Dear English Speakers / Users

Alternative assessment techniques present a dynamic rather than static picture of learners' linguistic development.

I'm reading an article that contains above mentioned phrase. I cannot quite understand the meaning behind the words "static/dynamic picture of learners' linguistic development". What are the right words that may replace these part of the phrase?

Thank You

4 Answers 4


The idiom we tend to use for "static picture" is snapshot. It is used figuratively to mean "picture at a point in time".


Synonyms may or may not help you to understand the sentence. (Often, they do not.)

I think what you really want to know is the meaning of "Alternative assessment techniques present a dynamic rather than static picture of learners' linguistic development." I found the sentence in the paper Assessment of Young Learners by Kassim Shaaban (2001). From a quick read, here is my understanding:

The traditional (i.e., typical, common, old) way to assess learners (especially young learners, according to the paper) is to test them at the end of the term (or semester). That kind of test only gives us a static picture. It's a "snapshot" in time, like you take a photograph of their skills.

The paper suggests some other techniques that can be more effective. These methods are more dynamic. I believe that the paper uses "dynamic" in two senses:

  1. It's an ongoing process (i.e., not only at the end of the term or the semester)
  2. It suggests more student-teacher interaction. (E.g., Oral Interview, Student-Teacher Conferences, Dialogue Journals)
  • Thank you so much for clearing up this for me. Maybe, it is my bad not to provide the whole article here. Now it makes sense. So, we can say that the common, traditional assessment techniques (AT) provide us information about the progress of the learners which is limited to the specific time which the assessments are done. (i.e., the learner may not feel well at the day of an exam, and therefore, it may cause teachers to make wrong judgement about their abilities) Whereas, suggested ATs may be done regularly and provide better understanding of the students' abilities. Did I get it right? Jan 7, 2016 at 21:27
  • @KarelCapek Exactly! Jan 7, 2016 at 21:29
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    @KarelCapek Thank you for choosing my answer! However, it's recommended on our site that we should wait for a while (perhaps a day) before choosing to accept an answer. (For more information, see Not so fast! (When should I accept my answer?)) Jan 7, 2016 at 21:33

I'm having troubling replacing just "static picture of" without rewriting the rest of the sentence. That is because the phrase is linked with the preceding words to make "a dynamic rather than static picture..."

Dynamic implies ongoing (over time) so a possible rewrite could be:

"...present an ongoing picture of learners' linguistic development rather than a snapshot view."

  • There are no sentences following this phrase. So, I can only provide the sentence that comes before the phrase. "One major argument for using alternative techniques with young learners, however, is that official or standardized proficiency examinations usually cannot adequately determine their performance levels." Jan 7, 2016 at 20:49
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    It ties together. The gist is that official/standard testing doesn't adequately capture the linguistic development of [young] learners. Alternative assessments give a better (more holistic, possibly) view.
    – mkennedy
    Jan 7, 2016 at 22:57

First, let's have an understanding of static and dynamic here:

In general, dynamic means energetic, capable of action and/or change, or forceful, while static means stationary or fixed.

Thus, a picture may have action to it like athletes running on a field could be a rather dynamic picture, like a player catching a ball for example. Another example would be Times Square on New Year's Eve just before midnight where there are a million people out in the street to celebrate the new year.

In contrast, a picture of an empty field without any players may be seen as more static since nothing is happening there.

The terms may be quite correct in terms of offering why "alternative assessment techniques" could be preferred for "linguistic development."

For something a bit more specific, let's consider this site for example. The questions and answers could be seen as dynamic because they can be edited. After all, this section didn't appear when this answer was first written, right? In contrast the name of "English Language Learners" is static as that is how this site is known, the "ELL" stack for a short form. If you couldn't edit the questions or answers then they would be static as they would be fixed and unable to be edited. In contrast, since we can edit these they are dynamic because what you read today may be changed by tomorrow. Does that make it seem a bit more real now?

If you want a more personal example, consider the changes in your body as you grew up. The was dynamic because it changed in size so much. In contrast, if you buy a car then it can be pretty static since it isn't likely to add or remove weight unless you make changes to it.

This is how I'd interpret each word when used to convey an opinion:

Static picture likely is meant to convey old-fashioned, stuck in the past, only one point in time. Think of a photograph shot with a camera where hours could be spent setting up the shot in the old days where a portrait or photograph is taken. Imagine seeing the instructions for how to do a dance.

Dynamic picture likely is meant to convey modern, lots of data, action, energy, many points in time. Think of a video shot done with a smartphone that required little set up and could use audio and video to convey a message. Imagine seeing a short film of the instructions for how to do a dance. Same material but with a much different packaging to it.

  • Thank you for the detailed explanation, it is too detailed for me to understand though :) Jan 7, 2016 at 20:52
  • Yes, the difference between the words 'dynamic' and 'static' makes sense perfectly to me. On the other hand, what i want to know is the whole meaning of the words together. Does 'static picture' mean 'overall progress' while 'dynamic picture' mean 'current progress'? Thanks Jan 7, 2016 at 21:05
  • I think what are wrote above in my comment should be the opposite way. May I kindly know your profession JB King? Are you a writer? :) I really appreciate for taking the time to write long, detailed answer. Jan 7, 2016 at 21:41
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    @KarelCapek - No, static or dynamic doesn't exactly mean "overall" or "current". Rather, static means "unchanging", and dynamic means "changing". Like a "static" picture is just a snapshot at one point, and doesn't reflect that things may have been changing when the snapshot was taken, or that things may have changed since, whereas "dynamic" implies that what you see can reflect changes.
    – stangdon
    Jan 7, 2016 at 22:35

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