstein, learners taking part in MLE are no longer passive recipients of knowledge but active co-constructors of it. Transcendence describes the ultimate goal of MLE: to bring about the developmental changes required for learners to move beyond the here-and-now demands of a given activity, preparing them for new contexts and future learning. Feuerstein (Feuerstein et al., 1979: 92) argues that true development transcends any specific task, and the results of development should be visible in a variety of ways under differing conditions. Thus, Feuersteins understanding of transcendence has much in common with Campione and Browns notion of transfer. Feuerstein structures his MLE in a way that parallels Campione and Browns transfer assessments. Typically, there is an initial training phase on a particular problem, which is followed by learners


tackling a series of tasks that represent progressively more complex modifications of the original training task (ibid.). By including tasks that vary in their level of difficulty and complexity learners are required to adapt just as they would be expected to do in daily life. In this way, transcendence runs counter to the often-voiced concerns regarding teaching to the test. Instead, transcendence suggests that we teach to the future through the test. Mediation of meaning, the third key attribute of MLE is directly related to the first two. Without understanding the meaning of an object or activity, learners are left with an episodic grasp of reality and are unable to connect present events to those in their past and, conversely, cannot project into the future on the basis of the present or past. Lidz (1991: 77) reviews the available literature on the MLE and concludes that mediation of meaning concerns the mediators attempts to focus the childs attention on certain features of the task, to elaborate on their significance, and to engage in cause-and-effect and inferential thinking. Thus, while

intentionality describes the approach taken by the mediator (e.g., structuring the experience, scheduling the stimulus, maintaining the childs focus, etc.) and transcendence refers to the goal of the MLE (i.e., the childs cognitive development), mediation of meaning is the glue that holds both of these together. Meaning is that which the mediator must intend to help the child develop and it is also what enables the child to move beyond the specific MLE to the larger world of social relations. For Feuerstein, this is the core of human learning.

Instrumental Enrichment In keeping with the spirit of DA and the general view that instruction and assessment must be unified, Feuerstein uses mediated learning as a concept for both the assessments he carries out as well as the more long-term intervention program he has designed, Instrumental Enrichment


(IE). IE received its name because it involves a series of exercises and activities (instruments) that are designed to help learners develop abilities they are lacking (enrichment). Because Feuerstein has worked primarily with children with special needs, the IE materials target very basic abilities such as perception, memory, attention, the ability to draw comparisons and detect patterns, etc. What is important to note about Feuersteins approach is that his intervention program operates much like his approach to DA: learners and mediators collaborate, and the precise forms of mediation that are used emerge from their joint effort; standardization of mediation is not an issue here. In its current form, the IE program consists of around 300 hours of exercises. Learners typically require about two years to complete the program, although there is a good deal of variance depending upon individuals range of ability and prior experiences. While MLE is highly interactive and usually conducted in a one-on-one format, IE is generally carried out in a classroom setting with between 10 and 30 students. Feuerstein and his colleagues report that the diversity of needs, strengths, and ability levels that characterize most classrooms actually make them optimal sites for mediated learning because collaboration and multiple ways of understanding move to the fore (Feuerstein et al 1988: 210). In fact, Feuerstein reports that group settings facilitate mediated learning through the socializing and amplifying aspects of interactions in groups, which he sees as an advantage over individualized formats (ibid.). The possibility of constructing a group, or collective, ZPD was something Vygotsky (1998) was also interested in. We will see an example of a group approach to DA when we consider the case studies in the next chapter. We will also consider how Feuersteins methods can be used to address specific content areas, including second language learning.


Questions for reflection/discussion: 1. Thinking about the DA methods we have discussed, in what contexts can you imagine each of these (or combinations of them) being useful? 2. If you were to try to convince department/institution head or colleagues about DA, what would you tell them? Which approaches and methods would you emphasize in making your argument as sound as possible?

Enrichment Activities: 1. The following assessment task was inspired by the reading comprehension assessments that appear on major tests such as the SAT and the TOEFL. These assessments require students to read a short passage on a topic of general interest and to answer questions designed to evaluate how well they understood the central ideas in the text. How could this assessment be conducted dynamically? For each question, write as many hints/prompts as you can think of that might be used to mediate learners. Following Browns Graduated Prompt Approach, you should arrange your hints from most implicit to most explicit.

Sample Reading Comprehension Assessment

Read the following passage and then respond to the questions with a brief but complete answer. Your answers should be based on your understanding of the information presented in the text rather than your personal views or outside reading you may have done. Of Monkeys and (Foolish) Men Politicians, parents, teachers, and students are currently debating the proper way in which science classes should discuss the origins of human life. Currently, most biology textbooks present the Theory of Evolution and the processes of Natural Selection as first proposed by Charles Darwin and subsequently researched by scientists around the globe. This state of affairs has made some Americans uncomfortable, particularly certain religious groups who feel that evolution undermines theological explanations of life. Particular outrage is directed at the claim that modern humans share a common ancestor with other primates. Sadly, science teachers have sometimes succumbed to pressure groups and simply pass over the chapter(s) addressing evolution. This, in turn, has led scientists to criticize biology education in American schools on the grounds that students are cheated out of learning about one of the preeminent aspects of modern scientific research. The debate has gained even more steam with the emergence of Intelligent Design. This perspective maintains that evolution alone cannot explain highly developed life forms and that some greater intelligence or force must therefore be


operating behind the scenes. Although there is no hard evidence to substantiate these claims, some policy makers have rallied around this idea and have even suggested that it be included in science classes as an alternative to evolution. Scientists argue that proponents of Intelligent Design are simply trying to bring God into the biology classroom. Perhaps if Intelligent Design one day has as much scientific evidence supporting it as the Theory of Evolution, both will be presented in textbooks as competing explanations of life. i) What is the main idea of this passage?

ii) Does the author do an adequate job portraying both sides of the argument? Support your answer with examples from the passage. iii) How would you characterize the authors attitude toward Intelligent Design? iv) What does the passage suggest about the future of the debate? v) How do you interpret the meaning of the passages title?

2. Another common assessment that we see in school as well as in other settings is the multiple-choice test. In these tests, some choices are usually more appealing than others, but there is only one answer that the test writers have determined is correct. No partial credit can be given because the examinee either gets it right or not. DA is particularly relevant to this kind of testing because the multiple-choice format is likely to hide differences among individuals since all wrong answers are treated the same. For the following multiple-choice questions, which were inspired by the US naturalized citizenship test, develop a set of hints/prompts arranged from least to most explicit. (Note that the correct answers have been underlined.)

Sample Multiple Choice Test Questions

The following questions test your basic knowledge of US history and government. Select the correct response for each question. 1) Who famously uttered, Give me liberty or give me death? a. Abraham Lincoln b. Patrick Henry c. John F. Kennedy 2) Which branch of the government proposes laws? a. legislative b. executive c. judicial

d. Karl Rove

d. White House

3) What is the head executive of a state government called? a. mayor b. governor c. president d. senator 4) In what month is the new president inaugurated? 65

a. October

b. November

c. January

d. May

5) What were the 13 original states of the US called? a. Territories b. Kingdoms c. Empires d. Colonies

Suggested Readings: Sternberg and Grigorenkos book Dynamic Testing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002) provides a similar overview of DA approaches to that found in this chapter. However, their background in mainstream psychology, with its emphasis on statistical modeling of abilities, means that their preference is for interventionist approaches (this is also suggested by their use of the word testing rather than assessment in the books title). As such, they offer critiques of classroom-centered approaches (such as Feuersteins) that might interest readers curious about how DA can be brought in line with traditional approaches to testing. A more attractive feature of the book is that chapters 8 and 9 describe in detail two case studies using DA principles. The first concerns the impact of culture on abilities testing (implementing an assessment in Tanzania) and the second deals with an approach to assessing foreign language learning aptitude. Carol Lidzs (1991) manual, Practitioners Guide to Dynamic Assessment (New York: Guilford), is less research-focused than Sternberg and Grigorenkos book and is also friendlier to qualitative approaches to DA. Much of the book is actually an elaboration of Feuersteins methods with recommendations for implementing DA with young children. Lidz also co-edited with Julian Elliott a volume that contains representative work from all the major approaches to DA. This book, Dynamic Assessment: Prevailing Models and Applications (2000, Amsterdam: Elsevier), is not a how-to manual (that would be Lidzs 1991 book), but if youre interested in better understanding particular approaches to DA and you dont mind tackling research papers, this is the book for you. To date, it is the most exhaustive collection of DA studies were aware of.



In this chapter we will discuss several studies on language learning that have been carried out within the DA framework. Our goal is to illustrate the various ways in which DA has been used to achieve specific educational goals. Certainly these are not the only ways in which DA can be implemented. Our hope is that once you become familiar with and confident in using DA you will be able to use it to meet your and your students educational goals. As we will see, some of the studies we include in the chapter were not designed specifically as DA studies; nevertheless they exemplify principles of Vygotskys theory, most importantly, the ZPD, that are relevant for DA.

The Lerntest (learning test) We begin with one of the earliest language-based DA projects we are aware of a German aptitude test developed by Jrgen Guthke and his colleagues at Leipzig University that was designed for international students desiring to study at German universities. Actually, the language aptitude test was only one of a series of Leipzig Lerntests (see Guthke 1982). Others were developed for math and science. The LLT is an interventionist approach to DA that follows the cake format. This means that the mediation provided during the test is standardized and that it is offered to the students item by item throughout the duration of the test. In the language version of the LLT examinees are asked to carry out a grammatical analysis of an invented language. This is illustrated in Figure 5 below, which while based on items from the LLT (Guthke, Heinrich & Caruso 1986) was constructed by the present authors.


haba talo







Figure 5: Language Aptitude Diagnostic

If an examinees first attempt to complete the pattern is incorrect, s/he is provided with the following implicit hint: Thats not correct. Please, think about it once again. If the second attempt is also unsuccessful, the examiner offers a more explicit hint: Thats not correct. Think about which rows are most relevant to the one you are trying to complete. In this case the first row is not relevant as it gives the word for star in the invented language a word that is not part of the pattern to be figured out by the examinee. If the third attempt fails to produce the correct response, the examiner offers an even more explicit hint: Thats not correct. Lets look at rows three and four. At this point, the examinees attention is drawn to several important pieces of information: heart is talo; that the language has words (lata and roto) that indicate the relative horizontal and vertical position of objects; that the subject or the topic of a sentence is given first; that sentence in the third row most likely means the heart is above the square. If the examinee


still fails to produce the correct response, the examiner provides the correct pattern and explains why it is correct: Thats not correct. The correct pattern is breda lata talo because we see that breda represents the square, talo represents heart, and lata, which indicates the objects relative horizontal positioning, should come between the two objects whose relative position is the focus of attention, as can be seen in the third and fourth rows. The examinee then moves to the next item on the test. While the items become increasingly complex, the same standardized set of five prompts is used throughout. Whenever an individual produces a correct response, the assessor asks him/her to explain the rule underlying the pattern, thereby helping the assessor identify instances of random guessing. As the test progresses, the items become more complex but the expectation is that the examinees with eventually figure out how to carry out the appropriate analysis and will therefore do better on later items than they did on earlier items. For this reason Guthke refers to the procedure as a learning test. The results of the LLT are reported as both a score and an examinee profile. The former is based on the number of prompts needed and the amount of time taken to complete the test. The latter comprises an analysis of the types of errors the examinee made (e.g., difficulty remembering which invented words matched which symbols, problems processing longer sequences, etc.), and the forms of assistance to which the examinee was most responsive (e.g., being given a second chance, receiving a reminder, in-depth explanation of the solution, etc.). An individuals profile then serves as the basis for subsequent teaching in which examinees are offered instruction aimed at redressing the problems that arose during the assessment. Later, a second parallel assessment is administered following the same procedure (i.e., provision of hints). Importantly, this second administration does not assume that all examinees will complete all items without assistance but, rather, it is expected that the hints required will be fewer and less


explicit. Thus, an examinee has the opportunity to develop language aptitude as a result of participating in the DA procedure as implemented in the LLT.

