Can dynamic assessment predict growth in reading skills and risk status for later reading difficulties? The DART project

In contrast to traditional ‘static’ tests, dynamic assessment (DA) focuses on the process rather than the product of learning by measuring response to teaching (Grigorenko & Sternberg, 1998). Previous work from the USA and Denmark has shown DA to be a unique predictor of future reading difficulties, though such work has not been carried out within the culturally and linguistically diverse context of UK schools. Aim: To create computerised dynamic assessments of learning that could be developed as low-cost screeners for use in schools in England. The research was conducted in three work packages: Decoding in reception, sight word learning and vocabulary learning in upper primary. Research questions: How strongly does performance on the dynamic task correlate with socio-economic status and English language proficiency? Does performance predict growth in reading ability over time? Can the dynamic assessments accurately screen for later reading difficulties? The decoding and sight word learning work packages focused on predicting single word reading and identifying dyslexic readers, while the vocabulary learning work package focused on predicting reading comprehension and identifying poor comprehenders. Method: Longitudinal data were collected across seven schools in Leeds, sampling children from diverse backgrounds. At the first time point children were assessed using a battery of static tests (to measure reading ability and traditional predictors of reading) and one dynamic assessment. At the second time only the reading ability tests needed for diagnostic classification were completed. Findings: Performance on the dynamic assessments was only weakly to moderately correlated with socio-economic status and English language proficiency. Our dynamic assessments predicted unique growth in reading ability after controlling for demographic factors and static tests and achieved excellent or outstanding levels of accuracy as screeners for later reading difficulties. Furthermore, the decoding and vocabulary learning tasks showed potential to add value to a battery of static tests for children with EAL and exploratory analyses suggest that administering the decoding task earlier in the school year could improve screening accuracy for all reception children. Future directions: We are now working in partnership with educators, children, illustrators and software developers to co-create an optimised version of the decoding task in the form of a web-based app.

Dr Hannah Nash is a developmental psychologist studying the factors that contribute to typical language and literacy development and why some children develop disorders like SLI, dyslexia, ADHD & Narcolepsy. Her current research includes, The ICKLE (The impact of COVID-19 related school closures on foundation skills in reception children) PROJECT (, the DART (Dynamic Assessment of Reading Test) Project (, the LeedsPASS project (a longitudinal study of the impact of sleep difficulties on functioning in children with ADHD) and a White Rose DTC ESRC Network understanding and enhancing reading and language skills in children for whom English is an additional language.

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