Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Korean EFL Learners' Perspectives on Speaking Tasks: Discussion, Summary, and Information-Exchange Tasks

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Korean EFL Learners' Perspectives on Speaking Tasks: Discussion, Summary, and Information-Exchange Tasks

Article excerpt


This study investigates Korean university English as Foreign Language (EFL) learners' task preference among three different speaking tasks. Quantitative data were collected through questionnaires and qualitative data were collected from interviews. Quantitative datawere obtained from 88 survey respondents and qualitative data from 50 interview participants. Two sets of identical questionnaires were used before and after the semester in which the study took place. Learners were askedto rate their degrees of task preference and their levels of task interest and task satisfaction in the classroom. The results show that "Discussion task" is the most preferred task type among the three different speaking tasks: "Discussion task," "Information-exchange task," and "Summary task." However, learners report that "Information-exchange task" is the most difficult and their topic preference for the "Information-exchange task" is the lowest. In terms of the correlations between topic preference and speaking performance, moderate levels of positive correlations are shown. The findings suggest that task-based learningshould be widely utilized inuniversity-level EFL classrooms.

Keywords: learners' task-preference, task-interest and task-usefulness, learners' motivation, discussion task, summary task, information-exchange task

1. Introduction

Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) is considered an important teaching method in EFL classrooms, and several researchers have investigated the use of tasks in classrooms (Brown, 2004; Bygate, 1996; Ortega, 1999; Thombury, 2005; Wendel, 1997; Wigglesworth, 1997). Within TBLT, speaking tasks are gaining popularity, and it is critical to understand task preference for university-level students among different task types. Task preference not only can motivate students' speaking performance but also reduce unnecessary time to explain irrelevant task types. Additionally, the goal of the university-level classroom is to meet students' expectation in class, so it is wise to use the most preferred task type to improve students' speaking performance in a limited time. Learners' perspectives have been largely ignored in the classroom implementation of different speaking tasks, such as "Discussion tasks," "Summary tasks," and "Information-exchange tasks." In studies considering the relationship between speaking tasks and learners' level, the perspectives and experiences of learners have been largely excluded while the central focus has been on teachers.

"Discussion task" is one of the most widely used methods of measuring learners' second language oral proficiency in language teaching (Hilsdon, 1991; Hohamy, Reves, & Ejarano, 1986; Swain, 2001; van Lier, 1989; Young & He, 1998). "Discussion task" can also be referred to as "Opinion-exchange task" because these two tasks permit a number of possible outcomes related to the topic (Ellis, 2003). An opinion gap (Samuda & Bygate, 2008) involves the identification/articulation of personal preferences, attitudes, and/or responses to given information. Although more language teachers are using "Discussion tasks" to evaluate learners' speaking proficiency, only a small number of studies have carefully investigated the use of "Discussion tasks" as a test format (Bonk & Ockey, 2003; Brooks, 2009; May, 2009; Swain, 2001).

In contrast, a "Summary task" is a controlled task and the outcomes may be different from the quality of the suggested passage. Though the "Summary task" has long been considered a critical pedagogical exercise (Dalgleish, 1988; Fielden, 1950; Seidlhofer, 1995), it has also been considered a necessary skill to acquire and develop in an EFL setting (Johns, 1988; Johns & Mayes, 1990). However, no previous researchhas been conductedto validatethe "Summary task" as a measure of speaking competence among Korean EFL students.

Several researchers have suggested that the "Information-exchange task" is a mechanical task that focuses on lexical items (Nakahaman, Tyler, & van Lier, 2001; Newton, 1991). …

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