Dynamic Assessment

Dynamic Assessment

Dynamic Assessment

Dynamic assessment is designed to provide a more holistic view of a student's creative potential by observing their creative process, flexibility in thinking, willingness to take risks, and ability to adapt to feedback


Dynamic assessment determines where a person is at in their learning journey, and how to build from there. It’s a collaborative process that’s responsive to children’s diverse ways of learning.

Dynamic assessment is cyclical in nature. It’s an informal means of determining a child’s learning needs —> teaching to optimal levels —> and assessing learning outcomes... Then determining learning needs —> teaching to optimal levels —> and assessing outcomes…. And so forth, in a continuous loop of development such that instruction and assessment inform each other.

In dynamic assessment, an adult engages with a child and is an active partner in the assessment process. This includes finding out about the child’s experiential background, interests, and abilities, all of which are important for identifying their learning needs. And, because learning transpires in different places (playgrounds, museums, music and art studios, gymnasiums, and so on), dynamic assessment can occur in different contexts and environments.

The process is grounded in a clear understanding of what a child already knows, and is subsequently able to do. Once they’ve mastered a skill, they can “next-level.” That is, they can be given (or work alongside the adult to discover or devise) new, creative, and increasingly challenging material.


Dynamic assessment facilitates understandings of a child’s ability in specific areas, at a given point in time, so the where, what, how, and when of instruction or intervention can be suitably targeted.

Thus, curriculum demands can be well-matched to a learner’s developmental levels in different domains. Advantages include aligning tasks and assignments with a child’s personality, interests, creative inclinations, temperament, and motivation.

Together, adult and child can keep track of the learning, and make informed and collaborative decisions that encourage ongoing growth, welcome creativity, prevent boredom, and keep the child engaged.



    A learning portfolio is a compilation of a student’s efforts, indicating progress in one or more areas over time.

    The student is responsible for placing samples of their various efforts in their portfolio—with the degree of student responsibility dependent upon their age and other developmental factors.

    A portfolio might contain journals; class assignments in the works; creative products; favorite resources; project outlines; feedback from teachers and parents; descriptions of learning experiences; reflections; tapes; self-evaluations; creative efforts; and other work samples. The student manages the entries, assembles the material, and sets reachable goals for keeping the portfolio up to date and connected to what matters to them.

    Usefulness of Portfolios: Portfolios can demonstrate a child’s growth by way of showcasing their creativity; tracking their independent study work; motivating and assessing their learning over time; and documenting progress and revealing information for purposes of parent-teacher connectivity.


      Performance assessment occurs during learning activities.

      The focus is primarily on the learning process—such as planning, designing, creating, and problem solving—and it may be open-ended. The adult and child can begin by identifying and co-setting one or more goals, and then develop a framework to follow. This can be revisited and adapted as needed.

      A three-tiered “backward planning” approach is an example of a performance assessment option. It looks like this: a) identify outcomes, b) determine acceptable evidence of learning, and c) plan learning experiences and instruction. The adult is like an architect who envisions the completed structure with the child’s input, and they work backward, thinking about content, scope, process, coherence, and how the child’s progress may be assessed.

      Usefulness of Performance Assessment: This approach recognizes the importance of planning, thinking, participating, and incorporating diverse possibilities into programming. It’s inclusive of all learners; recognizes involvement; and encourages collaboration and hands-on manipulation of materials during problem-solving. Moreover, performance assessment is very welcoming of creative expression.


        The four key aspects of day-to-day diagnostics are careful observation, active listening, open dialogue, and reflective responsiveness.

        With these four tools, and through daily interaction, parents and teachers become attuned to the child and informed about the individual’s learning capacities and levels of knowledge.

        Adults can observe—and see—how a child enjoys various learning situations (such as independent endeavors, or small or large groupings), and teaching methods (such as written assignments or direct questioning). What works? How do they learn best? What do they know?

        Adults can listen attentively—and hear—what children say to them or to one another, in the context of classroom activities, or within group settings.

        Open dialogueand respectful discussion—can be an informative means of assessment. Adults can encourage children to communicate, demonstrate their understandings, and share ideas about what they’re learning, what they want to learn, and what they might find difficult.

        Reflective responsiveness involves thinking about—and responding to—children’s learning in a respectful back-and-forth fashion.

        Usefulness of Day-to-Day Diagnostics: Kids who are encouraged to ask questions, share ideas, and reveal their thoughts over the course of each day, provide indicators about their engagement with material, and where they are conceptually. Adults who reflect on those indicators can provide more appropriate assessment and curricular offerings.


        Dynamic assessment is an informal way to identify, understand, and address children’s learning needs.

        Meaningful interaction is integral to the dynamic assessment process—and approaches include portfolios, performance assessment, and day-to-day diagnostics (with its emphasis on observing, listening, communicating, and being reflectively responsive). When children and adults work together to inform each other, it paves the way for heightened attunement to the individual, enlightened understandings, and endless possibilities for learning and creativity!

        AUTOR’S NOTE:

        For more information on dynamic assessment, see Chapter 4 in Being Smart about Gifted Learning, 3rd Edition, by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster.


        Joanne Foster, Ed.D. is a multiple award-winning author of several books. Her most recent is Ignite Your Ideas: Creativity for Kids. To find out about her publications, presentations, and newsletter, and for resources on supporting children’s well-being and learning, visit https://joannefoster.ca

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