Title page for ETD etd-09302007-162044

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Murphy, Raegan
Email raegan.murphy@up.ac.za
URN etd-09302007-162044
Document Title Exploring a meta-theoretical framework for dynamic assessment and intelligence
Degree PhD (Psychology)
Department Psychology
Advisor Name Title
Prof D J F Maree Committee Chair
  • framework
  • Vygotsky
  • theory
  • model
  • philosophy of science
  • Russian psychology
  • Soviet psychology
  • epistemology
  • ontology
  • intelligence
  • dynamic assessment
  • classical test theory
  • statistics
  • null hypothesis significance testing
  • measurement theory
  • content analysis.
  • meta-theory
  • psychology
  • item response theory
  • mathematics
  • meta-analysis
  • quantification
Date 2007-09-05
Availability unrestricted
Dynamic assessment, as manner of alternative process-based assessment, is currently at a cross-roads chiefly characterised by, at times, vague conceptualisation of terminology, blurred demarcation as to its model and theory status and at times ill-defined fundamental philosophy. As a movement in modern psychological assessment within the broader field of intelligence, dynamic assessment does not present with a coherent unifying theory as such and due to its lack of clarity in a number of key areas its eventual disuse might well be the final outcome of this method and its unique history and methodology. In pursuit of this study’s main goal, dynamic assessment models and theories are critically explored by means of a meta-theory largely inspired by the work K.B. Madsen, a Danish meta-theorist and pioneer in theoretical psychology. Madsen’s meta-theory is attenuated in order to suit the nature and purposes of this study; so as to better analyse dynamic assessment within intelligence research and assessment.

In its primary aim, this study builds on a foundation of epistemological and ontological considerations within science in general, the social sciences and psychology in particular. In keeping with Madsen’s method of meta-theory analysis, the author’s predilections are stated at the outset in order to place the progression of analyses of the various models and theories within dynamic assessment. Dynamic assessment and intelligence are discussed and a brief digression into the history of Soviet psychology is offered as it is pertinent to the work of Lev Vygotsky and its subsequent influence within process-based assessment. Theory and model development within science and the social sciences are described from a philosophy-of-science vantage point. Psychological assessment’s prime considerations are critically explored and the discussion highlights the role played by the philosophical aspects of mathematics and statistical foundations as leveraging measurement within assessment. Particular attention is paid to the perennial controversy surrounding null hypothesis significance testing and the possible future directions that can be explored by and within dynamic assessment which lends itself to approaches less restrictive than those offered by mainstream statistics.

The obvious and not so obvious aspects within the mathematical, statistical and measurement foundations are critically explored in terms of how best dynamic assessment can manoeuvre within the current mainstream psychological assessment system and how new models of item response theory suited to change-based assessment can be explored as possible manner of handling the gain score issue; itself a paradoxical state of affairs within classical and modern test theory. Dynamic assessment’s past has in large part been dictated by mainstream considerations in the areas mentioned and in order to place itself on an alternative path these considerations are critically assessed in terms of dynamic assessment’s future path. Dynamic assessment and its place within the broader intelligence assessment field is then investigated by means of the meta-theory developed. It is envisaged that the intuitive appeal of dynamic assessment will continue to garner support from practitioners across the globe, specifically those trained in countries outside the traditional stronghold of Western psychological theory. However, the position taken in this argument is that in order to ensure its survival it will need to make a decision in terms of its future progress: either to branch off from mainstream assessment altogether or to become fused within mainstream assessment. The “best of both worlds” scenario has obviously not worked out as it was originally hoped.

The study concludes with the meta-theoretical exploration of dynamic assessment within intelligence by utilising a small selection of current models. The application of the attenuated Madsenian framework seeks to explore, place and ascertain the nature of each model regarding the ontological and philosophical status of the approach; the nature of the hypothetical terminology, scientific hypotheses and hypothesis system utilised and lastly the nature of the abstract data, concrete data and prime considerations as implicit concerns within the varied approaches. An HQ score is calculated for each such model and is a partial indicator of the testability (verifiability or falsifiability) of the model in question. The models are thus couched in meta, hypothetical and data strata and can be positioned on a continuum of sorts according to which tentative claims can be made regarding the veracity of the approach behind each model.

The study concludes with two appendices; a meta-analysis which was conducted on South African research in the field of dynamic assessment (1961-2002) and which cumulated in a significant effect size evidencing an overall positive effect that dynamic assessment has had as an alternative intervention technique in comparison to conventional or static based assessment models. In order to encourage replication of this study, all details pertaining to the studies included for consideration in the meta-analyses are attached in section 2 of this appendix. Secondly, an informal content analysis was conducted on eleven responses to questionnaires that were originally delivered to one hundred dynamic assessment practitioners and researchers across the globe. The purpose of the questionnaire was to ascertain information on core issues within dynamic assessment, as these fundamental issues were considered as pivotal in the future of this approaches’ eventual development or stagnation. The analysis concluded that dynamic assessment is indeed perceived to be at a crossroads of sorts and thus supported the initial hypothesis stated above.

It is hoped that this theoretical study will aid in aligning dynamic assessment in a manner such that its eventual place in psychological assessment will be solidly grounded, theoretically defensible and viable as alternative manner of assessment.

© University of Pretoria

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