Beyond the test: L2 dynamic assessment and the transcendence of mediated learning

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A major preoccupation in assessment is connecting examinees' performance in assessment and nonassessment contexts. This preoccupation has traditionally been framed in terms of generalizability. This article reconceptualizes this problem from a qualitatively different perspective on human abilities and their development, namely, the Sociocultural Theory of Mind outlined in the work of Vygotsky (1986, 1998). From this perspective, assessment occurs not in isolation from instruction but as an inseparable feature of it. Assessment and instruction are dialectically integrated as a single activity that seeks to understand development by actively promoting it. This pedagogical approach, known as Dynamic Assessment (DA), challenges the widespread acceptance of independent performance as the privileged indicator of individuals' abilities and calls for assessors to abandon their role as observers of learner behavior in favor of a commitment to joint problem solving aimed at supporting learner development. In DA, the traditional goal of producing generalizations from a snapshot of performance is replaced by ongoing intervention in development. Following Vygtosky's argument that true development goes beyond improvement on a given assessment task, DA practitioners have devised a method known as transcendence (TR), in which they collaborate with learners on increasingly complex tasks. In this article, transcendence in the second language (L2) domain is illustrated with examples of advanced learners of French composing oral narratives with support from a mediator. The article concludes with recommendations for future research on TR in L2 development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-340
Number of pages18
JournalModern Language Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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