Language and Sociocultural Theory, Vol 1, No 1 (2014)

Understanding the potential in elementary classrooms through Dynamic Assessment

Ana Christina DaSilva Iddings
Issued Date: 25 Feb 2014

Abstract


This paper reports on a research project aiming to investigate a Dynamic Assessment (DA) approach to the development of academic writing for 7-year-old new immigrant English language learners in elementary classrooms. The research design entailed a case study methodology focusing on the application of iterative cycles of DAs aimed at improving students’ writing abilities in relationship with the development of metalinguistic awareness in the native (Spanish) and target (English) languages. Two third-grade ELLs and their teacher participated in the case study presented in this article. Findings indicate that unlike more traditional types of assessment, the DA approach more readily enabled the teacher to recognize and access the ELLs’ zone of proximal development and thus to create instructional means to support their learning. Both students demonstrated significant gains in their ability to write in English at the end of the DA cycle. Findings suggest that the DA interactions were helpful in increasing metalinguistic awareness, especially as it allowed for the explicit use of the students’ native language as a kind of parameter and therefore as a tool for thinking and for mediating the development of academic English in textual form. Also, DA emerged as a more accurate diagnostic tool to understand recent-immigrant students’ potential abilities in communicating in the target language than more traditional forms of assessment.

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DOI: 10.1558/lst.v1i1.49

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