Dynamic assessment for English Language Learner success

Dynamic Assessment for English Language Learner Success

Canadian learning environments and expectations about teacher-student dynamics may be very different from what English language learners (ELL) are used to. Oftentimes, English language learners struggle with shyness and are reluctant to communicate out of fear of standing out or fear of failure. Dynamic Assessment can help learners, particularly ELL students who are struggling with production, feel more confident.

Difficulty: 3/5


Prep: None required 

Activity: Feedback “interventions” can take anywhere from thirty seconds to thirty minutes depending on the student and depending on the nature of the feedback. 


Class of learners 

Core Competency Connection

Sketch of two bees on a yellow gradient background
Sketch of three wolves on a grey gradient background
Sketch of chief mountain on an ammolite gradient background


No special materials required.



The Process

1. Brainstorming

Have learners create topics and flesh them out, including supporting ideas. Review their ideas with them and give some initial impressions and feedback.

2. First Paragraph

Introduce and review/practice concepts related to paragraph and sentence structure; have learners write their first body paragraph, revise it with them using the assessment rubric, and then have them work on a second draft. 

3. Do the Rest

Repeat the process in step two for a second and third paragraph, then have learners write introductory and concluding paragraphs.

4. Group share

When the essay is complete, have learners share it with peers in small groups so they can provide one another with feedback.

5. Dynamic assessment

Have learners hand in their essays and all their rough drafts associated with it. Use assessment rubrics to reflect improvement through the process, rather than basing it on their final product. This dynamic assessment gauges the gap between learners performance on their first attempt and their final product. 

Tips & Tricks

Break your assignment into stages and take time to check learners‘/groups’ work at each stage. Also try to give learners a chance to reflect on and apply your feedback. 


For anyone interested in Dynamic Assessment in the language classroom, we recommend any writing by James P. Lantoff and/or Matthew E. Poehner. The following source was also consulted to create this teaching resource: 

Vygotsky, L.S. (1980). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard College.  

Mike Smith

Instructional Designer

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