The Cognition Hypothesis of Task-based Language Learning:
Re-thinking for speaking, the Cognition Hypothesis, task classification and task sequencing Peter Robinson, Aoyama Gakuin University [email protected] The Cognition Hypothesis The fundamental pedagogic claim of the Cognition Hypothesis is that pedagogic tasks should be sequenced for learners in an order of increasing cognitive complexity. This promotes L2 development and improvements in the ability to perform target tasks in the L2. Such task sequences should form the task syllabus. The Triadic Componential Framework houses this claim in a taxonomy of task characteristics which aims to meet three purposes and satisfy three constraints. Three purposes of and constraints on a taxonomic system for L2 task
classification 1. The characteristics a task taxonomy describes should map on to, in conceptually coherent and descriptively adequate ways the behaviors involving language use identified by the needs analysis. 2. They should also be operationally feasible for task designers, using them to produce materials. 3. The characteristics, and taxonomic system structure should be motivated by a theory of how characteristics, and combinations of them, lead to learning and development of the L2 system, and the ability to act successfully using it. used in needs analysis used in materials design feasible
descriptively adequate task classification taxonomy theoretically motivated promotes language learning The Triadic Componential Framework Distinguishes three broad categories, and subcategories, of task characteristics 1) Task Complexity concerns cognitive factors affecting their intrinsic cognitive challenge (e.g., doing simple addition versus calculus). There are two subcategories of task complexity. Resource- directing variables make cognitive conceptual demands (e.g. + intentional reasoning) which direct learner attention and effort at
conceptualization in ways which the linguistic L2 system can help them meet (e.g., through the use cognitive state terms and complement constructionsshe suspected, believed, realized that, etc. to reason about mental states guiding behavior). In contrast Resource-dispersing variables make performative procedural demands which increase task complexity but without directing learner attention and effort at conceptualization to any particular aspects of language code (e.g. - planning time) 2) Task Condition concerns interactive factors divided into Participation variables making interactional demands (e.g. +/- one way flow) and Participant variables making interactant demands (+/- familiar) 3)Task Difficulty concerns factors contributing to between learner variation in learning and performing any one task (as differences in aptitude for math would likely differentiate learning and performing calculus for two learners) and these are divided into Ability variables and Affective variables
Concomitant theoretical claims of the Cognition Hypothesis Cycles of simple to complex pedagogic task demands will have the following effects Claim 1: Speech production. On resource-directing dimensions there will be increased accuracy, complexity and less fluency on complex (e.g., + reasoning/+ thereand-then) versus simpler tasks, as measured using general indices of production. On complex resourcedispersing dimensions (e.g., - planning time, - single task) all three will decrease. Claim 2: Measures of production. On resourcedirecting dimensions making cognitive/conceptual demands specific measures (motivated e.g., by cognitive linguistic, developmental, and SLA theory) may in some cases be more sensitive than general measures to increasing attempts at rethinking-forspeaking, on complex tasks, so as to match their conceptual demands to L2 linguistic resources. Claim 3: Interaction, uptake, memory and focus on form. Increasing task complexity on resource-directing, versus dispersing, dimensions will also lead to more opportunities for learning, and so greater amounts of interaction, uptake and long term memory for forms
made salient in the task-input through proactive (e.g., premodified input floods) and reactive (e.g. recasts) focus on form techniques. Claim 4: Individual differences task complexity interactions. On complex versions, on either type of dimension, individual differences in task-relevant cognitive abilities and affective factors will play a much greater role in dissipating the above claimed effects than on simpler versions. Claim 5: Access and analysis. Staged increases in the performative/ procedural demands of tasks promotes access to, control of, and automatization of existing L2 resources. Staged increases in the cognitive/conceptual demands of tasks promotes analysis, development and interlanguage change. Claim 6: Task sequencing. Procedural/performative demands of pedagogic tasks should first be increased in complexity, followed by increases in their cognitive/ conceptual demands.
