Task repetition and its impact on EFL children's pair dynamics

Second Language Research Forum
New York

Research within socio-cultural theory has explored learners’ pair dynamics while they complete collaborative tasks. Storch (2009) proposed a model that classifies the interaction learners engage in into four types, namely, collaborative, expert/novice, dominant/dominant and dominant /passive, with the first two leading to positive effects on language learning as learners retain linguistic knowledge that is co-constructed. However, no research has been carried out on the effect of task repetition on pair dynamics. The main claim in the SLA literature (Bygate, 2006) is that giving learners the opportunity to repeat a task offers them the possibility of focusing their attention on meaning, the first time the task is performed, and on form upon task repetition. No claim has been made about whether or not task repetition would have an impact on learners’ pair dynamics, though.The present study aimed to fill this gap by analyzing the interaction of 60 dyads of Spanish EFL children while performing communicative tasks and assessing whether task repetition had an impact on pair dynamics. Fifty-four children (36 males, 18 females) in 3rd year primary (8-9 years old) and 66 children (44 males/22 females) in 4th year primary (9-10 years old), with a begnone proficiency level established by standardized tests (Young English Starters Cambridge Test), completed different tasks in dyads at two testing times. At Time 1 they completed a spot-the difference task; at Time 2 (after two months), 21 dyads repeated exactly the same task (task repetition group), 16 dyads completed a similar task with a different content (procedural repetition group) and the last 23 dyads completed a guessing game (control group). Their video-recorded oral production (approximately 17 hours) was transcribed in CHILDES (McWhinney, 2000) and codified for patterns of pair dynamics. Our findings indicate that (i) same-proficiency level children display age-dependent pair dynamics, with the 3rd year primary group exhibiting much more collaborative patterns than the 4th grade learners, who lacked mutual engagement, and (ii) procedural task repetition seems to enhance collaborative patterns. Pedagogical implications of task repetition for pair dynamics will also be considered