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Exploring Task-internal and Task-external Readiness: The Effects of Topic Familiarity and Strategic Planning in Topic-based Task Performance at Different Proficiency Levels

Posted on:2011-05-06Degree:Ph.DType:Dissertation
University:The Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong)Candidate:Bei, XiaoyueFull Text:PDF
Research into task-based language teaching (TBLT) has yielded fruitful results with regards to pre-task and during-task preparation activities, with some consensus being reached in a number of areas. Pre-task planning and task repetition usually give rise to fluency and complexity, whereas on-line planning is likely to help with complexity and accuracy. In general, pre-task planning, task repetition, and on-line planning are all task-external manipulations in which extra preparation time is provided so that learners can focus their attention on improving some performance areas. The present study is an attempt to extend the notion of planning from a task-external to a task-internal perspective.;The design of the study is empirical and quantitative in nature. The effects of strategic planning (task-external) and topic familiarity (task-internal) on participants with different proficiency levels are explored and compared. Eighty L2 English participants (forty medicine majors and forty computer majors from a major university in Hong Kong) performed different experimental tasks, in which topic familiarity types, planning conditions and proficiency levels constitute a 2 x 2 x 2 design. Topic familiarity was realized by giving each participant a natural virus topic and a computer virus topic. The topic that matched the participant's academic training was regarded as "familiar", and visa versa. There were two types of planning conditions, namely a non-planning (control) group and a ten-minute strategic planning group. Within each planning condition, the participants were further dichotomized into two different proficiency groups by a proficiency test that was administered prior to the tasks.;Results showed that both topic familiarity and strategic planning help learners with more fluent language, but the effect sizes indicate that strategic planning was more powerful in this regard. Topic familiarity pushed learners for slightly more accurate performance with very significant gains in lexical diversity and lexical sophistication. In contrast, planning was associated with significantly higher complexity and lexical density. Proficiency seemed to be concerned with forms rather than meaning expression as higher proficiency participants always scored higher in accuracy and sometimes in complexity, but not so much in fluency or lexis.;Based on these results, task-readiness is suggested as a theoretical extension to the concept of planning to catch both task-external readiness (different types of planning: rehearsal, strategic planning, and on-line planning) and task-internal readiness (content familiarity, schematic familiarity, and task type familiarity). A general framework of task-readiness is proposed as the basis of theorization of task planning and task familiarity.
Keywords/Search Tags:Planning, Task, Familiarity, Different proficiency, Readiness, Performance
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