DA as a Placement Test Antn (2003) reports on the use of DA as a placement test in a university Spanish as a foreign language program. In this program, DA was used in an interactionist format in order to develop a more fine grained approach to placing students in advanced grammar courses. It was felt that it was inappropriate to place all students in the same class, as this did not allow instruction to meet the specific needs of learners. This is because even though the learners were assumed to be at the advanced level, they were not likely to all have equal ability in all aspects of the language. Therefore, through DA it was expected that instruction would reveal those areas where students required either very explicit instruction or just a little bit of help to gain control over particular features of the language. The following two examples illustrate how traditional approaches to placement assessment would have resulted in misinterpretation of student ability and where DA was able to reveal clear differences between the students development, which could then serve as the basis for establishing the appropriate instructional intervention. The placement test implemented by Antn and her colleagues was based on the OPI format and one of the tasks asks the students to narrate a brief video about a family traveling through Spain on vacation. For those familiar with Spanish, and other Romance languages, you will recognize that narrating in the past in these languages is especially difficult for speakers of English, because the speaker must make a choice between using perfective or imperfective aspect. In the first example, one of the students narrated the story with considerable fluency, but about half way through the narration he switched from the past tense into the present. The


interaction in (1) was carried out in Spanish, but for convenience we have translated it into English.

(1) (E)xaminer: (S)tudent: E: S: E: You started the story in the past and then, half way you switched Yes, yes To the present. Yes, yes. I heard Do you want to try again using the past ? And you can ask me. If there is a verb you do not remember its OK. S: E: S: E: S: Yes, yes, from the beginning ? Perhaps from the middle ? In the past, yes, yes. Did you realize that you made the switch ? Yes, yes, I heard. (Antn 2003)

The examiner points out to the student that he has switched to the present tense about half way through the narration. Importantly, the student responds that he had noticed the switch himself. This in itself is important because it shows that the student is aware of the problem and that use of aspect is in the process of ripening. In other words, it is within the students ZPD. The examiner then gives the student a second chance to renarrate the story picking up at the point where the switch occurred. Given a second chance, the student is able to complete the story in


the past tense, making appropriate choices between the perfective and imperfective. If the students performance had been scored without interaction with the examiner, a very different picture of his ability would have emerged. On a traditional placement test, the student would have received a score in the vicinity of 50% -- not a particularly good score for someone at the advanced level. In the second example, a different student narrates the same video and as with the first student, about half way is interrupted by the examiner because of incorrect verb endings. The examiner points out the problem to the student and as with the student in (1) offers the option of renarrating the story, which the student attempts, but continues to have problems. An excerpt is given in (2). In this case, we include the Spanish in order to illustrate the locus of the problem.

(2) S: *Juegu al tenis [I played tennis] [the correct form for the third person is jug ] Jugu o jug [I played or she played ?] Jug [She played] (Antn 2003)

E: S:

The student had intended to say [she] played tennis but instead used a first person singular verb form [I] played tennis. The examiner draws the students attention to the error through an either/or question: [I] played or [she] played ? Given the choice, the student makes the correct selection. A bit later, however, we see the same problem, illustrated in (3), as the student attempts to say that one of the characters in the story returned home and ate lunch.


(3) E: S: E: S: E: Very good. And here you said, what did she do ? Com [I ate]

Com o comi? [I ate or she ate] ? Comi Comi [She ate] [She ate] (Antn 2003)

Once again the examiner points out the problem and asks the student to repeat what the character did. However, this appears to have no impact on the students ability to correct his mistake, as he produces the same mistake he did in (2) and instead of [she] ate he says [I] ate. The examiner then reverts to the form of mediation she used in (2), offering the student a choice between a first person and a third person verb form. Given the choice, the student is able to make the correct selection but was only able to do so as a result of direct and very explicit intervention. Comparing this student to the student in (1), again in terms of traditional assessment, he would have received a score of about 50%. However, unlike the first learner, this learner was unable to appropriate the mediation offered by the examiner and indeed appeared to be unaware of the problem unless the examiner intervened. While both students looked similar on the basis of their independent performance they were in fact quite different in terms of the prognosis of their future development. Clearly, the second student required more explicit instruction. Integrating DA with a L2 Instrumental Enrichment Program


Poehner (2005) conducted an extensive semester-long study with advanced university learners of French as a foreign language on how DA sessions can be used to optimally promote learner development. The focus of the study was on use of perfective and imperfective verbal aspect (i.e., pass compos and the imparfait) in French, a notoriously difficult feature of the language for English speakers. The participants in this study were enrolled in an advanced French speaking and listening course. At the beginning of their course their spoken French was assessed through both a dynamic and non-dynamic session. During both they watched a clip from the film Nine Months and then retold what they had seen. This video clip was chosen because it is in English (to ensure comprehension) and portrays events typical of daily life (a conversation about having children), and so required no specialized vocabulary. During the dynamic session, a mediator supported learners when problems arose. As in Feuersteins MLE, the mediator was not tied to a specific set of hints but could respond in any way that seemed most appropriate to the learners needs. In order to be sure that the learners understood his mediational moves, he spoke to them in English. Vygotsky (1986: 159-160) recognizes the importance of the first language in mediating the internalization of additional languages. The mediator then analyzed learners performance during these sessions, paying particular attention to the kinds of mistakes they made as well as the forms of mediation that were most effective in helping them. He then met individually with the learners once per week for six weeks. During the six enrichment sessions, he collaboratively constructed past-tense narratives with the learners and continually fine-tuned his interactions with them in order to optimally support the development of their ability to control the pass compos and the imparfait. Poehner also designed a set of

instructional materials that targeted each learners problems. These cultural artifacts included charts, diagrams, model sentences and grammatical explanations. (For an example of a flow


chart that was used to teach aspect in Spanish, see Lantolf and Thorne (2006, chapter 11)). Following the enrichment program, the students repeated the initial dynamic and non-dynamic assessments. In this way, their performance before and after enrichment was compared in order to bring to light any development that had occurred. In addition, learners also completed transcendence tasks to see how well they could maintain their level of performance as the tasks became more complex. These are discussed in detail in the next chapter (Case Study 1) In French, as in other Romance languages, perfect aspect, or pass compos is used when a speaker wishes to focus attention on the beginning or end of an event or state. For example, the French equivalent of the English We ate dinner at 7pm would be likely be rendered as Nous avons dn sept heures, and the equivalent of I bought a new car last week would be Jai achet une nouvelle voiture la semaine dernire. On the other hand, when a speaker wishes to focus on an event or state as in process or as background for some other state or event, French speakers normally use imperfect aspect. Thus, the English construction We were eating dinner when the phone rang would be rendered in French as Nous dnions quand le tlphone a sonn. The distinction is difficult for English speakers to master because English doesnt mark the distinction between the two aspects. In the following example, Sara (a pseudonym) is narrating a scene from Nine Months in which the character played by Julianne Moore reveals to her boyfriend, played by Hugh Grant, that she is pregnant. At this point, Sara (S) had not yet participated in the enrichment program. She struggles to stay in the past tense and also to use the appropriate aspect and thus receives support from the mediator (M).




elle est enceinte elle est oh daccord, Julianne Moore elle est enceinte de la She is pregnant she is oh okay Julianne Moore she is pregnant with the bb (laughs) de la bb de Hugh Grant mais Hugh Grant ne croit pas pour baby (laughs) with Hugh Grants baby but Hugh Grant doesnt believe for

M: S:

but in the past na croit pas*, na croy pas* didnt believe, didnt believe yeah um (...) uh joublie uh I forget right because it was more a description [of him right? oui] alors il est imparfait yes so it is imperfect voil voil so you would say? je sais je sais mais je nai pas le used imparfait pour beaucoup de fois alors (...) I know I know but I havent used the imperfect in a very long time il ne croyait pas he didnt believe il ne croyait pas et uh um il fait laccident de son voiture he didnt believe and uh um he has an accident with his car (Poehner 2005)

M: S:

M: S:

M: S:



Sara initially uses the present tense of the verb croire (croit), and this elicits a prompt from M reminding her that the narrative should be in the past. In this particular instance, given what

follows in the story and the connection between the events, M reminds Sara to use croire in the past tense, which means she must choose between imperfect and perfect aspect. Sara, however, responds by changing the verb, not to the appropriate imparfait, but to the pass compose. What


is more, in forming the perfective she creates an inappropriate past participle (cru) and in addition fails to properly frame her utterance as a negative (with pas immediately following the auxiliary a). M then reminds Sara that the utterance she is attempting to construct is a

description of the speakers state-of-mind. This is a sufficient hint for Sara to recognize that the verb should be framed as an imperfect. She admits, however, that she is unable to form the imparfait of croire, and the mediator ultimately provides the correct form. The above excerpt is characteristic of Saras performance during her initial DA session. Her control over the past tenses in spoken French appeared to be quite limited she was aware that it is necessary to distinguish between the pass compos and the imparfait but she had difficulty making a choice and in marking the corresponding morphological features. During Saras second DA (following the enrichment program), the verb croire appeared once again. This time, however, Sara appeared better prepared to use the verb. (6) S: enceinte, elle tait enceinte avec le bb de Samuel et Samuel na pas croy* et pose pregnant, she was pregnant with Samuels baby and Samuel didnt believe it and asked pour le moment il a um (...) for the moment he uh () M: S: M: S: M: S: M: oui, le verbe theres something there with the verb, you just used the imparfait (?) what was it? croy* na pas croy* using the na pas la croy* did not believe at that time using pass compos? 77

S: M:

yes right so then its not na pas croy but na pas (...) do you remember? its irregular

S: M: S: M: S: M: S:

croit*? uh its cru cru see I remember that exactly na pas cru yeah ne la pas cru did not believe it ne la pas cru (Poehner 2005)

While Sara still required mediation to produce the correct form of croire, the type and amount of assistance changed from her first session. This time, her selection of the pass compos

correctly fits with the rest of the story and her framing of the events. In this instance, though, she still struggles to produce the appropriate past participle, cru. Interestingly, when M draws her attention to the verb, she inappropriately interprets it to mean that she has chosen the wrong aspect, and she reacts with surprise and even defends her choice by offering an explanation. Moreover, once the past participle was identified as the problem, M reminds Sara that it is an irregular form, which is sufficient for her to produce the necessary cru. In fact, Sara even correctly inserts the direct object pronoun l into her revised utterance. In Saras initial and follow-up sessions, she moved from a simple awareness of tense and aspect to a more nuanced understanding of how each can be used to create relationships among events in a story, and she seems to have a better grasp of how to produce the appropriate forms, even though she is not always able to do so independently. Thus, over the course of the sessions, Sara moved forward 78

in her ZPD as a result of internalizing the mediation offered during the interactions in both the DA and enrichment sessions. Another participant considered in Poehners study, Amanda (a pseudonym), also exhibited problems controlling the pass compos and the imparfait during her initial DA session. Amandas responsiveness to mediation, however, was markedly different from Saras. Unlike Sara, Amanda improved her performance during a single DA session after some prompting from the mediator. In constructing her narrative, Amanda relied on the present tense and the pass compose and avoided the imparfait. However, her use of the pass compos was not always appropriate. It seems that Amanda was unable to sustain her use of the past and consequently shifted to the present in her story. In the excerpt below, M intervenes to reorient her to the task.

