Veggetti Maria Serena

University of Rome I, Italy


Taddei Stefano

University of Siena I, Italy


The attempt of finding a sensitive assessment device for the ability to learn began with the development of intelligence tests, as stated by S.Klein (1973), though standard testing encompasses mainly a static measurement of abilities (Embretson S.E.,1987) and this latter generates a commonly disseminated dissatisfaction with the standardized testing procedures.

J.C.Campione and A.L.Brown (1987) observed that the scores individuals attain at commonly used tests represent an estimate of their unaided level of competence, since no help is provided during testing sessions. Moreover the same scores are measures of anability-level, which is considered as permanent in time, which is the characteristic underpinning psychological tests, the so

called validity and reliability (Anastasi A., 1954).This brings about, as the quoted authors observed, in case of testing children representatives of different cultural background, a dramatic "underestimate of their potential level of performance under morefavorable circumstance " (1987, p. 82).

It will be the aim of present contribution to expose the results obtained in the testing of a sample of primary school pupils with a new dynamic assessment device, designed by S.Klein (1973) and successively adapted to Italian situation by the presenter of this paper.

The concern for dynamic assessment is not entirely new to psychology, since it is due to Vygotskij (1934,1935) the claim for the opportunity of assessing learning potential in children. He called, more precisely, this latter the Zone of Proximal Development, which is definable by the capacity of benefit from the aid received by the adult and/or by a more competent pair. According to Camp ione and Brown (1987), in the dynamic assessement this can be given by the same tester in the testing situation. In the standardized testing procedure no aid is in fact provided by the experimenter.

Assessing the Zone of proximal development means therefore to test a child twice in different conditions, to see whether he ows the basic ability to profit from learning and not to see what he is able of doing if preventing him from learning for the sake of assessing a static ability or a set of abilities as is the case for the I.Q.

Testing device and sample of Italian Study

As a device for dynamic assessment of learning we used the so called Secret Writing Test by Klein (1973), who used it in more than a research for evaluating the correlations with other tetsts of intelligence and creativity during a mediated learning training in mathematics.

As general framework of this test the Vygotskijan Zone of Proximal Development is explicitly mentioned (Klein S., 1973, p.2) inasmuch as it consists of a booklet having two parts in it: Part 1, in which a child goes through the pages learning a secret code, enabling him to transform the 5 vowels into a different code-system of special signs, putting them back in the reading context. After this programed learning learning, in the Part 1, the child has to translate a short message into the secret code. Purpose of this Part is to assess the amount of Acquired Information (I. A.). In Part 2 children are requested to invent new codes for secret writing, so its purpose is to assess the application of the Acquired Information.

The computation of the potential learning ability is done according to the formula:

I. A. = N/T + m

where T is the learning time, N the number of acquired letters in code and m the number of new codes invented.

According to Klein (1973) m consists of the row number of the alphabet letters codified with new signs by the children, while e our assessment procedure was somewhat different, since we considered the codes produced also from a qualitative point of view, giving a score of 0 for zero to 4 new codes, of 2 for 5 codes and of 1 for more than 6 codes invented.

As standardized testing device we used the Culture Fair test by Cattell (1973) and the P.M.A. by Thurstone (1963) representing two different conceptions of intelligence, both in static terms.

As sample of present Study acted a Total of 75 pupils of 4 fifth-grade- classes of two primary school situated in Tuscany, near Florence (see Table 1).

Children acted as Experimental Group and Control Group respectively, since the experimental classes worked out a special mathematical and logical training during the whole period of the primary school, according to a longitudinal extent of mediated learning experience in a Vygotskijan like perspective.

As should be clear from what exposed, we had two main purposes:

1.testing the discriminate power of a dynamic assessment device for learning, between the scores attained at it by classes taught with different methods: a Vygotskijan like programed interactive learning and a traditional standardized school program;

2. evidentiating the interactions between a dynamic assessment device and the static traditional ability and crystallized intelligence tests in two different learning settings. Results are shown in Tables 2 to 6

Results and commenting remarks

It seems generally disseminated in present day psychological evaluation the tendency of identifying, in the testing practice, the Vygotskijan concept of external aid and support given in the Zo-ped, in the hints given for performance in the test (Campione and Brown, 1987, C.Schneider Lids ed., 1987, C.Haywood and D.Tzuriel 1992).

