December 2005
Volume 9, Number 3

Contents  |   TESL-EJ Top

Process Writing and Communicative-Task-Based Instruction: Many Common Features, but More Common Limitations?

Anthony Bruton
University of Seville


Process writing and communicative-task-based instruction both assume productive tasks that prompt self-expression to motivate students and as the principal engine for developing L2 proficiency in the language classroom. Besides this, process writing and communicative-task-based instruction have much else in common, despite some obvious differences. They have common rationales, similar foils, common justifications and comparable procedures. It is argued that they also have a number of limitations, both inherent and circumstantial. The inherent limitations largely reflect a lack of equilibrium between planning, teacher intervention and student initiative, while the circumstantial ones are due to their being hatched essentially for ESL instruction in privileged university contexts. The argument is that, logically, there should be a progression from more to less instructor intervention or support and from less to more student initiative, autonomy and peer interaction, thus including a broader spectrum of pedagogical options.


One possible observation from a review of actual second (SL) and foreign language (FL) instruction is that process writing (ProW), interest in which has persisted for some time, has much in common with communicative-task-based instruction (CTBI), which is something of a current vogue within communicative pedagogy (Wesche & Skehan, 2002) [1]. Despite many similarities, curiously, the two currents of contemporary thinking in FL pedagogy are not normally associated. The possible reasons for this will be considered after an exploration of some of the commonalities between these two strands of thinking, along with some obvious differences.

However, it should be emphasized from the outset that neither ProW nor CTBI are a rigid set of procedures and there are numerous variations in the former (Caudery, 1996; Liebman-Kleine, 1986) and the latter (Bygate, Skehan & Swain, 2001), though there is an underlying assumption that individuals in the non-L1 language classroom should be encouraged to develop their proficiency mainly through meaningful self-expression. The core activity in ProW is the multiple-draft open-ended writing task, and in CTBI the open-ended oral communication task, both supposing free self-expression. In many cases, there is a further assumption that collaborative peer interaction and student independence should be phased in to replace more teacher-fronted interaction and caretaker dependence (Bruton, 2002).

Susser (1994), in his discussion of ProW, observes that process is applied to the actual behavior of composing, and writing to the pedagogy of writing and to the theory of writing. The same is probably true of tasks in CTBI, except perhaps in the last respect. Even so, there is still a certain consensus on what ProW (Atkinson, 2003) and what CTBI (Bruton, 2002) are fundamentally in FL/SL pedagogical practice, which is the central interest of the discussion here, though reference will be made to some contributing factors. And on the question of references, in covering such a broad topic, it is inevitable that the selection of works cited is somewhat subjective, though not intentionally arbitrary.

Even if there are numerous common strands that might be found between ProW and CTBI, some might ask, "So what?" Part of the answer is that, despite the fact that in secondary school language instruction there is what Harklau (2002) calls a "tight integration of speech and writing" (p. 342), both ProW and CTBI are rarely discussed together. Apart from the fact that some versions of ProW and CTBI might actually be incompatible, the conclusion is that both ProW and CTBI have restricted potential implementation, which is not altogether surprising, since they owe their origins and overall orientations to very specific common circumstances. Their scope of application is probably limited to these circumstances, even though attempts are made to extend it.

Common Rationales of ProW and CTBI

In both ProW and CTBI, part of the rationale for their adoption is based on the result of research into the processes rather than the products of language use and language learning, usually with reference to more proficient target language users. Moreover, the processes considered are both cognitive and social in nature (Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998, in ProW; Ellis, 2000, in CTBI), in the sense that the focus is the individual in interaction, and the discourse under scrutiny tends to be more extended (Wesche & Skehan, 2002), as Davis (1997) commented with reference to groupwork. Zamel (1983) had this to say on writing in relation to overall language development:

Researchers have worked under the assumption that by studying what proficient writers do, we will have a basis upon which not only to evaluate the appropriateness of our classroom methods but also develop instructional approaches that will better meet the needs of those who are less proficient. Interestingly enough, this is the same assumption that underlies much recent work in second language acquisition. (p. 196)

In the case of ProW, the evidence shows that most (extended) natural writing is the outcome of processes that are not completely linear, but rather cyclical and recursive, and that the process of composing itself generates new thoughts (Arndt, 1987; Zamel, 1983). In other words, writing is very often not a matter of having a clear objective/purpose, thinking, making a plan, and then writing out the final product, in that order (Zamel, 1982). Furthermore, most proficient writing balances both writer and reader perspectives, while respecting conventional norms (Raimes, 1991). Finally, there are working memory load factors which affect written production, especially in an L2, since, according to Qi (1998), "When an L2 task is relatively cognitively demanding, the participant tends to use her L1 for cognitive processing" (p. 424).

Although writing tends to be learned formally, it does not develop linearly or as a neat accumulation of features. Moreover, novice writers develop partly on the basis of models and plans, but also from individual initiative, experimentation and feedback. The driving force behind more successful writing ability is assumed to be the want or need to express and record meaningful messages, which are progressively more elaborate.

In the case of CTBI, much discourse in the oral medium is constructed socially through interactive reciprocal negotiation (Lantolf, 1996), and the context of use is very significant (Ellis, 2000). In the production program of oral messages, between the selection of meaning and the articulation of form (Levelt, 1989), even though the actual articulated output is linear, the on-line formulation tends to be constructed in chunks. Furthermore, there are important cognitive load factors in the formulation and execution of messages (Skehan, 1998). On the other hand, natural oral language development occurs gradually through verbal exchanges and does not progress in a linear itemized all-or-nothing way (Long & Crookes, 1992; 1993). In other words, children and more mature L2 learners in natural contexts do not normally acquire items of the language, one-by-one to an immediately high level of correctness. On both counts, it is interaction that is the key, and the motivating force for progress is the expression of meaning and responses to it, rather than concern for language form and correctness (Long, 1985a), though Cook (2002, among others of his publications) does not consider this to be exclusively so.

On the one hand, there is a common consideration of target language use procedures and, on the other hand, the assumption that these use procedures will contribute to the processes of language acquisition and development. This is the communicate-to-learn over the learn-to-communicate perspective in language pedagogy (Das, 1985), or in writing pedagogy write-to-learn and learn-to-write (Homstad & Thorson, 2000a, p. 141). However, there is considerable variation with respect to the amount of instructor intervention advocated across the spectrum. In a recent discussion of the so-called 'post-process', Atkinson (2003) described ProW in these terms:

I would like to define "post-process" as including everything that follows, historically speaking, the period of L2 writing instruction and research that focused primarily on writing as a cognitive or internal, multi-staged process, and in which by far the major dynamic of learning was through doing, with the teacher taking (in some - sometimes imagined - senses) a background role. (p. 10)

So far, the references to process have been to both social and psychological processes in language use. Implicit is the other significant sense of process in language pedagogy, that of learning process. This additional sense of process in language pedagogy was captured succinctly by Tongue and Gibbons (1982) in their discussion of syllabus and method some time ago: "[I]n other areas of language teaching there has been a swing towards a 'process' approach, in which the focus of attention is the means by which the learners acquire language" (p. 64).