(7) A: les gens qui voudraient les enfants (...) ils ont besoin dtre prpar? pour leur people who would like kids () they need to be prepared? for their responsabilit davoir les enfants et, on a lide que il na voulu pas* uh na pas responsibility of having children and, you get the impression that he didnt want uh didnt voulu la responsabilit pour les enfants maintenant mais pendant il want the responsibility for children right now but while he M: yeah uh right he so remember youve got the two past tenses right? Okay A: pendant il a parl* Rebecca a dit quelle quelle a enceint* et uh while he spoke Rebecca said that she that she was pregnant and uh (Poehner 2005)

Amanda is not responsive to Ms initial prompt the reminder that there are two principal past forms in French. She picks up her narration and continues to avoid the imparfait even when clearly needed, as in tre enceinte to be pregnant. M interrupts again, this time explicitly


naming the two tenses she should use and calling her attention to the fact that there is a difference between them, although M does not explain what this difference is. (8) M: Im just going to kind of interrupt you there for a minute and ask you to go back and renarrate it again and this time keeping in mind for example the difference between the two major past tenses in French the pass compos and the imparfait A: Rebecca et Samuel conduisaient la maison de leur ami Sean et pendant le Rebecca and Samuel were driving to their friend Seans house and during the voyage Samuel a dit que les gens qui qui avaient les enfants doit tre prepare trip Samuel said that people who who had kids must be prepare prpar pour leur responsabilit prepared for their responsibility (Poehner 2005) Following M hint, Amanda shows that she is able to incorporate both the imparfait and the pass compos into her story and that she does in fact have some control over these tense-aspect features of the language. While acknowledging that Amandas performance was clearly not perfect and that she continued to make some tense-aspect mistakes, it would be erroneous to conclude that Amanda had no understanding of the alternatives for marking tense-aspect in French, as would have likely been concluded from an assessment of her independent performance. The significance of this episode is that it was only through interaction with the mediator that Amandas understanding of, and control over, French tense-aspect morphology was revealed. Compared to Sara, then, Amanda had a much more developed ability to use French aspect for narration. In Saraa case, the interaction between mediator and learner helped to identify areas on which subsequent


instruction should be focused. With Amanda, mediation revealed that her control of French tense-aspect was greater than it appeared at first glance.

Development through Shifting Mediation The final example comes from Aljaafreh and Lantolf (1994) and illustrates how development can be observed not just in terms of learner performance but in terms of changes in the type of mediation negotiated between teachers and students. This study clearly fits within the interactionist approach to DA. The tutor adjusted his mediation on the basis of the specific responses and uptake manifested by the learners. Following their analysis of the extensive mediation that took place over a two-month period, a regulatory scale was developed. We provide this in Table 2 below; however, in keeping with our discussion we take the liberty of referring to the scale as a scale of mediation. The scale is arranged in hierarchical order from most implicit mediation located at the top of the scale to most explicit mediation at the bottom of the scale. Unlike interventionist approaches to DA such as those used by Brown and her colleagues and Guthke and his associates, the mediation scale is not a standardized menu of mediational techniques and was not developed prior to the interaction. Instead it emerged from the tutor-learner interactions.


Table 2: Mediation ScaleMost Implicit to Most Explicit 0. Tutor asks the learner to read, find the errors, and correct them independently, prior to the tutorial. 1. Construction of a collaborative frame prompted by the presence of the tutor as a potential dialogic partner. 2. Prompted or focused reading of the sentence that contains the error by the learner or the tutor. 3. Tutor indicates that something may be wrong in a segment (e.g., sentence, clause, line) Is there anything wrong in this sentence? 4. Tutor rejects unsuccessful attempts at recognizing the error. 5. Tutor narrows down the location of the error (e.g., tutor repeats or points to the specific segment which contains the error). 6. Tutor indicates the nature of the error, but does not identify the error (e.g., There is something wrong with the tense marking here). 7. Tutor identifies the error (You cant use an auxiliary here). 8. Tutor rejects learners unsuccessful attempts at correcting error. 9. Tutor provides clues to help the learner arrive at the correct form (e.g., It is not really past but some thing that is still going on). 10. Tutor provides the correct form. 11. Tutor provides some explanation for use of the correct form. 12. Tutor provides examples of the correct pattern when other forms of help fail to produce an appropriate responsive action. (Aljaafreh & Lantolf 1994:471)

The focus of Aljaafreh and Lantolfs (1994) study was on use of English tense, articles, prepositions, and modal verbs by three adult ESL learners. Aljaafreh, the tutor, met with the students individually on a weekly basis for a period of eight weeks and helped them revise written compositions they had prepared for their ESL class. Because the tutor did not operate with a prepared menu of hints and leading questions, but instead negotiated mediation with the individual learners, if two learners had the same problem mediation was individualized according to each learners responsiveness to the tutors attempts to help. The only procedure that was pre-established was that the tutor consistently began the interactions by first offering implicit rather than explicit mediation. The initial move made by the mediator (asking the


learner to read a sentence containing the error, focusing the learners attention on the problematic part of the sentence, specifically pointing out the error, etc.) was of course dependent on where he thought the learner was in the ZPD. This was necessary in order to determine how much control each learner had over the specific grammatical feature. Had mediation begun at the lower end of the scale of mediation, it would have been difficult to determine how developed a feature was because the mediation would not have been sensitive to each students ZPD. This point is illustrated in excerpts (9) and (10). In both cases the dyads comprised of the tutor (T) and learner (N or F) focus on use of the article the with United States.

(9) T: N: T: N: T: N: T: N: T: N: T: N: T: Theres also something wrong with the article here. Do you know articles ? Articles, yes. Yeah, so whats Eeh on my trip to What is the correct article to use here ? Isnt to is no eeh article ? What is the article that we should It. No. Article You know the articles like the or a or an The trip my, is not my ? No the trip ? My yeah its okay, you say my trip. My trip. Okay.


N: T: N: T: N: T: N:

To United States Yeah, USA, what article we need to use with USA ? A, an, the The, which one ? But the ? Okay, do we use the preparing my trip to the USA ? Aaah ah (utters something in Spanish) ah, okay when I use when I use USA use with article


okay. (Aljaafreh & Lantolf 1994: 473)

The second student appears on the face of things to have the same problem, as given in (10):

(10) T: In the same day I mailed them to okay alright. What about also is there something else still in this sentence ? F: T: F: T: to the. Hum ? the okay, to the yeah, to the US. (Aljaafreh & Lantolf 1994: 474)


Although different learners made the same mistake in using the definite article, the mistake required different mediation from the tutor in each case. A learner that is able to respond to implicit mediation is considered to be at a more advanced level of development than a learner who requires more explicit mediation. In responding to the tutors question in (9), N at first affirms that he knows what articles are. However, further interaction3 between the two reveals that he doesnt understand the concept and even has difficulties locating the site of the problem. At one point the tutor offers N a choice of three possible articles to use with United States. N then is able to select the correct article and T eventually leads him to formulate a rule whereby the name of a country must be preceded by the definite article. The second learner, F, on the other hand, is able to repair his mistake on the basis of Ts leading question asked at the outset of the interaction in (10). Thus while both learners failed to use the correct article in their respective compositions, the interaction with the T reveals that F actually had much more control over the form than N did. Therefore, the prognosis was that F would be able to use the article correctly in a much briefer period of time than would N. We say this because unlike F, N did not respond well to Ts leading question and required more explicit mediation (see Figure 1). Excerpts (11) and (12) exemplify the major topic of this section that development can be understood as learner responsiveness to mediation rather than just in terms of appropriate performance. Both examples are from the same learner, F, and involve incorrect tense marking with modal verbs, as in *I called other friends who cant went do [sic] the party.

(11) T: Okay what else ? what about the verb and the tense ? the verb and the tense


F: T: F: T: F: T: F: T:

Could Okay, here. Past tense. Alright, okay, who [alright] could not. Alright ? And ? To. Here [points to the verb phrase], whats the right form ? I go. Go. Okay, could not go to [thats right] to the party (Aljaafreh & Lantolf, 1994: 479)

F had initially inflected the main rather than the modal verb for past tense. T calls her attention to the problem without indicating its precise nature. F responds with the correct form of the modal could but fails to produce the correct form of the main verb go. The tutor first prompts F with a leading question And ?. The learner responds by correcting the misspelling of do to to. The tutor then points directly to the main verb, while at the same time using verbal deixis here and asks F a direct question about the verb form. F then produces the correct go and the tutor recasts the verb phrase. One week later, the same problem resurfaces and the two once again attempt to resolve the matter. This time, however, as illustrated in (12) F responds effectively to much less explicit mediation.


(12) T: Is there anything wrong here in this sentence ? I took only Ani because I couldnt took both Do you see anything wrong ? Particularly here because I couldnt took both F: T: F: T: F: T: F: T: Or Maki ? What the verb verb something wrong with the verb Ah, yes That you used. Okay, where ? Do you see it ? (points to the verb) Took ? okay. Take. Alright, take. (Aljaafreh & Lantolf 1994: 479)

At first F assumes the tutors question is directed at the meaning of the sentence and responds by clarifying the identity of the other person included in the scope of both. The tutor then indicates that there is something wrong with the verb and asks the learner to indicate specifically the location of the problem. F then points to where the problem is, which the tutor verifies, at which point F responds with the correct, uninflected form of the main verb, take. In (12), unlike in (11), it is the learner and not the tutor who points to the problem area. Importantly, the mediation required was much less explicit than in (11). The change in the quality of the mediation required from (11) to (12) is an indication of learner development through the ZPD. Indeed, the goal of mediated interaction is independent learner performance and Aljaafreh and


Lantolf (1994) do, in fact, provide examples where the learners eventually succeed in correctly using the relevant grammatical features independently. Nevertheless, movement from explicit to implicit mediation is also a significant sign that development is taking place. If we focus attention exclusively on independent performance instead of considering the nature of interaction between teachers and learners as called for in DA, this type of development will remain hidden. Nassaji and Swain (2000) also compared the effects of providing mediation sensitive to a learners ZPD. In this study, the tutor relied on a scale of mediating moves similar to the one developed by Aljaafreh and Lantolf. Mediation was arranged from most explicit to most implicit. With one ESL learner, the tutor always began with the most implicit mediating move and became increasingly explicit until the learner overcame the problem. In this way, mediation was contingent upon the learners responsiveness, and so the authors argue that it was sensitive to the ZPD. With another learner, the mediating moves were randomly selected from the scale without regard for their degree of explicitness or learners responsiveness. The specific grammatical feature under analysis in the study was use of articles in English (a, an, the, and 0). At the implicit end of the scale the tutor prompts the learner to merely read a particular sentence containing an error without giving any indication that the sentence is anyway problematic. If this fails to exhibit any response from the learner, the tutor then might say something like Is there anything wrong in this sentence? If an appropriate response is not forthcoming from the learner, the tutor then moves to an even more explicit form of mediation and so on until a level the learner is able to locate and correct the problem. At the explicit end of the scale, the tutor corrects the error explicitly and perhaps with an appropriate explanation if it is determined that the learner is unaware of the form or pattern even when it is provided. The results of the study showed that while the learner receiving negotiated mediation


in the ZPD was less accurate in using articles on the initial composition than was the non-ZPD learner, the former learner outperformed the latter student on the final composition; moreover, the ZPD learner exhibited consistent growth over time, a pattern not observed in the non-ZPD students performance (Nassaji & Swain, 2000, p. 48). The point we want to emphasis is that when mediation is targeted to the learners current level of ability, development is more likely to occur. Now that youve seen some examples of what L2 DA looks like, take some time to think about the following before moving on to the case studies in the next chapter.