This gave us the opportunity of considering the programed learning course given in the Secret Writing Test as a mediated Learning Experiences of a semiotic system. As can bee seen in Table 2 and as it was expected, the E. G. gives the major number of Acquired Codes (92.2%), versus a not bad performance of the C. G.. Both groups seem to profit from a testing device whichconsisted in a mediated learning experience.

If we look at the Code Production index, in Table 3, we see that the E. G has a higher percent of types 5 and 6 of codes; this is data seems to give evidence of a greater ability or readiness in applying the proposed model (consisting in a new situation, for example creating a new system for a set of letters.

This first data refers to a descriptive nominal statistic of the assessment device used, the Secret Writing. (See our 1 aim).

. Let's us present now Table 4, where the mean scores obtained by the groups at the static Intelligence and Ability tests can be seen, in comparison with the Information Acquisition Index (I. A.). Here we find that the E. G. has again the higher scores at all the tests, though the differences are not statistically significant. This reminds us to the influence of the general learning training which the E. G. underwent.

In order of better elucidate the interactions of the Information Acquisition with the scores at the static tests, we computed the Secret Writing Index by the level of performance of the groups at the P. M. A. (Table 5) and at the Cultur Fair (Table 6) making up three performative levels: 1. Low; 2. Middle; 3. High. As was already stated, we remind that the two tests involve two different conceptions of Intelligence, the former, the P. M. A. more connected with School achievement and the latter with a general basic factor, this will help us in reading the Tables.

As we can see in Table 5, subjects at the Low level give evidence of a low score at the secret writing too if both groups and all the possible indexes are considered, with the only difference that the E. Q. takes more time for performing.

If the middle Level is considered, subjects of the groups obtain very similar scores, but not in a similar time, the E. G. taking more for performing.

Looking at the High Level, we can see that the Experimental subjects continue to take more time for performing and that they are at same level with the Control subjects as long as the Learning Index is concerned, but obtain somewhat higher scores at the other her indexes.

It seems possible to infer that children higher at the School achievement abilities are at the same level with experimental subjects if the learning ability index is concerned, when coping with a learning potential device. It should be said that we could expect different results with an assessment System of the Secret Writing Test different from the one used by Klein, where there is an overwhelming weight of a quantitative criteria in computing the invented codes. So, the adoption of a different criteria is one of the suggestions we can express to the possible users of the same test.

Looking at the Table 6 we can find evidence of similar tendencies, with the Experimental subjects taking overall a more time and obtaining higher scores as long as the Low level is considered, but with very close each other scores at the Learning and at the other Secret Writing indexes when the Middle and High Level are taken into consideration. As can be seen, the differences, in some cases in favor of the control subjects, are not statistically significant.

It is very difficult to synthesize in a short time the interpretive work of our data but as temporary concluding remark we can observe that, by putting subjects in a testing situation where they have to cope with a mediated learning experience, we seem to give them at the same time the opportunity for equalizing the starting differences in profiting from learning, which is consistent with the Vygotskijan conception of education involved in the Zo- ped.

Anastasi A. (1954) Psychological testing. Mc Millan Comp New York.

Campione J. C and Brown A. L. (1987), Linking Dynamic Assessment with School Achievement in: Schneider Lids C. ed. (1987) pp 82-115

Cattell R.B. (1940) A culture free intelligence test, Journal of Educ. Psychol. 31, 161- 180.

Cattell R. B.(1973) Misurare l'intelligenza con il Test Culture Fair. O.S. Florece

Haywood C. and Tzuriel D. (1992), Interactive Assessment, Springer Verlag, New York.

Klein S. (1973), Experiment with the measuring of learninig ability, 5th Annual Invitational Interdisciplinary Meeting on Structural Learning, Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, April 6-7.

Schneider Lidz C. Ed. (1987) Dynamic Assessment, The Guilford Press, New York, London.