Common Foils of ProW and CTBI

In both ProW and CTBI, there is a rejection of previous conventional pedagogic FL practice. Process approaches are contrasted with product and genre approaches (Badger & White, 2000), with models (Pica, 1986) and language-based curricula (Reid, 1993), and controlled, rhetorical and EAP approaches (Silva, 1990). Even so, the main targets of ProW criticism basically tend to be the pre-process sentence-level focus and the Controlled-Guided-Free (CGF) sequences - see Homstad and Thorson (2000b) and Matsuda (2003) for recent discussions. In fact, these sequences can be immediate or developmental, in the sense that writing tasks might be a "hybrid" of controlled, guided and free parts all in one (Bruton, 1983), or that they include controlled and free tasks used concurrently (Raimes, 1976), or that there might be a progression from controlled to guided to free tasks over time (Byrne, 1979)--see Figure 1. The other major target for reproach are the so-called product approaches characterized by single-draft think-plan-write linear procedures, with once-off correction, and the use of target product models of writing (see Zamel, 1982). Taylor (1981) is probably fairly representative of the views about those so-called traditional approaches that preceded the adoption of the process approach:

Rather than offering students assignments which require that they grind out essays on teacher-assigned topics on the spot, or imitate a model, or follow a controlled exercise, it is more effective to teach students to build up from their own written ideas. (p. 11)

However, the product-process contrast is considered by some to be a false dichotomy (Bamforth, 1993; Liebman-Kleine, 1986; Matsuda, 2003a) or a strawman (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996), but this has not stopped the creation of a more contemporary dichotomy, namely process-genre, which is equally unnecessary for Bamforth (1993).

Figure 1
Pre-process and Process procedures
 a)Controlled    +  Guided   +  Free
 b)Controlled    &  Free
 c)Controlled    ⇒   Guided  ⇒  Free
 a)Pre-writing  +  Single-draft  +  Correction
 b)Pre-writing  +  Multi-draft  +  Revision

To these rejected practices can be added reading-to-writing approaches such as that described by Ruiz-Funes (1999) or Grabe (2001), though Barnett (1989) includes responding to written texts in her process approach, and those multiple draft approaches that reflect a stage-by-stage pedagogical approach (see Caudery, 1996; Susser, 1994), because: "Even where the notion of process has been embraced, the actual pedagogical practices sometimes resemble the lockstep rigidity of traditional pedagogy" (Matsuda, 2003b, p. 69). These practices do not apparently reflect natural behavior sufficiently for them to be likely to produce effective outcomes. ProW procedures supposedly will.

For the proponents of CTBI, the Present-Practice-Produce (PPP) sequences in the UK, or Audiolingual (AL) procedures in the United States, are considered unreal and ineffective, and therefore unacceptable (Lewis, 1993; Skehan, 1986; Wesche & Skehan, 2002; Willis, 1996), though see Sheen (1994) for a detailed counterview of the relevant research. The itemized language syllabus, whether structural, functional or lexical, is rejected as failing to reflect natural language development (Long & Crookes, 1992; 1993), especially when immediate assimilation to high levels of productive correctness are expected. To this list of discredited proposals, we can add the one-way comprehensible Input Hypothesis (Krashen, 1985), which is criticized as being insufficient for the development of productive oral ability at least (Swain, 1985), and probably VanPatten's (1993, 2002) itemized input-based "processing instruction" as well. The answer is CTBI.

The CGF and PPP/AL sequences, whether as immediate or developmental sequences, seem virtually mirror images of each other. Van Lier (1996) refers to the relationship between the two sequences: "The 'pre-communicative to communicative' or 'controlled to free' progression assumes a uniformity and controllability of internal processes which, however convenient this would be, simply does not exist" (p. 59). Moreover, in both ProW and CTBI, reproduction activities are generally taboo (see Cook, 2002, for a discussion), especially when they assume imitation or meaningless output. Likewise, in the strong versions, language correction is eschewed as well: in CTBI, consider Long (1985b) for example, although he retracted later, and, in ProW, Briere (1966). A more flexible position might be that expressed by Raimes (1987) on writing, but, as with CTBI, some might question whether it is compatible with ProW:

When teachers read writing assigned for reinforcement, training, and imitation, they correct errors (Zamel, 1985); when they read writing assigned for communication and fluency, they react and respond to the content. When writing for learning is the dominant purpose, however, teachers find that they combine the two . . . . (p. 41)

Common Pedagogic Justifications of ProW and CTBI

The defenders of both ProW and CTBI start out with the assumption that speaking and writing are significantly important skills to be acquired, beyond a rudimentary level. The pedagogic justifications for both ProW and CTBI tend to be, firstly, that they mirror natural target behavior much more closely, along both social and psychological dimensions. In fact, the social and the cognitive dimensions not only of language use, but also language learning, are identified both in ProW (Badger & White, 2000; Casanave, 2004; Caudery, 1996) and CTBI (Ellis, 2000; Long & Robinson, 1998; Skehan, 1996). The basic framework is that there is psycholinguistic development through social interaction and negotiation, which spans both initiative and response, including peer response (Connor & Asenavage, 1994). There is also reference to creativity in the outcome of expression in both cases (Seedhouse, 1999; Zamel, 1983). Both negotiation and creativity were mentioned, in fact, by Raimes (1983a) with reference to communication being the basic component of a possible paradigm shift, two decades ago. Secondly, in both ProW (Hamp-Lyons, 1986) and CTBI (Long & Porter, 1985), the content and particularly the procedures are said to be more motivating, since they tend to emphasize personal expression and build on the students' existing abilities and experiences with dynamic student-initiated processes. In both ProW and CTBI, it is the teachers who are expected to be responsive to the students' initiatives, rather than students being responsive to the teachers'. Arndt (1987) is probably a fair reflection of the ProW position:

But, it seems, we may be better off helping students with post-planning rather than pre-planning, for the protocols of our writers confirmed time and time again not only the recursive, non-linear nature of the writing process, but also the enormous generative power of the actual activity of writing itself. (p. 263)

And for CTBI, Long (1991) stated the case as follows:

Whereas the content of lessons with a focus on forms is the forms themselves, a syllabus with a focus on form teaches something else . . . overtly draw students' attention to linguistic elements as they arise incidentally in lessons whose overriding focus is meaning or communication (pp. 45-6)

Common Procedures in ProW and CTBI

Both ProW and CTBI tend to encourage the implementation of open-ended tasks with the emphasis on personal expression in more extended stretches of discourse, whether written or socially constructed oral. Raimes (1983b) states, "Communication must surely be as important in the composition classroom as it is now becoming in the spoken English classroom" (p. 261), even though much of the initial impetus for ProW stressed the generation and exploration of ideas (Zamel, 1982). Kepner (1991) summarizes ProW "as a vehicle for the discovery and communication of meaning" (p. 306). In a sense, the development of processing skills and general discourse knowledge tend to be emphasized rather than the acquisition of specific language knowledge, with considerable interest in language communication/use strategies. There may be some form of general pre-task planning or preparation in both ProW (Caudery, 1996; Davies & Omberg, 1987; Oluwadiya, 1992; White & Arndt, 1991) and CTBI (Skehan, 1996; Willis, 1996), but it will only be general (Davies & Omberg, 1987, in ProW; Bygate, 1999a, in CTBI), since the linguistic contributions to and outcomes of specific writing/speaking tasks are fairly unpredictable (Breen, 1987). Inevitably, any possible pre-planning of language will be preceded implicitly by predictions on content. The criteria for evaluation of these tasks initially tends to be according to degrees of success in task completion, with a focus on the message rather than the language medium, and with less attention given to actual language assimilation. When there is an assessment of the language used, which is fairly rare, it is usually in terms of general criteria, as described by Casanave (1994) in ProW, and Bygate (1999a) in CTBI. Bygate (1999b) had the following to say about language predictability in tasks:

Overall, then, there is considerable evidence to suggest that task structure affects learners' selection of features of language. However, the existence of patterning does not, of course, imply that particular meanings, or particular meaning-form relations, necessarily occur. (p. 191)

Much of teacher intervention comes in response to the students' initial attempts at meaning, both in ProW and CTBI. In fact, much of the recent research into ProW writing is monopolized by a focus on revision, whether individual, peer or teacher (see recent issues of the Journal of Second Language Writing (JSLW)). This is reflected in a pertinent question posed by Atkinson (2000): "Where can we go beyond studies of teacher and peer feedback and revision?" (p. 4). And to continue the similarities, in ProW, editing is left until last (Tribble, 1996; Zamel, 1983, 1985), whether self, teacher or peer (Susser, 1994), and in CTBI the post-task focus on form may be through analysis, teacher feedback or through preparation of some type of formal presentation, either written or read aloud (Skehan, 1996; Willis, 1996).

Of course, in both ProW and CTBI there is considerable interest in group and pair organization. ProW very often includes some collaborative pair or group writing (Ferris & Hedgcock, 1998) and peer group or dyadic responses (Jacobs, Curtis, Braine & Huang, 1998; Mendonça & Johnson, 1994), while pair and group oral interaction tasks are the mainstay of CTBI - see Ellis (2000) or Wesche and Skehan (2002), for example. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that completing language-focused exercises by communicating collaboratively in the oral medium in pairs or groups (Ellis, 2003; Fotos, 1998; Kowal & Swain, 1994; Storch, 1999) is a rather different sense of (communicative) task than that normally recognized by most CTBI, and the product is not communicative in the least.

In terms of syllabus, it is characteristic of both ProW and CTBI that there is limited discussion and even less consensus on long-term planning across tasks, since the tasks are open-ended and the target discourses or behaviors are less clearly specified, though Valdés, Haro and Echevarriarza (1992) do offer some guidelines for FL writing in the United States, and Long and Crookes (1992; 1993) or Nunan (1991; 1993) for communication tasks. That is not to say there is not some reference to the analysis of potential needs, for example Reichelt (1999) in references to ProW and Long and Crookes (1992;1993) or Nunan (1989) in CTBI, which applies to the selection rather than the sequencing of tasks. In terms of classroom procedures, in ProW, there is recurrent repetition due to the multi-draft sequences (Zamel, 1982), rewriting (Chenoweth, 1987) and possibly narrow writing (Leki, 1990; Raimes, 1983c; Watson, 1982), while in CTBI, there may be task repetition (Bygate, 1999b; Gass, Mackey, Álvarez-Torres & Fernández-García, 1999), [2] or task sequencing in the short-term (Samuda, 2001).

In both ProW and CTBI, there are stronger versions and weaker versions. The strong versions tend to be maximalist in terms of potential effect and minimalist in terms of necessary pedagogical requirements. In CTBI, Skehan and Foster (1997) had the following to say about the strong and weak versions:

A strong interpretation would suggest that transacting tasks will inevitably trigger acquisitional processes. A weaker interpretation of the 'task is primary' approach would be based on Long's (1992) focus-on-(general)-form proposal. (p. 186)

In fact, a weaker version of CTBI might include pre- and post-task activities (Bygate, 1996; Skehan, 1996; Willis, 1996) around the core task.[3] A weaker version of ProW might be exemplified by Cumming's (1995, p. 12) reference to "proactive and responsive teaching strategies" or Laviosa's (1994) combined approach: "Helping students with planning and drafting is only half of the teacher's task, the other half concerns the teacher's response to a piece of writing" (p. 488).

There is considerable debate in both cases, not only about the potential lack of input, in writing (Badger & White, 2000) and speaking (Bruton, 2002), but also the use of genre models and modeling activities - see Charney and Carlson (1995) and Flowerdew (1993) for justifications of models in writing, [4] in contrast to Caudery's (2000) assessment that "[f]or many teachers of process writing, however, the use of texts as explicit models to be paralleled would be excluded" (p. 10); and Carter (1998) and Cook (1998) for an exchange on models in spoken corpora. Taylor (1981) is very clear about models:

[W]e have no more right to assume that analyzing written models with an eye toward teaching the explicit structure of discourse will necessarily improve writing ability any more than to assume that grammar drills will necessarily improve speaking ability (beyond possibly serving a monitoring function). (p. 8)

This position is contradicted by Stolarek (1994), whose novice college student writers were the ones most helped by the process of "prose modeling" which included not only models but also descriptions and analyses. She argues that prose modeling does not necessarily inhibit creativity and expression, even though she does observe: "Too often, pedagogical applications of prose modeling are formulaic and doctrinaire rather than creative and generative" (p. 170). Way, Joiner and Seaman (2000) also found model texts improved writing among novice FL French writers more than no prompts or vocabulary prompts.

