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Notable and increasingly influential alternative to the wide range of standard IQ tests originated in the writings of psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) of his most mature and highly productive period of 1932-1934. The notion of the zone of proximal development that he introduced in 1933, roughly a year before his death, served as the banner for his proposal to diagnose development as the level of actual development that can be measured by the child's independent problem solving and, at the same time, the level of proximal, or potential development that is measured in the situation of moderately assisted problem solving by the child. The maximum level of complexity and difficulty of the problem that the child is capable to solve under some guidance indicates the level of potential development. Then, the difference between the higher level of potential and the lower level of actual development indicates the zone of proximal development. Combination of the two indexes—the level of actual and the zone of the proximal development—according to Vygotsky, provides a significantly more informative indicator of psychological development than the assessment of the level of actual development alone.
The ideas on the zone of development were later developed in a number of psychological and educational theories and practices. Most notably, they were developed under the banner of dynamic assessment that focuses on the testing of learning and developmental potential (for instance, in the work of Reuven Feuerstein and his associates, who has criticized standard IQ testing for its putative assumption or acceptance of "fixed and immutable" characteristics of intelligence or cognitive functioning). Grounded in developmental theories of Vygotsky and Feuerstein, who recognized that human beings are not static entities but are always in states of transition and transactional relationships with the world, dynamic assessment received also considerable support in the recent revisions of cognitive developmental theory by Joseph Campione, Ann Brown, and John D. Bransford and in theories of multiple intelligences by Howard Gardner and Robert Sternberg.
Vygotsky's term Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) relates to the gap between what the child can learn unaided, and what he or she can learn with the help of an adult or a more capable peer. According to Vygotsky, it is impossible to understand a child's potential intellectual development using a one-way assessment.
Dynamic assessment is an interactive approach to psychological or psychoeducational assessment that embeds intervention within the assessment procedure. Most typically, there is a pretest then an intervention and then a posttest. This allows the assessor to determine the response of the client or student to the intervention. There are a number of different dynamic assessment procedures that have a wide variety of content domains.
One purpose of dynamic assessment is to determine if a student has the potential to learn a new skill.
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