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Task-internal and task-external readiness:. 3rd Biennial International Conference on Task-Based Language Teaching, Lancaster University, Sept 15, 2009. A report of the effects of topic familiarity and strategic planning on task performance by L2 learners of different proficiency levels

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task internal and task external readiness
Task-internal and task-external readiness:

3rd Biennial International Conference on Task-Based Language Teaching, Lancaster University, Sept 15, 2009

A report of the effects of topic familiarity and strategic planning on task performance by L2 learners of different proficiency levels

Gavin Bei Xiaoyue

The Chinese University of Hong Kong


Part 1

Research background

  • Task-based instruction research looks at:
  • 1. Task characteristics:
  • Subjective or objective, structural or non-structural, familiar or unfamiliar…
  • 2. Task conditions:
  • Monologic or interactive, Pre/Post task activities,

planning or non-planning…

  • 3. Participants:
  • Gender, motivation, learning style, proficiency…
research background 1 topic familiarity
Research background 1: topic familiarity
  • 1.Comprehension (many)
  • facilitative
  • e.g., Shimioda, 1993; Barry and Lazarte, 1995; Bügel & Buunk, 1996; Chen and Donin, 1997; Johnson, 1982; Lee, 1986; and Chang, 2006
  • no effect on comprehension
  • e.g., Hammadou, 1991; Peretz & Shoham, 1990; and Carrell (1983)
  • 2. Production (few)
  • Mostly in L1 research by psychologists
  • Higher fluency, but inconsistent in accuracy or complexity
research background 2 planning types
Research Background 2: planning types
  • Two macro and four micro types of planning (Ellis, 2005)
  • 1. pre-task
  • 1) rehearsal 2) strategic planning
  • 2. within-task
  • 1) pressured 2) unpressured
  • Or simply three micro types (Ellis, in press)
  • 1) rehearsal 2) strategic planning 3) within-task planning
research background 3 strategic planning
Research background 3: strategic planning
  • Ample studies (e.g., Skehan, Foster, Ellis, Crookes, Wigglesworth, etc.) with quite some consistent results.
  • Planning raises: Fluency + Complexity
  • (sometimes, but usually not)Accuracy
  • Skehan: Trade-off of between Comp. and Accu.
  • Robinson: Planning does not lead to Comp, no trade-off.
  • Is proficiency important here?
research background 4 proficiency and familiarity
Research background 4: Proficiency and Familiarity
  • Hudson (1982):
  • In Reading: Familiarity > Proficiency.
  • Schmidt-Rinehart (1994):
  • In Listening: Familiarity > Proficiency.
  • Carrell (1983):
  • In Reading: Proficiency > Familiarity (NS:NNS)
  • Chern (1993):
  • In Reading: Proficiency > Familiarity.
research background 5 proficiency and planning
Research background 5: proficiency and planning
  • Wigglesworth (1997): low proficiency did not benefit from planning.
  • Tavokoli and Skehan (2005): planning drove high and low learners for better performance.
  • Kawauchi (2005): more Flu. and Comp. for higher learners, more Accu. for the lower. The advanced gained the least.
  • Most other studies did not consider proficiency.
Part 2

The study design

and methodology

1 participants and proficiency test
1.Participants and proficiency test
  • Participants: 80 HK Cantonese-speaking undergraduates volunteers to participate.
  • A C-test as proficiency test to group participants

------- borrowed from Dornyei and Katona (1992).

--------The validity and reliability are good in the literature and in the present context.

See appendix 1

2 tasks

Topic 1

Topic 2

2. Tasks

Medicine Majors (N=40)

+ familiar

– familiar

Computer Majors (N=40)

– familiar


  • Topic 1: Natural Viruses.
  • Topic 2: Computer Viruses.
3 independent variables
3. Independent Variables
  • 1. Topic familiarity (within): 2 levels
  • familiar VS unfamiliar task
  • 2. Planning (between): 2 levels
  • non-planning VS 10-min planning
  • 3. Proficiency (between): 2 levels
  • intermediate VS high

Study design

Each cell consists of 10 computer majors and 10 medicine majors as

counterbalancing to rule out the topic effect.

