Dynamic assessment and academic writing: evidence of learning transfer?
Dr Prithvi Shrestha, Department of Language, The Open University
In the context of higher education, many higher order skills and knowledge are expected to be transferable by lecturers. Sustaining these skills and knowledge is therefore central to learning and disciplinary writing development. English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses can contribute to this purpose as they aim to enable Higher Education students to participate in their chosen academic communities as fully as possible. Despite learning transfer being a key purpose in ESP, research in this area is still limited (Cheng, 2007).
In this context, this paper reports on a small-scale study investigating the transfer of academic writing skills and conceptual knowledge among undergraduate business studies students. The data are derived from a larger study (Shrestha, 2011) conducted at a British university. One assignment text each was collected from four students who studied an ESP course for business studies. While three students had received interactive feedback on their previous two assignments, following a Vygotsky-inspired dynamic assessment (DA) approach, one student was provided with traditional tutor feedback. DA blends instruction with assessment by targeting and further developing students’ potential abilities (Poehner, 2011) whereas traditional tutor feedback is less interactive and hence, may not sufficiently target learners’ potential abilities. The student texts were analysed by drawing on Vygotskian sociocultural theory of learning (Vygotsky, 1978), and genre theory (Martin & Rose, 2007) based on Halliday’s Systemic Functional Linguistics (Halliday & Matthiessen, 2004). The findings suggest that the transfer of academic writing skills and conceptual knowledge occurred more in the texts of the students that underwent dynamic assessment than that of the student who followed a traditional assessment approach for their first two assignments. Implications of this for ESP instruction and assessment design will be presented. [281 words]
Key words: academic writing; dynamic assessment; learning transfer; business studies
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Martin, J. R., & Rose, D. (2007). Working with Discourse: Meaning beyond the Clause. London: Continuum.
Poehner, M. E. (2011). Dynamic Assessment: fairness through the prism of mediation. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 18(2), 99-112.
Shrestha, P. (2011). Dynamic assessment of academic writing for business studies. EdD Doctoral thesis, The Open University, Milton Keynes.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.