Ask the question: IS anyone familiar with the term dynamic assessment? Any one researching writing assessment?
Give a brief summary of the talk – go through bullet points. Part of a larger study.
As an EAP tutor, Motivated by the fact that students need various types of support in higher education for. their sustainable writing development. Since DA targets individual learner’s needs, it may help with resolving challenges in academic writing. But it was essential to investigate how it does that. This paper focuses on macro-Themes and hyper-Themes in student assignments
Focus on ‘promise’ of a writer – the potential of a learner. Interested in the future, not in the past!
Some Assumptions of Vygotskian SCT: (1) learning always takes place in a social and historical context; (2) learning is a collaborative enterprise; (3) higher mental activity is always mediated through psychological tools such as human artifacts, language and signs; (4) learning leads to development; (5) theoretical learning is more powerful than empirical learning to mediate knowledge.
Go through points
Basic tenets of SFL: (1) language is a resource for making meaning in a particular social context; (2) language is used to serve multiple functions of human activity; (3) language structure varies for each function; (4) basic unit analysis for research is text, not sentence; etc. These variables are represented by the language used in a text
In academic writing SFL has been shown to be useful in the development of assessment criteria (e.g., Rose, Rose, Farrington, & Page, 2008) and as a diagnostic tool (e.g., Bonanno & Jones, 2007). In this respect, it appears that SFL provides useful analytical tools for analysing students’ texts and deciding whether their texts demonstrate (or otherwise) the textual features expected in a certain discipline. Whether used for diagnostic purposes or measuring achievement, the SFL-based genre approach is instrumental for defining assessment criteria for student writing and examining assessment texts to see the textual features of a genre in a discipline. There does not appear to be a similarly strong focus on systematic procedures in formative or summative assessment at higher education level.
Again, focus on tutor-mediation
Dynamic assessment of academic writing: macro-Theme and hyper-Theme
Dynamic assessment of
academic writing: macro-
Themes and hyper-
OpenELT, Department of Languages
The Open University, UK
What I want to talk about
Why this study?
Theoretical frameworks: DA and Systemic Functional
Analysis and findings
Questions and suggestions
Why this study?
Lack of DA research in academic writing assessment (see
Poehner 2008 for a review) and call for more targeted and
‘dialogic’ tutor support (i.e., feedback) to students with their
assignments (e.g., York 2003; Lillis 2006)
An academic writing tutor’s search for sustainable writing
This study explored:
Do Dynamic Assessment (DA) procedures enhance students’
Defining academic writing and
academic writing assessment
Academic writing: academic texts expected to be
written by students in a particular discipline in higher
education (HE), which entails having the epistemological,
linguistic and socio-cultural knowledge required in order
to become a part of that disciplinary community.
Academic writing assessment: the range of
procedures used to “describe the promise and limitations
of a writer” working in a particular rhetorical, linguistic
and socio-cultural context (emphasis added, Huot 2003,
Theoretical frameworks (1): DA
Dynamic Assessment (DA) driven by Vygotskian (1978)
sociocultural theory of learning
Definition of DA: an “approach to understanding individual
differences and their implications for instruction … [that]
embeds intervention within the assessment procedure” (Lidz
and Gindis, 2003 p.99).
Goal of DA: identify learners’ Zone of Proximal
Development (ZPD) and actual ability and help them to
move to the next level of zpd; focus on process and not on
product; concerned with future rather than the past
Two key concepts in DA: (1) zone of proximal
development (ZPD) and (2) mediation
Theoretical frameworks (1):
ZPD: “the distance between the actual development
level as determined by independent problem solving and
the level of potential development as determined
through problem solving under adult guidance or in
collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky 1978,
Mediation: making sense of the world around us via
human artefacts, symbolic tools and other humans
Dynamic Assessment (DA) in
General education (see review in Haywood and Lidz
Language education (e.g., Poehner 2005; Anton 2009;
Oskoz 2005) – all in the context of foreign/ second
language in a face-to-face situation
Theoretical frameworks (2): genre
theory based on Systemic Functional
Genre theory based on Systemic Functional Linguistics
(SFL) as developed by Halliday and his colleagues (e.g.,
Halliday and Martin 1993)
Definition of genre: ‘staged, goal-oriented social
processes’ (Martin 1997)
Texts/ genres have different functions in different social
contexts (e.g., narration, argumentation). Such
functions/ purposes are realised through register
variables - field (subject matter), tenor (reader-writer
relationship) and mode (medium of communication).
