Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Impact of Using Open Tasks vs. Closed Tasks on Iranian Intermediate Efl Learners' Writing Paragraph

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Impact of Using Open Tasks vs. Closed Tasks on Iranian Intermediate Efl Learners' Writing Paragraph

Article excerpt


Writing is one of the most important productive activities in order to learn a foreign language. Although writing is often relegated to homework and takes place in unsupported conditions of learning, it's obvious that through exchanging ideas, discussion, collaboration and feedback, learners get valuable opportunities for improvement in writing.

According to Nunan (1999), " in terms of skills, producing a coherent, fluent, extended piece of writing, is probably the most difficult thing which is to do in languages. It is something most native speakers never master". Moreover, some translation of the writings of Iranian learners may appear to be word for word translation of the Persian language structure into English. In the process of writing, learners may make errors rooted in their mother tongue.(Yarmohammadi, 2000)

As Richards and Renandya believe, there is no doubt that writing is the most difficult skill for second language learners to master. The difficulty lies not only in generating and organizing ideas but also in translating those ideas into meaningful texts. Tasks are, therefore, fundamental in learning to write and represent a central aspect of the teacher's planning and delivery of a writing course. The tasks teachers assign will help students to learn from their experience, to develop an understanding of the text and to control their writing skill.

Writing needs practicing and internalizing a set of structures that can promote a balanced development of learners' fluency, accuracy, and complexity in the target language. As Skehan emphasizes, "the more the task is planned, the less computational work needs to be done during the task performance. Things being equal, the result is more, when attention is given as a general tool to achieve a variety of goals such as greater fluency, accuracy, and complexity" (p. 73). He also distinguishes three aspects of linguistic performance: (a) Fluency, which is concerned with the learners' capacity to produce language in real time withou t any pauses or hesitations. Fluency is measured in different ways, such as speech rate, length of the run, pause length, false starts repetitions, and reformulating; (b) Accuracy, which is the extent to which the language produced conforms to the target language norms. There are different researches to accuracy either as an error free piece of language or accurate use of specific forms (Skehan and Foster, 1997); and, (c) Complexity which is the elaboration of the language produced by EFL learners. Researchers usually measure complexity by relating how much subordination is used per T-units or C- units.

Review of literature

At the beginning of the 21st century, writing classrooms have achieved a more balanced perspective of composition theory. Consequently, new pedagogy has begun to develop traditional teachers-centered approaches into more learner-centered courses so academic writing was viewed as communicative social act.

Based on a widely accepted categorization, writing tasks in second/foreign language classes are either real-world tasks, which are directly based on the learners' communicative goals, or pedagogic tasks which are designed to develop students' genre knowledge and composing skills.

Many pedagogic tasks aim to promote discrete skills, such as improving punctuation, developing prewriting abilities, or increasing an understanding of rhetorical forms. These tasks are selected on the basis of meta-cognitive criteria, or what students need to know in order to build the competence required to accomplish real-world objectives on later stages.

Pedagogical tasks provide a vehicle for the presentation of appropriate target language samples to learners and for the delivery of comprehension and production opportunities of negotiable difficulty. Murphy emphasizes the fact that communicative tasks may be chosen and implemented so that particular pedagogical outcomes are achieved. …

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