Chapter 3. Task readiness

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The construct of planning, operationalized as strategic planning, rehearsal and on-line planning (Ellis 2009), has been much studied in the task-based language teaching literature. These forms of planning could be thought of as task-external readiness in which extra preparatory time is provided for learners to focus their attention on certain performance areas. This chapter proposes a theoretical framework of task-readiness as an extension to planning so that task research in planning could broaden its horizons from a task-external perspective to also include a task-internal perspective, that is, familiarity with aspects of a task.To examine the relationship between task-external and task internal readiness, this study explores the effects of topic familiarity (task-internal readiness), strategic planning (task-external readiness), and proficiency levels (an individual difference) in a 2 × 2 × 2 split-plot factorial design. The results show that both topic familiarity and strategic planning promoted more fluent language, but strategic planning was a stronger form of task-readiness as indicated by its effect sizes. In contrast, topic familiarity induced more accurate performance from the participants, while planning was associated with significantly higher complexity. Proficiency seemed to be positively related to formal accuracy rather than to fluency as higher proficiency participants always scored higher in accuracy and sometimes in complexity, but not so much in fluency. These findings suggest that though task-internal readiness and task-external readiness share common factors in rendering assistance to learners, they differ in their influence on various performance areas as well as the magnitude of the effects. All this lends support to the differentiation between task-external and task-internal readiness, and to the notion of task-readiness as a contextualizing framework for relevant task research. Based on the theoretical discussion and empirical results, pedagogical implications are also outlined in this chapter.


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