Questions for reflection/discussion: 1. In this chapter we saw DA principles and procedures used to place learners at an appropriate level in a program and also in tutoring and enrichment contexts. For what other educational purposes can you imagine using DA? Would the procedures need to be revised or reconsidered in any way? 2. Continuing along the lines of the previous question, the examples we looked at in this chapter involved one-on-one interactions between a mediator and a learner. How would this need to be re-thought if we wanted to implement DA with groups of learners? After youve developed a response to the question and if youre particularly interested in group DA, we suggest consulting the following work where instruction is organized around collaborative ZPDsCole (1996, especially chapters 9-11) and Hedegaard (1990). 3. Considering the examples from Anton, Poehner, and Aljaafreh and Lantolf, do you think their procedures would have been as effective if they had followed an


interventionist rather than an interactionist approach to DA? interventionist approach have offered advantages in these instances?

Would an

Enrichment Activities: 1) Consider an assessment that you have used in your language classroom. It could be a quiz, a test, a project, or some other form of assessment. Following the examples of L2 DA that we discussed in this chapter, develop a dynamic procedure for administering this assessment. You will need to think about how you will approach the question of mediation (interventionist or interactionist?), the format of the assessment (group or individual?), and how you will interpret and report the results of the procedure. 2) If possible, pilot your new DA with some language learners (or even with other language teachers you know). What feedback did you receive on this assessment? What problems did you encounter? If you chose an interventionist approach, how appropriate were the hints you developed? If you chose an interactionist approach, how successful were you at fine-tuning your mediation to the learners needs?

Suggested Readings: This chapter drew heavily on two academic papers authored by Lantolf and Poehner that have been published in professional research journals (Dynamic Assessment: Bringing the Past into the Future, 2004, in the Journal of Applied Linguistics 1: 49-74; and Dynamic Assessment in the Language Classroom, 2005, in the journal Language Teaching Research Vol. 9 (3): 1-33 You can also read about Dynamic Assessment and the Zone of Proximal Development as they have been used in second language research and teaching in Lantolf and Thorne (2006), especially chapters ten and twelve. In addition, Alex Kozulin and Erica Garb have done research using interventionist DA to assess immigrants reading comprehension in English as a Foreign Language (in Israel). Their methods are outlined in their paper, Dynamic assessment of EFL text comprehension of at-risk students (2002, in the journal School Psychology International 23: 112-127). Another interesting academic paper is Pea and Gillams Dynamic assessment of children referred for speech and language evaluations (In Dynamic Assessment: Prevailing Models and Applications. (2000), C. Lidz & J. G. Elliott, (Eds.), Amsterdam: Elsevier). These authors used an interactionist approach to DA in their efforts to understand language-related problems among a group of primary school children. Although their paper is not about L2, it is important because they found that DA was an effective way of identifying the root of the childrens problems. In some cases, they struggled because they spoken another language or dialect at home while in other cases the children had a language impairment.



In this chapter we present four case studies that address DA in various ways. Each case study includes a set of data taken from real interactions between teachers and students. In the first case, the interactions between teacher and student do not reflect DA or sensitivity to the ZPD. You will be asked some questions about how the interactions might have been modified to allow the teacher to tap into the ZPD and therefore promote language development. In the second case, the mediator is fairly successful in accessing the ZPD and at promoting development, but as you will see, the mediation needs to vary with different learners. In some cases it will need to be more explicit, while in others implicit mediation is more effective. The third study illustrates the difference between simply scaffolding performance and supporting development in the ZPD, which is the object of DA. The final study illustrates the concept of transcendence within DA as an alternative way of thinking about the important notion of transfer, as discussed in chapter 3.

Case Study 1: Mediation in the Zone of Proximal Development As we explained in earlier chapters, Vygotskys ideas about learning and development underlie the principles of dynamic assessment. One assumption is that learning is not something that individuals do on their own; it is a collaborative activity that involves other people, cultural artifacts or tools (books, computers, language). In the classroom setting the teacher engages in a process of continuous assessment of the learners needs and changing abilities, providing mediation that is sensitive to the ZPD in order to move development forward. It is important to keep in mind that not all types of feedback and assistance provided by the teacher qualify as mediation. Mediation is assistance that is sensitive to the ZPD and has as it goal learner


development rather than just successful completion of a specific task or activity. The teacher might point out a number of areas where learners have problems (feedback) and even suggest ways of improving future performance (assistance), but unless the learner is able to respond to these in ways that show some level of recognition and understanding it is unlikely the feedback and assistance will be useful. Therefore, it isnt sensitive to the ZPD and therefore isnt considered to be mediation. In the data sets that follow we will examine different types

mediation and the ways that learners respond to these. Our aim is to illustrate how learners abilities can be developed through interaction that is sensitive to features of a language that are in the processing of maturing; or in other words, within the learners ZPD. Discovering the potential developmental level learners and providing appropriate mediation occurs in cooperative dialoguing. Through such dialogue the teacher and learner together negotiate the minimum level of guidance required for the learner to successfully perform a task. If too much assistance is offered, the learner may be inhibited from selfcorrecting (or become bored and inattentive) and if too little assistance is offered the learner may find it too difficult to complete the activity. For this reason, teacher intervention should be graduated, meaning that the first form of mediation offered should be implicit (or general) and only if the learner does not respond appropriately, should the mediation become more explicit. In addition, for mediation to promote development whereby learners are able to regulate or control their own performance, it must be contingent; that mediation should be offered only when needed and withdrawn as soon as learners show signs of functioning independently. In order to clearly assess the learners ability, the teacher notes not only what the learner has internalized and can produce independently, but also what the learner can do collaboratively with


his help. The learners solo performance alone cant give us a full picture of her developmental level. For this, we need to observe how she responds to mediation. Before beginning to work through the following case study, it might be useful to review the Aljaafreh and Lantolf s (1994) mediational scale discussed in Chapter 4. Themes: zone of proximal development; other- and self-regulation; graduated and contingent mediation; implicit & explicit mediation; dialogic activity Source: Aljaafreh & Lantolf (1994) Participants: Two university ESL learners, Nina and Yuko (pseudonyms) enrolled in a beginning-level reading and writing class. Activity: The students met each week with the tutor (T) outside of their regular class meetings for additional help with their written compositions.

Part A (The text in quotes indicates reading of the essay) Prior to engaging in cooperative dialogue, T asks the learners N and F to read through their essays, underlining errors and correcting what they can. The tutor is present while each student completes the initial reading, but is busy with other tasks and is not attending to the learners. After the solo reading of the essay, the tutor and the student focus on particular areas of each essay where the learners have problems or questions.

Excerpt 1N 1. N: Okay.I would like spend in. 2. T: Okay? 3. N: Spend 4. T: Read again


5. N: uhum I would like to spend 6. T: Okay, youre missing to here 7. N: To spend in United States two or three years.

Excerpt 2Y 1. T: Okay. After I will study in Boston for nine months, Ill return my country. What do you mean after here? Do you mean after this (referring to previous paragraph) or afteryou study nine months you go back? 2. Y: Yes, after nine months I mean 3. T: Uhum 4. Y: 5. T: 6. Y: After nine months After nine months you go. Ill go back my country

7. T: You will back 8. Y: 9. T: I will be back my country. Okay, After I will study in Boston for nine months [ah.(softly)] nine months, Ill return my country. Okay, what you there anything missing here? Ill return my country

10. Y: Return to? 11. T: Okay

Discussion Questions: 1. Is the tutor offering interactionist or interventionist mediation? Why? And does it take the cake or sandwich format? 2. Identify the error that the learner makes in Excerpt 1 and then again in Excerpt 2. How does the tutor bring the learners attention to the errors? In each case, would you


characterize the mediation offered as explicit or implicit? [Again, it may be helpful to refer to Aljaafreh and Lantolfs Regulatory Scale in Chapter 4.] 3. Comparing the two learners, what can you say about the type of mediation each learner may need to successfully use the grammatical feature in their future writing?

The extracts above demonstrate that the type and level of explicitness of mediation may vary greatly depending on the learner. In DA terms, the same grammatical feature represents two different ZPDs for the two different learners. In Excerpt 1, the learner is very close to controlling the language feature on her own and needs only implicit mediation to make a correction. In Excerpt 2, the tutor must be much more explicit with his feedback and after several failed attempts to direct the learners attention to the problem, the tutor indicates that something is missing. In both cases, the tutors help is graduated; he began with implicit mediation and moves toward explicit mediation only if the learner seems to require it

Part B In language learning, we assume that a learner will gradually take more responsibility and greater control over their use of the L2. In the next examples, you will notice how a learner incorporates the feedback of the tutor and begins to self-regulate her performance. We are interested in how a learner begins to rely less on the tutors corrections (other-regulation) and more on self-regulation. Further we want to see evidence that learners can apply what they learn in one situation to other contexts of language use. This we take as a strong indication of development. This is the topic of the data sets presented in excerpts (3) and (4).


Excerpt 3N 1. T: To Germany. Do you see anything also wrong here? my future is can go to Germany What about the use of the auxiliary verb here? 2. N: Isis. 3. T: Is can go? 4. N: Is can go 5. T: Do you see something wrong here? How to say it? 6. N: No, I dont know 7. N: Okay, how how to use . 8. N: Is will go 9. T: One of my dreams for my future is. (rising intonation) 10. N: Will go? 11. T: No (lengthened vowel). 12. N: No 13. T: Okay, iswhat.? 14. N: Is 15. T: To go 16. N: To go not can? 17. T: Yeah, because you have here, like.this is an auxiliary and this is another auxiliary or modal 18. N: Yeah 19. T: So you have them together 20. N: Yes, because I.the verb form and two verbs together, yes 21. T: Yeah, so yeah two verbs together. So


22. N: I know 23. T: One of my .is to go to Germany 24. N: Oh my God! (laughs) 25. T: Okay, One of my dreams for my future is to go 26. N: To go to Germany

Excerpt 4 (takes place a short time after Excerpt 3 during the same tutorial session) 27. N: Another dream mine is.ah ah amm.what? I can change now. 28. T: Okay 29. N: Okay. Another dream mine to go again 30. T: Okay is to go. 31. N: Is to go 32. T: Okay, Another dream of mine is:.instead of can, to go is to go 33. N: is to go to Japan. I think Japan is an interesting country in culture

Discussion Questions 1. Identify the different ways that the tutor in Excerpt 3 offers mediation to help the learner make an adequate correction. 2. At what point does the tutor begin to offer more explicit help? 3. How does the amount and type of help offered by the tutor in Excerpt 4 differ from the earlier example? 4. What evidence can you observe that indicates that the learner is moving towards selfregulation?


Excerpts 3 and 4 show how the tutor offers contingent mediation; withdrawing the explicit prompts when the learner can self-correct and doesnt require them. Therefore, the teacher has more responsibility for the learners linguistic performance initially, with the learner gradually taken over control of his or her use of the language.