4 dependent variables
4. Dependent Variables
  • Fluency: pausing, speech rate, MLR, phonation time, repairs, etc.
  • Accuracy: error-free clauses ratio, length of correct clause, and errors per 100 words.
  • Complexity: Clauses per AS unit, AS unit length, and clause length
  • Lexis: lexical diversity, lexical sophistication, and lexical density.
  • Formality: F-score, DB-score
  • Totally 21 measure were employed. See Appendix 2for a detailed description.
  • P value: the significance level to tell whether there is an effect.
  • Cohen’s D value: the effect size to tell how big the effect is.
5 statistical procedures
5. Statistical procedures
  • A repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was employed.
Part 3


breakdown fluency main effects 1
Breakdown fluency main effects 1

Table 1. p and Cohen’s D value

Means omitted due to the space limit. The means show that the familiar topics and the

planning time improve fluency. Same directions below unless there is a note.

breakdown fluency main effects 2
Breakdown fluency main effects 2

Table 2. p and Cohen’s D value

breakdown fluency interactions
Breakdown fluency: interactions
  • T. Familiarity has significant interactions with Planning in:
  • 1) speech rate
  • 2) phonation time
  • 3) No. Mid-clause pauses
  • 4) Mid-clause silence total (per 100 words)
  • 5) End-of-clause silence total (per 100 words)

All showing one pattern:

planning compensates for the unfamiliar topics.

breakdown fluency a summary
Breakdown fluency: a summary

1) T. Familiarity affects fluency in a strikingly similar way as Planning does.

2) Approximately, the effect sizes of T. Familiarity is half as big as those of Planning.

3) Planning mitigate the difference between familiar and unfamiliar topics.

4) The effects of Proficiency is marginal, and probably overridden by T. F. and Planning.

repair fluency
Repair fluency

Table 3. p and Cohen’s D value

Note: planning induced more replacements, though reducing others.


Table 4. p and Cohen’s D value


Table 5. p and Cohen’s D value


Table 6. p and Cohen’s D value


Table 7. p and Cohen’s D value

Part 4

Some conclusions

conclusions 1
Conclusions 1
  • 1. Planning is more powerful in driving fluency than T. Familiarity. It can reduce the differences between familiar and unfamiliar topics in breakdown fluency.
  • 2. Topic familiarity and planning seem to be more concerned with meaning expression (similar).
  • 3. T. familiarity and planning affect different syntactic areas (different).
  • 4. Proficiency affects mostly forms, esp. accuracy, but not so much meaning expression (fluency and lexis).
  • 5. Higher proficiency does not appear to remove the trade-off effects. So L2 learners are L2 learners!
conclusion 2
Conclusion 2
  • 6. Factor analyses of all measures show:
  • 1) there’s probably an end-of-clause fluency different from breakdown and repair fluency.
  • (Av. Pause and total silence at the end of a clause, and phonation time. )
  • 2) there’s probably a noun-phrase complexity as compared to the syntactic complexity.
  • (words per clause, F-score, DB-score, and Lambda)
  • 6. A broader perspective on planning stems from the similarities and differences between T. familiarity and strategic planning in this study, in which I argue that T.F. can be regarded as a kind of implicit planning (see next page).
Thank you!

Q and A

appendix 1 reliability and validity of c test
Appendix 1: reliability and validity of C-test

Dornyei and Katona (1992) found that the C-test is reliable (the internal consistency coefficients are very consistent, .75 and .77 respectively, for university English majors and secondary students) and valid (C-test is significantly highly correlated with different other proficiency tests like the General Language Proficiency and TOEIC). Cronbach’s alpha reached .84 in Daller and Phelan (2006). Klein-Braley and Raatz (1984), Klein-Braley (1985), Cohen, Segal and Bar-Siman-Tov (1984), Klei-Braley (1997), and Grotjahn, 1995 generally supported such a claim on written tasks. More importantly here, the C-test was reported to be highly correlated with oral tasks as well in recent studies (e.g., r=.64 in Arras, Eckes and Grotjahn, 2002, and also in oral lexical performance in Daller and Xue, 2007).

More recently Dai (this conference) reported in Chinese context, Cronbach’s Alpha=.770, Concurrent validity r= .633, p<0.01 (correlated with CET-4).

In this study, the Cronbach Alpha is=.64 in the pilot study, but =.74 in the main study.



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