Studies in Second Language Acquisition

Research Articles

TASK COMPLEXITY, FOCUS ON FORM, AND SECOND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT

Andrea Révésza1 c1

a1 Lancaster University

Abstract

Tasks have received increased attention in SLA research for the past decade, as has the role of focus on form. However, few empirical studies have investigated the relationship among tasks, focus-on-form techniques, and second language (L2) learning outcomes. To help address this gap, the present study examined how the task variable +/− contextual support combined with the focus-on-form technique known as recasting affects L2 morphosyntactic development. The participants were 90 adult learners of English as a foreign language, randomly assigned to one of five groups: four comparison groups and a control group. The comparison groups differed as to (a) whether they received recasts while describing photos and (b) whether they could see the photos while describing them. The control group only participated in the testing sessions. A pretest-posttest-delayed posttest design was employed to detect any improvement in participants’ ability to use the linguistic target, which was the past progressive form. Results from multifaceted Rasch measurement yielded two main findings. First, learners who received recasts but did not view photos outperformed learners who received recasts while viewing photos. Second, the group that viewed photos but did not receive recasts achieved greater L2 gains than the group who neither viewed photos nor received recasts.

(Received September 17 2008)

Correspondence:

c1 Address correspondence to: Andrea Révész, Department of Linguistics and English Language, Bowland College, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT, UK; e-mail: a.revesz@lancaster.ac.uk.

Footnotes

I would like to thank ZhaoHong Han and James Purpura for their insightful comments on the research on which this article is based. I am also grateful to Alison Mackey, Monika Ekiert, Rebecca Sachs, Judit Kormos, and the five anonymous SSLA reviewers for their helpful suggestions on this article. Any errors, of course, are my own. This research was supported in part by the international research foundation for English language education (TIRF) and the Spencer foundation.

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