Case Study 2: Transcendence of L2 Development Source: Poehner (2005). Themes: transcendence to new and more complex tasks; re-emergence of problems; different learners requiring different mediation at different points in time. Participants: Two university advanced (seventh semester) students of French as a foreign language (Donna and Jess, pseudonyms). Both students took part in the DA enrichment program that we described in Chapter 4. Activity: The students were asked to construct an oral narrative in French after watching clips from the movie Nine Months. Donna and Jess had difficulties using the pass compos and the imparfait (perfect and imperfect verbal aspect) during their narrations. The following two examples illustrate the aspect of DA known as transcendence. As we discussed in Chapter 3, transcendence was proposed by Feuerstein as part of his MLE program and involves introducing changes to the assessment in order to determine the extent to which learners can complete tasks that are more complex and demanding than the original task. Like Vygotsky, Feuerstein understood that education is about much more than training students to complete a specific task or activity. It involves helping students to build on and extend what they have learned in one context to new problems in unanticipated contexts. This is why

transcendence is such an important part of DA. How well learners are able to extend their


abilities to new and more complex tasks helps us to understand whether they have simply become more efficient at solving the initial DA task or if they have truly developed. After participating in the enrichment program, the Donna and Jess repeated the initial DA task. Changes in their performance before and after enrichment were interpreted as indications of development. However from a DA perspective, improvement in performance in this case only tells part of the story. The learners next completed a transcendence assessment to determine if they could sustain their new ability in dealing with new and more complex narratives. During transcendence assessment, the learners again watched a video clip and renarrated it in French. This time, however, the scene was from the movie The Pianist. The task was more complex because the clip contained action but no dialogue (it focused on the uprising of the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII and the central characters escape from German soldiers) and required specialized vocabulary (tanks, gunfire, explosions, etc.). The question, then, was how well the learners would be able to control the pass compos and imparfait while also dealing with the challenges of this new task.

Discussion Question: Think back to the earlier discussion of Browns concept of transfer. As you read the examples below, consider why Poehner (2005) refers to them as transcendence rather than transfer. How are these concepts different? What would the interactions below look like if they had been framed as transfer instead of transcendence?


Part A Before considering Donnas performance in the transcendence task, well first look briefly at her performance immediately following the enrichment program. Before the enrichment program, it was clear from Donnas performance on the initial DA that she had been taught various rules-ofthumb for when to use perfective and imperfective aspect. She was able to correctly produce pass compos and imparfait verb forms but did not know when to use them. If asked to explain why she had selected one aspect over the other, she usually resorted to the rules-of-thumb, but because she did not fully understand how aspect creates meaning, her choices were often not appropriate for the meanings she wished to express. Without a clear conceptual understanding of verbal aspect, Donna was left trying to remember rules she had memorized in order to choose the correct aspect rather than making her selection based upon how she wanted to portray certain events in her narrative (i.e., did she want to emphasize their ongoing, imperfect aspect or their completed, perfect aspect?). Lets first look at Donnas performance when she repeated the initial DA following the enrichment sessions. Here, Donna (D) asks the mediator (M) for advice about whether she should use the verb devenir (to become) or the expression tre en colre (to be angry) in her description of one of the characters in Nine Months:

Excerpt 1Donna 1. D: elle devenait uh elle avait elle devenait fch elle devenait elle a t she was becoming uh she was having she was becoming she was 2. elle tait en colre quelle tait la mieux? she was angry which was the better one?

3. M: well uh


4. D: she became angry 5. M: she well uh do you want to use imparfait or pass compos how do you 6. want to do it?

7. D: she became angry she was being angry she became angry thats what I 8. want to say

9. M: right well um you could use the verb se fcher [but would it change to be angry 10. sort of how you

11. D: (to self) its a verb] 12. M: you know what youre emphasizing if youre using imparfait or pass compos like um if you were saying just here a second ago she got angry 13. D: there was a definite point where she became angry so that would be 14. pass compos

15. M: yeah 16. D: elle sest fch? Elle sest fch et uh juste aprs a she got angry? She got angry and uh just after that As we can see, Donna was generally able to use the pass compos and imparfait appropriately. For the most part she needed very little support from the mediator. Lets take a moment to think about this interaction and what we observe happening.

Discussion Questions: 1. What contributions to the overall performance did Donna and the mediator both make? What does this tell us about Donnas ability to use the pass compos and the imparfait? 101

2. How do you interpret Donnas switch to English in line 4? What impact, if any, might it have on her performance? 3. Can you find any evidence that Donna understands how her choice of aspect impacts on the meaning she expresses? If we reread the exchange between M and Donna, we see that the responsibility for the performance rests largely with the learner. Donna decides how she wants to talk about the events in her narrative and she selects the linguistic forms she needs. Ms most obvious

contribution is that he suggests se fcher (to be angry), a verb that Donna did not know at the time. However, another that M mediated Donnas performance was to serve as a sounding board for her ideas as she thought through the verb forms she might choose and how they would affect the story. M did not have to assist Donna in making her choices for marking aspect, but he offer support that helped her evaluate these choices. During transcendence (TR), Donna continued to use both aspects appropriately and required very little mediation. In excerpt (2), Donna is describing a scene from The Pianist in which the protagonist avoids capture by German soldiers.

Excerpt 2Donna: 1. D: il savait bien quil y a quelquun quil y avait quelquun quil y avait he knew well that there is someone that there was someone that there was 2. quelquun dans latelier mais le soldat ne peut* trouver donc tout fait someone in the attic but the soldier cant find therefore completely

3. M: il savait bien quil y avait quelquun dans latelier mais il? he knew well that there was someone in the attic but he?

4. D: il ne pouvait pas trouver il ne pouvait pas le trouver, cest mieux que il he couldnt find he couldnt find him, thats better than he 102


na pas pu le trouver? couldnt find him?

6. M: I guess it depends on the meaning right? il ne pouvait pas trouver or il 7. na pas pu trouv either is grammatical

8. D: je peux faire limparfait je crois Ill do the imperfect I think 9. M: alright 10. D: il ne pouvait pas trouver he couldnt find 11. M: you see the difference in meaning between the two? 12. D: well he couldnt find him and then he stopped looking for him would 13. 14. be the pass compos limparfait would be he couldnt find him but theres no it doesnt imply a time when the soldier stopped looking for him

15. M: right so it kind of like depends I think on what you follow it up with

As before, Donna struggles a bit but is able to overcome the problems independently of M. In this case, M asks Donna to repeat what she had said after he catches her slipping into the present tense with the verb pouvoir (to be able to). Donna considers both the pass compos and the imparfait. She looks to M for advice, but she ultimately works through the problem on her own.

Discussion Questions: 1. How would you describe the role that M plays in this interaction? What does he do, if anything, to mediate Donna?


2. Reread Donnas remarks in lines 12 to 14. Do you think she is making her choices between pass compos and imparfait according to grammar rules or a conceptual understanding of aspect?

In both the DA and TR examples, it is clear that Donna is able to use verbal aspect appropriately to talk about past events. Importantly, she was able to perform well even during the more challenging TR task when she had the additional burden of overcoming vocabulary problems. Obviously, both of these sessions were still dynamic Donna was not performing completely independently and M was still present to offer help as necessary. What we need to keep in mind is how M mediated her performance. The assistance he offered was very implicit. In fact, he mostly contributed by being present as Donna talked through problems and by accepting her choices. The limited role of the mediator during these sessions tells us that Donna is very close to being able to use verbal aspect without any support from others.

Part B Jess was not able to transcend her level of performance from DA to TR as easily as Donna. Like Donna, however, she had developed a more accurate understanding of how she could use the pass compos and the imparfait to talk about past events in different ways. As well see, her performance when she repeated the DA task was good but problems began to resurface during the more demanding TR session. The following example is representative of how Jess used the pass compos-imparfait distinction when she repeated the initial DA narrative following enrichment. Jess (J) uses both aspects when describing two characters from Nine Months, Christine and Rebecca, as Praying Mantises.


Excerpt 3Jess: 1. J : et Sean il il explique il a expliqu uh, cette cette chose Samuel et il il a and Sean he he explains he explained uh, this this thing to Samuel and dclar quelle tait comme une insecte he he declared that she {Christine} was like an insect (M and J laugh) elle tait une mantis et Samuel il avait peur de Rebecca que et il parce she was a mantis and Samuel was afraid of Rebecca that and he quelle tait comme une mantis maintenant because she was like a mantis now (M and J laugh) il a regard Rebecca et elle est devenue une insecte he looked at Rebecca and she became an insect





Jesss use of the imparfait with the verb tre (to be) and the pass compos with the verb devenir (to become) is appropriate, but M asks her about her choices in order to verify that she is aware of the differences. She explains her choices as follows:

6. J: its a description of Christine whos like in this situation so we dont 7. 8. 9. ever meet her we just get a description but Rebecca all of a sudden becomes this same thing so its like its an actual event in the movie she becomes a praying mantis

10. M: okay okay 11. J: so that would have been pass compose

We can see from Jesss comments that she has indeed become sensitive to the sometimes subtle, yet important, differences in meaning that emerge from selecting one aspect or the other.


Jesss performance during TR, however, is a different story. In the excerpt below, she describes the Warsaw Uprising as depicted in The Pianist. She struggles to use the passive voice to say that German soldiers were killed.

Excerpt 4Jess: 1. J: [to self] ils taient how do you say killed? they were M: killed? Tu



J: tus par des coups de fusil aussi killed by gunshots also

4. M: using the plus-que-parfait? the pluperfect ? 5. J: uh what is it? La voix passive? the passive voice? 6. M: oh okay right you can use the voix passive but youre using which verb 7. 8. tense though? J: um imparfait

At first M is not certain how to help Jess because he cannot tell what form she is trying to produce. Once he realizes that she wants to use the passive voice, he shifts his focus to helping her decide which aspect is most appropriate. When Jess responds that she wants to use the imparfait, M pursues this to understand why:

9. M: instead of pass compose 10. J: yeah


11. M: to say that they were they were killed 12. J: uh huh 13. M: okay and how come? 14. J: I dont know actually should be saying ils []because I have to say was otherwise they would be killing someone else 15. M: ils ont tu would be they killed but you want to say they were killed 16. J: right par quelquun by someone 17. M: so you need another verb in there 18. J: ils taient tus ils avaient tu they were being killed they had killed 19. M: well then using plus-que-parfait they had killed? 20. J: no how would I say they were killed? Ils taient tus 21. M: taient? So youre using tre but tre can be used in the imparfait or the pass compos right so you could use the pass compos 22. J: ils ont t tus they were killed 23. M: ils ont t tus so its the pass compos of tre and tu as an adjective they were killed 24. J: oui a marche yes that works 25. M: okay makes sense? 26. J: oui, ils ont t tus par des coups des fusil yes, they were killed by gunshots

Well more to say about this in a moment, but first lets pause to gather our thoughts and form some initial reactions.


Discussion Questions: 1. How does M mediate Jesss performance during this interaction? Does the nature of his mediation change during the course of their exchange? If so, how? Track the specific moves that you see him making and show how they are connected to changes in Jesss performance. 2. Notice that Jess, like Donna, switches to English at certain points during this interaction. Do you think this helps her? Should such switches be prohibited during an assessment? Why? Why not? 3. In what ways is Ms role here different from his interactions with Donna? How much of the responsibility for performance resides with M and how much of it is with Jess?

