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Reviewed by:
  • Planning and Task Performance in a Second Language
  • Mathias Schulze
Ellis, R. (Ed.). (2005). Planning and Task Performance in a Second Language. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Pp. viii, 313, US$42.95.

Planning and Task Performance in a Second Language is based on a colloquium presented at AILA 2002.

In chapter 1, Ellis reviews the research on planning and task-based performance. He distinguishes pre-task planning (rehearsal or strategic planning) and within-task planning (pressured versus unpressured). The pressure in question is exercised through more or less severe time [End Page 644] constraints. Ellis situates task planning theoretically in relation to concepts such as attention and noticing (Schmidt 1990, 1994), limitations of the working memory, and focus on form and, more importantly, by reviewing three bases: Tarone's theory of stylistic variation (1983), Levelt's (1989) model of speech production, and Skehan's (1998) cognitive approach to models of task-based language learning. Ellis's discussion of previous research on task planning and of methodological issues prepares the reader for the subsequent sections on different types of planning.

In chapter 2 - the only one in the second section on task rehearsal - Bygate and Samuda argue that strategic planning favours content and decreases accuracy, whereas within-task planning is likely to improve accuracy but has a negative effect on fluency. As an alternative, they investigate and discuss the effects of task rehearsal - seen as one form of task planning - on language learning. In their study, EFL learners watched the same short video and retold story twice at an interval of 10 weeks. Bygate and Samuda conclude that significant changes in fram-ing - metacommunicative utterances that are additional to the narrative content - cannot be explained by learning that occurred during the 10 weeks but only by the positive effect of task repetition on language learning. They suggest that such a repetition facilitates the integration of strategic and within-task planning and enables learners to be more creative in their language use.

The three chapters of the third section discuss strategic planning. In chapter 3, Ortega reanalyzes her 1995/1999 data and looks at learner strategies (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990; Oxford, 1990) employed in task planning. She concludes that more metacognitive strategies were employed because of the opportunity to plan, but only 59% of learners perceived planning as beneficial. In her summary, Ortega challenges the dichotomy of focus on meaning versus focus on form and argues for a view of form-in-meaning: 'In spite of holding a meaning-oriented interpretation of the task ..., learners paid attention to form during planning without any specific instruction to do so' (p. 106). In chapter 4, Sangarun concludes from an empirical study that it is impossible for learners to separate meaning and form in their planning, in spite of directions to the contrary. 'L2 learners do best when they engage in strategic planning that is focused jointly on meaning and form' (p. 131). This study also suggests that strategic planning can have a positive impact on accuracy, whereas earlier studies suggested that the influence was not significant. In Kawauchi's contribution (chapter 5), the link between strategic planning and task rehearsal is most prominent in that the study uses three kinds of (strategic) planning activities: draft writing, [End Page 645] rehearsing, and reading a model. Kawauchi concludes from the empirical study of Japanese EFL learners that strategic planning had beneficial effects on fluency, complexity, and accuracy and that such effects depended on the proficiency level of the learners: 'High EFL learners tended to benefit the most in the case of fluency and complexity while the Low EFL learners appeared to gain most in accuracy' (p. 164).

The fourth section focuses on within-task (on-line) planning. Both chapters discuss the importance and the difficulty of gaining insight into on-line planning processes, claiming that it may be the variable of on-line planning that resolves contradictory findings about the influence of strategic (prospective) planning. Ellis and Yuan (chapter 6) investigated the effects of planning on both written and oral performance and found that careful planning facilitated an increase of syntactic, but not lexical, complexity and accuracy. Writing, not surprisingly, resulted in higher complexity and...


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