Open Access
Ableeva, Rumia
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
April 28, 2010
Committee Members:
  • James Lantolf, Dissertation Advisor
  • Celeste S Kinginger, Committee Chair
  • James Lantolf, Committee Chair
  • Thomas Albert Hale, Committee Member
  • Gabriela Appel Lantolf, Committee Member
  • Meredith Christine Doran, Committee Member
  • Listening Comprehension
  • Language Assessment
  • Sociocultural Theory
  • Dynamic Assessment
ABSTRACT This dissertation concentrates on theoretical and methodological issues at the intersection of second language acquisition, language pedagogy and sociocultural theory (SCT), initially proposed by the Russian psychologist Vygotsky. More specifically, the dissertation seeks to redress the current lack of diagnostic assessment in language instruction and the development of listening proficiency. The dissertation extends traditional understanding of listening assessment in foreign language contexts and applies dynamic assessment (DA) to the development of learners’ listening ability. DA is grounded in the Vygotskyan concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and prescribes mediated teacher-learner dialog during the assessment procedure. Theoretically developed and experimentally tested worldwide since the 1950s, DA has proven to be a valuable diagnostic tool primarily in psychological research and, as a later development, in educational research focused on teaching/learning different school subjects (e.g. mathematics, physics). However, language educators have only recently begun to examine the pedagogical applications of DA (e.g. Lantolf & Poehner 2004, Poehner 2005; Antón, 2003, 2009; Ableeva, 2008). This initial L2 research argues that assessment-with-mediation brings assessment and instruction together into an organic unity whereby learning is the result of mediation, which is then internalized and becomes accessible to be deployed later in other contexts. The dissertation investigates the effects of dynamic assessment on improving listening comprehension of intermediate university students learning French as a foreign language and compares the results to a traditional test of listening comprehension. The study conducted as part of this disseration demonstrates that DA, due to its reliance on mediated dialogue, illuminates the sources of poor performance that are usually hidden during traditional assessments, which are non-dynamic in nature. DA is able to inform the instructional process regarding specific areas where learners need improvement and in so doing allows for appropriate intervention to help learners overcome these problems. The results of the study indicate that, through interactions in the ZPD, DA permits to establish not only the actual level of learners’ listening ability but also to diagnose/assess the potential level of their listening development, while at the same time promoting this development.