Thurstone L. L. and T. G. (1963), Primary Mental Abilities, it. tans: O. S., Florence 1981.

Vygotskij L. S. (1934) Myshlenie i. Rech, Socekgig, Moskva- Leningrad.

Vygotskij L. S. (1935) Obuchenie i razvitie v doshkol'nom vozraste (Education and Development in pre-school age).

Vygotskij L. S. (1982-84), Complete works, Moskva, Pedagogika.

Tab 1 - The sample

Group Males Females Total M. Age
Experim.	21	20	41	10.1
Control	20	14	34	10.8
Total	41	34	75	10.4

Table 2 Types of codes acquired by the groups

Acquisit. Exper. Group * Control Group * Total
	fr.	%	fr.	%	fr.	%
0 codes			3	8.8	3
2 codes			4	11.7	4
4 codes	1	2.3			1
5 codes	40	97.2	27	79.4	67

* All this data are significant at the chi-square test (sig. .01)

Table 3  Types of codes producted by the groups

Product. codes Experi. Group* Control Group* Total
	fr.	%	fr.	%	fr.	%
< 4 codes	  1	  2.4	  5	14.7	  
6	  8.0
5 codes	33	80.5	18	52.9	51
> 6 codes	  7	17.1	11	14.7	18	24.0

Total 41 100 34 100 75 100

* All this data are significant at the chi-square test  
(sig. .01)

Tab. 5 Means and Standard Deviation of I A index, time, codes learned,  
invented and  produced by P M A level

P M A level Low level Midd. level High level Tot.
	Group	M	s.d.	M	s.d.	M	s.d.	M	s.d.

I A Exp. 7.09 6.7 14.77 6.81 11.96 7.52 12.8 7.13
n.s.	Cont.	  5.26	  8.8	14.2	  8.55	14.89	8.97	12.7	9.12
Time	Exp.	52.25	  9.4	40.88  	  5,25	36.73	4.61	40.9	7.24
****	Cont.	40.83	  8.6	30.32	  7.05	34.00	8.67	33.1	8.49
Lear.	Exp.	4.75	    .5	  5.00	    .00	  5.00	  .00	  5.0	  .2
**	Cont.	3.33	  2.6	  4.11	  1.6	  5.00	  .00	  4.6	1.24
Inv.	Exp.	7.00	  4.7	14.65	  6.8	11.8	7.52	12.7	7.13
n.s.	Cont.	5.17	  8.7	14.05	  8.5	14.33	8.94	12.6	9.11
Prod.	Exp.	  .75	    .5	  1.12	    .33	  1.36	  .50	  1.2	  .45
n.s.	Cont.	  .33	    .5	  1.31	    .58	  1.44	  .53	  1.2	  .68
**** p <   .0002
**     p <   .01

Tab. 6 Means and Standard Deviation of I A index, time, codes learned, invented 
and produced by Cultur Fair level

Cul.Fa. level Low level Midd. level High level Tot.
	Group	M	s.d.	M	s.d.	M	s.d.	M	s.d.

I A Exp. 11.9 6.6 14.1 6.8 14.3 8.4 13.8 7.2
n.s.	Cont.	11.1	10.0	12.6	9.0	14.9	  9.2	12.7	9.1
Time	Exp.	41.6	  5.1	40.6	7.1	39.8	  7.6	40.5	6.9
 ****	Cont.	34.2	  8.2	32.5	8.2	33.4	10.7	33.2	8.5
Lear.	Exp.	  5.0	    .0	  5.0	  .2	  5.0	   .0	  5.0	  .2
***	Cont. 
	  3.8	  1.9	  4.1	1.8	  5.0	   .0	  4.2	1.7
Inv.	Exp.	11.9	  6.6	14.0	6.8	14.2	8.4	13.7	7.2
n.s.	Cont.	11.0	10.0	12.5	9.0	14.7	9.2	12.6	9.1
Prod.	Exp.	  1.0	    .0	  1.2	  .4	  1.2	  .6	  1.2	  .4
n.s.	Cont.	    .8	    .7	  1.3	  .7	  1.4	  .5	  1.2	  .7
**** p <   .0001
***    p <   .005