Interestingly, there are moves both in ProW and CTBI to accept the possibility of compromising practices that might have been less acceptable previously. In writing, for example, Bamforth (1993) makes a case for "genre processing" (p. 96), and Hyland (2003), while recognizing the contribution of processing approaches to writing pedagogy, insists that contextualized genre models need not inhibit personal contributions and creativity. This position probably reflects that version of process writing that emphasizes the more laborious processes of revision as a means of discovery, in contrast to the spontaneous writing espoused by what Casanave (2004) calls the "expressivists."

In the case of CTBI, Ellis (2003) includes both "unfocused" and "focused" tasks under the meaning-oriented task umbrella, and Ellis, Basturkmen and Loewen (2002, p. 421) rather unconvincingly try to distinguish these latter tasks from typical PPP-type activities. Moreover, on the question of language focus, in CTBI, some authors include "tasks or techniques [which] were designed a priori with a formal linguistic focus in mind" (Doughty & Williams, 1998, p. 4) under a "focus on form," and Hyland (2003), in discussing contemporary FL writing pedagogy, considers that "Providing writers with a knowledge of grammar shifts writing instruction from the implicit and exploratory to a conscious manipulation of language and choice" (p. 26).[5]

Finally, both ProW and CTBI have in common that other language skills/mediums are used. In some ProW sequences, it is assumed that there will be oral interaction that might contribute to improvement in the written product, in peer responses, and teacher conferences (Keh, 1990; White & Arndt, 1991), for example. Similarly--but in the opposite direction--in some CTBI sequences, the written medium is used with texts as springboards or with transcripts for analysis and written reports prepared to be read aloud (Willis, 1996). In these latter cases, the other skills are generally subsidiary to the main skill.

Common Differences Between ProW and CTBI

Apart from the fact that students might have very different needs in speaking and writing in the FL, the two most obvious differences between ProW and CTBI, given that they both focus on production, [6] are that writing is in a different medium and that it is generally learned and performed more consciously (Grabe & Kaplan, 1996, p. 6). Typically, speaking is the natural precursor to writing. However, it is not just the medium in itself, but the nature of the medium in learning and use that is significant. Since the composition of texts normally permits more time, it can be more deliberate and the processing of more extended discourse more cyclical. It also allows more time for monitoring and analysis (Cumming, 1990). Speaking very often supposes the opposite.

Although both speaking and writing require individual cognitive processes of composition and expression, [7] they tend to be performed in different social situations. Where most speaking is performed in face-to-face contexts, writing is generally the opposite. Very often the writer is alone and may not even know his or her audience. This is significant methodologically, which is reflected in Atkinson's (2003) reference to going beyond considering "writing simply as a process, or more specifically as a highly cognitive, individualist, largely asocial process" (p. 10).

Given the fact that the product of writing can be stored, as the word may be "frozen in time on the page" (Ellis, 1995, p. 12), and that the process is normally performed individually means that it can be individualized in ProW, which is not true of typical CTBI tasks, which obviously require interaction. ProW tasks can be completed by students "alone, as homework" (Semke, 1984, p. 196). In CTBI tasks, the discourse is constructed socially and each participant engages in the task in different ways and with different contributions, which makes any feedback on the process much more complicated (Bruton, 2005). This is especially so given that the constructed discourse tends to be extended over time. Having said that, it is also probably true that open-ended ProW tasks assume a greater diversity of (interim) outcomes than typical CTBI tasks, which are usually communal in terms of purposes and expected goals. In actual fact there are probably degrees of probability across oral tasks, both in terms of content and language, which led Loschky and Bley-Vroman (1993) to use the dimension "essential - useful - natural" for the predictability of the language of such tasks.

Not only do we find differences between speaking and writing in terms of consciousness in learning to compose and actual composing, and the pedagogical complexities of response, but also in terms of potential review. Since the written text is not ephemeral as is the unrecorded spoken word, it is available for analysis, modification and storage. Therefore, the writer can review texts, whether on the basis of personal perceptions, or responses by others. Generally, the responses to writing tasks include both matters of content, discourse and specific language (Casanave, 2004), while in oral tasks they are almost exclusively language-focused.

It is interesting that when it comes to the effects of teacher response to language, for example, the recast in the oral medium has been defended as a means of contributing to learner intake interactively in a non-disruptive way by Long and Robinson (1998), while Lyster and Ranta (1997) assert:

The feedback types least likely to lead to uptake were the recast...and explicit correction. The most likely to succeed was elicitation. . . . Other good precursors to uptake were clarification requests, metalinguistic feedback, and repetition. . . . (p. 56)

However, in the written medium, the effectiveness of the equivalent to the recast such as writing in the correct form of an error has been questioned by some (Lalande, 1982), because it does not cause students either to pay attention to the correction or make any effort to discover or remedy their errors, though Semke's (1984) results actually justify the write-ins. In fact, students can only successfully self-correct what is within their existing knowledge, otherwise they need recasts/write-ins, or to access reference media such as the dictionary. Somewhat in contrast to Hendrickson's (1980) views, Truscott (1996) considers most grammar error correction to be counterproductive in the oral medium, and even in the written one (Truscott, 1999). In a more recent exchange with Truscott (2004), Chandler (2003; 2004) has defended the need for students to rewrite compositions that have received feedback, in order to learn from the feedback. This discussion centers only on questions of correctness not the learning of new language, however.

A significant contrast in the two mediums is that potentially all errors can be corrected in the written medium; while in the oral medium it would be impossible (Leki, 1991b). Even so, and despite Truscott's conclusions, teachers are usually advised to be selective with corrections on communicative writing (Ferris, 1999), dealing with common points for editing (Muncie 2002a), though Taylor (1981) does not believe that dealing with general errors is likely to be very constructive. In the oral medium correction can only be selective.

At a more general pedagogic level, it is justified to conjecture that ProW has been accepted less critically, and maybe more generally, than CTBI. This may be due to the fact that extended writing is less of a priority in FL contexts (Reichelt, 2001) and, therefore, writing pedagogy probably less of an issue. Much of the interest in ProW has focused on the possible beneficial effects of different processes, both cognitive and social, without too much concern for defining terms or determining actual outcomes. In contrast, the definition of task continues to be an issue, and the potential language learning outcomes of CTBI the source of growing debate (Bruton, 2002; 2005).

Common Limitations of ProW and CTBI

For the strong versions of ProW and CTBI, both of which defend the centrality of the open-ended expressive task, the following is a fundamental fact: the less predictable the expected contributions by a group of language students to the tasks, the more dependent are these students on receiving feedback on their efforts in order to make progress in the language, under formal instruction. And given that this input-via-feedback is reactive rather than proactive, it is inevitably dependent on the students' initiatives. Moreover, given the priority of self-expression, the responses are generally to the message over the medium, in the first instance at least.

