Operationalizing Levels of Academic Mastery Based on Vygotskys Theory: The Study of Mathematical Knowledge
The present study tested the possibility of operationalizing levels of knowledge acquisition based on Vygotskyђs theory of cognitive growth. An assessment tool (SAMMath) was developed to capture a hypothesized hierarchical structure of mathematical knowledge consisting of procedural, conceptual, and functional levels. In Study 1, SAM-Math was administered to 4th-grade students (N = 2,216). The results of Rasch analysis indicated that the test provided an operational definition for the construct of mathematical competence that included the three levels of mastery corresponding to the theoretically based hierarchy of knowledge. In Study 2, SAM-Math was administered to students in 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th grades (N = 396) to examine developmental changes in the levels of mathematics knowledge. The results showed that the mastery of mathematical concepts presented in elementary school continued to deepen beyond elementary school, as evidenced by a significant growth in conceptual and functional levels of knowledge. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for psychological theory, test design, and educational practice.