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Re: [xmca] LSV- Dynamic Assessment

I have been following the discussion of Poehner and Lantolf's paper on dynamic assessment with interest. but discussion on xmca goes so fast that by the time I have read a message there have been many responses and the thread switches to some other (related?) topic. However, I'll risk going back upstream to comment on three issues.

SCT v. CHAT. I suspect that one of the reasons that Lantolf and his colleagues choose SCT (apart from publishers' preferences) is that their work is somewhat restricted in scope when compared with the range of topics that CHAT proponents address. While second/foreign language learning is of great importance in today's world, it is nevertheless a small part of the learning that we all engage in in the course of a day, month, year or 'stage of development'. And when this topic is addressed largely from a psycholinguistic perspective, there is less likely to be a concern with the activity systems and communities of practice in which using a second/foreign language plays a part beyond the classroom. Activity in the sense of A in CHAT is not brought into question; rather, it is taken for granted.

That being said, I really appreciated the examples of DA that P&L included and the discussion of guaging the level and kind of support that each student seemed likely to benefit from. Important, too, was their recognition that there is no single best answer, since every learning-teaching event is unique. But I think this point can be extended to recognize that learning is always multidimensional and that, therefore, there are many ways in which a learner can be assisted, but which may seem tangential if the focus is restricted to the task in hand. This is perhaps where the wider perspective provided by CHAT is relevant.

P&L raise the question of how to incorporate a DA approach when a class of 20 or more students is involved. Assuming that DA is applicable beyond language learning, this is an issue that is relevant in all learning-and-teaching situations in schools and universities. Here the current attempt to focus on formative rather than summative assessment is asking similar questions and leading to some interesting attempts by some schools to use the analysis of students' answers to district 'benchmark' tests to make teaching more responsive to the needs of individual students or groups of students who might benefit from similar supportive assistance. Might this be a move in the direction of DA?

In one of his posts, David suggested that P&L are blurring the distinction between learning and development, adding that much of what students learn in school remains inert and does not lead to development. This is certainly true but at the same time it is important to recognize that an event that may result only in inert knowledge or skill for one student may lead to an important breakthrough for another student, making possible development that the teacher could not have foreseen or planned for. In my experience, this is more likely to occur when the topic being studied is approached through inquiry. When what is being discovered/learned by one student or group of students is discussed by the whole class, someone (student or teacher) may ask a question that shifts the inquiry to another level for all concerned or may lead a previously unengaged student to become more self-directed in her or his participation. In either case, what started as simply increasing understanding of the selected topic may become truly developmental for one or more of the participants. Would you agree, David?

Gordon Wells		<gwells@ucsc.edu>			http://people.ucsc.edu/~gwells/
Department of Education
University of California, Santa Cruz.

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