The cognitive hypothesis, task design, and adult task-based language learning

Robinson, Peter
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The Cognition Hypothesis of task-based language learning proposes that pedagogic tasks be sequenced for learners largely on the basis of increases in their cognitive complexity so as to increasingly approximate the demands of real-world target tasks. In this paper I describe a framework for operationalizing this proposal that distinguishes between dimensions of tasks that can be manipulated to develop access to an existing L2 knowledge base (such as allowing planning time) and dimensions that can be manipulated to promote greater syntacticization and grammaticization of current interlanguage (such as increasing reasoning demands). Three predictions of the Cognition Hypothesis are that increasing the cognitive demands of tasks along the latter developmental dimensions will (a) push learners to greater accuracy and complexity of L2 production in order to meet the consequently greater functional/communicative demands they place on the learner and (b) promote interaction and heightened attention to and memory for input, so increasing incorporation of forms made salient in the input; and that (c) individual differences in cognitive and affective factors contributing to perceptions of task difficulty will progressively differentiate performance and learning as tasks increase in complexity. I describe results of studies in a componential framework for task design which have examined these issues, providing some support for the predictions made.
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