Focus on Claims 1 & 2: Predictions for effects of task complexity on L2 production On Resource-directing dimensions Complex tasks will elicit more accurate, and complex, but less fluent production when compared to simpler versions On Resource-dispersing dimensions Complex tasks will elicit less accurate, complex and fluent production when compared to simpler versions But there will likely be synergies between the two types of variable e.g. stronger effects for resourcedirecting variables on complex tasks, when the task is simultaneously simple with respect to a resourcedispersing variable A psycholinguistic rationale for effects of resource-directing dimensions on TBLL In Levelt et al.s (1999) terms increased conceptual preparation for speech production that complex resourcedirecting dimensions implicate should promote paring down of lexical concepts for L2 lexical expression in the preverbal message leading to the increasing differentiation of L1/L2 lexical concepts. It should also promote checking and resetting of diacritic
parameters that have to be set for lemmas during lexical selection, and subsequent grammatical encoding, such as features for person, tense etc., for English verbs. Internal and external monitoring of self and other production encourages these processes, in response to communicative task demands. Some compatible rationales (1) Functional Language and Processing Mode (e.g. Givon) What is it that provokes a learner to further analysis of the input?acquisition is pushed by the communicative tasks which the learner takes part in (Perdue, 2003,p.53). Givon describes this in terms of the shift from a Pragmatic mode used in simple communicative tasks, early child L1 and SLA (characterized by 1. Topic comment structure 2. Loose coordination 3. Small chunks under one intonation contour 4. Low noun/verb ratio 5. No grammatical morphology) to a Syntactic mode used in complex communicative tasks, late child L1 and SLA (characterized by 1. Subject predicate structure 2. Tight subordination 3. Large chunks under one intonation
contour 4. High noun verb 5. Extensive grammatical morphology).Communicative tasks making complex cognitive/ conceptual demands should elicit syntactic mode features. Some compatible rationales (2) Developmental Parallels in Child and Adult Language Acquisition (e.g.ESF Project) Cromers Cognition Hypothesis proposed that in many domains L1 conceptual development pushed linguistic development, e.g., 1) from the ability to conceptualize the Here/Now -> There/Then which ushers in development of (past) tense and deictic systems; 2) from the ability to conceptualize topological relations of neighborhood and containment (next to, in) -> projective notions of location viewed from a fixed point which ushers in (in a fixed order) reference on the vertical (above, below), lateral (left/right) and sagital axes (front/back); 3) from belief/desire psychology -> having a theory of mind which ushers in the use of cognitive state terms and complex subordination, (think, know, suspect, that etc.)
In naturalistic adult SLA, similar sequences of linguistic development occur (Klein & Perdue, ESF project) Some compatible rationales (3) Conceptual Re-Thinking for Speaking (Slobin) Slobin (1993), discussing these parallels, specifically in the domain of spatial language, comments For the child the construction of the grammar and the construction of semantic/pragmatic concepts go hand-in-hand. For the adult construction of the grammar often requires a revision of semantic/pragmatic concepts, along with what may well be a more difficult task of perceptual identification of the relevant morphological elementthe parallels, though, cannot be attributed to the same underlying factors. In the case of L1A one appeals to cognitive development: the projective notions simply are not available to very young children. But in the case of ALA all of the relevant cognitive machinery is in place. Why then should learners have difficulty in discovering the necessary prepositions for spatial relations that they already command in their first language. There are at least two
possibilities (1) adult learners retain a scale of conceptual complexity, based on their own cognitive development, and at first search the target language for the grammatical marking of those notions which represent some primordial core of basicness or simplicity; and/or (2) these most basic notions are also used with greater frequency in the target language.It is likely that speakers, generally, have less recourse to the encoding of complex notions, and that the learners are simply reflecting the relative frequency of occurrence of various prepositions in the linguistic inputOr it may be that the complex relations are, indeed, communicated above some threshold of frequency and that learners gate them out due to their complexity.. (p. 243) Measuring effects of task complexity on L2 speech production and learning And so, what might we expect the effects of increasing
