The Academic Content Acquisition Process Study

  • Petr Nezhnov HSE University
  • Elena Kardanova HSE University
  • Lyubov' Ryabinina HSE University; Center of Quality Assessment in Education, 76 Mira av., Krasnoyarsk, 660049, Russian Federation
Keywords: training, zone of proximal development, symbol, orientation, acquisition level


Peter Nezhnov - PhD, associate professor. E-mail: 

Elena Kardanova - Associate Professor, Senior Researcher, Center for Monitoring of the Quality in Education, Institute of Education, National Research University Higher School of Economics. Address: 20 Myasnitskaya str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation. E-mail:

Lubov Ryabinina - Deputy Director, Center of Quality Assessment in Education. Address: 76 Mira av., Krasnoyarsk, 660049, Russian Federation. E-mail:

This study was carried out in the context of the cultural development theory worked out by L. S. Vygotsky and his adherents. The authors put forward and empirically tested two hypotheses for the academic content acquisition pro­cess that followed from this theory. The first one concerns an underlying logic of this process, that is an indispensable sequence of its stages and results de­scription of which forms a taxonomy of educational objectives. The study tests the taxonomy that is based on a symbol acquisition level scheme outlined by L. S. Vygotsky and specified by V. V. Davydov and his colleagues in their works. The second hypothesis concerns a temporal property of the acquisition de­fined by two theoretical constructs: the notion of a zone of proximal develop­ment (L. S. Vygotsky), according to which real academic content acquisition extends beyond the training process time frame, and cultural development peri­odization (D. B. Elkonin) which describes how the training is included into the maturation process. The study used a set of level school tests developed by a group of Russian experts who were guided by the cultural development theory — Student Achievement Monitoring (SAM). Pupils of different ages from different regions of Russia were tested for acquisition of the Elementary School Mathematics and Russian language program. The first hypothesis was tested as part of a paper test appraisal in some regions of the Russian Federation in spring of 2012. More than 5000 fourth-grade pupils of comprehensive schools took part in the appraisal process. The second hypothesis was tested as part of a special study comprised of two stages. At the first stage SAM tests of Mathe­matics and Russian language were given to the 4th, 6th, 8th and 10th grade pu­pils. At the second stage, in a year, the same pupils took the same tests, and repeated cross sections were formed. The study results on the whole support the offered level scheme: as regards most units of tasks that are formed ac­cording to criteria specified in the taxonomy, the tasks of the first, second and third levels create a corresponding hierarchy in terms of complexity. And what is more, in most cases the complexity increase from the first level to the sec­ond and to the third levels is clearly statistically significant. The received re­sults also validate the hypothesis that the acquisition process is considerably outside the scope of training in itself: full acquisition of the elementary school academic content takes place approximately by the end of the middle school.


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How to Cite
Nezhnov, Petr, Elena Kardanova, and RyabininaLyubov’. 2014. “The Academic Content Acquisition Process Study”. Voprosy Obrazovaniya / Educational Studies Moscow, no. 4 (February), 168-87.
Theoretical and Applied Research

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