Language and Speech Laboratory

Task repetition and attention to form in collaborative writing

María Ángeles Hidalgo Gordo.


Collaborative writing has been claimed to provide multiple opportunities for second language (L2) learners to pool their linguistic resources and co-construct meaning. It also allows extra time to pay attention to language use, which may not be as available during oral-only tasks (Storch, 2016). Task repetition (TR) is another valuable practice to direct learners’ attention from meaning to form (Bygate & Samuda, 2005) and has been claimed to lead to improvements in general competence (Sample & Michel, 2014). Despite the increasing body of research on young learners’ L2 acquisition, most studies have focused on the oral mode, disregarding the impact oral interaction may have on the learners' final written output. The present study intends to fill this research niche by examining the oral production of 20 dyads of young learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) (age 11-12) while writing a collaborative text three times over a three-week period. Their oral production (7 hours and 18 minutes) was transcribed and coded and the frequency, nature and outcome of language-related episodes (LREs) (Swain & Lapkin, 1998) was tallied in two types of TR, namely exact TR (ETR) and procedural TR (PTR). Most LREs (76.76%) were form-focused (mainly addressing morphosyntactic aspects), collaboratively resolved, and their outcome was targetlike in both groups. As regards the effect of TR type, the results reveal a statistically significant decrease in the number of LREs at time 3 in the ETR group, whereas the LREs in the PTR group remained stable. The decrease during the ETR treatment was not completely unexpected as the learners had to repeat the exact same task three times with a one-week interval, which might have led to a drop in the participants’ motivation to complete the task, as indicated by some of their comments. These findings support previous research in EFL settings (García Mayo & Imaz Agirre, 2016) regarding the benefits of PTR for this particular age range as it may help to keep up learners’ motivation. The finding will be considered from a combined cognitive-sociocultural perspective. Bygate, M. and Samuda, V. (2005). Integrative planning through the use of task-repetition. In R. Ellis (Ed.), Planning and Task Performance in a Second Language (pp. 37-74). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. García Mayo, M.P. and Imaz Agirre, A. (2016). Task repetition and its impact on EFL children’s negotiation of meaning strategies and pair dynamics: an exploratory study. The Language Learning Journal, 44, (4), 451-466. Sample, E. and Michel, M. (2014). An exploratory study into trade-off effects of complexity, accuracy and fluency in young learners' oral task repetition. TESL Canada Journal, 31(Special Issue 8), 23-46. Storch, N. (2016). Collaborative writing. In R. Manchón & P.K. Matsuda (Eds.), Handbook of Second and Foreign Language Writing (pp. 387-406). De Gruyter Mouton. Swain, M. and Lapkin, S. (1998). Interaction and second language learning: Two adolescent French immersion students working together. Modern Language Journal, 82, 320-337.