Edited by Zhisheng (Edward) Wen and Mohammad Javad Ahmadian
[Task-Based Language Teaching 13] 2019
► pp. 15–38
Chapter 1. Task preparedness
The role of pre-task options in task-based language teaching has received considerable attention, most notably in the work of Peter Skehan. They constitute implementation variables that affect the complexity, accuracy and fluency (CAF) of language production and also, potentially language, development. Initially researchers focused on one preparedness option – pre-task planning – but subsequently broadened this to include within-task planning and rehearsal (i.e. task repetition). More recently a wider range of preparedness options have been investigated, including the pre-teaching of language and topic familiarity. This chapter reviews research on these different options, expanding the survey in Ellis (2005; 2009). In the case of rehearsal, I conclude that it enhances fluency and complexity but is only likely to lead to greater accuracy when combined with some other option such as form-focused instruction between repetitions. Pre-task planning is a complex activity that can vary in a number of ways – for example, the amount of time allocated to it and whether it is guided or unguided – and its impact on task performance depends on learner factors such as working memory. Overall, pre-task planning has been shown to lead to greater fluency and complexity but is less likely to enhance accuracy. Online planning has a powerful effect on how a task is performed, resulting in both increased accuracy and complexity. Relatively little research has investigated how pre-task instruction affects performance of a task but there is some evidence that it can result in increased accuracy albeit with a possible negative impact on fluency and complexity. The chapter concludes with some suggestions for future research, in particular the need to investigate the cognitive and affective processes involved when learners engage with different kinds of preparedness activities and how these processes relate to task performance, and also the impact that task options have on language development as well as language production.
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