Effects of Task Reasoning Demand and Task Condition on Learner Written Output in ESL Classrooms

Lilliati Ismail, Arshad Abd. Samad, Bee Eng Wong, Nooreen Noordin


Considering the growing interest in task-based language teaching, classroom-based research
that investigates the effects of task complexity on L2 development is needed. Despite the
inclusion of task reasoning demand (TRD) as a dimension of task complexity in Robinson’s
Cognition Hypothesis (2007), there is insufficient classroom-based research that investigates
the language learning outcomes that may occur as a result of engaging in tasks of differing
reasoning demands in a variety of task conditions. This study aims to fill in some of the gap by
identifying the main and interaction effects of task reasoning demand and individual versus
dyadic task conditions (TC) on the grammatical accuracy and syntactic complexity of learner
written output. Modified versions of the dictogloss task and the opinion-gap task were used to
provide a relatively high reasoning demand task (+TRD) and a relatively low reasoning
demand task (-TRD) to the learners respectively. A repeated-measures design was used with 76
participants consisting of 18 year-old learners in a public secondary school randomly assigned
into four groups. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and repeated-measures
ANOVAs. Results indicated that both TRD and TC had significant main effects on
grammatical accuracy. Also, TRD and TC had significant main and interaction effects on
syntactic complexity. The results point to differential effects of using tasks of high and low
reasoning demand in dyadic and individual task conditions. The results have pedagogical
implications on task design and task selection to elicit higher rates of grammatical accuracy
and syntactic complexity in learner written output.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5296/ije.v4i4.2249

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