Predicting First Graders Development of Calculation versus Word-Problem Performance: The Role of Dynamic AssessmentReport as inadecuate

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Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness

In education, the goal of forecasting development is to understand and identify risk for poor learning outcomes so that intervention may be designed effectively and initiated early. Tests of learning potential may be categorized along two dimensions. The first is domain specificity. Domain-general abilities, such as reasoning and language ability, are expected to effect performance across academic domains; by contrast, domain-specific capabilities are linked to performance in a single area of academic competence. The second dimension along which tests of learning potential may be characterized is whether a measure assesses static performance, indicating an individual's present state, or dynamic performance, reflecting the degree of scaffolding an individual needs to learn new material. Screening students for risk for math difficulty (MD) typically relies on static measures of learning potential, in which students respond without examiner assistance and demonstrate either unaided success or failure (Sternberg, 1996; Tzuriel & Haywood, 1992). Unfortunately, static measures mask differences between children who are unable to perform a task independently but can succeed with assistance. Vygotsky (e.g., 1934/1962) proposed dynamic assessment (DA) as an alternative, with which the examiner provides feedback or instruction to help a student learn a task, indexing responsiveness to that instruction as a measure of the student's learning potential. As demonstrated in prior work in mathematics (e.g., Fuchs et al., 2008; Swanson & Howard, 2005) and reading (e.g., D. Fuchs et al., in press), results suggest the potential value of dynamic measures of learning potential over and beyond domain-specific and domain-general static measures of learning potential. Findings are however complicated by the fact that the relative value of these various types of learning potential differs as a function of whether skill with procedural calculations (CA) or word problems (WP) is the predicted outcome. The purpose of this study is to assess the contribution of static domain-specific, static domain-general, and dynamic domain-specific measures of learning potential for predicting individual differences in the development of two important aspects of first-grade school mathematics learning: (CA) and (WP). Participants include 184 students enrolled in first grade and for whom the authors have complete fall and spring data. Results of this study suggest that development of CA and WP depend on different measures of learning potential and that dynamic assessment (DA) may be useful in predicting 1st-grade mathematics development, especially WP.

Descriptors: Mathematics Education, Word Problems (Mathematics), Grade 1, Computation, Predictor Variables, At Risk Students, Mathematics Skills, Measurement Techniques, Evaluation Methods

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Author: Seethaler, Pamela M.; Fuchs, Lynn S.; Fuchs, Douglas; Compton, Donald L.


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