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Anita Utami [S2698277]

Critical Summary on Yuan and Elliss Article:


The Effect of Pre-Task Planning and On-Line Planning on Fluency,
Complexity and Accuracy in L2 Monologic Oral Production
Yuan & Ellis (2003) investigated the effects of pre-task and on-line planning on L2
oral production. Much of the available research proves the significant effect of
pre-task planning on the fluency and complexity in language production, but
mixed results have been found concerning with accuracy. The various results
may occur because the previous studies have not dealt with time. Furthermore,
whilst a number of studies have been carried out on the effects of pre-task and
on-line planning, no single study compares the effects of the two types of
planning. In this study, pre-task planning was found to enhance grammatical
complexity while on-line planning improves the accuracy and grammatical
complexity. However, a limitation is found in the size of sample and the
references used as well as the inconcistency in the data interpretation.
The Study
Three research questions were addressed at the beginning of the study regarding
the effects of the pre-task planning and on-line planning on the fluency,
complexity, and accuracy of the L2 learners production in an oral narrative task.
Forty-two English major students aged 18-20 with similar L2 background were
recruited for this study. The participants, then, were assigned into three different
treatment groups, which were the No Planning (NP), Pre-Task Planning (PTP), and
On-Line Planning (OLP) groups. For the purpose to ensure the equivalence among
these groups, a TOEFL test was administered as a pre-test. All the participants
were required to produce at least four sentences for each of the six different
pictures shown within 5 minutes. The NP group was only given 0.5 minute to
study the picture before performing the task, whereas the PTP group was given
10 minutes to prepare and was allowed to take notes. However, they were not
allowed to read the notes during the oral narration. The OLP group, on the other
hand, was given 0.5 minute to study the picture, but they were given unlimited
time to perform the task.
To measure the three aspects of language production (i.e. fluency, accuracy and
complexity), measurement scales based on the previous study were used. In
addition, the length of time taken as well as the number of syllables produced by
the participants in the three groups was also calculated to determine the
participants engagement in the on-line planning. In order to measure fluency,
the researchers calculated the number of syllables within each narrative, divided
by the number of seconds used to complete the task and multiplied by 60 as rate
A, and repeated the calculation by excluding all syllables, words, and phrases
that were repeated, reformulated, or replaced as rate B. Next, complexity was
measured in terms of syntactic complexity, syntactic variety, and lexical variety.
Furthermore, the percentage of error-free clauses and correct verb forms were
used to measure accuracy.

Turning now to the experimental evidence on the effect of the pre-task planning
and on-line planning on the language production, the authors explained three
main findings. First of all, the PTP group performed more fluently than the OLP
group. Secondly, concerning with the complexity, pre-task planning had a
positive influence on the grammatical complexity, and lexical variety whilst online planning only contributed to the grammatical complexity. Finally, in terms of
accuracy, OLP group outperformed the PTP and the NP groups. However, at the
discussion session, the authors suggested that the extent to which learners
engage in on-line planning is subject to considerable individual variation.
Regarding the results of the study, first of all, it is important to bear in mind that
the number of samples used in each group is quite small (n=14) which might
affect the overall data analysis. The researchers did not mention whether the
data followed the normal distribution nor whether they met the homogeneity of
variance assumption before performing the one-way ANOVA test. Thus, small
sample size has been a serious limitation in this study as it might be problematic
to generalize the result into a much wider context.
Secondly, the authors cited some references from over forty years ago (e.g.
Newell and Simon, 1972), and it is unclear if the study is still relevant. Moreover,
they based the present study heavily on Krashens work. Yuan and Elliss study
would be more relevant if they include more updated references as well as
elaborate more various studies in their paper.
Finally, there are some inconsistencies with the data interpretation. When
discussing the complexity, for instance, they stated that overall, the results
show that pre-task planning has a positive influence where grammatical
complexity is concerned (p.16). However, they pointed out earlier that the
language produced by the two planning groups was equally syntactically
complex.
Conclusion
The study is aimed at investigating the effects of two different planning
strategies on the oral language production. Posing three research questions at
the beginning of the study, the researchers succeeded to provide answers that
pre-task planning enhances grammatical complexity, while on-line planning
positively influences accuracy and grammatical complexity. However, the
generalizability of the results is quite questionable considering the nature and
the size of the sample used. Furthermore, the study might have been more
convincing if they used more updated references. Lastly, inconsistencies in
interpreting the data should also be viewed critically.

References
Yuan, F., & Ellis, R. (2003). The E ects of Pre-Task Planning and On-Line Planning
on Fluency , Complexity and Accuracy in L2 Monologic Oral Production.
Applied Linguistics, 24(1), 127.

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