Dynamic assessment incorporates learning into the test administration process. Often contrasted with static fixed-form testing, dynamic assessment directly measures the process of learning and responding to an intervention (Lidz 1991) rather than measuring the examinee’s prior learning or achievement (as in formative or summative assessment). Test administrators and examinees interact during administration and the assessment process is typically individualised (Grigorenko and Sternberg 1998).

There are two main formats of dynamic assessment: (1) an intervention occurs between a pre- and post-test measure; or (2) an intervention occurs during test administration based on examinee responses. Test administrator involvement varies across types of dynamic assessment; common formats include prompting, training, and feedback. Applications of dynamic assessment span measurement domains, including educational and psychological applications, and typically report individuals’ potential for learning and how they respond to specific intervention approaches (Grigorenko and Sternberg 1998). As with all assessments, developers should consider the Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing (American Educational Research Association et al. 2014) during phases of design, development, and delivery to ensure that assessments and their results are used as intended.

Dynamic assessment can be traced back to Lev Vygotsky’s (1986–1934) zone of proximal development (Cho and Compton 2015; Elliott 2003; Lantolf and Poehner 2010). The zone of proximal development pertains to the so-called gap between what learners can do independently and what they demonstrate when given assistance, as from a teacher (e.g. Allal and Ducrey 2000; Shabani et al. 2010). Dynamic assessment focuses on evaluating the gap between individual performance and assisted performance. As such, these assessments may measure current knowledge, emerging understandings, and potential for learning under similar situations (Cioffi and Carney 1997).