Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Effect of Integrated and Independent Tasks on English Foreign Language Learners' Writing Ability

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Effect of Integrated and Independent Tasks on English Foreign Language Learners' Writing Ability

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Writing is considered as the most difficult skill for language learners because they need to have a certain amount of L2 background knowledge about the rhetorical organizations, appropriate language use or specific lexicon with which they want to communicate to their readers. Beside, writing is one of the most important skills in learning a foreign language the nature of which has become clearer nowadays. It involves the development of an idea, the capture of mental representations of knowledge, and of experience with subjects (Casanave & Hubbard, 1992).

In fact, the field of second language writing is an area affecting the lives of many people at institutions around the world where they must submit high quality written work in a language they did not learn as native speakers. However, measuring writing ability, especially writing ability in a second language (L2), is never an easy task. Considering the role of writing in higher education, the writing ability of L2 writers is very likely to be evaluated in large-scale tests to make decisions as to their preparedness for postsecondary study. In order to be able to write effectively one should have sufficient knowledge of what to write and how to organize the language. Nunan (2001) considers that being able to produce a piece of writing which is coherent, fluent and extended is the most difficult thing to do in language. Writing is a special skill that even native speakers may not master it.

2. Review of the related literature

2.1. The definition of the task

In teaching, it is an activity which is designed to help achieve a particular learning goal. A number of dimensions of tasks influence their use in language teaching. These include:

Goals - the kind of goals teachers and learners identify for a task procedures - the operations or procedures learners use to complete a task

Order - the location of a task within a sequence of other tasks pacing - the amount of time that is spent on a task

Product - the outcome or outcomes students produce, such as a set of questions, an essay, or a summary as the outcome of a reading task

Learning strategy - the kind of strategy a student uses when completing a task

Assessment - how success on the task will be determined participation - whether the task is completed individually, with a partner, or with a group of other learners

The concept of task is central to many theories of classroom teaching and learning, and the school curriculum is sometimes described as a collection of tasks. From this viewpoint, school work is defined by a core of basic tasks that recur across different subjects in the curriculum. The teacher's choice of tasks determines learning goals, how learning is to take place, and how the results of learning will be demonstrated. In second language teaching, the use of a variety of different kinds of tasks is said to make teaching more communicative (see communicative approach) since it provides a purpose for a classroom activity which goes beyond the practice of language for its own sake (Richards & Schmidt, 2010).

2.2. Independent writing task

Independent writing tasks are believed to offer a more valid demonstration of underlying writing ability in comparison to indirect writing assessment (e.g., multiple choice items) as they elicit actual writing performance rather than working on morphological and syntactic aspects of the target language (Camp, 1993) similar to what is expected in most of the indirect methods. Nevertheless, independent tasks have been criticized by many researchers (Gebril & Plakans, 2009; Plakans, 2008; Gebril, 2006; Weigle, 2002, 2004; Cho, 2003; Cumming, Kantor, Powers, Santos, & Taylor, 2000; Leki & Carson, 1997; Hamp-Lyons & Kroll,1996). Given this criticism, integrated tasks have been regarded as an alternative component in writing tests.

2.3. Integrated writing task

Integrated writing tasks put forward an authentic measure for the writing skill (Cumming et al. …

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