Will You Cooperate With or Correct Students?

Contributor: In Ji (Sera) Chun | Reviewer:  Dr. Parvaneh Rezaee | Date: 2021-12-14

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Background of the Study

Dynamic Assessment (DA) is a cooperative, learner-centered method of assessment where an implicit to explicit prompt is provided to learners based on their responsiveness during the assessment process. There are several types of DA which include a small-scale DA and a computerized DA (C-DA). A small-scale DA occurs between the mediator and the learner. The mediator uses scaled prompts to gradually scaffold rather than simply evaluate (e.g. correct or incorrect) students’ performance in a learning task. C-DA has a similar mediation procedure, but it relies on a computer program to provide the mediation. These different forms of DAs are intended to support learners to independent functioning, provide the mediator to gain a fuller understanding of learner’s L2 knowledge, and track learners’ developmental process throughout the course of the assessment. The current study examines both a small-scale DA and a C-DA with Estonian learners of L2 English.

Research Methods

The small-scale DA was conducted from a secondary school in Estonia throughout 18 months. The participant was a male L1 Russian learner of English at the age of 16 who had studied English for seven years. The data collection involved transcriptions of three weekly sessions. Each session involved two stages: (1) learner’s independent completion of exercises on L2 English derivational affixes and (2) learner’s participation in an interactive DA with the mediator for a review session. A ‘baseline’ indicator of the learner’s performance was measured through recorded sessions of learner’s independent performance using the think-aloud methods pre- and post- DA sessions followed by reflective interviews. The second study was conducted with 47 L1 Russian-speakers also from a secondary school in Estonia with five years of English learning experiences. Both pre- and posttests were conducted to identify learners’ unassisted progress using C-DA. Immediately after the pre-test, one C-DA session, which lasted approximately 24 minutes was conducted. It consisted of five exercises, each involving seven items: (1) two ordering exercises of wh-questions with modal auxiliaries and (2) three multiple-choice exercises producing wh-questions with auxiliaries do, does, and did. For each exercise, a five-level prompt beginning from the most implicit were provided to learners only when they selected the incorrect answers. If learners responded correctly, a ‘Correct’ message was given and no prompt was provided.

Results

For the first study, the process of mediation in the small-scale DA provided insights into the learner’s current level of knowledge and the amount of scaffolding that was needed to support learner’s potential achievements. For the second study, a quantitative analysis for the C-DA study showed a gradual increase in learners’ performance shown as weighted mean scores of the five exercises. Also, a moderate correlation between learners’ unassisted pre-and posttest scores with their C-DA performance.

Practical Implications/Significance

First, DA was suggested to be a way of reconceptualizing assessment as an interactive process through mediation to understand learners more clearly. Second, DA draws attention to more process-focused assessment by tracking the changes in learner’s developmental process. Thus, the study calls upon teachers and researchers to cooperating with learners in the process of assessment rather than simply correcting them.

Original Text: Poehner, M. E., & Leontjev, D. (2020). To correct or to cooperate: Mediational processes and L2 development. Language Teaching Research, 24(3), 295–316. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362168818783212

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