It goes without saying that M did much more here to mediate Jesss performance than he did during his sessions with Donna. Lets take a closer look at Ms interaction with Jess during TR. Jess explains that she wanted to use tre (to be) because she thought she needed to include was somewhere in her construction in order to make it a passive (as in they were killed). Often, was is used in English to translate the French imperfect (e.g., he was happy, they were tired, etc.), and Jess believes she needs to use an imperfect form of tre in order to have the was necessary for a passive construction. M tries to help her realize that she can actually use either the pass compos or the imparfait in the passive voice. In fact, in this case, the pass compos is a better match for the idea Jess wants to express. M becomes increasingly explicit in his attempts to mediate Jess. At first, he draws her attention to the perfect construction ils ont tu (they killed) in line 15 and then he points out that another verb is needed for the passive. When


this fails to help, M explicitly reminds Jess that tre can be used in either aspect in lines 21 and 22. Only then is Jess able to produce the correct form, and M follows this up with an

explanation in line 23 before moving on.

Discussion: Summing Up If we look at Donna and Jess side by side, we can begin to appreciate how transcendence broadens our understanding of learners abilities. Both Donna and Jess were able to use verbal aspect appropriately during the DA session following the enrichment sessions. They formed the verbs correctly and chose the aspects that were most appropriate for the meanings they wished to convey in order to narrate the story. They were also able to offer accurate explanations for their choices. We are only able to see differences between Donnas and Jesss abilities when we look at their TR performance. While Donna was able to sustain her functioning more or less

independently, Jess was not. The task was more complex, and so both learners needed some support from the mediator. The nature of the support they needed, however, was different. Donna relied on the mediator to evaluate her performance to confirm that she had made appropriate choices. Jess, on the other hand, relied on the mediator to help her make decisions on marking aspect and was generally unable to do this independently. Without a transcendence activity, we would most likely conclude that both learners were at the same level of ability. Now looking at their transcendence performance, we can see that Donna had more fully internalized her previous interactions with the mediator and so she was closer to independent performance. Another point worth mentioning is that we might not have seen these differences if we had used a transfer model instead of transcendence. In other words, if the mediator had been restricted to


using a menu of standardized prompts, he may not have been able to recognize and respond to Donnas and Jesss different needs (Poehner, 2005). What do you think is the value of asking the learner to provide an explanation after she has, through interaction with the mediator, provided an appropriate response?

Case Study 3: Group Dynamic Assessment Themes: Mediating development at the whole class rather than individual level Source: Gibbons (2003) Participants: 8 and 9 year old ESL students and their teacher in content-based science

classrooms in which 90% of students are English language learners. Activity: the focus of the lesson is on magnetism and on the childrens ability to use

scientific rather than everyday terms in English for explaining how magnetism functions Hedegaard (1993: 361) points out that instead of focusing exclusive attention on each individual learner in a classroom it can be quite effective for teachers to work toward the development of the class as a whole. This is because the development of individual learners often takes place through their relation to the class and to the groups in the class. Thus, group activities that are effective in developing the class as a whole at the same time can promote development of individual students through the interaction shared by teacher and students and among the students themselves (ibid.). In this case study the teacher attempts to work within the ZPD of the class in subtle ways as she undertakes to get her students to understand and use scientific rather than everyday language for talking about their observations on how magnetism works. This is a very important


for development. As Vygotsky and many of his colleagues noted, schooled development requires that students master scientific concepts and the language in which they are organized. To conduct the lesson on magnetism, the teacher first breaks the class into small groups and gives each group a set of magnets and several metal pins. Their goal is to develop an adequate description of what they observed as they experimented with the materials. Prior to the group work, the students had read about magnetism and had significant exposure to the appropriate scientific language for discussing this concept. The teacher reassembled the students into a whole-class format and then asked them to describe what they had observed about magnets and magnetism. In the first example, the teacher calls on Beatrice to explain what she has observed:

Excerpt 1Teacher and Beatriz 1. Teacher: 2. Beatrice: 3. 4. Teacher: 5. Beatrice: 6. 7. Tell us what happened Em we put three magnets together / it still wouldnt hold the gold nail. Can you explain that again ? We / we tried to put three magnets together .. to hold the gold nail .. even though we had three magnets .. it wouldnt stick. (Gibbons 2003: 264) Discussion Questions 1. What do you notice about the language that Beatrice uses? Is it acceptable scientific language?


2. What is the purpose of the teachers question in line (4) ? 3. Do you think the teachers question was appropriate? Why or why not? 4. Does Beatrice respond appropriately to the teachers question ?

Following Beatrizs response, the teacher nominates another student to discuss what the students discovered about magnetism, as we see in excerpt (2):

Excerpt 2Teacher and Michelle: 1. Teacher: 2. Michelle: 3. 4. Teacher: 5. 6. Michelle: 7. 8. 9. Tell us what you found out. We found out that the south and the south dont like to stick together. Now lets / lets start using our scientific language Michelle. The north and the north repelled each other and the south and the south also .. repelled each other but when we put the / when we put the two magnets in a different way they / they attracted each other. (ibid.)

Discussion Questions: 1. Why do you think the teachers reaction to Michelles description was different from her reaction to Beatrices account? 2. Do you think Beatrice might have responded in the same way that Michelle did if she had received the same prompt?


3. Why do you think the teacher didnt give the same prompt in both cases? 4. What do you think the teacher was able to learn about her students on the basis of the different prompts and the different reactions to these?

Case Studies 4 & 5: Making Assessment Dynamic The final two case studies focus on teacher-student interactions that are not sensitive to the ZPD. The questions that follow each case ask the reader to analyze the data with an eye toward how the study could have unfolded as DA. The first case is representative of a fairly common approach to formative assessment and the second illustrates scaffolded performance, but neither provides much evidence of development in the ZPD.

Case Study 4: Formative Assessment Themes: Formative assessment that is not DA and how it might become DA; emotional support vs. developmental mediation. Source: Torrance & Pryor (1998) Participants: A second grade native-speaking student of English and his teacher in a British classroom Activity: The teacher and the student are reviewing the students performance on a spelling test. As we discussed in previous chapters, while formative assessment is potentially very useful for teachers and students, it can also be problematic. Since this type of assessment is generally informal, it is often carried out unsystematically and relies primarily on teacher intuition. Unfortunately, this can mean that while the assessments may be well-intentioned, they often lack a clear learning objective for the student. In other words, formative assessment is


often teaching-focused rather than development-focused, with teachers asking questions such as: What aspects of this concept do I still need to teach? or Do my students understand this part of my curriculum? There is generally less emphasis on the important question: Have the students shown evidence of systematic development ? Keep in mind that in a Vygotskian approach to instruction and development, assessment is a forward-looking view of what learners can achieve with mediation giving insight into their future development. DA reaches beyond judgments of learner progress and feedback on what students have learned or on where they have problems. It focuses on the role of the teacher in promoting student development while engaging with new ideas, new language, and new conceptual understandings: The process of assessment itself is seen as having an impact on the pupil, as well as the product, the result (Torrance & Pryor, 1998: 15). Lets examine an example of a formative assessment as it unfolds in a second year classroom of 6 and 7 year olds in a British primary school. The teacher, Chris, is engaging with each student individually to review their performance on weekly spelling tests. While he talks with each student, the rest of the class is working either independently or with a student teacher. The test they are discussing is scored out of a total of 10. Notice that unlike in the previous cases, the teacher does most of the talking and rarely pays much attention to what the student, Timmy, has to say. Timmy made some spelling mistakes. In the sample, the teacher focuses on the fact that Timmy omitted the -l- in difficult and the -i- in family


Turn 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Teacher here we are Timmy Patner

I knew Id got nine or eight- or something like that = =six T looks directly at Timmy, who does not meet his gaze. - did did you f\ - find it a bit of trouble then? yeah which bits did you find did you find the four extra words a bit difficult did you? Timmy nods OK shall we look at those then difficult you nearly got right there should be an ell there T writes in book cut yes youve got difficut with an ell it goes cult you see T looks up at Timmy again, who still does not look at him OK and s \ night was fine f\family you had one go and crossed it out tried again and gave up yes no its just I didnt get enough time to do it = = oh dear never mind yes we were a bit rushed yesterday werent we fam/ i/ly T writes as he is saying this yeah I was going to do that but I couldnt - >(**)< > oh < were you oh well never mind because T looks up at Timmy who this time meets his gaze it was possibly my fault for not giving you as much time as we had last week but and surprise T writes in book again we need to just that was one of the hardest wasnt it surprise OK and friends a little aye do you think do you have a good practice of these words do you? yes good all right so you tried your hardest thats all I want you to do

10 11


13 14

15 16



19 20


Discussion Questions: 1. What do you think the Teacher is trying to achieve in the interaction? 2. Do you think the Teacher is sensitive to Timmys ZPD in the above interaction? 3. If so, can you provide some specific examples from the interaction to show this? 4. If not, how would you modify the interaction in order to reveal Timmys ZPD? 5. What else can you say about the interaction?

Case Study 5: Scaffolding Tasks vs. Mediating Development Themes: scaffolding; student decision-making and reasoning skills versus promoting development in the ZPD Source: Leung & Mohan (2004). Participants: multiethnic English language learners in a 4th grade class in Great Britain Activity: the students are working in groups on a reading comprehension activity entitled A recipe for making parents shout. Their task is to arrange the ingredients in the recipe in the correct order.

Scaffolding is a concept that some researchers and teachers often associate with the Zone of Proximal Development (see van Lier 2004). Others, however, strongly disagree with this assumption and argue that scaffolding is a type of assisted performance that aims at teaching subject matter content and skills in specific educational areas and as such does not consequently promote development(see Chaiklin 2003). One of the limitations of the notion of scaffolding thought of as a noun is its inflexible image, as in the case of a real scaffold erected in the construction of buildings. If, however, we think of scaffolding more in terms of verb-like qualities, as an activity, it comes a bit closer to the activity that Vygotsky had in mind when he


proposed the notion of ZPD. Even here, however, an element often overlooked in scaffolding studies is the importance of transcendence, which as we have discussed in several places is an important feature of development. To help learners through tasks, even if the assistance is then withdrawn at some point and they are able to accomplish the task on their own, is not enough. Development entails the ability to generalize what has been mastered in one activity to new activities in different circumstances. In the examples that follow, pay attention to how the teacher provides scaffolded assistance for her students to guide them through the activity. To help better appreciate what is happening, the correct order of ingredients for the recipe is as follows:

Recipe for making parents shout 1) Wait until rain stops. 2) Ask to play outside (best to ask 20 or 30 times). 3) Outside, find a medium-sized puddle. 4) Get soil from garden and add to puddle. Mix well. Repeat until puddle is thick, black and sticky. 5) Walk through puddle (three or four times). Let younger brother or sister stand in puddle. 6) Walk into house (best if everyone else is upstairs). 7) Run through every room shouting the words, Come and look at this. This recipe always makes adults shout but works best if your house has pale coloured carpets.