the complexity of task demands along resourcedirecting dimensions to be, following these rationales ? Givon effects- increasing complexity of communicative demands leads to general increases in grammaticization/ syntacticization (TLU, S nodes per T or C unit, etc.) Slobin effects- increasing complexity of conceptual demands leads to revision of specific semantic concepts and/or noticing how they are coded in language (based on greater attention to input, L1-L2 mismatches, and attention to output, in response to the effortful demands of the task). - this means task complexity can lead to rethinking for speaking in the conceptual domain the task involves- and progressing from simple to complex along resource-directing dimensions in some cases (e.g., here and now-> there and then) preserves the natural order in which function-form, concept-language relations are established in L1 development, recapitulating the sequence they are established in childhood
for adults. Summary: Some points of contrast between Robinson and Skehan I distinguish Task complexity, task condition, and task difficulty I distinguish resource-dispersing and resource-directing dimensions of cognitive complexity, and their effects on general and specific measures of production I argue tasks should be graded and sequenced on the basis of increases in cognitive complexity I argue increasing task complexity can lead to greater amounts of interaction, uptake of and memory for forms made salient in the input-so promoting learning I argue a taxonomic system for pedagogic task classification should be used not only in materials design, but in task sequencing decisions, syllabus design, and in mapping pedagogic tasks to characteristics of target tasks identified during needs analyses Task classification, sequencing and program
design The first session showed how I think the Cognition Hypothesis motivates the taxonomic structure of the Triadic Componential Frameworkfulfilling the purpose that pedagogic decisions based on the taxonomy lead to learning, under the constraint that those decisions are theoretically motivated. In what follows I describe principles that follow from the taxonomic structure described for task design, sequencing and syllabus construction. I also address the other two purposes of, and constraints on, a taxonomic description of tasks, i.e.,1) Characteristics it describes should map on to, in conceptually coherent and descriptively adequate ways the behaviors involving language use identified by the needs analysis; and 2) They should also be operationally feasible for task designers, using them to produce materials. Three levels of program design 1) The Cognition Hypothesis assumes behavior descriptions of needs, and target tasks for populations of
learners are the starting point for pedagogic task development (level 1), as illustrated in the following Figure. 2) Based on behavior descriptions the interactional and cognitive demands of target tasks are classified using the task characteristics distinguishing them in terms of participation/participant and resource-directing/dispersing variables. These classifications are the operational basis for pedagogic materials and syllabus design (level 2). 3) Preceding, or concurrently with instruction, learners abilities in various domains relevant to task demands are sampled and used to develop task-aptitude profiles, and individualized task-practice regimes (level 3). Stage, domain, analyses and outcomes of task classification and sequencing procedures Stage Domain Analyses
Outcomes Needs identification Real-world target language use and performance Behavior and discourse descriptive Target task and performancereferenced test specifications Syllabus design
Target task descriptions Informationtheoretic Pedagogic task sequences Learner assessment Pedagogic tasks Ability requirements Task aptitude profiles Principles of task sequencing The Cognition Hypothesis claims that sequencing tasks from simple to complex leads to learning and
