Edited by Andrea E. Tyler, Lourdes Ortega, Mariko Uno and Hae In Park
[Language Learning & Language Teaching 49] 2018
► pp. 187–210
Chapter 9. The role of ‘roles’ in task-design
An exploration of framing as a feature of tasks
An important strand of research in the field of Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) has aimed to better understand the variables of task-design which render different tasks more or less effective in facilitating L2 acquisition (e.g., Pica, Kanagy, & Falodun, 1993). The current study aimed to investigate an as-yet little-studied dimension of tasks, the phenomenon of framing. Framing derives from Goffman’s (1974) notion of activity frames, the idea that any stretch of human activity is organized by certain rules and principles to which people “fit their actions” including, crucially, their language. Framing thus represents a basic element of what speakers perceive as the context of a given interaction (Gumperz & Cook-Gumperz, 2012). Framing therefore varies as the social purpose of interaction varies, which in turn should have an impact on the quality of interactions a given task yields. The study reveals that, while the particular manipulation in framing of learner’s talk featured had little effect on negotiation for meaning as traditionally measured (cf. Long, 1980), it had a marked impact on (1) the amount and quality of assistance learners provided each other in conversation, measured in co-constructions, other-corrections and continuers (Foster & Ohta, 2005), and (2) the type of questions produced, with one of the two experimental groups asking substantially more content questions, maintaining a highly argumentative dialogue. The construct of framing is thus seen as a potentially exploitable feature of task design, and one that is promising in moving TBLT closer to usage-inspired thinking about L2 instruction.