In the data sets only four of the five students in the group speak: Zahir (A), Jagdish (J), Sabbah (S) and Hamza (H) (all names are pseudonyms). Each of the turns at talk is numbered for easy reference. The teacher, Robena, initiates the task:

Excerpt 1Getting Started 1. R: This is not any old recipe. This is a slightly different kind of recipe. This is a recipe for making () parents shout [interruption] and you have to read, very carefully, the instructions that are written () down; to look at the pictures. Now the only trouble with this, theyre all mixed around, theyre all () mixed around, all jumbled up. And what do you think youre going to have to do, Zahir? 2. Z: Put them in the right order. 3. R: You have to put them in the right order. So read it to each other, talk about it to each other,() and go through it and decide which one should go first, which one should go next and which one () should go last, and where, the right order that they all fit into. If you dont agree with each other () then you need to explain why. So you need to talk to each other and explain why you think that () should go first or why you think that should go third. Okay. [ROBENA LEAVES]

Robena has set up a preferred way of completing the task. She asks the students to read, to discuss the best order, to decide together and then to talk about reasons for their decisions. The excerpt below of the students discussion has been placed into a format that shows what type of response the student is actually making: a) offering an answer; b) giving reasons for or against an


answer; or c) responding to an answer. Note that in the last category there are a wide variety of ways that a student can accept or reject an offer or reason. [Transcription conventions: Square brackets indicate researchers observation and interpretation of participant action. Capital letters indicate participants voicing spelling. Italics inside quotation marks indicate participants reading text.]


Offer answer

Give reasons for/ against offer

Respond to offer

6. Z: Lets write one, number one [turns to Sabbah and points] here, number one. 7. [Sabbah ignores Z as she writes her No. 1.] 1. Wait until rain stops.

8. J: [Accepting Sabbahs choice] Look actually look. Sabbahs right. Sabbahs right. 9. J: Its this one 10. J: because you have to wait until the rain stops. 11. J: Then its that one [pointing to Ask to play outside as a No. 2] 12. Z: [Accepts] One and two [speaking while writing] 13. S: Then this one [pointing to Outside find puddle as a possible No. 3] 14.Z:[Noncommittal? reading] Outside . . . find puddle. . . 15. S: Then that one [pointing to Walk through puddle as a possible No. 4] 16. Z:[Noncommittal? reading?] E, E, C, H. a small spade 17. Z: [To Jagdish] Small spade 18. J: [Noncommittal? reading] outside find. . .puddle 19. Z: They need a spade first. 20. J: [accepting] Yes, thats it. A spade. Where is it? 21. Z: Small spade. There [pointing to the list of ingredients, which becomes No. 3] [STUDENT DISCUSSION CONTINUES FOR ALL 7 ANSWERS]


Discussion Questions: 1. What do you notice about the students discussion process? Which student makes the best answers and which student is the most active participant? 2. How do the students make decisions jointly? How is their process of decision-making different from that of a group of adults?

After the students have completed the ordering task, the teacher rejoins the group. She observes that their answer for No. 3 is wrong because it is the list of ingredients and not an instruction for following a recipe. Notice the feedback that Robena offers the students.

22. 23. 24.

R: This is a list of the things that you need. So can that be number 3? Students: No R: Right, so perhaps we need to check it all again. So weve got 1 and 2 but as weve put that () down as number 3 and [pointing] 4, 5, and 6, what do you think we might have to do now? Mmm. () We might have to change everything, mightnt we, apart from maybe number 1 and 2. So we () need to rub that out [pointing to 3] and which one do you think came next? So we know thats not () number 3.


Offer answer 25. R: so now we have to decide what No. 3 really is. It might be number 4, it might be 5. 26. H: that could be No. 3 (pointing to what is actually No. 7 Run through every room)

Give reasons for/ against offer

Respond to offer

27. R: Can that come third? 28. Students: No 29. R: Why not? Why cant that be the third instruction? What are they doing in the house? 30. Z: Theyre making mud on the floor. 31. R: So you know that cant be the third.

Discussion Questions: As you do this, decide if the feedback could have been provided in a more effective way. Do you think the teachers scaffolded assistance represents a dynamic assessment of learner development? If so, give specific reasons to support your position. If you do not, suggest how it could be brought more in line with what we have discussed as effective dynamic assessment. 1. In turns 22-24 Robena avoids telling the students directly that their answer is wrong. How, specifically, does the language she uses support their reasoning process? 2. In turns 25-31, explain how Robena scaffolds the students decision-making process. How is Robenas scaffolding both the product and the process of the students work? What are some of the characteristics of her feedback strategy?


4. Do you think Robenas scaffolded assistance represents a dynamic assessment ? Why ? Why not ? 5. Do you think her assistance revealed the learners ZPD? Explain. 6. Do you think her assistance promoted the learners development? If so, give specific reasons to support your claim. If not, give specific ways in which it could have been carried out more effectively

A Reminder and Future Case Studies In the prologue we mentioned that we would very much like to receive your feedback on comments on the Guide and that we would also like to hear about your experiences using DA in your own teaching. It would also be a great contribution to future versions of the Guide if you would be willing to send us additional case studies based from your own teaching. We will of course acknowledge your contribution. The more information we can disseminate about concrete experiences using DA the more helpful it will be for others who may wish to experiment with this new approach to instruction and assessment. You can post your case studies on the DA Blog (see the Prologue for the URL) or you can send them to us directly at our e-mail addresses: Jim Lantolf []; Matt Poehner [].


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INTRODUCTION In case study two on transcendence we considered the oral performance of Donna and Jess, two advanced learners of French as a second language in written format. We would also like to provide you with the opportunity to observe, first hand, examples of interaction between these two learners and the mediator as they jointly work through some communicative problems. To become an effective mediator requires some experience and some thought with regard to learners changing needs as they develop through the ZPD. As you work through each video, we suggest that you spend some time reflecting on or discussing with a colleague, what you observe in each case. Keep in mind that the interactions in the video clips represent only one possibility for carrying out appropriate and effective mediation. The written version of each video clip, along with the relevant analysis, is included below. Before viewing the clips, you will have the chance to see a brief powerpoint presentation that introduces the concepts to be considered in the clips. The full text on which the powerpoint is based is presented in the following section.

COMMUNICATIVE INTENT, PLAN, EXECUTION, AND EVALUATION One important aspect of communicative performance, which we did not include in our discussion so far, is the fact that to communicate speakers must first develop a specific meaning that they intend to convey and then must put together a plan for how to express this meaning. Once speakers decide what to say and how to say it, they must then execute their plan in actual speech.


This is the execution phase of performance and is what most people understand as speaking the language. This is not, however, the final stage of performance. Once speakers produce an utterance they often monitor their performance in order to evaluate whether or not their plan was appropriately executed and with it their intended meaning conveyed. In this phase among other things speakers check to be sure they used the appropriate words and grammar, pragmatics, and pronunciation, including stress and intonation patterns. For example, a speaker of English may make a mistake in pronunciation and say something like bake my bike, but when monitoring may correct it to the intended take my bike. Often times when using pronouns, even very proficient speakers of English encounter execution problems. What looks like an appropriate utterance She got Ralph to let him cut her hair under monitoring is corrected to the intended meaning She got Ralph to let her cut his hair. Speakers can also have problems executing word order, as when someone says what it is that makes the difference? instead of what is it that makes the difference ? And sometimes speakers select the incorrect word and then correct it once theyve noticed the problem in execution as when a speaker says we need a new refrigerator instead of we need a new dishwasher. (All examples were borrowed from the following website Thus, any communicative performance entails four stages: deciding on an intended meaning, developing a plan for how to communicate this meaning, execution of the plan, and monitoring the execution in order to evaluate whether the intended meaning was appropriately communicated. When highly proficient speakers participate in ordinary spontaneous conversations all four stages are run through very quickly, often in a matter of fractions of seconds. Very proficient speakers are able to monitor and evaluate their expression of one meaning while at the same time planning and executing new meaning. Even proficient users of


language can slow the process down in order to ensure the quality of their performance and minimize communicative problems. This happens for instance when someone is preparing to make a formal presentation, such as a speech or when writing a research paper. As you might expect, people still in the process of learning a new language are likely to encounter more difficulties than more experienced users of a language when developing, executing and evaluating a communicative plan. The speakers in the video clips you are about to observe are no exception. Even though they are students from an advanced university-level French class, they run into problems when trying to convey complex information through their new language. In the examples, we will discuss the types of support offered by the mediator and how the learners responded to this support as they worked through problems that arose in their performance. We will limit our analysis to planning and monitoring problems only. For each clip we first indicate the nature of the problem (i.e., whether it is in planning, monitoring or both); next we identify the speaker using a pseudonym; this is followed by a brief description of the scene that the speaker is narrating; the video clip is then presented in its entirety; finally, this is followed by our analysis of the relevant aspects of the interaction. You do not need to know French to appreciate what happens in each clip. We explain the relevant features of the language as we work through the analyses. You will note that the mediator-learner interactions are primarily in English, the learners first language. Using the first language for interaction in the ZPD is preferable because one can be more confident that learners fully understand the mediation they are offered, as it is sometimes subtle and complex. Whenever French is used in the video clips an English translation is provided.


Video Clip 1: Planning Problem Speaker: Donna

Setting the Scene: In this clip, Donna is narrating an episode from the movie Nine Months where the main characters, Samuel and Rebecca, are driving to a friends home and, after consulting a calendar, Rebecca realizes that she must be pregnant. She reveals this news to Samuel, who is shocked and runs the car off the road. Donna struggles to use verbal aspect to appropriately frame the events in her narrative. Recall from the discussion of Case Study 2 on transcendence that in French a speaker must choose between the pass compos (completed aspect) and the imparfait (on-going aspect).

Video Clip Transcript : 1. D: en tran de compter dans un livre tout coup elle a dit Samuel ah in the process of counting in a book all of a sudden she said to Samuel 2. bon je suis enceinte et Samuel tait trs choqu a t choqu tait choqu well I am pregnant and Samuel was very shocked was shocked was shocked 3. M: which one? 4. D: (laughs) okay 5. M: tait, a t? was, has been ? 6. D: ctait un choque lui cette nouvelle donc il tait choqu et a juste it was a shock to him this news so he was shocked and that just after 7. aprs a that 8. M: il tait choqu he was shocked


9. D: il tait choqu cause de cette nouvelle he was shocked because of this news 10. M: okay, using imparfait 11. D: using imparfait 12. M: because? 13. D: parce que il tait choqu he was shocked he started to be shocked and because he was shocked continued to be shocked by this news but I think I first chose pass compos to note that at a very distinct point he started to become shocked 14. M: so emphasizing that? 15. D: right so maybe what I want to say is il a il a t choqu he was he was shocked

Analysis: Now lets look at this interaction more closely. At the beginning of the clip, Donna oscillates between the on-going and completed aspect, switching between the constructions tait choqu and a t choqu.

D: en tran de compter dans un livre tout coup elle a dit Samuel ah in the process of counting in a book all of a sudden she said to Samuel bon je suis enceinte et Samuel tait trs choqu a t choqu tait choqu well I am pregnant and Samuel was very shocked was shocked was shocked

Here Donna is having problems in the preparation stage of how to say that the character Samuel was shocked at the news of Rebeccas pregnancy. The mediator interrupts now to ask which aspect Donna wants to use for this event. Note Donnas reaction.


M: which one? D: (laughs) okay

Donnas laughter indicates that she is not sure. The mediator then rephrases the question by repeating the two forms Donna produced. M: tait, a t?

At this point, the mediation is still very implicit and apparently not helpful to Donna. In essence, the mediator has not shifted his support from line 3 to line 5; both utterances are saying the same thing only one is in French and the other in English. However, Donna does respond to the mediators prompting by justifying in French that the imperfect would be appropriate and then continuing with the story. D: ctait un choque lui cette nouvelle donc il tait choqu et a juste it was a shock to him this news so he was shocked and that just after aprs a that M: il tait choqu he was shocked D: il tait choqu cause de cette nouvelle he was shocked because of this news

The mediator appears to accept Donnas choice of aspect but then he asks her to explain why she settled on the imperfect. M: okay, using imparfait D: using imparfait M: because?


