Dynamic Assessment of Cognitive Modifiability

Unlocking the Hidden Potential for All Learners

In the past, IQ tests have been used to assess a person’s knowledge and thus to give a diagnosis to the individual (ex. ADHD or Specific Learning Disabilities).  IQ tests look at the ability of a person on a certain day, at a certain time, in a certain mood, with a certain cultural background, and with certain questions asked in specific ways.  The main focus of information recorded during IQ tests is what the person does not answer, what they answer incorrectly, or what they answer inappropriately.  It is far more beneficial to assess what a person CAN do, even if it is with help, rather than what they CANNOT do.  A different type of assessment is needed to see what a person is able to accomplish, and to see how a person is capable of changing and learning.

Based in the belief that all people are capable of functioning at their best, Feuerstein designed an assessment procedure that identifies the individual’s propensity to change or to become cognitively modified.  Rather than looking at what the individual is able and unable to do in pre-set tests as in IQ testing, Dynamic Assessment is specifically constructed to yield information about how a student learns, and about what factors are able to produce changes in the student’s learning.  The focus is on positive change - paramount for Dynamic Assessment of Cognitive Modifiability.

The ‘Dynamic Assessment’ is not intended to produce scores by comparing students to each other as seen in standard IQ measurement, but rather by comparing pre and post scores gained by the individual’s performance (i.e. gain in scores).  In standard assessment, the administration is discontinued after a succession of failures, e.g. wrong answers or non- responses. This is not the case in Dynamic Assessment, and as such, the assessment process is extremely positive for both the assessor and the individual.  It is because of this that ‘Dynamic Assessment’ in and of itself often serves as a vehicle for long-term change.

The most important aspect of the DA approach is intervention phase, when it takes the form in Feuerstein’s Mediated Learning Experience (MLE).  In MLE, the learning experience is a shared experience between the examiner and the examinee.  The examiner creates meaningful and systematic levels of intervention that builds on the abilities of the individual, and creates change in flexibility.  The interaction of MLE is goal-directed and fosters cognitive connections between new learning and what the student already knows, thus enabling the student to apply new learning to academic subjects, to life experience, and creating feelings of competence. 

The tests used in ‘Dynamic Assessment’ are called ‘instruments’ (Feuerstein, 1995).  They are constructed to assess a wide range of functioning in visual, figural, numerical, tactile, and language modalities.  They are relatively culture-free and require only limited content knowledge.  The instruments are thus uniquely suited to students from many different cultures, abilities, and/or backgrounds.  In any case, the assessor is free during the intervention phase to teach concepts, language, and background knowledge as needed.  This increases the populations that can benefit from Dynamic Assessment techniques.

Information adapted from: Feuerstein, R.; Rand, Y.; Haywood, H. C.; Kyram, L.; Hoffman, M.; (1995). The Learning Propensity Assessment Device Manual, ICELP Publications, Jerusalem, Israel.