Dynamic Assessment For School SLPs
May 5, 2018
What Is Dynamic Assessment?
Dynamic assessment is a fluid evaluation process that assesses how a child is learning. In contrast, a static model of assessment (i.e. standardized test) identifies knowledge previously learned. Dynamic assessment uses a test-teach-retest method to evaluate a child’s responsiveness to instruction. This process helps differentiate children with a language difference from children with a language learning disorder.
If you’re like me, you may have heard a lot about dynamic assessment, but you may never have learned how to actually do a dynamic assessment. You’re about to learn!
Why Dynamic Assessment?
We know that standardized tests do not always do a great job at capturing a child’s true language abilities. This is especially true for children of diverse cultural or linguistic backgrounds. You may have heard of using dynamic assessments in the context of working with children who are bilingual. However, that is only one of many appropriate instances for which you can use dynamic assessment. Language and literacy difficulties are commonly over and under identified with low-socioeconomic and diverse children.
Who Benefits From Dynamic Assessment?
Dynamic assessment helps distinguish children with a language difference from those who have a language disorder. I use dynamic assessment with some of the monolingual children in my Title 1 school who have not had the same cultural and life experiences as many of the children that were used in normative data of standardized tests. Dynamic assessment is also widely used with children who are multilingual or who have had exposure to multiple languages. As clinicians and diagnosticians, we need to use our professional judgment to determine if a standardized assessment will not accurately distinguish a difference from a disorder.
Pitfalls of Standardized Assessments
Most SLPs are familiar with the problems inherent in standardized assessments such as content bias, linguistic bias, and disproportionate representation in normative samples. We also know that standardized tests have been proven to overlook children who are language impaired as well as over represent children with diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Personally, I groan every time I know that I am going to have to use a standardized assessment to evaluate a child who has had a different life experience. They are going to have difficulty understanding spoken paragraphs about the zoo, museum, or field day, when they haven’t experienced those places and events and those words have little meaning to them. They are going to have difficulty being able to recall sentences about uniforms, printers, curfews, and selling tickets to a dance because those are foreign concepts. These are the situations in which dynamic assessment is beneficial.
How Is Dynamic Assessment Different?
Dynamic assessment evaluates how a child learns and responds to instruction as opposed to evaluating what a child already knows and is based on the following ideas:
- Given opportunities for appropriate instruction, a child who has a language difference, but not a language disorder, has the ability to demonstrate efficient response to instruction. They can learn, retain, and transfer new information.
- On the other hand, students who have a language learning disorder may demonstrate little change or need significant support to complete the tasks. Learning, retaining, and transferring new information is not as easy and efficient.
Teaching Phase / Mediated Learning Experience
Dynamic assessment provides this instruction through a “mediated learning experience.” The components of a mediated learning experience are described in the following table from the ASHA website:
Application of a Mediated Learning Experience for Answering “WH” Questions
Intentionality: Today we’re going to practice sharing information answering questions.
Meaning: Sometimes other people don’t know all of the same information that we know. They’ll ask us questions to find out what we know and to get to know us.
Transcendence: Have you ever asked a friend what they like to do? Has anyone asked you how old you are or where you are going?
Competence: It’s important to answer the questions people ask us so that they can get to know us and find out important information. Your teacher may ask you questions about a book you’re reading. Your mom may ask you questions about your day at school.
Application of a Mediated Learning Experience for Vocabulary
Intentionality: Today we’re going to practice naming things.
Meaning: All things, actions, and people have a special name that we call it by.
Transcendence: If you ask your teacher for “something” would she know what you wanted? But if you used the name of the object and asked for a “pencil” would she know what you wanted? What would happen if you asked for a “drink?” What about if you asked for “water,” “juice” or “chocolate milk.”
Competence: It’s important to call things by their names and to learn new names for things so that we can get exactly what we want and need.
Is Dynamic Assessment Effective?
Even though dynamic assessments are not standardized, they have been shown to have acceptable specificity, sensitivity, and reliability (Pena, 2000).
Turn Knowledge Into Practice- How To Use Dynamic Assessment As A School SLP
A dynamic assessment consists of three parts! Click the image below to download the free, editable Dynamic Assessment Report template:
If you’re working in the school, you may required per district standards to use at least 1 standardized assessment. Standardized tests can be used as tools for gathering data about child’s potential area of weakness and can a helpful first step of the dynamic assessment process. The ROWPVT/EOWPVT or subtests from a language tests may all be used. You can also develop your own pretest for specific concepts (i.e. vocab, receptive language, narrative skills, etc.) Here are some examples of possible tools to use as pretests that are already created and are FREE!!
Teaching Phase (Mediated Learning Experience):
The teaching phase should consist of:
- 2-3 teaching sessions, 20-30 minutes, small group or individual
- A mediated learning experience (see examples above)
- Appropriate scaffold and support
- During the teaching phase, make note of the following concepts. These are all outlined in the Dynamic Assessment Report Template!
- Child Responsivity
- How well does the child respond to the MLE?
- Does the child attend to the task, and maintain attention?
- Do they 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?
- How much support does the child need?
- What is the nature of the support required?
- Child Responsivity
For the post-test, re-administer the subtest or probes that were delivered for the pretest phase, Make note of any change in scores. However, change in score is only a small part of the information gleaned from dynamic assessment. The ease at which the child responds to teaching, the amount of support they need and their ability to transfer skills is also valuable information.
This blog post contains information from the following sources. If you’re looking to learn more about dynamic assessment, check them out! If you enjoyed learning about how to use dynamic assessment as a school SLP, you may also enjoy:
Abel, A.D., Schuele, C.M., Arndt, K.B., Lee, M.W., Blankenship, K.G. (2016). Another look at the influence of maternal education on preschoolers’ performance on two norm-referenced measures. Communication Disorders Quarterly. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1177/1525740116679886.
Kapantzoglou, M., Restrepo, M. A., & Thompson, M. S. (2012). Dynamic assessment of word learning skills: Identifying language impairment in bilingual children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 43(1), 81–96. doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2011/10-0095)