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date: 22 October 2018

Assessing Potential for Learning in School Children

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Dynamic assessment is an umbrella concept, denoting a variety of assessment and testing forms that incorporate feedback, hints, or training in the assessment process and aim to measure a child’s progress when solving cognitive tasks, and in doing so provide an indication of his or her cognitive potential for learning.

Psychological and psychoeducational assessment is often applied in educational settings. Most of the instruments used in such assessments have a static nature. In administering these instruments, instruction is restricted to what is stated in the manual, which focuses mainly on telling a child what he or she has to do. The main focus of such tests is on the outcomes. The principal characteristic of dynamic assessment and testing, on the contrary, is that children are explicitly provided with feedback, prompts, or training intended to enable them to show progress when solving cognitive tasks. Where in static assessment the test outcomes are considered to measure that which a child already knows and has acquired so far, dynamic assessment procedures focus both upon learning progression and, in some cases, on the underlying cognitive processes. Dynamic measures are designed to assess developing or yet-to-develop abilities in a setting in which the assessor helps the child to solve the tasks, and teaches the child how to solve these tasks more independently. Consequently, dynamic assessment measures are primarily focused on a child’s potential for learning, rather than on past learning experiences, and likely provide a better indication of a child’s level of cognitive functioning than conventional, static test scores do separately or in combination with other instruments.

Dynamic assessment formats can be very different from each other, ranging from individually based forms of mediation, often called dynamic assessment, to active scaffolding and highly standardized procedures, offered to groups or individuals, often called dynamic testing. Outcomes of dynamic testing and assessment could, in principle, provide educational psychologists or teachers with information regarding learning outcomes during these forms of intervention.