Dynamic assessment and second language development: Realizing the "undiscovered Country" in the twenty-first century

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Russian psychologist L. S. Vygotsky and Israeli psychologist and educator Reuven Feuerstein, although working in different times and cultural contexts, arrived at a commensurable and indeed complementary set of theoretical proposals that hold considerable potential for reenvisioning educational activity. One area, in particular, where their theories converge concerns the diagnosis of learner abilities and use of this information to inform targeted interventions to guide psychological development. Specifically, Vygotsky's (1987) formulation of the Zone of Proximal Development as cooperative activity undertaken with learners to reveal and promote abilities that have not yet formed but are still emerging provides a conceptual framework that aligns with Feuerstein's elaboration of procedures for identifying learner needs and abilities by engaging with them around specially designed tasks and materials, an approach he referred to as Mediated Learning Experience. Together, these proposals provide the basis for Dynamic Assessment (DA). DA has been widely pursued in the areas of special and cognitive education, where it has been shown to provide insights into the full range of learner abilities and has proven directly relevant to interventions to help all learners develop. This article traces the influence of Vygotsky's and Feuerstein's ideas on the field of second language (L2) education. While the field has a long tradition of drawing upon Vygotskian theory to interpret processes of L2 development in instructional contexts, only more recently have researchers begun to invoke it as a basis for organizing educational practices. This has coincided with efforts to understand the relevance of Feuerstein's research to the domain of children and adult learners of languages beyond their first. Beginning with Poehner's (2008) examination of DA with learners of L2 French, a sub-field within the area of L2 assessment has emerged that has included applications of DA principles in group formats and computerized procedures and with learners of a wide range of languages and in a variety of cultural contexts. With the continuing trend to elevate certain languages to a "global" status and the growing populationsof displaced and immigrant learners, the need for educational approaches that look beyond manifest functioning in order to construct a future with learners has perhaps never been greater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-15
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Cognitive Education and Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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