At the risk of overgeneralizing, the major theoretical and research concerns behind these writing and speaking tasks are (i) the psychological processes, composing, and revision (e.g., Zamel, 1982) in ProW, or cognitive factors in oral output processing (e.g., Levelt, 1989; Skehan, 1996) in CTBI; and (ii) the social processes, teacher response (e.g., Sommers, 1982; Zamel, 1985), and peer response (e.g., Zhang, 1999) in ProW, and negotiation (e.g., Long & Robinson, 1998) in CTBI. Concrete evidence of language development over time, whether in specific itemized or more global discourse terms, tends to be fairly sparse--but see Casanave (1994), Muncie (2002b) or Sengupta (2000), in ProW; and Newton (1995), in CTBI, for example--and most of the research is short-term (Leow, 1998).

Given that both ProW and CTBI have tended to be promoted typically in privileged contexts, as we shall see, two very clear characteristics of both ProW and CTBI are, first, that they use expert (native speaker) targets as the measure, both in terms of process and product, and, second, that they assume that these targets are necessarily the ultimate goal of most learners. The consequence is that there is very limited discussion of interim stages of development, or the goals, type of input and possible models, in terms of content (what might be called syllabus), or the type of procedures and interim tasks (what might be called method) (However, see McKay (2003), for example, for a recent discussion with respect to English as an International Language.) These questions are particularly pertinent in FL contexts, where students may have limited language learning goals, and teachers more or less target language ability; at beginner levels, where students need some form of support; and in state school contexts, where student numbers, time and resources are significant constraints.

In CTBI, Long (1985) and Long and Crookes (1992; 1993) have assumed that the task can be used to describe much of target communicative behavior and that pedagogic tasks can be selected and sequenced after a needs analysis of target tasks: "[T]he pedagogic tasks are then derived from the task types and sequenced to form the task syllabus" (Long & Crookes, 1992, p. 44). In terms of what Nunan (1993, p. 62) calls a "psycholinguistic rationale," Skehan (1996) usefully offers factors for assessing the processing load demands of different tasks, which can apparently contribute to task sequencing by complexity, also mentioned by Long and Crookes (1992; 1993) and Robinson, Ting and Urwin (1995) - but see Murphy (2003) for contrary results. It is not entirely surprising, however, that the focus of the research by Robinson (2001) on task complexity is on the interim level of what the author calls "production", rather than on "performance" or "development" (i.e., acquisition).

Unfortunately, these proposals present problems that seem unlikely to be resolved in the near future, reflected partially by the fact that the Long and Crookes (1992; 1993) proposal has not prospered (Bruton, 2002; Skehan, 2002). First, much of communicative behavior cannot be classed as tasks-chatting, for example. And even when certain aspects might be, the delineation of such behavior as tasks is not obvious, as types of macro function, nor is it clear what the task is exactly, or for whom--complaining about a moldy scone is a different task for the customer than for the baker. Furthermore, in the classroom, such a complaining task usually supposes role-playing (Long, 2000; Wilkins, 1976), with the students playing different roles, very often as "native-speakers." In this respect, the use of mature target native speakers in their own cultural milieus as ultimate role(-play?) models seems suspect, and as possible targets less so (see McKay (2003) for a similar view on this issue).

The selection and sequencing of target tasks, even if processing load can be "calculated" to a certain extent, does not resolve interim content, genre, or language development goals. It is pertinent to ask where the students receive necessary target-like input. In fact, specific language goals are very often not even considered, which would be complicated unless they were determined in terms of input as Loschky & Bley-Vroman (1993) argue, but that would introduce something of a contradiction for the productive skill orientation. And in such discussions, as Henry Widdowson has reiterated on numerous occasions, semantic meaning can probably be exported, but pragmatic meaning is necessarily for home consumption, depending very much on the consumer. To which McKay (2003) adds various logistic problems, such as defining native speaker models, experiencing the necessary contact, and the critical question of FL-L1 use in local contexts.

Definitions of what target writing tasks might be have not been the topic of much debate, and, as mentioned above, syllabus concerns do not seem to be a major preoccupation, which explains why Hyland (2003) talks about the "invisible curriculum" (p. 20), with external direction coming only through teacher response in much ProW. Genre proposals in the Australian context are a major exception to the general lack of concern for writing syllabi (Kay & Dudley-Evans, 1998), but they are not generally accepted as being part of mainstream ProW, and often described as product-oriented. This lack of clarity about goals is not altogether surprising in ProW, especially if students select their own topics, and since "the process approach extols individual creativity, individual growth and self-realization, and the teacher's role is that of 'facilitator' rather than 'director'" (Bamforth, 1993, p. 94). In the EFL context, Leki (2001) questions these potential goals:

Will a goal of writing instruction be that students will learn primarily to do specific writing tasks like write letters and fill out forms; will EFL writing primarily be a way of learning and developing fluency in language; ...; or will students be expected to be able to engage in self-exploration through this foreign language? Which of these (some or all) are reasonable goals for a specific student or group of students? (p. 204)

Very often teachers of ESL, and EFL, writing are said to "overwhelmingly view themselves as language teachers rather than writing teachers" (Zamel, 1985, p. 86), but the opposite might also be true. It is symptomatic that in most of the writing research literature, the emphasis has been on psychological and social strategies or processes in extended writing, with some consideration of discourse, rhetoric and genre models, but with virtually no consideration of language input and input processing. In fact, using the dictionary, a unique student resource for independent writing, is notable for its absence in practically all the ProW literature - for example, neither Grabe and Kaplan (1996), nor Ferris and Hedgcock (1998) recognize the importance of the dictionary, and articles in JSLW on research where students use dictionaries to complete compositions are largely absent. Yates and Kenkel (2002) are among the few to recognize the importance of the medium as well as the message in contemporary writing pedagogy:

L2 writing instruction cannot be divorced from L2 language instruction because it is the L2 students' lack of knowledge about the language to achieve their writing purposes which makes responding to actual L2 writing so difficult, yet so important. (p. 46)

And it might be that students do not want to use the FL but rather the L1 to express ideas in writing (Raimes, 1987; Zamel, 1982), and might consider possible targets not to be extended discourse, but more limited texts (Hendrickson, 1980). Certain genres may be too complicated for low level learners as well, as McDonough and McDonough (2001) discovered in the learning of Greek as a foreign language, the subject of the study stating: "Writing in Greek about my moods and emotions was difficult to express in the simple Greek at my disposal" (p. 242).

