Dynamic Assessment of Academic Writing for Business Studies

Shrestha, Prithvi Narayan (2012). Dynamic Assessment of Academic Writing for Business Studies. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000f0a6

Abstract

This study explores the application of a formative assessment approach known as Dynamic Assessment (DA), as developed within the Vygotskian sociocultural theory of learning. DA blends instruction with assessment by targeting and further developing students’ Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The study investigates whether, and if so, how DA enhances students’ academic writing and conceptual development in business studies over time.

DA and Hallidayan Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) informed the methodological design of this study, which employed a mixed methods approach in order to track learners’ ZPDs regarding academic writing development. The use of SFL to provide linguistic evidence for student writing development (ZPD) is new in DA and thus an innovative feature of this study. The data consists of six undergraduate business studies students’ three to four drafts of three assessments, which were analysed for textual and ideational meanings, as well as associated text-based interaction (mediation), complemented by student interviews and subject tutors’ written comments.

This study extends previous DA studies such as Poehner and Lantolf (2005) in two key ways: i) its explicit focus on the construction of a macrogenre (whole text) as opposed to investigations of decontextualized language fragments, and ii) the range of mediational strategies identified and the consequent expansion of Poehner’s (2005) framework of mediation typologies. The findings suggest that DA, combined with SFL, provides insights into the learners’ maturing writing abilities, which the tutor can nurture further to help the learners internalise them. This study also shows that DA students made more gains than their non-DA counterparts regarding their ability to write a case study analysis genre. Additionally, the findings suggest that students can transfer their academic writing and conceptual knowledge from one assessment task to another, albeit at a varying level.

The study, though small in scale, thus supports the view that targeted tutor support enhances students’ academic writing development. Implications are drawn concerning formative writing assessment research and practice in higher education.

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