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Dynamic Cognitive Assessment for Preschool Age Children  

David Tzuriel

Dynamic assessment (DA) is guided by theoretical conceptualization about the nature of cognitive modifiability and needs to construct diagnostic measures for children who do not reveal their learning potential in conventional static tests. The development of DA was stirred by inadequacy of conventional testing to provide precise answers for individual differences in learning ability, learning processes, cognitive functions, and non-intellective factors that are responsible for cognitive modifiability. The rationale for developing DA for preschool children is that early identification of children’s learning potential and deficient cognitive functions would facilitate development of mediation strategies to overcome their learning difficulties and actualize their learning potential. DA is defined as an assessment, by an active teaching process, of a child’s perception, learning, thinking, and problem solving. DA is aimed at modifying an individual’s cognitive functioning and observing subsequent changes in learning and problem-solving patterns within the testing situation. Development of DA was driven by criticism of standardized testing: (a) bias toward minority groups and children with special needs, (b) selective administration procedures of children with high-risk for being labled as intellectualy disabled, (c) lack of consideration of motivational and emotional factors, (d) lack of information on learning and metacognitive processes, and (e) inadequate recommendations on specific intervention strategies and prescriptive teaching. The main goals of DA are to assess learning potential, deficient cognitive functions, amount and nature of mediation required for change, and transfer of learning. The main mediation strategies used in DA are establishing prerequired thinking behaviors, self-regulation of behavior, enhancement of reflective and analytic processes, teaching task-specific concepts, feedback on success/failure in learning processes, and development of basic communication skills. DA of preschool children is more challenging than that of older children because executive functions and communication skills of young children are less developed. The best known DA approaches for young children are those of Lidz and Tzuriel; both are based on the theories of Vygotsky and Feuerstein. Lidz’s approach is focused on objectives that reflect curriculum demands of educational settings. Her Application of the Cognitive Functions Scale indicates the degree of mastery on cognitive tasks, responsiveness to intervention, and non-intellective factors. Tzuriel’s approach is characterized by innovations of instruments, assessment procedures adapted for developmental stages, mediation strategies, behavior checklists, and a recording and scoring for clinical and measurement versions. Tzuriel’s approach is characterized by 10 aspects: Adaptation of test materials to child’s developmental level, “bridging” of concrete operations to abstract operations, communication aspects, clinical and measurement versions, preliminary phase component of DA, scoring methods for the measurement version, transfer problems, comparison of modifiability across task dimensions, assessment of non-intellective factors, and creativity in construction of problems. A growing body of theory and research on DA supports the crucial role of the DA in: (a) reflecting better the learning potential of children than standardized testing, (b) confirming that the quality of mediation within the family, school, and peers systems is a strong determinant of cognitive modifiability, and (c) demonstrating DA as a powerful approach in revealing the implicit effects of intervention cognitive programs on cognitive development.


Education and Media Discourses  

Nicole Mockler

Over the past 30 years, a growing field of scholarship has explored the relationship between education and the media. Scholars within this field have explored representations of education, schooling, teachers’ work and students in print and other news media, utilizing approaches that include critical discourse analysis, news framing analysis and, more recently, corpus-assisted discourse analysis. The relationship between these representations, public understandings of education and education policy has also been explored in the research literature, with a focus on the complex interplay between media discourses and public policy around education. The emergence of social media and the engagement of both educators and members of the general public on social media around issues related to education has seen this relationship shift in the first two decades of the 21st century. This, along with the growth of computer-assisted research approaches (including corpus-assisted analysis and network analysis, for example) has brought new theoretical and methodological possibilities to bear on the field.