Moreover, many students rate writing activities among the least enjoyable or beneficial for learning English (Barkhuizen, 1998; Spratt, 2001). Brown (1982) states with respect to FL writing:

Extensive writing is indeed inefficient and excessively tedious activity, for the teacher as well as the student. The first rule, then, in all undergraduate foreign language writing is: keep it short. ... Furthermore, the longer the paper, the less likely the teacher is to give each sentence the attention it deserves. It takes a veritable glutton for punishment to plow through page after page of mutilated German, correcting each line conscientiously. (p. 289)

Of course, it is not only the length of the text or discourse that is crucial, in ProW and even in CTBI, but also the predictability in the task itself. The more predictable the task, the more feasible the preparational support that can be offered, as suggested by Davies and Omberg (1987). In this respect, conformity does not necessarily mean uniformity, and most writers use models, however abstract they may be. Charney and Carlson (1995) make the following point about models in writing: "[A] model text is not an algorithm for writing a new text . . . . Writers who have a model text nevertheless face some complex interpretive challenges" (p. 91).

The discussion of models is inherently linked to the need for some form of target language input (in ProW, see Myles (2002), for example). When students are writing or speaking independently of the teacher, it is logical to ask from where they receive the input (Bruton, 2005). In writing, students probably need some interim models, so that they have some idea of what different achievable target texts look like (Hyland, 2003) [8], and some reading input (Charteris-Black, 1996), both for writing skill development and language development. These models may be prompts for some form of analysis, for reproduction, or as foils for response, with teachers progressively withdrawing support as students progress (Hyland, 2003, p. 26). In speaking, the assumption is that the models are recordings and transcripts [9] (Skehan, 1996; Willis, 1996). The latter are dubious for speaking purposes, given that they are in the written medium and require fairly conscious analysis of extended discourse, while the former are rather contradictory for less predictable open-ended communication tasks. Obviously, the more open-ended or less predictable the task, the less useful are models of more specific language organization and use. This is the case mentioned above, where the impact of the learning may be through feedback, but it is usually limited to a responsive kind, based on initial learner initiative.

In ProW, one expects an interest in revision, since open-ended tasks complicate any specific preparation for, or guidance in, actual composing and writing. In general, unless writers have some previous experience with the type of writing, including the content and the language necessary, there are two major options for teacher feedback: give the students the missing information or direct them where to find it. If they have the experience, then the feedback can help them to refine the process and the product of their writing, especially if modeling and training is present during revision (Sengupta, 2000), whether for self- or peer-monitoring (Mangelsdorf, 1992). Even so, for many teachers, Dixon's (1986) observation remains true, not just for writing:

While most English teachers agree that students need to write often, the problem many teachers face, and one that is overwhelming for those with large classes, is how to respond to the unwieldy numbers of compositions produced each week. (p. 2)

In research on peer revision, there are differing findings regarding the effects of the practice and attitudes towards it. For example, Connor and Asenavage (1992) found peer revision effects to be negligible, in contrast to Mendonça and Johnson (1994) or Villamil and de Guerrero (1998). The latter authors also found only 7 percent of false peer repairs, admittedly at university level, while Hedgcock and Lefkowitz (1992) found that teachers rather than peer revision improved surface errors. The main positive effects tend to be on content and ideas, or on common language difficulties (Reichelt & Waltner, 2001). This seems to suggest that the more proficient the writers the more capable they are linguistically, but that audience effects and editing will always be potentially constructive. Attitudes toward peer revision vary from the negative in Saito (1994), Amores (1997) and Sengupta (1998) to the more positive in Mendonça and Johnson (1994) and Villamil and de Guerrero (1998). Although teacher and peer revision can be complementary (Tsui & Ng, 2000), if students have to choose between teacher or peer revision, the majority choose the former (Zhang, 1999).

Much of ProW and CTBI depend on oral peer interaction and negotiation. In ProW, apart from the research into the focus and outcomes of peer revision, there has been growing interest in the issue of effective collaboration. For effective revision, Stanley (1992) emphasizes the need for coaching, and Storch's (2001) study demonstrates how dyads can be at either extreme of a collaborative spectrum. It is only peer interaction at the positive end of the collaborative spectrum that is likely to induce constructive learning outcomes. That probably explains why Hoekje (1993/4) has a point, when she says that "We cannot assume that because the classroom has the participant structure of student-student interaction, that it is student-centered in the humanistic sense" (p. 5).

In CTBI, interaction and negotiation are central to the argument that it is interaction that generates negotiation, either of meaning or of form (Lyster, 1998; Pica, 1994), which in turn makes input accessible for assimilation (Ying, 1995). Since under normal circumstances most learners gain access to input potentially available for assimilation through face-to-face interaction, the issues revolve around the type of interaction and negotiation and the effects on assimilation. Aston (1986) was skeptical about the simplistic formula that maximizing negotiation resulted in more comprehension and a greater likelihood of acquisition - a formula that has encouraged myriad empirical studies. Aston argues, among other things, that more negotiation may lead to greater frustration and pidginization, and may not reflect greater comprehension. Brooks, Donato and McGlone (1997) criticize the negotiation formula as being too limited to purely linguistic variables, with insufficient attention to the social dimensions of collaboration (but see Ellis, Basturkmen & Loewen (2001) for a less negative view of the consequences of negotiation).

Even though studies such as Doughty and Pica (1986), Duff (1986), or Gass and Varonis (1985) demonstrate interaction and some apparent negotiation, others have found that negotiation may be fairly minimal between peers (Buckwalter, 2001; Foster, 1998; Jones, 1992; Pica & Doughty, 1985), and even between teachers and students (Musumeci, 1996; Pica & Doughty, 1985) [10] though Ellis, Basturkmen and Loewen (2001) found considerable form focus in meaning-oriented classes. Limited negotiation is particularly likely if the interaction is between peers of the same FL proficiency level, who have had similar FL experiences (Slimani-Rolls, 2005; Swan, 2005). Furthermore, "[A] steady diet of group activities may restrict the amount of grammatical input available to the classroom learner, leading perhaps to a stabilized nontarget variety" (Pica & Doughty, 1985, p. 132). What seems more likely to induce some assimilation, of vocabulary at least, is input from teacher or materials followed by peer interaction (Jones, 1992; Newton, 1995), which may allow self-regulation more than other-regulation (Buckwalter, 2001). Preplanning also has positive effects on performance (Foster, 1996; Foster & Skehan, 1996), even though in neither of these latter cases is it argued that assimilation may be induced by peer interaction.

