Volume 9, Issue 3 (2018)                   IQBQ 2018, 9(3): 227-249 | Back to browse issues page

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Rouhi A, nemat tabrizi A, Jafarigohar M, Hemati F, Ghaderi E. The Role of Task Complexity, Task Condition, and Self-regulation of Learners in L2 Writing. IQBQ. 2018; 9 (3) :227-249
URL: http://journals.modares.ac.ir/article-14-8231-en.html
1- Associate Professor, English Language Teaching Department, Payame Noor University, Tehran, Iran , Afsar.rouhi@pnu.ac.ir
2- Assistant Professor of English Language Education, Payame Noor University, Tehran, Iran
3- Associate Professor, English Language Teaching Department, Payame Noor University, Tehran, Iran
4- Associate Associate Professor of English Language Teaching, Payame Noor University, Tehran, Iran.
5- Ph.D. Candidate in English Language Teaching, Payame Noor University, Tehran, Iran
Abstract:   (310 Views)
Task-based language teaching (TBLT) characterized by involving language learners in meaning-focused activities with some focus-on-form has enjoyed increasing popularity in the past two decades. Meanwhile, ample theoretical and empirical evidence has been presented to account for different task design features that influence language learning and learners’ performance. However, selecting and sequencing suitable tasks as well as recognizing appropriate task combinations that can provide a good opportunity for learning are still topical issues in SLA research (Robinson, 2011; Skehan, 2014).
Considering this interest, this study set out to examine whether changes in the cognitive demands of tasks and their implementation condition (operationalized by individual and collaborative writing) would lead to differential improvement in language learners’ writing performance. The study also explored the relationship between an under-researched learner factor (self-regulation) and EFL learners’ written performance in individual and collaborative tasks varying in terms of cognitive complexity. The novelty of the present study lies primarily in its considering the combined effect of task complexity and task condition on writing—which is a somewhat neglected mode in research on TBLT—of EFL learners.
Although different models and criteria have been proposed to account for task complexity, psycholinguistic rationales have drawn more support recently. Skehan’s (1998, 2009) trade-off hypothesis and Robinson’s (2001, 2003, 2009) cognition hypothesis are two influential models in vogue toady. Different views on attentional capacity of human beings have led Skehan and Robinson to have almost contradicting predictions on learners’ performance in tasks with different levels of cognitive complexity. Robinson (2001, 2003), assuming multiple-resource model of attention, holds the view that performing some complex tasks (e.g., those made complex by the number of elements) pushes learners to make efficient use of their attentional resources and produce more accurate and complex output. Contrarily, Skehan (1998), acknowledging the limited attentional capacity of learners, claims that simultaneous increase in accuracy and syntactic complexity of linguistic output is not feasible just due to the manipulation of task complexity. He claims that learners carrying out cognitively demanding tasks have to prioritize one (accuracy or complexity) at the expense of the other.
Two research questions were formulated for the present study: (a) Do task complexity, task condition, and their interaction affect the accuracy, syntactic complexity, and fluency (CAF) of language learners’ written performance? (b) Is there any relationship between self-regulation of language learners and their performance in individual and collaborative writing tasks varying in terms of cognitive complexity? To answer these questions, 122 EFL learners whose homogeneity was ensured by Nelson English Language Proficiency Test were recruited. They were randomly assigned into four groups. The participants in four groups carried out the tasks which were different in terms of cognitive demands (simple/complex) and their implementation conditions (individual/collaborative). Task complexity was manipulated by the number of elements that participants had to consider while performing the writing task.
The collected data were analyzed by MANOVA and Pearson correlation after checking for the assumptions underlying these statistical analyses. Findings revealed that task condition had a significant effect on the writing accuracy of language learners but manipulation of task complexity did not affect three writing dimensions, i.e., syntactic complexity, accuracy, and fluency (CAF) significantly. These findings lent partial support to Skehan’s (2009) trade-off approach toward task design and also Vygotsky’s (1978) social constructivism. Moreover, self-regulation of learners who performed the complex writing task in isolation showed a positive significant correlation with the accuracy of their writing. Robinson (2011) has made a similar prediction regarding the role of individual differences in learners’ performance in complex tasks. The findings add support to the view that selecting appropriate levels of task complexity and suitable task implementation conditions enhance different dimensions of the written performance of language learners. The study calls for more prominent place for task condition and individual differences of learners in the frameworks and models put forward for task designing and sequencing.
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Article Type: Research Paper |
Received: 2017/09/12 | Accepted: 2017/12/1 | Published: 2017/12/1

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