Computer-mediated task-based language learning and teaching: Exploring the impact of novel tasks  on language production

Supervisor: Dr Zöe Handley

A) Rationale for the project

Selecting and grading tasks is one of the most significant challenges in implementing task-based language learning. In response to this challenge, a large body of research has examined the impact of task design variables and implementation factors on learner interaction and the quality of the language they produce. As new communication technologies have emerged, researchers have also begun to investigate the unique features of these modes of communication on task-based interaction and learner language production. New communication technologies also bring about new real world tasks and new ways of designing and implementing language learning tasks. For example, within the literature on business communication, a number of in-box simulations, i.e. email tasks, have been proposed. In this project you will explore the impact of some of these new ways of designing and implementing language learning tasks on the quality of the language they produce.

B) References that should be read (if you do not have access to these, please email

Ellis, R. (2000). Task-based research and language pedagogy. Language teaching research, 4(3), 193-220.

Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Chapters 3 and 4 in particular]

Foster, P., Tonkyn, A., & Wigglesworth, G. (2000). Measuring spoken language: A unit for all reasons. Applied linguistics, 21(3), 354-375.

Foster, P., & Wigglesworth, G. (2016). Capturing accuracy in second language performance: The case for a weighted clause ratio. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 36, 98-116.

Greenberg, D and Rollag, K (2005). Chris Pierce and the Yankee Donut Company: An E-mail Based Management Simulation. Journal of Management Education, 29(4): 564

Newman, A. (2007). Real-time computer-mediated communication: Email and instant messaging simulation. Business Communication Quarterly, 70(4), 466-470.

Yuan, F., & Ellis, R. (2003). The effects of pre‐task planning and on‐line planning on fluency, complexity and accuracy in L2 monologic oral production. Applied linguistics, 24(1), 1-27.

C) Research aims / questions

This project will explore the impact of new ways of designing and implementing language learning tasks on the quality of the language learners produce. For example, you might explore the impact of planning on written language production by comparing the complexity and accuracy of learner productions in a static (pre-task planning) versus a dynamic (online planning) in-box task.

D) Methods

Working within the framework of task-based language teaching, you will carry out an experiment to compare the quality of the language learners produce (i.e. complexity, accuracy and fluency) in different types of computer-mediated task.

E) Skills and opportunities you could gain

You will develop a critical appreciation of the potential value of the use of computer-mediated communication in language learning and teaching. You will learn how to design experimental studies, and code and carry out statistical analyses of language learner data.