Planning and production in computer-mediated communication (CMC) writing

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A growing body of research has documented the effect of pre-task and online planning on second language task-based production (e.g. Ellis 2005; Ortega 1999; Yuan & Ellis 2003). However, relatively little research has addressed the effects of planning time on written communication and none to date has considered the role of planning in computer-mediated task-based writing. The current study investigates the effect of planning on the task-based writing of 45 Malaysian civil engineering majors studying at a technical university and enrolled in courses focusing on English for professional communication. The students were divided into teams of three and linked via networked computers. Each team member was provided with information on a civil engineering scenario and asked to write a proposal via a wiki for the best type of equipment to use. The text from the wiki pages formed the data for the current study. The teams were grouped into three experimental conditions: pre-task planning, online planning, and no planning. Multiple measures of fluency, accuracy, and complexity of their language production were analyzed. The results showed that different types of planning promoted different aspects of written production and therefore different learning opportunities. Overall, this study contributes to the aims of the book of expanding the research base on the connection between TBLT and language development by providing evidence for how task implementation options influence the language learning opportunities available in CMC-based writing tasks.


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