Cognitive Early Education  

H. Carl Haywood

Cognitive early education, for children between ages 3 and 6 years, is designed to help learners develop and apply logic tools of systematic thinking, perceiving, learning, and problem-solving, usually as supplements to the content-oriented preschool and kindergarten curricula. Key concepts in cognitive early education include metacognition, executive functions, motivation, cognition, and learning. Most programs of cognitive early education are based on conceptions of cognitive development attributed to Jean Piaget, Lev S. Vygotsky, A. R. Luria, and Reuven Feuerstein. Piagetians and neoPiagetians hold that children must construct their personal repertoire of basic thinking processes on the basis of their early experience at gathering, assimilating, and reconciling knowledge. Vygotskians and neoVygotskians believe that cognitive development comes about through adults’ mediation of basic learning tools, which children internalize and apply. Adherents to Feuerstein’s concepts likewise accord a prominent role to mediated learning experiences. Followers of Luria believe that important styles of information processing underlie learning processes. Most programs emphasize, to varying degrees, habits of metacognition, that is, thinking about one’s own thinking as well as selecting and applying learning and problem-solving strategies. An important subset of metacognition is development and application of executive functions: self-regulation, management of one’s intellectual resources. Helping children to develop the motivation to learn and to derive satisfaction from information processing and learning is an important aspect of cognitive early education. Widely used programs of cognitive early education include Tools of the Mind, Bright Start, FIE-Basic, Des Procedures aux Concepts (DPC), PREP/COGENT, and Systematic Concept Teaching.


Actor–Network Theory  

Annelies Kamp

Actor–network theory (ANT) is an approach to research that sits with a broader body of new materialism; a body of work that displaces humanism to consider dynamic assemblages of humans and nonhumans. Originally developed in the social studies of science and technology undertaken in the second half of the 20th century, ANT has increasingly been taken up in other arenas of social inquiry. Researchers working with ANT do not accept the unquestioned use of “social” explanations for educational phenomena. Rather, the social, like all other effects, is taken to be an enactment of heterogenous assemblages of human and nonhuman entities. The role of the educational researcher is to trace these processes of assemblage and reassemblage, foregrounding the ways in which certain entities establish sufficient allies to assume some degree of “realness” in the world. Aligning most closely with ethnographic orientations, ANT does not outline a method. However, it could be argued that a number of propositions are shared in ANT-inspired approaches: first, that the world is made up of actors/actants, all of which are ontologically symmetrical. Humans are not privileged in ANT. Second, the principle of irreduction—there is no essence within or beyond any process of assemblage. Actors are concrete; there is no “potential” other than their actions in the moment. Entities are nothing more than an effect of assemblage. Third, the concept of translation and its processes of mediation that transform objects when they encounter one another. Finally, the principle of alliance. Actants gain strength only through their alliances. These propositions have specific implications for data generation, analysis, and reporting.


Vygotsky’s Theoretical and Conceptual Contributions to Qualitative Research in Education  

Ana Luiza Bustamante Smolka, Ana Lucia Horta Nogueira, Débora Dainez, and Adriana Lia Friszman de Laplane

Vygotsky’s approach to human development is profoundly intertwined with his methodological inquiry. This inquiry is related to his persistent quest for framing and understanding the problem of consciousness. His untiring search for a plausible explanation of the material basis of specifically human psychological functions pervades his theoretical, practical, and empirical work in the fields of psychology and education. Throughout this search, sociogenesis and semiotic mediation, at first investigative hypotheses, become explanatory principles. Excerpts from his seminal texts allow us to follow the elaboration of epistemological assumptions that anchor his process of theorization and evidence the interrelationships between object of study, explanatory principle, and unit of analysis in studies of cultural development. One of his major concerns had to do with the ways of teaching and the ways of studying teaching relations, as well as the results or effects of such relations. To talk about Vygotsky’s theoretical elaborations is, hence, to talk about method—of inquiring, of studying, of teaching. From the beginning through to the end of his theoretical endeavor, we find a deep concern about what it means to be human, what are the means to be human. Repercussions and contributions of Vygotsky’s approach to research in education, as well as their ethical and political implications, must be highlighted. His way of conceiving method escapes from rigidity, not from rigor, pointing to an instigating flexibility which approximates his efforts to the efforts of many contemporary authors in different fields.


Vygotskian Theory of Development  

Yuriy Karpov

Russian followers of Vygotsky have elaborated his theoretical ideas into an innovative theory of development. In this theory, children’s development is viewed as the outcome of adult mediation: adults engage children in the age-specific joint activity (the so-called leading activity) and, in the context of this activity, promote the development in children of a new motive, and teach them new tools of thinking, problem-solving, and self-regulation. As a result, children outgrow their current leading activity and transition to the new leading activity, which is specific to the next age period. Vygotskians have described the leading activities of children in industrialized societies thus: • first year of life: emotional interactions with caregivers. • ages one to three: object-centered joint explorations with caregivers. • ages three to six: sociodramatic play. • middle childhood: learning at school. • adolescence: interactions with peers. Vygotskian developmental theory has received strong empirical support from the studies of contemporary researchers. Its major strength lies in the fact that it integrates in a meaningful way motivational, cognitive, and social factors as resulting in children’s engagement in the age-specific leading activity. This theory also provides an explanation of the mechanism of children’s transition from one developmental stage to the next, which many alternative theories of development fail to do. Some of the Vygotskians’ notions, however, weaken their analysis and can be disputed (for example, their disregard of the role of physiological maturation in children’s development).


