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In the last few years, three important articles studying the usefulness of dynamic assessment (DA) procedures as diagnostic tools in identifying language impairment (LI) have been published. DA is especially important to SLPs working with culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) children because it has been shown to be less biased against those individuals than traditional methods of assessment (i.e., static assessment). It is important to be familiar with the methodology of research in order to apply it to the clinical setting.

Two of the articles (Kapantzoglou, Restrepo & Thompson, 2012 and Hasson et al, 2012) use a test-teach-retest model, traditionally used in dynamic assessment. The child’s knowledge of the task is assessed and then a mediated learning experience (MLE) is presented to teach the child the task. A mediated learning experience provides the child with prompting (e.g., repetition, feedback, highlighting important elements) to enhance learning. Finally the child’s knowledge of the task is re-tested and compared to the first test phase. Depending on the task, this method takes around an hour and can sometimes take two sessions if the examiner wants to perform the retest on a different day. The third article (Patterson, Rodriguez & Dale, 2013) examines the practicality of using only the teaching portion of DA methodology as a screener for further evaluation. The authors of this article proposed that this would be faster than the full DA method. In this situation, the examiner judges the child based on how much prompting he or she needs to learn the task across trials. The article showed that TD children need significantly decreased prompting on later trials, while it is thought that LI children will continue to need the extra prompting throughout the trials. In both procedures, the child is being judged based on his ability to learn rather than on the experiences he had prior to testing.

You can see short summaries for the specific methodology from each article below.

English/Spanish bilingual preschoolers from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds were the participants for this study. The authors used a test-teach-retest dynamic assessment approach with a novel word learning activity to determine if it could be used to distinguish typically developing (TD) from LI students. The children were presented with 2 familiar and 2 unknown items and the examiner checked that they knew the names of the familiar objects and were not familiar with the unknown objects (test phase). In the next phase of testing, the examiner taught the name for the unfamiliar items. Finally the children’s acquisition of the novel words was assessed receptively (identifying the named item) and expressively (naming the unknown item) during a play task. Although you could adapt the method to different activities, the authors used a puppet that was going on a picnic as a way of engaging the child. The known items were a cookie and an apple and the unknown items were two unusual food items (e.g., tomatillo and rhubarb, extras should be handy in case the child knows one). Fast mapping of the vocabulary was tested as the puppet packed and unpacked the picnic basket. The authors achieved a sensitivity of 77% and specificity of 80%, much higher than standardized testing for this population and near or within acceptable levels of sensitivity and specificity according to McCauley & Swisher (1984).

Both TD and LI English-Spanish bilingual preschoolers from different SES backgrounds were presented with dynamic assessment tasks, using a test-teach-retest methodology. In the first task, children were presented with 3 known picture cards and 3 unknown picture cards (unknown items were determined in the first test phase) and taught the names. They were then asked to identify them through a hierarchy of prompts in order to “mail” the items. Depending on the number of prompts required, the child was given a certain amount of points. In the second task, the children were taught to describe story cards with 3-4 elements and then asked to do so, again with a hierarchy of prompting which correlated to a number of points. The next task was a dynamic assessment of phonology using a screener from a commercially available test. In the final task, the children were again asked to describe the story cards, this time without prompting. Authors found that the DA vocabulary and expressive language tasks discriminated between TD and LI preschoolers but the phonological task did not. They did note the phonological errors for the LI children were atypical for English phonological development.

This study examined the role of graduated prompting within dynamic assessment as a screening instrument for CLD children. TD bilingual preschoolers from different SES backgrounds participated in the study. But instead of the traditional test-teach-retest method, children were taught and scored based on how much prompting they required to learn the task. The authors proposed that this would make the process faster and could indicate whether or not there was a need for further testing. One teaching item of the task was presented followed by 6 trials along with a series of scripted, graduated prompts. After the teaching item, the child is presented with a test set. If the child is incorrect he will get feedback, then modeling of a correct answer, then an explanation of a correct versus incorrect answer and finally the correct answer is provided. The child receives points depending on how much prompting he required to get the answer. Authors presented a Similarity of Function (SF) task, Novel Adjective Learning task (NAL) and a Phonological Awareness task (PA). Results showed that there was a significant difference in the amount of prompting needed between the first two items and the last two on the SF and NAL task for the TD participants. Since in LI children were not included in the study, the authors inferred that a child with LI would continue to need prompting throughout all 6 test trials. This would be an indication for further evaluation.


Hasson, N., Camilleri, B., Jones, C., Smith, J., & Dodd, B. (2012). Discriminating disorder from difference using dynamic assessment with bilingual children. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 0265659012459526.

Kapantzoglou, M., Restrepo, M. A., & Thompson, M. S. (2012). Dynamic assessment of word learning skills: Identifying language impairment in bilingual children. Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, 43, 81-96.

McCauley, R. J. & Swisher, L. (1984). Psychometric Review of Language and Articulation Tests for Preschool Children. J Speech Hear Disord, 49(1), 34-42. doi: 10.1044/jshd.4901.34

Patterson, J. L., Rodríguez, B. L., & Dale, P. S. (2013). Response to dynamic language tasks among typically developing Latino preschool children with bilingual experience. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 22(1), 103-112.