Skip to main content

A priori assessment of language learning tasks by practitioners

  • Gerard J. Westhoff (a1)

Teachers' competence to estimate the effectiveness of learning materials is important and often neglected in programmes for teacher education. In this lecture I will try to explore the possibilities of designing scaffolding instruments for a priori assessment of language learning tasks, based on insights from SLA and cognitive psychology, more specifically connectionist theory. I will subsequently outline the development and evaluation of a ‘yardstick’ to judge complex, integrated, life-like tasks, such as WebQuests. The possibilities will be explored of performing in-depth a priori task analyses as a learning task for teachers in order to enhance their competence in making ‘educated guesses’ about task effectiveness. Finally, an experiment will be described to determine the reliability and validity of an instrument for in-depth analysis of language learning tasks based on the theoretical framework previously described.

Hide All
Anderson, J. R. (2004). Cognitive psychology and its implications (6th edn.). New York: Worth.
Baddeley, A. D. (1997). Human memory: Theory and practice (revised edn.). Hove: Psychology Press.
Baddeley, A. D. (2001). Is working memory still working? American Psychologist 56, 849864.
Baddeley, A. D. (2007). Working memory, thought, and action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bereiter, C. (1991). Implications of connectionism for thinking about rules. Educational Researcher 20, 1016.
Bereiter, C. (2002). Liberal education in a knowledge society. In Smith, B. (ed.), Liberal education in a knowledge society. Peru, IL: Carus, 1134.
Bialystok, E. (1990). Communication strategies. Oxford: Blackwell.
Breen, M. P. (1987). Language learning tasks. In Candlin, C. N. & Murphy, D. F. (eds.), Learner contributions to task design. London: Prentice Hall, 523.
Brown, H. D. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching (4th edn.). White Plains, NY: Pearson.
Burgess, J. & Etherington, S. (2002). Focus on grammatical form: Explicit or implicit. System 3.4, 433458.
Bygate, M., Skehan, P. & Swain, M. (eds.) (2001). Researching pedagogic tasks: Second language learning, teaching and testing. Harlow: Pearson.
Carroll, D. W. (2004). Psychology of language (4th edn.). London: Wadsworth.
Council of Europe (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
De Bot, K. (1996). The psycholinguistics of the output hypothesis. Language Learning 46.3, 529555.
DeKeyser, R. M. (2003). Implicit and explicit learning. In Doughty, & Long, (eds.), 313–348.
DeKeyser, R. M. (2005). What makes learning second language grammar difficult? A review of issues. Language Learning 55.1, 125.
Dodge, B. (1995). Some thoughts about WebQuests.
Doughty, C. J. (2003). Instructed SLA: Constraints, compensation and enhancement. In Doughty, & Long, (eds.), 256–310.
Doughty, C. J. & Long, M. H. (eds.) (2003). Handbook of second language acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Doughty, C. J. & Williams, J. (eds.) (1998). Focus on form in classroom second language acquisition. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Driessen, C. (2003). Analyzing textbook tasks and the professional development of foreign language teachers. Utrecht: WCC.
Driessen, C., Westhoff, G., Haenen, J. & Brekelmans, M. (2008). A qualitative analysis of language learning tasks: The design of a tool. Journal of Curriculum Studies 40.1, 118.
Ellis, R. (1986). Understanding second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ellis, R. (1990). Instructed second language acquisition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gasser, M. (1990). Connectionism and universals of second language acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 12.2, 179199.
Greeno, J. G. & Simon, H. A. (1993). Situativity and symbols: Response to Vera and Simon. Cognitive Science 17, 4.
Housen, A. & Pierrard, M. (eds.) (2005). Investigations in instructed second language acquisition. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
Johnson, K. (1982). Communicative syllabus design and methodology. Oxford: Pergamon.
Klausmeier, H. J. & Allen, P. S. (1978). Cognitive development of children and youth: A longitudinal study. New York: Academic Press.
Krashen, S. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. London: Longman.
Landis, J. R. & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics 33, 159174.
Lightbown, P. M. & Spada, N. (1999). How languages are learned (revised edn.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Little, D. (2007). The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Perspectives on the making of supranational language educational policy. The Modern Language Journal 91.4, 645655.
Littlemore, J. (2001). An empirical study of the relationship between cognitive style and the use of communication strategy. Applied Linguistics 22.2, 241265.
Long, M. (1991). Focus on form: A design feature in language teaching methodology. In Bot, K. D., Ginsberg, R. & Kramsch, C. (eds.), Foreign language research in cross-cultural perspective. Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins, 4052.