World Language Education and the Pedagogical Imperative  

James P. Lantolf

L. S. Vygotsky proposed that human consciousness entails the dialectical interaction between memory, attention, perception, emotion and motivation, imagination, and rational thought, organized in large part through language, or more appropriately, communicative meaning-making activity. The development of consciousness occurs more or less spontaneously (i.e., unplanned) in everyday life activity and in more systematically organized and intentionally planned educational activity. An important component of the developmental process is the conceptual knowledge that cultures make available to their through various types of social relations. In everyday life, this knowledge is largely empirically based, while in formally organized educational development conceptual knowledge is highly systematic and much more readily recontextualizable than is everyday knowledge. Academic concepts are derived from rigorous research and as such reveal processes and components of material reality that are otherwise hidden from direct empirical observation by our senses. The responsibility of presenting and explaining academic concepts to students in educational activity is carried out by specially prepared individuals—teachers—who engage students in intentionally planned and (hopefully) rigorous interactions, mediated largely, though not exclusively, through language. According to the pedagogical imperative, as it relates to instruction in world languages, relevant high quality theoretical and conceptual knowledge must be made pedagogically viable; that is, understandable to both teachers and learners and it must be useable by learners to mediate their generation of meaning in practical communicative activities. The knowledge must be presented in a memorable way, usually in a holistic visual representation rather than traditional verbally based rules of thumb and learners must be guided through appropriate prompts, clues, and hints provided primarily by teachers, but at times also by peers, to internalize this knowledge so that it becomes functional in communicative practices. Finally, recognition must be given to the fact that development of any kind, including that provoked by educational practice, must not only take account of the participants (students and teachers) intellect, it must also profoundly consider the emotional aspects of the educational process as teachers and learners engage in the dialectic process captured by Vygotsky in the Russian term, obuchenie, or teaching–learning, whereby teachers and learners engage in a process of mutual mediation.


Assessing Potential for Learning in School Children  

Wilma C. M. Resing, Julian G. Elliott, and Bart Vogelaar

Dynamic assessment and dynamic testing are aspects of an umbrella concept, denoting a variety of different assessment and testing forms that incorporate feedback, hints, or training in the assessment process, and aim to measure a child’s progress when solving cognitive tasks and in doing so provide an indication for his or her cognitive potential for learning. Psychological and psychoeducational assessment is often applied in educational settings. Most of the instruments used in such assessments have a static nature; instruction is mainly restricted to telling a child what he or she has to do, and the main focus is on the outcomes of testing. The principal characteristic of dynamic assessment and testing, on the contrary, is that children are explicitly provided with feedback, prompts, or training intended to enable them to show progress when solving cognitive tasks. Where in static assessment the test outcomes are considered to measure that which a child already knows and has acquired so far, dynamic assessment procedures focus both upon potential learning progression and, in some cases, the underlying cognitive processes. Dynamic measures are developed to assess developing or yet-to-develop abilities in a setting in which the assessor helps the child to solve the tasks and teaches the child how to solve these tasks more independently. Consequently, dynamic assessment measures are primarily focused on a child’s potential for learning, rather than on past learning experiences, and likely provide a better indication of a child’s level of cognitive functioning than conventional, static test scores do separately or in combination with other instruments. Dynamic assessment formats can be very different from each other, ranging from individually based forms of mediation, often called dynamic assessment, to active scaffolding and highly standardized procedures, offered to groups or individuals, often called dynamic testing. Dynamic assessment and testing can be applied in very different settings and be influenced by many factors. In an educational setting, outcomes of dynamic testing and assessment could, in principle, provide educational psychologists or teachers with information regarding learning outcomes during these forms of intervention.