How does task repetition affect students’ performance? Evidence from 3 pairs of EFL young learners.
Several studies have shown that interaction facilitates language acquisition and have claimed that the repetition of interactive tasks, which can include repeating the same content and/or the same procedure, favours the internalization of linguistic forms, thus further enhancing the benefits of interaction alone (Mackey, Kanganas and Oliver, 2007). However, most of the existing literature refers to studies dealing with adults or children ESL learners while studies on children EFL learners, a population of remarkable expansion (Pinter, 2007, Cameron 2003), are scarce (García Mayo and Lázaro, 2013; Lázaro and Azpilicueta, 2013; Pinter, 2007). The aim of the present study is to test the impact of task repetition on the linguistic production of three pairs of Spanish EFL learners who belong to three age groups ( 8, 9 and 11 year-olds). The three pairs had to resolve a picture placement game three times over a period of three weeks. Every time they played the game, the procedure was repeated while the content changed slightly. Our analysis focused on the effects of task repetition on the students’ ability to perform the task autonomously, on the interactional strategies they use, on their accuracy, on their fluency, and on their use of the L1. In addition to this, the three pairs were also compared searching for possible differences attributable to their age. Results show that the learners were able to perform the tasks autonomously in the three sessions, although the younger ones showed more difficulties in completing the task. Repetition did not seem to have an important effect on their use of negotiation strategies, since no significant differences were found from one task to the next in the three pairs. On the contrary, a timid trend towards more fluency was reported and the three pairs gained effectiveness in completing the task as they became familiar with its procedure. Regarding accuracy, the number of errors dropped in the older group but none of the error types from task one were corrected. Also, some clear differences related to age and level were found in question formation. As for the use they made of their L1, the most relevant finding was that they resorted to their L1 only scarcely and mainly with off-task functions, being the youngest pair the one which made a bigger use. Moreover, most of the L1 samples were found in the first session suggesting that task repetition led to a lesser use of the L1.In light of these results, the influence of task repetition combined with age and level, as well as the suitability of this practice for the EFL class will be discussed. Specifically, we recommend this as a successful way of working with communicative tasks in order to promote oral production in the classroom thus helping students more successfully with the acquisition of a foreign language.