SFL genre theory and aca- demic
Heavy focus on textual analysis (i.e., textual features)
Diagnostic tool (e.g., Bonnano & Jones 2007)
Criteria for assessment (e.g., Rose, Rose, Farrington, &
To date no strong focus on SFL-oriented systematic
procedures in formative or summative assessment in
Academic writing course in open and distance learning
Majority of students native speakers of English (ca. 400
Tutor-student interaction via online forum and emails
Researcher tutoring one group (ca. 20 students) – two
students volunteered to participate
Data collection methods
Dynamic assessment ‘sessions’ over six months (i.e.,
tutor-student interaction, various drafts of students’
assessment texts) – the assignment tasks required
students to apply a business study framework to a
business situation/ problem (i.e., case study analysis)
Tutor mediation in these DA sessions followed the basic
principles proposed by Haywood and Lidz (2007, p. 42).
Focus of the present presentation: macro-Themes and
hyper-Themes of DA1 and DA2 two drafts each
An analysis of macro-Themes and hyper-Themes in
students’ assessment texts following SFL genre theory
(e.g., Martin & Rose 2007)
macro-Theme: refers to the introductory paragraph in
an essay or analysis which predicts what the text will be
about (Martin 1993).
Hyper-Theme: is defined as ‘a clause (or combination
of clauses) predicting a pattern of clause Themes
constituting a text’s method of development’ (Martin
1993, p. 245).
Findings: macro-Themes (1)
Michelle’s (pseudonym) macro-Themes
DA1 draft 1: lengthy background information; lacks
sufficient orientation for the reader
DA1 final draft: same except a few minor changes
DA2 first and final drafts: concise and focused;
clearly indicates how the analysis will develop following
the STEP framework (classification criteria)
Findings: macro-Themes (2)
Natasha’s (pseudonym) macro-Themes
DA1 draft 1: some orientation but no clear
classification criteria (i.e., STEP factors)
DA1 final draft: clearly states what the analysis will
do; clear classification criteria
DA2 first and final drafts: similar to DA1 final;
clearly sets out how the analysis will be developed;
classification criteria explicit; final version with more
business concepts and sentences better connected
Findings: hyper-Themes (1)
Michelle’s hyper-Themes (examples)
DA1 draft 1: A major development by Heineken introduced a better
tasting non alcoholic beer onto the market. (P4)
DA1 final: Technological factors affect Heineken's marketing strategy
in one main way. (P4)
DA2 draft 1:Although safety has been one of the main focuses for the
safer syringe market, there have been some Technological factors which
have influenced the market. (P3)
DA2 final: Technological factors influencing the Safer Syringe
market include the production of Safer Syringes in large quantities
and the type of products available. (P3)
Findings: hyper-Themes (2)
Natasha’s hyper-Themes (examples)
DA1 draft 1: Technological factors: It was important to create a
tasty product for the regular beer consumers. (P3)
DA1 final: Several technological factors influenced Buckler 's
DA2 draft 1: Technology plays a central role in adoption of the
safer syringes. (P3)
DA2 final: Technology also plays a central role in the adoption of
Findings: learner perception
“… New method is more relaxed whilst the traditional one is
more stressful, more personal… The method was very
encouraging – prompted to think about the problem. Gave an
opportunity to try again with some prompts. If required
explicit help was given. Very ‘dynamic’ approach…”
“… The new method of assessment helped a lot because
there were more specific details that guided in the process of
writing. When I see more details, I remember next time while
writing… I would like to have a similar experience in other
courses… I wish I could do the project longer… Can we start
the research again?...” (Natasha).
The findings suggest that dynamic assessment procedures do
enhance learners’ academic writing development, albeit at varying
It was also found that both the students showed progress regarding
their ability to manage macro-Themes and hyper-Themes in
Overall, it appears that DA procedures do help students improve
their academic writing if implemented appropriately by considering
individual students’ potential to develop. Although these findings
cannot be generalised given the specific context in which the DA
procedures were implemented, this study has pedagogical
implications for writing assessment in a specific discipline in higher
Questions and suggestions?
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Halliday, M. A. K. & Martin, J. R. (eds.) (1993) Writing science: Literacy and discursive Power, London, The Falmer Press.
Haywood, H. C., & Lidz, C. S. (2007). Dynamic assessment in practice : clinical and educational applications. Cambridge:
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Huot, B. (2002). (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment: Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Logan, Utah: Utah State University
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