development and also gains in automaticity since it facilitates the executive processes of scheduling, and coordinating the component demands of complex tasks (Sarno & Wickens, 1995). In this view, simple tasks can be seen as scaled worlds which preserve certain functional relationships of a complex task environment while paring away others, enabling each to be practiced separately, before being combined in complex task performance under real-world conditions. There are three principles and decision points for secquencing and syllabus design in this approach. Principle 1: Interactional demands are not graded and sequenced The task conditions, e.g., +/- one way flow, +/- equal status and role, are replicated each time pedagogic task versions are performed. A rationale for this, offered only briefly here, is that holding task conditions constant is important to ensuring transfer of training to real-world contexts. The more task conditions are practiced in pedagogic versions, the more elaborate and consolidated the scripts become
for real-world performance, and on which successful transfer will draw, outside the classroom. Cognitive demands of pedagogic tasks, however, are graded and sequenced. Simpler versions with respect to all relevant cognitive demand characteristics are performed first, and then task complexity (i.e., cognitive demands) is gradually increased on subsequent versions to target task levels. Task complexity is therefore the sole basis of pedagogic task sequencing. Principle 2. Resource-dispersing performative dimensions are first increased in complexity There are two stages in which task complexity is increased, and which are decision points for task and syllabus design. In each sequence of pedagogic tasks, relevant resource-dispersing variables are first increased in complexity (so if the target task requires dual task performance, without planning time, then planning time is provided, and the dual task characteristics are performed separately). The rationale for this is to first promote access to, and
consolidate the learners current L2 interlanguage system during performatively simple pedagogic tasks. Subsequently increasing performative/procedural demands to target task levels, thereby promotes increased automatic access to, and learner control over, the current system in responding to complex pedagogic task versions. Principle 3. Resource-directing developmental dimensions are then increased in complexity In the second stage, once the performative/procedural demands have reached target like levels, then cognitive/conceptual demands are gradually increased to target like levels. As described above, I argue these can direct learners attentional and memory resources to aspects of the L2 system needed to code increasingly complex concepts, and to meet increasingly complex functional
demands requiring their expression in language. This promotes analysis and development of the current interlanguage system. Increasing these demands should lead to more accurate and complex learner production, more noticing of task relevant input, and heightened memory for it, and so lead to more uptake of forms made salient in the input. This is basically a control then analysis and interlanguage redescription rationale. For example Task sequencing: A generic matrix First increase resource-dispersing, performative demands (the horizontal dimension from 1- 2) and then resource-directing, developmental demands (the vertical dimension from 3 - 4). + many elements + reasoning + There-and Then + many elements + reasoning
+ There-and Then + planning + prior knowledge + single task - planning -prior knowledge - single task 3 4 LOW PERFORMATIVE AND HIGH DEVELOPMENTA L COMPLEXITY HIGH PERFORMATIVE AND HIGH DEVELOPMENTA L COMPLEXITY
+ few elements + no reasoning + Here-and-Now + few elements + no reasoning + Here-and-Now + planning + prior knowledge + single task - planning - prior knowledge - single task 1 2
LOW PERFORMATIVE AND LOW DEVELOPMENT AL COMPLEXITY HIGH PERFORMATIVE AND LOW DEVELOPMENT AL COMPLEXITY A specific example:Increasingly cognitively complex versions of a direction giving map task Lets say the target task is to give passenger directions to a driver on how to find a location, using a road map, while driving through an unknown area. The first version performed is simple on all dimensions. Then the three resource-dispersing dimensions are each increased in complexity, and finally the resource-directing dimension. 2 3
4 Complex 5 planning time + (before speaking) single task + + (route marked) prior knowledge + + ( a familiar area) few elements + + (a small area) (simplified data/map)
- - - - - - + - - +
+ - Dimensions of complexity Simple 1 (authentic data/map) Selected issues for research - Do the Task Complexity characteristics described, and combinations of them on resource-directing and resource dispersing dimensions, result in the predicted effects on learning and performance across a wide variety of carrier content. One could look at this in terms of + intentional reasoning first with, and then without planning time for different content domains of intentional reasoning (summarizing a dispute during a business meeting about