Lyons, J. (1968). Introduction to theoretical linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marsden, W. E. (2001). The school textbook: Geography, history and social studies. London: Woburn Press.
Matos, G. de (2000). Teachers as textbook evaluators: An interdisciplinary checklist. IATEFL Issues 157, 79.
McClelland, J. L., Rumelhart, D. E. & Hinton, G. E. (1986). The appeal of parallel distributed processing. In McClelland, J. L. & Rumelhart, D. E. (eds.), Parallel distributed processing: Explorations in the ministructure of cognition (vol. 1). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/Bradford Books, 344.
McLaughlin, B. (1987). Theories of second-language learning. London: Edward Arnold.
Mitchell, R. & Myles, F. (2004). Second language learning theories (2nd edn.). London & NewYork: Arnold.
Moonen, M. (2008). Testing the multi-feature hypothesis: Tasks mental action and second language acquisition. Utrecht: IVLOS Series.
Moonen, M., De Graaff, R. & Westhoff, G. J. (2006). Focused tasks, mental actions and second language teaching: Cognitive and connectionist accounts of task effectiveness. ITL – International Journal on Applied Linguistics (special issue: Task-based Language Teaching) 152, 3555.
Myles, F., Hooper, J. & Mitchell, R. (1998). Rote or rule? Exploring the role of formulaic language in classroom foreign language learning. Language Learning 48.3, 323362.
Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nobuyoshi, J. & Ellis, R. (1993). Focussed communication tasks and second language acquisition. ELT Journal 47, 203210.
Norris, J. & Ortega, L.. (2000). Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis. Language Learning 50.3, 417528.
Plunkett, K. (1998). Language acquisition and connectionism. In Plunkett, K. (ed.), Language acquisition and connectionism. Hove: Psychology Press, 97105.
Poulisse, N. (1990). The use of compensatory strategies by Dutch learners of English. Dordrecht: Foris.
Richards, J. C. & Rodgers, T. S. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd edn.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rumelhart, D. E. (1980). Schemata: The building blocks of cognition. In Spiro, R. J., Bruce, B. C. & Brewer, W. S. (eds.), Theoretical issues in reading comprehension: Perspectives from cognitive psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence, and education. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 3358.
Rumelhart, D. E. & Ortony, A. (1977). The representation of knowledge in memory. In Anderson, R. C., Spiro, R. J. & Montague, W. E. (eds.), Schooling and the acquisition of knowledge. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, 99135.
Schmitt, N. & Carter, R. (2004). Formulaic sequences in action: An introduction. In Schmitt, N. (ed.), Formulaic sequences: Acquisition, processing and use. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 122.
Schmitt, N., Dörnyei, Z., Adolphs, S. & Durow, V. (2004). Knowledge and acquisition of formulaic sequence: A longitudinal study. In Schmitt, N. (ed.), Formulaic sequences: Acquisition, processing and use. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 5586.
Skehan, P. (1998). A cognitive approach to language learning. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Spada, N. (1997). Form-focussed instruction and second language acquisition: A review of classroom and laboratory research. Language Teaching 30, 7387.
Swain, M. (1995). Three functions of output in second language learning. In Cook, G. & Seidlhofer, B. (eds.), Principles and practice in applied linguistics: Studies in honour of H. G. Widdowson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 125144.
Swain, M. & Lapkin, S. (1995). Problems in output and the cognitive processes they generate: A step towards second language learning. Applied Linguistics 16, 371391.
Swain, M. & Lapkin, S. (2001). Focus on form through collaborative dialogue: Exploring task effects. In Bygate, et al. (eds.), 99–118.
Toth, P. D. (2006). Processing instruction and a role for output in second language acquisition. Language Learning 56.2, 319385.
Wesche, M. (1993). Discipline-based approaches to language study: Research issues and outcomes. In Krueger, M. & Ryan, F. (eds.), Language and content. Lexington, MA.: D. C. Heath, 8095.
Westhoff, G. J. (1991a). Increasing the effectiveness of foreign language reading instruction (part 1). ADFL Bulletin 22.2, 2936.
Westhoff, G. J. (1991b). Increasing the effectiveness of foreign language reading instruction (part 2). ADFL Bulletin 22.3, 2832.
Westhoff, G. J. (2004). The art of playing a pinball machine: Characteristics of effective SLA tasks. Babylonia 12.3, 5863.
Westhoff, G. J. (2007). Challenges and opportunities of the CEFR for reimagining foreign language pedagogy. The Modern Language Journal 91.4, 676679.
Willis, J. (1996). A framework for task-based learning. Baisingstoke: Longman.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Language Teaching
  • ISSN: 0261-4448
  • EISSN: 1475-3049
  • URL: /core/journals/language-teaching
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed