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Dynamic Assessment

Dynamic Assessment

17 October, 2016

One way to standardized testing methods is dynamic assessment because evaluating children from culturally and linguistically varied backgrounds can be a complex task. Dr. Elizabeth Peña, Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has conducted extensive research in the area of dynamic assessment with culturally and linguistically diverse populations.

Dynamic assessment (DA) is an approach of conducting a language assessment which seeks to identify the skills that an individual child possesses as well as their learning potential. The dynamic assessment procedure highlights the learning process and accounts for the amount and nature of examiner investment. It is highly interactive and process-oriented.

Two Major Outcomes of Dynamic Assessment

  • Help differentiate between a language difference and a language disorder, especially for children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
    • Children who are able to make significant changes in short term teaching sessions likely have a language difference.
    • Children who are unable to make these changes likely have a language impairment.
  • Results can have direct insinuations for intervention by examining the child’s response to a mediated learning experience.

Basic Framework of Dynamic Assessment

  1. Pretest
    • Assess child’s current performance
  1. Teach
    • Using a mediated learning experience (MLE)
    • Help the child develop strategies
    • Observe the child’s modifiability
  2. Post Test
    • Compare performance to pretest
    • Assess transfer of strategies

A key to mediated learning experiences (MLE) is that the examiner deliberately teaches, watches how the child responds to instruction, and adjusts teaching accordingly. In this framework, it is the adult’s duty to do whatever it takes for the child to learn new strategies that will help them continue learning. The ultimate goal of MLE is for children to become learners who are self-directed and independent.

 Dynamic Assessment: Components of a Mediated Learning Experience (MLE)





Associated intent to change child functioning to the child. Tell them the target and the reason for the MLE. Teach, create awareness in the child


Concentrate the child’s attention on what is important. Assist the child to attend to important features of the task and ignore unimportant features. Aid child to understand why task is important


Connecting of concepts & events beyond the immediate task; initiation of abstract ideas. Examples included questions like, “What would happen if…?” and “Have you ever..?” Help child think hypothetically.


Support the child develop plan. Help them think through how they will use the targeted strategy. Discuss appropriate times to use particular skill. Teach child to be self-regulated & active participant in own learning.

Modifiability is the way we describe the child’s response to a MLE based on our observations during a teaching session. It is vital to consider a child’s modifiability when applying the MLE. Specifically, we are looking at child responsivity, transfer skills, and examiner effort.

Child Responsivity

  • How well does the child respond to the MLE?
  • Does the child attend to the task, and maintain attention?
  • Does the child demonstrate efficient learning strategies?
  • Does child use skills such as looking, comparing, and verbalizing?


  • How well does child apply the target skills from one item to the next?
  • From one task to the next?
  • Does child apply learned strategies soon after learning them?

Examiner Effort

  • How much support does the child need?
  • What is the nature of the support required?