contract terms versus summarizing a dispute during an office party about who should drive who home). - Are the task characteristics I have described operationally feasible during decisions about materials design and operationally reliable across different contexts and programs? - Are the task characteristics descriptively adequate to the job of reducing target task demands to pedagogic task versions? - Is sequencing increases in performative resourcedirecting dimensions of complexity first, followed by resource-directing dimensions the optimal option? What would be the learning and performance effects of the reverse choice? - How are the abilities contributing to successful task performance on the dimensions of cognitive complexity and interactional demands to be identified, and used in the assessment of task-aptitude profiles? - Do the task characteristics and pedagogic task sequences such as those described lead to transfer
of complex task performance outside the taskbased classroom? Cognition Hypothesis references Robinson, P. (1995a). Task complexity and second language narrative discourse. Language Learning, 45, 99-140. Robinson, P. (1995b). Attention, memory and the 'noticing' hypothesis. Language Learning, 45, 283-331. Robinson, P. (1996). (Ed.), Connecting tasks, cognition and syllabus design. Task complexity and second language syllabus deign: Data-based studies and speculations. pp. 1-15. University of Queensland Working Papers in Language and Linguistics (Special issue). Robinson, P. (2001a). Task complexity, task difficulty, and task production: Exploring interactions in a componential framework. Applied Linguistics, 22, 27-57. Robinson, P. (2001b). Task complexity, cognitive resources, and syllabus design: A triadic framework for investigating task influences on SLA. In P. Robinson (Ed.), Cognition and second language instruction, (pp. 287-318). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Robinson, P. (2001c). Individual differences, cognitive abilities, aptitude complexes, and learning conditions in SLA. Second Language Research, 17, 368-392. Robinson, P. (2003a). Attention and memory during SLA. In C. Doughty & M.H.Long (Eds.), Handbook of second language acquisition, (pp.631-678). Oxford: Blackwell. Robinson, P. (2003b). The Cognition Hypothesis, task design and adult task-based language learning. Second Language Studies, 21, (2), 45-107. Robinson, P. (2005a). Cognitive complexity and task sequencing: A review of studies in a Componential Framework for second language task design. International Review of Applied Linguistics, 43,1-32. Robinson, P. (2005b). Aptitude and second language acquisition. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 25, 46-73. Robinson, P. (2007a). Criteria for classifying and sequencing pedagogic tasks. In M.P. Garcia Mayo (Ed.), Investigating tasks in formal language learning, (pp. 7-27). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Robinson, P. (2007b). Aptitudes, abilities, contexts and practice. In R.M. DeKeyser (Ed.), Practice in second language learning: Perspectives from applied linguistics and cognitive psychology. (pp. 256-286). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Robinson, P. (2007c). Task complexity, theory of mind, and intentional reasoning: Effects on speech production, interaction, uptake and perceptions of task difficulty. In P. Robinson, & R. Gilabert (Eds.), Task complexity, the Cognition Hypothesis and second language instruction. Guest-edited special issue. International Review of Applied Linguistics 45, 193-215. Berlin: Mouton DeGruyter. Robinson, P. (in press). Syllabus design. In M.H. Long & C. Doughty (Eds.), Handbook of second and foreign language teaching. Oxford: Blackwell. Robinson, P. & Ellis, N.C. (2008). Conclusions: Cognitive Linguistics, Second Language Acquisition and L2 instruction-Issues for research. In P.Robinson & N.C.Ellis (Eds.), The Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition, (pp. 489-546). London: Routledge. Robinson, P. & Gilabert, R. (2007a). Task complexity, the Cognition Hypothesis and second language learning and performance. In P. Robinson, & R. Gilabert (Eds.), Task complexity, the Cognition Hypothesis and second language instruction. Guest-edited special issue International Review of Applied Linguistics 45, 161-177. Berlin: Mouton DeGruyter. Robinson, P., & Gilabert, R. (2007b). (Eds.), Task complexity, the Cognition Hypothesis and second language instruction. Guest-edited special issue International Review of Applied Linguistics . Berlin: Mouton DeGruyter. Robinson, P., Ting, S.C-C., & Urwin, J. (1995). Investigating second language task complexity. RELC Journal, 26, 62-79.
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