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Teachers’ Perspectives on Second Language Task Difficulty: Insights From Think-Alouds and Eye Tracking 1

  • Andrea Révész (a1) and Laura Gurzynski-Weiss (a2)

Abstract

The majority of empirical studies that have so far investigated task features in order to inform task grading and sequencing decisions have been grounded in hypothesis-testing research. Few studies have attempted to adopt a bottom-up approach in order to explore what task factors might contribute to task difficulty. The aim of this study was to help fill this gap by eliciting teachers’ perspectives on sources of task difficulty. We asked 16 English as a second language (ESL) teachers to judge the linguistic ability required to carry out four pedagogic tasks and consider how they would manipulate the tasks to suit the abilities of learners at lower and higher proficiency. While contemplating the tasks, the teachers thought aloud, and we also tracked their eye movements. The majority of teachers’ think-aloud comments revealed that they were primarily concerned with linguistic factors when assessing task difficulty. Conceptual demands were most frequently proposed as a way to increase task difficulty, whereas both linguistic and conceptual factors were suggested by teachers when considering modifications to decrease task difficulty. The eye-movement data, overall, were aligned with the teachers’ think-aloud comments. These findings are discussed with respect to existing task taxonomies and future research directions.

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References

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Teachers’ Perspectives on Second Language Task Difficulty: Insights From Think-Alouds and Eye Tracking 1

  • Andrea Révész (a1) and Laura Gurzynski-Weiss (a2)

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