Which brings us to language levels and L1 effects in ProW and CTBI. Even though there has been discussion of the role of the L1 in the SL/FL writing literature, it is usually in terms of the L1 as a possible help or hindrance in the process of extensive freewriting (see Kobayashi & Rinnert, 1992). That is, a possible phase during the writing process. In CTBI, if anything, the relevance of the L1 is its influence in communication, as in some so-called communication strategies (Skehan, 1998), and on interlanguage. In completing grammar tasks between peers, Fotos & Ellis (1991) note the use of the L1 and very mechanical use of the L2. In fact, when it comes to both ProW and CTBI tasks completed between peers, there is rarely discussion of possible thresholds for more open peer interaction, though Willis (1996) sees no danger in the use of the L1. Brooks, Donato and McGlone (1997) even consider the L1 as a significant mediator and necessary interim support. However, this confidence in the use of the L1's not being detrimental is not shared by Wong-Fillmore (1985) or Lightbown (1991), for example. In the study reported by Swain and Lapkin (1998), the excerpts of the dyad with two proficient subjects with approximately eight years of immersion French working on a jigsaw picture composition, gives the impression that most of the mediating language between them was their L1.[11]

If tasks are far beyond the immediate capacity of learners, they will either lead to frustration (Sheen, 1994) and/or resorting to L1-based experience and knowledge (Qi, 1998). Therefore, tasks should be progressive (Myles, 2002). For the teachers, student production of extensive stretches of inadequate language makes constructive feedback very complicated, however selective it might be. In social contexts where the learner is striving to become a recognized participant in another language or (sub)culture, as in some typical ESL milieus, the cultural pressure to conform to common perceived norms may be paramount. In other contexts, especially ones with monolingual FL students, the specter of the classroom pidgin is more than an illusion (Lightbown, 1991). Communicative contact and response is similar to rain: those places that need it least are the ones that have it most, by definition; and, if there is a scarcity of rain, it has to be exploited to the maximum.

Perhaps one of the major inherent limitations of both ProW and CTBI frameworks is that they are constrained by their own self-imposed limits and cannot offer a progressive developmental methodology, such as the "modeling/joint-negotiation/independent construction" cycles mentioned for writing by Hyland (2003), and Hyon (1996), or the focussing cycles mentioned by Brumfit (1979) or Klapper (2003) with respect to communicative approaches, or even controlled-to-guided-to-free procedures for that matter, to mention a few. This incapacity to offer developmental methodology may be explained by the fact that much of the theoretical attention in FL/SL pedagogy, at least as it appears in many of the prestigious journals, has shifted from secondary to tertiary levels.

Common Origins of ProW and CTBI

The circumstances that have produced much of the ProW and CTBI literature can generally be characterized as tertiary ESL contexts comprising educated motivated students with high levels of proficiency, in small multilingual classes, sometimes under experimental conditions, with native speaker teachers (see Foster (1998, pp. 3-4) on the limitations of research with oral information-gap tasks in American universities, or back issues of the JSLW on writing, for example). [12] These university students often have a substantial amount of time and resources for learning, in addition to extensive contact with the language outside the classroom, supplying them with additional input. The skilled student writers in Zamel's (1983) study spent between 14 and 18 hours on SL compositions. The courses they receive often do not have to adhere to externally determined common curricula and are often tailor-made, since these students characteristically have not only clear, but common, goals. Apart from being somewhat ideal subjects, many of these (ESL) students do not need much communication practice, or work in groups, though peer responses might be very apt, because the students are proficient enough to cope with the responding and the responses.

The advocates of ProW and CTBI, academics in the main, apart from dedicating most of their attention and research to ESL students in the circumstances just described, tend to have other characteristics as well. They tend to concentrate most of their attention on specific areas. This is very sound academic practice, since it is easier to establish a reputation, and of course publish - very often for tenure, as Matsuda and De Pew (2002) recognize. For example, the ESL (EFL?) writing literature is monopolized by a dozen or so academics. And the same literature pays little attention to beginning writing (Matsuda & De Pew, 2002; Reichelt, 1999). CTBI is not dissimilar, at the academic level in ESL/EFL, though there are many practitioners who use some of the procedures characterized by CTBI, especially group and pairwork.

Since academics tend to keep to their areas of specialty, it is rare to find writers on ProW in the CTBI literature, and vice versa. These academics can also afford the "luxury" of concentrating on courses that focus exclusively on particular skills, such as composing or speaking, since most universities offer ESL students courses on particular aspects of language proficiency (though see Paribakht and Wesche (1993) for a comparison of comprehension-based and four-skill courses in a Canadian university, and Barnett (1989) for reference to ProW in integrated skills courses). This also justifies the research, but of course not its application elsewhere. The crucial point, then, is that the theorizing and researching into tertiary ESL is perfectly understandable and valid in itself for itself (see Matsuda & De Pew, 2002, on writing), but its scope should be recognized as limited--too limited to be of use to most FL teachers around the world, whether of English or any other language. Mitchell and Lee (2003), on the basis of comparing two teachers of 11-year -olds, one of FL French in the UK and one of FL English in Korea, state: "Perhaps, more progressivist student-centered interpretations of the communicative approach become attractive only in the more advanced or more adult settings for which they were originally devised" (Howatt, 1988, p. 56).

Most FL, and many SL, teachers in primary or secondary schools, especially state-funded ones, have very different experiences. They have more students, at lower levels--including complete beginners--with varying potential purposes, motivations and abilities, who are still maturing as they develop in the language. These teachers are responsible for global development in the language across the skills, with limited available resources. The students often have fewer contact hours, and the teachers more, which increases the potential workload both in and outside the classroom. [13] The teachers have to recognize much slower progress and maintain the interest of their students at the same time, since there is often no direct use for the language outside the classroom. And at the end of the process, many of their students may use the FL minimally (Troyanovich, 1974). The FL teachers are generally non-native speakers with varying degrees of proficiency. And those who read the current FL/SL learning literature, or attend conferences and workshops, are presented with an array of attractive options, many of which have not been piloted in the circumstances in which they work, and certainly not in conjunction with each other - an additional issue for both ProW and CTBI, or even extensive reading approaches. Given the time available, most FL teachers need to economize in the sense of exploiting materials and tasks to integrate rather than fragment the skills, the latter implicitly being what much of the current literature condones. As O'Brien (2004) observes with reference to writing:

The [post-process] debate springs very much from the L1/ESL interface and from academic writing contexts where it is possible to speak of the L2 writing classroom. As Reichelt suggests, it is unlikely that FL teachers see themselves as in a writing classroom. (p. 22)

There are signals of change in some areas, reflected in the research conducted in real contexts by Foster (1998) in CTBI, at secondary level in real settings by Sengupta (2000) in ProW in an ESL context, or Bygate (1999a) in CTBI in an EFL one. And in such settings, the message seems to be that there needs to be considerable planning and monitoring on the part of instructors, and training for the students, in order that independent tasks become effective vehicles for socially constructive language development. Moreover, there would probably be cycles of teacher-fronted activity and more independent initiatives, with more initial teacher scaffolding gradually giving way to more student autonomy (see Hyland (2003) in writing, and Samuda (2001) in language focused oral development). But, in fact, what occurs in most secondary FL classrooms around the world has been given very little empirical attention and even less theoretical discussion. The literature should include much more attention to these contexts and the typical conditions that accompany them (see Matsuda and De Pew (2002) on initial writing).


