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K. PHILIP CHOONG and ZHAOHONG HAN Teachers College, Columbia University Task Complexity and Output Complexity: An Exploratory Study

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Motivation Cognition Hypothesis Question: What is the relationship between task complexity and output complexity? Is there a relationship between task complexity and output complexity? If so, what is the nature of the relationship?

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Operationalization of Task Complexity Dimensions Contextual support Reasoning demands Single/Dual Task Dimensions Contextual support Dimensions Contextual support Dimensions Reasoning demands Contextual support Dimensions Reasoning demands Contextual support Dimensions Single/Dual Task Reasoning demands Contextual support Dimensions

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Task: Story narration Task conditions +/-picture +/-sequence (C1) + picture/+sequence (C2) - picture/+sequence (C3) + picture/-sequence (C4) -picture/-sequence -Complex +Complex

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Design Repeated measures Experimental Group Comparison Group 1 Comparison Group 2

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Participants Experimental group: 10 native Japanese speakers from advanced ESL classes in New York City AAverage age – 38 GGender- 9 females and 1 male Comparison Group 1: 5 native speakers of American English AAverage age: 33 AAll females Comparison Group 2: 10 native speakers of American English

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Procedure Task: Story narration under 4 different conditions 4 stories vis-à-vis 4 conditions Instructions II am going to show you a set of pictures that tell a story. Please take as long as you like to look over the pictures, then tell me the story as if I cannot see the pictures. We will do this twice. The first set will be practice, just to make sure you understand the instructions. There is only one “correct” story for these pictures.

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Example

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Measures of Output Complexity Syntactic complexity # of T-units per narration Content complexity # of idea units per narration

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Analysis and Results – Experimental group Friedman Test and Kendall’s W Test of Mean rank Both produced same results, significant at.05 level Friedman Test of Mean Rank (Kendall’s test similar) Condition Mean Rank C1_T-unit 2.45 C2_T-unit 2.00 C3_T-unit 5.15 C4_T-unit 3.90 C1_I-unit 4.55 C2_I-unit 4.25 C3_I-unit 7.55 C4_I-unit 6.15 Condition Mean Rank C1_T-unit 2.45 C2_T-unit 2.00 C3_T-unit 5.15 C4_T-unit 3.90 C1_I-unit 4.55 C2_I-unit 4.25 C3_I-unit 7.55 C4_I-unit 6.15

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Results- Form Complexity Condition 3 (+reasoning demands, +contextual support) most complex Condition 2 (- Reasoning demands, -contextual support) Least complex, least variation Condition 4 (+Reasoning demands, - contextual support) shows most variation

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Results- Content complexity Greater variation in content complexity than in form complexity In line with Friedman’s and Kendall’s W tests of mean rank. Also supported by paired sample t-test

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Results – paired samples t-test Significant differences between conditions 1 and 3, 2 and 3, and 2 and 4 Both for Form complexity (t-units) and for content complexity (idea units) Contrast t-valuedf Sig. (2- tailed) C1_T - C3_T C2_T - C3_T C2_T - C4_T C1_I - C3_I C2_I - C3_I C2_I - C4_I

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Results – individual Greater number of idea units may suggest that participant was more focused on content than form.

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Results-Comparison Group 1 Native speaker results are parallel to non-native speaker results in terms of: Syntactic/Content Complexity: C3>C4>C1>C2

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Results – Comparison Group 2 Rankings of difficulty of picture sets C3>C4>C1>C2

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Discussion +contextual support +reasoning demands -contextual support +reasoning demands Finding 1: More complex conditions produce more complex output. Reasoning demands C3C4

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Discussion Finding 2: Gap between the “contrived complexity order” and the “observed order of output complexity” Contrived complexity: C4>C3>C2>C1 Observed complexity of linguistic output:C3>C4>C1>C2 Task intrinsic complexity: C3>C4>C1>C2 Task Internal complexity +/-picture +/-sequence

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Discussion Finding 3: Patterns of variation differ for the experimental group vs. comparison group 1. Experimental group: Syntactic complexity: C4 C2 Content complexity: C1 C2 Comparison group 1: Syntactic complexity: C1 C2 Content complexity:C4 C2 Content complexity and form complexity are unequal.

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Limitations and Next Steps Further data analysis Fluency as well as accuracy Lexical complexity Syntactic complexity in terms of S-nodes per T-unit

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Conclusion The jury is still out. Task complexity is a complex notion requiring finer- grained analysis than has generally been given. More conceptual work is needed. IIn examining the relationship between task complexity and output complexity, there is a need to differentiate between content complexity and form complexity, and more importantly, to investigate how attention is allocated to form and content during task performance. TThere is a need to track down the differential impact of task- intrinsic complexity and contrived complexity MMore attention should be given to task-intrinsic complexity

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Grading Complexity and difficulty Complexity dimensions Granular analysis of complexity (e.g., conceptualizer, formulator, and articulator) Effect size Perceptions of complexity

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