Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Impact of Task Complexity along Single Task Dimension on Efl Iranian Learners' Written Production: Structural Complexity

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Impact of Task Complexity along Single Task Dimension on Efl Iranian Learners' Written Production: Structural Complexity

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

Over the past decades, there was a growing interest in the role of tasks in second language learning and teaching. Structural/syntactic complexity is defined as the ability of the learners to generate more structurally complex language which is "at the upper limits of... [one's] interlanguage" (Ortega, 1999, p. 130). Researchers tend to identify the variables of the tasks that are important when designing tasks. Robinson (2001a, 2001b, 2003, 2005, 2007a, 2007b) identifies various elements of task complexity which he argues to be the sole basis in sequencing decisions in task-based syllabus design. Recently, the effect of task characteristics on learners' language production and development is hotly debated. Out of these controversies over the sequence and assessment of tasks (Robinson, 2005; Skehan, 1998), a new area of research (i.e., information processing research) has been arisen, which generally focuses on the role of attention (Skehan, 1996) and the central executive processing (Carroll, 2008) in learning and deals with the manipulation of various features of the tasks and the investigation of its effect on linguistic performance, especially different aspects of production. However, the findings of these studies have not been conclusive; they suggest that more complex tasks positively impact linguistic performance in general, yet more specific findings related to both accuracy and syntactic complexity only partially supported the cognition hypothesis (e.g., promoting either complexity or accuracy). In Iran, there is not enough opportunity to be exposed to the English language due to the fact that English is not used outside the classroom; therefore, it is up to teacher, syllabus designers, and materials developers to provide tasks with different conditions and characteristics to fill this gap. However, this purpose required a lot of research. This study might be a good contribution to them in this regard.

The significance of this study is that task conditions and features exert an influence on directing attention towards the formulation processes. This demonstrates the significance of investigating task conditions and their impact on attention while L2 writing being accomplished. Nonetheless, some task conditions, due to various unknown reasons, have not received the attention they deserved, and one of them is + single task from Robinson's (2005) framework. The main strong claim of this approach is that it can activate the cognitive and acquisitional processes while learners are busy performing tasks and accomplishing their goals (Skehan, 2003). Recently, the effect of task characteristics on learners' language production and development is hotly debated (Bygate, 1999; Ellis, 2003; Robinson, 2003, 2005; Schmidt, 2001; Skehan & Foster, 2001; Tavakoli & Skehan, 2008). Another motivation for conducting this study is theoretically-based. Therefore, the purpose of this paper was to review the recent research into the task complexity on Iranian EFL learners' L2 structural/syntactic complexity.

2.Review of literature

In recent years, there has been an increasing amount of literature on task-based language teaching. Various studies have been conducted to examine the different dimensions and their effect on the actual performance of L2 learners (such as Iwashita, Elder, & McNamara, 2001; Masrom, Daud, & Alwi, 2015; Ortega, 1999; Rahimpour, 2007; RimaniNikou, & Eskandarsefat, 2012; Skehan & Foster, 1997; Wigglesworth, 1997; Yuan & Ellis, 2003; Van Waes, & Leijten, 2015). Even some of these studies have been designed to zero in on the synergistic effects of some dimensions together (such as Farahani & Meraji, 2011; Izadpanah & Shajeri, 2014, 2016; Kuiken & Vedder, 2008; Sotoudehnama & Farahanynia, 2014). Tasks are nowadays "the potential building blocks of second language instruction" (Richards & Rodgers, 2001, p. 223), and knowing their exact nature is of paramount importance. …

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