Both ProW and CTBI have much in common, in terms of rationales, pedagogical justifications, and procedures, and implicitly types of student and learning context. They also suffer from numerous limitations, since they do not confront questions of overall planning, discourse input, or language expansion [14], and certainly not in a developmental sense. This is due to the fact that they emphasize interactive learner initiative, which inevitably downplays preparation, generates diversity, and supposes (peer?) negotiation with fairly individualized feedback. In fact, "clear feedback" was one of the two crucial features of communicative grammar tasks for Loschky and Bley-Vroman (1993, p. 126). One central contradiction in teacher-independent language activity is that, if constructive language expansion does not occur during the actual task completion, it will have to occur either before or after the tasks, very often with fairly standard procedures. In other words, constructive language development may occur for the task or from the task, but very often not within the task, and the core task may only serve for proceduralizing and streamlining knowledge obtained elsewhere. This is particularly true for less proficient FL students.

For ProW and CTBI frameworks even to be implemented, let alone effective, they presume linguistically mature learners in small enough numbers to negotiate effective responses to their output, with close monitoring (Foster, 1998). Such provisos restrict their implementation mainly to typical ESL contexts, and probably at more proficient (oral) levels, or to ESP courses in the case of CTBI (Sheen, 1994), where any shortcomings of the orientation can always be compensated for - a similar view is that voiced by Mitchell and Lee (2003) cited above.

In other instructional (such as EFL or secondary state school) environments, options that include more balanced pre-planning, input, and teacher intervention, and which in turn recognize progressive student initiative, would be more constructive. However, more research is needed in these environments. Even O'Brien (2004) in a recent survey of FL writing refers almost exclusively to process models of writing, and to numerous studies of SL writing at tertiary level. It is inadmissible with the present state of our knowledge to apply frameworks for language pedagogy uniformly that might only have limited relevance in some contexts. And even in particular contexts, Sheen (2003) still defends the need for comparative method studies.

At the beginning of this paper, it was mentioned that curiously ProW and CTBI are rarely associated. In fact, it is not that surprising because they might not be clearly compatible in the necessarily coordinated and coherent multi-skill courses that typify most FL instruction outside universities, and where most formal FL learning actually occurs. Since neither typical ProW nor CTBI activities build on any planned input and center around open-ended production, and since the types of content and target tasks would tend to be significantly distinct in each case, by definition, coordinating two sets of such tendencies coherently would be virtually incompatible. If we add the exposure to and processing of spoken and written input to the matrix (i.e., listening and reading), a fundamental requirement of most FL programs of course, there would be little hope of recognizing some of the basic tenets of ProW and CTBI along with similar ones for input and comprehension--such as those espoused by Krashen (1985) on listening and reading, or Day and Bamford (1998) on extensive reading, for example. It is one thing to research individual language skills, usually in short-term contrived studies (Goldstein, 2001), and to theorize on their development as a result, and it is another thing to coordinate global language and discourse development over time, especially at the initial levels in actual pedagogical contexts.

As a parting reflection on ProW and to some extent CTBI, two quotations from the SL writing literature linger in the mind. The first was Atkinson's (2000) question, "Where can we go beyond studies of teacher and peer feedback and revision?", to which one might reply that there was a lot of meaningful life before ProW, as there was before CTBI for that matter. The other was Raimes' (1991) image that ESL/EFL writing pedagogy was coming "out of the woods," to which one might justifiably add "and has disappeared into the universities."


[1] In the receptive medium, Day and Bamford's (1998) extensive reading approach has some similarities as well, especially with journal/log writing in ProW.

[2] Both of these studies show improvements on repeating the same tasks, but unfortunately neither shows any evidence of transfer of learning to other similar tasks. Furthermore, Guy Cook, in the 2003 IATEFL (Brighton, UK) debate on tasks, questioned the communicativeness of a repeated task.

[3] Skehan (2002b) includes the possibility of weak versions of CTBI that "enable the pre-selection of structures" (p. 91). This, of course, is contrary to the basis of some CTBI proposals such as those that emphasize interaction and negotiation as the motor behind non-linear acquisition.

[4] Models may be target products or they can be target processes, either for learning or use. When it comes to processing target discourse models, verbatim imitation is not the only option. Furthermore, a model can be processed at various levels of generality or abstraction, since it is not an algorithm.

[5] Gee (1996) also places a value on textual grammar in the genre approach.

[6] Since both speaking and writing are productive abilities, the polemic surrounding input and output applies to both, even though writing is a learnt ability, where most speaking is not.

[7] Even texts produced by more than one person will include individual composing processes on the part of each contributor.

[8] Green and Hecht (1985) found, incidentally, that German secondary school students had little idea of what texts written by English-speaking students of their age were like.

[9] The recordings are very often simulations based on corpus data, which introduces further questions - see Willis (1990).

[10] There is a strand of research into NS-NNS interaction that is not relevant here, since such interaction is unlikely to occur in typical FL classrooms around the world.

[11] Again these tasks are very typical in FL pedagogy, but they are not very communicative.

[12] Lyster (1998) also discusses the limited relevance of research with dyadic interaction in laboratory-like conditions for typical classroom situations.

[13] If the students have 2 hours a week of English, for example, a teacher with a workload of 20 hours sees 10 groups; if the students have 4 hours, the teacher has 5 groups, which is a 50% reduction, especially in terms of marking homework. Even 5 groups of 30-40, or 150-200 students, is not an insignificant number.

[14] Expansion refers to positive additions to interlanguages, which is relative, and is contrasted with correctness, complexity and fluency, which all reflect existing knowledge.


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About the Author

Anthony Bruton is lecturer in EFL methodology at the University of Seville, Spain. His main professional interest is the teaching of FL English in state secondary schools, and he directs a research group that conducts classroom-based research in the formal learning of English.

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