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Task effectiveness and the acquisition of L2 vocabulary Rick de Graaff, Machteld Moonen, Gerard Westhoff IVLOS, Institute of Education Utrecht University, The Netherlands email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Example 1: Place the words in each row in a logical order and explain why: • stunning, splendid, gorgeous • exciting, breathtaking, interesting • embarrassing, outrageous, shocking
Example 2: Which words belong together?Form 3 groups and place the words in each group in a logical order: Thrilling, risky, prohibitive, dangerous, unsafe, expensive, frightening, pricey, bloodcurdling
Example 3: You have participated in a survival trip and broke your leg. Write a complaint letter to the agency using the following words if possible: Thrilling, risky, prohibitive, dangerous, unsafe, expensive, frightening, pricey, bloodcurdling
Task definition “A task is an activity which requires learners to use language, with emphasis on meaning, to attain an objective, and which is intended to lead to or stimulate acquisition” (Bygate, Skehan & Swain, 2001)
Task effectiveness Involvement load? (Laufer & Hulstijn, 2001): • Need • Search • Motivation
Willis (1996) Exposure Use Motivation instruction Westhoff (2004) Exposure Focus on meaning Focus on form Output & interaction Strategy use Task effectiveness: task scope?
Task effectiveness:Cognitive psychology/ connectionism • Distributed representation • Connection strengths • Spreading activation Learning = Concept formation = building & strengthening sets of features
3 Components of a task • Assignment • Content • Mental actions
The Multi-Feature Hypothesis Retention and ease of activation are enhanced by tasks that elicit mental actions involving: • more features, • more different categories of features, • in great frequency, • in life-like combinations, • simultaneously.
Examples of features • Semantic • Syntactic • Morphologic • Collocative • Pragmatic • Associative • Affective
The study • Dutch secondary education • N=49, age 12 • Quasi-experimental pre-test post-test design • Spanish vocabulary: school subjects • Two tasks, differing according to MFH • Tests: cloze and translation
Research questions • Differences in mental actions on content features? method: think-aloud protocols and retrospective interviews • Differences in retention after task performance? method: vocabulary tests
Preliminary results Q 1 Example think-aloud protocol, control: Eh, let’s see what’s still left, physics, fi física or something like that, on miércoles, I do physics, física, and I do physics once more on jueves in any case, jueve, what was it like? Jueves then I do it from 14 to 15 I do once more physics and then I’ve got only one left geography, geografía, I put that on jueves the 15th and 16th hour.
Preliminary results Q 1 Example think-aloud protocol, experimental: Ethics or geography, geography that is more suitable for a cab driver mathematics no, a cab driver does have to, he’s got a meter, mathematics should be there, because they also have to return change they have to be able to count, oh no, now I write it down in Dutch, matemáticas or something like that. Geography also belongs to cab driver, or not, I’m not sure anymore geografía.
Preliminary results Q 2 • ANCOVA: over-all effect for condition • Experimental group ourperforms control group • But: effect only significant at immediate post-test
Discussion • Multi-feature hypothesis as key for task effectiveness? • Effects of time-on-task and motivation? • Task-based testing for research purposes? • Also suitable for acquisition of language structure?