The mediators question triggers Donnas re-planning of how to appropriately express the event. D: parce que il tait choqu he was shocked he started to be shocked and because he was shocked continued to be shocked by this news but I think I first chose pass compos to note that at a very distinct point he started to become shocked M: so emphasizing that? D: right so maybe what I want to say is il a il a t choqu he was he was shocked By talking herself through it, Donna abandons her original plan and decides that the completed aspect is more appropriate to express her intended meaning.

Video clip 2: Planning Problems and the ZPD Speaker: Donna Setting the Scene: Donna continues to have problems planning her narration. In this video clip she is recounting an argument between Samuel and Rebecca relating to Rebeccas pregnancy in which Samuel accuses her of not having taken appropriate measures to avoid this situation. Donna attempts to use a complex negative construction to express Samuels accusation. At first she tries to work this out on her own, but ultimately is able to succeed through collaboration with the mediator. Video Clip Transcript: 1. D: okay um et uh Samuel laccusait, okay I have to think about this (grabs a and uh Samuel was accusing her 2. pen and starts to write on a piece of paper) I need your little handouts 3. M: (laughs) well maybe we can figure it out


4. D: Samuel laccusait ntre pas* ne pas (...) Samuel was accusing her of not being 5. M: laccusait like l-apostrophe-accusait? was accusing her like l apostrophe was accusing 6. D: yeah laccusait navoir pas* le soin? avec ses mdicaments um pour uh (...) was accusing her of not having the care? with her medication um for uh 7. comment dit-on birth control en franais? (laughs) how do you say birth control in French ? 8. M: uh la limitation de naissance 9. D: limitation, not having taken care with her birth control, Samuel laccusait Samuel was accusing her 10. M: so like laccusait l and accusait being the [imperfect imparfait? 11. D: imparfait] he was accusing her of not being careful uh (...) 12. M: right so remember you were using the negative Im sorry you were using 13. the infinitive like avoir so remember when youre using the negative with the 14. infinitive where you put the ne and the pas 15. D: the ne and the pas are together 16. M: right and it goes before 17. D: oh ne pas avoir le soin* not having care 18. M: or pris de soin taken care 19. D: ne pas avoir il laccusait doesnt have he was accusing her of 20. M: de ne pas of not 21. D: de ne pas avoir pris de soin avec ses mdicaments of not having taken care with her medications


22. M: right

Analysis: Lets now examine this interaction in more detail. The negative construction Donna is trying to produce at the outset of this exchange is sufficient difficulty for her that she announces, I have to think about this. She then picks up a pen to work out her intended utterance in writing.

D: okay um et uh Samuel laccusait, okay I have to think about this (grabs a and uh Samuel was accusing her pen and starts to write on a piece of paper) I need your little handouts

It is interesting to note that Donna equates thinking in this case with writing. This is not surprising given what we say about mediation in chapter 1. Notice also that Donna addresses the mediator and makes reference to another form of mediation, in this case handouts that explain temporal sequencing in narratives. Interestingly, however, Donna does not write anything, but works out the solution orally with the assistance of the mediator. M: (laughs) well maybe we can figure it out

Here, the mediator realizes that Donna has written nothing on the page and cannot work out a solution on her own, and he suggests that they collaborate. Immediately Donna attempts to formulate the negative construction but is unsuccessful. D: Samuel laccusait ntre pas* ne pas (...) Samuel was accusing her of not being

The mediator draws Donnas attention to the verb accusait thinking that the completed aspect would be more appropriate, although Donnas choice of the ongoing aspect is certainly acceptable in this case. In fact, Donna reiterates this by repeating the ongoing form of the verb.


For Donna, the problem is not with aspect selection but with the negative construction involving an infinitive. She makes this clear to the mediator when she explains in English the idea she wishes to express. M: laccusait like l-apostrophe-accusait? was accusing her like l apostrophe was accusing D: yeah laccusait navoir pas* le soin? avec ses mdicaments um pour uh (...) was accusing her of not having the care? with her medication um for uh comment dit-on birth control en franais? (laughs) how do you say birth control in French ? M: uh la limitation de naissance D: limitation, not having taken care with her birth control, Samuel laccusait Samuel was accusing her M: so like laccusait l and accusait being the [imperfect imparfait? D: imparfait] he was accusing her of not being careful uh (...)

Once the mediator understands Donnas communicative intention, he prompts her to consider the placement of the negative particles ne and pas in infinitival constructions.

M: right so remember you were using the negative Im sorry you were using the infinitive like avoir so remember when youre using the negative with the infinitive where you put the ne and the pas

Donna then remembers that the particles occur together. D: the ne and the pas are together M: right and it goes before


Rather than giving Donna the chance to state the position of the particles relative to the infinitive, the mediator tells her that they precede the infinitive. This may be an instance of overly explicit mediation because Donna did not have the opportunity to indicate what she knows. On the other hand, Donnas reaction (oh) suggests she may not have been aware of the correct positioning. She then reformulates the utterance, but it is still incorrect. The mediator then explicitly provides the past participle that is missing from Donnas construction and that is needed to convey the intended meaning. D: oh ne pas avoir le soin* not having care M: or pris de soin taken care

Donna responds by recasting her utterance once again with the appropriate negative construction but uses the incorrect particle . The mediator then offers the correct particle de. D: ne pas avoir il laccusait doesnt have he was accusing her of M: de ne pas of not

Finally, Donna produces the full construction, which the mediator evaluates positively. D: de ne pas avoir pris de soin avec ses mdicaments of not having taken care with her medications M: right

Throughout this interaction, the mediator provided relatively explicit mediation and Donnas responsiveness was to repeat each part of the construction supplied by the mediator. This suggests that the construction did not lie within her ZPD at that time.


Video Clip 3: Problems with Evaluation of Performance Speaker: Jess Setting the Scene: In this video clip Jess has finished her narration of the same episode described by Donna in the first video clip where Rebecca tells Samuel that she is pregnant. In this case, the mediator asks Jess to repeat the first portion of her narrative because he had detected some problems with her use of verbal aspect. Jess had inappropriately used the completed aspect. Video Clip Transcript: 34. M: A couple of things I wanted ask about was in the very very beginning 35. right how did you I just wanted to see that I got it right how did you start off 36. the uh the first thing the scene? 37. J: I said (...) I said like ils ont conduis* (...) they drove 38. M: okay using right ils ont conduis* 39. J: conduit 40. M: okay the pass compos ils ont conduit 41. J: ils ont conduit they drove 42. M: and using pass compos because? 43. J: um, because its wrong (both J and M laugh) 44. J: I would have said ils ils conduisaient they they were driving 45. M: ils conduisaient because? they were driving 46. J: la voiture de Samuel um, because they were driving it was like the overall Samuels car um,


47. scene 48. M: okay 49. J: we didnt know when it started 50. M: okay

Analysis: This exchange begins with the mediator asking Jess to repeat the beginning of her narrative.

M: A couple of things I wanted ask about was in the very very beginning right how did you I just wanted to see that I got it right how did you start off the uh the first thing the scene?

Jess complies, and we see two problems with her verbal construction. She used the completed aspect of the verb conduire to drive and produced the incorrect form of the past participle. Notice that she seems not to detect either problem.

J: I said (...) I said like ils ont conduis* (...) they drove

The mediator calls her attention to the problem by repeating what she had said. Immediately, Jess is able to evaluate her incorrect formation of the past participle.

M: okay using right ils ont conduis* J: conduit


Interestingly, it is the mediators repetition of the incorrect utterance that triggers Jesss response and not her own repetition of her original mistake. According to our analysis, this shows that Jess still needs mediation from someone else to help her evaluate her performance.

M: okay the pass compos ils ont conduit J: ils ont conduit they drove

Even though Jess produces the correct form of the completed aspect, there is still the problem of her choice of aspect. The mediator asks Jess to explain her choice of the completed aspect and, in what looks like an odd response, she recognizes that this aspect is inappropriate.

M: and using pass compos because? J: um, because its wrong (both J and M laugh)

Notice here that Jess is not saying she selected the form because it was wrong but that she now recognizes it as wrong. Once again, she is only able to evaluate the problem in her performance because the mediator leads her in this direction. She then proceeds to explain why the on-going aspect better fits her intended meaning.

J: I would have said ils ils conduisaient they they were driving M: ils conduisaient because? they were driving J: la voiture de Samuel um, because they were driving it was like the overall scene Samuels car um,


M: okay J: we didnt know when it started M: okay

Ultimately, it was Jess and not the mediator who rectified both her incorrect formation of the past participle and her inappropriate choice of verbal aspect, although she needed the mediator to help evaluate her performance. This, in our view, shows that Jesss level of development was more advanced than her original performance indicates.

Video Clip 4: Problems with Preparation and EvaluationUnexpected Level of Development Speaker: Jess Setting the Scene: In this video clip Jess narrates the remainder of the driving episode from Nine Months. Samuel loses control of the car upon hearing of the pregnancy and Rebecca quips that he could react more positively to the news. Jess attempts to express this in French. Video Clip Transcript: 1. J : ...Elle a dit je je divine que tu ne wait que tu ne veux pas le after the accident? She said I I guess that you wait that you do not want the

2. bb (...) okay et elle lui a demand quil tait* quil tre* plus positif? Estbaby and she asked him that he was uh that he to be more positive? 3. ce que a marche? does that work? 4. M: uh elle lui a demand? she asked him? 5. J: elle lui a demand sil peut wait sil pourrait pouvait tre plus positif she asked him if he can wait if he would be able could be more positive


6. pouvait tre? Uh (...) could be? Uh 7. M: okay? 8. J: okay, um en rponse il in response he

Analysis: As Jess struggles to relate Samuel and Rebeccas argument, she begins to use a direct quote from the dialogue but then tells herself in English to stop (wait) and seems to search for the correct verb form. J : ...Elle a dit je je divine que tu ne wait que tu ne veux pas le after the accident? She said I I guess that you wait that you do not want the bb (...) okay et elle lui a demand quil tait* quil tre* plus positif? baby and she asked him that he was uh that he to be more positive? Est-ce que a marche? does that work?

Once Jess finds the form she needs, she continues with the narration but then shifts from directly quoting Rebecca to using indirect speech, a more complex way of reporting dialogue. One of the reasons this is more complex is that it requires shifting verbs from the present tense to the past. Jess expresses that she is not certain her choices are appropriate and she asks the mediator to evaluate what she has said. The mediator does not answer her question. Instead, because of the uncertainty indicated by Jesss alternation between the past (tait) and the infinitive (tre), he prompts her to repeat her utterance. M: uh elle lui a demand? she asked him?

Jess reformulates, this time substituting the verb pouvoir (to be able to). She again stops herself (wait) and begins to think through how to produce an even more sophisticated construction


using an imperfect form as a conditional. She succeeds but once again turns to the mediator to evaluate her performance. J: elle lui a demand sil peut wait sil pourrait pouvait tre plus positif she asked him if he can wait if he would be able could be more positive pouvait tre? Uh (...) could be? Uh

The mediator accepts this construction and Jess continues her narrative. M: okay? J: okay, um en rponse il in response he

In this interaction, we see Jesss struggle to abandon a simple way of reporting dialogue in favor of a more sophisticated form of expression. Although she initiates this shift on her own, she still requires the mediator to play an evaluative role.


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ISBN-13: 978-0-9793950-0-0 ISBN-10: 0-9793950-0-3