Task and language production: a study of task characteristics and task conditions on spoken language production in an English listening and speaking course in a University of Science and Technology in China

  • Xi CHEN

Student thesis: EdD Thesis


This study investigates task characteristics and task conditions in an English Listening and Speaking course to view the varied features in task characteristics and task conditions and their influence on students’ spoken language production. The context of the study is set in a College English (CE) course, English Listening and Speaking, in a university of science and technology in China. Following the context, the literature review expatiates on 3 themes: tasks; spoken language production; task and spoken language production. By exploring the key themes, the research question is set as follows.

How do different task characteristics and task conditions impact students’ spoken language production (CAF) in English Listening and Speaking?

For this study, the research methodology is established in the philosophical paradigm, pragmatism, and mixed method research. This study has designed three phrases of research on speech-making tasks with varied task characteristics and task conditions. Both quantitative and qualitative data have been collected and analyzed for varied task characteristics and task conditions and their influence on students’ spoken language production.

As for the results, this thesis finds from the quantitative analysis that the familiarity of information and structure can be partly beneficial to the lexical complexity in spoken language production. The task structure can promote syntactic complexity. While the task condition of rehearsal can increase fluency of speech rate. Regarding the qualitative analysis, both questionnaires and focus group interviews results demonstrate that familiarity of topic and task structure, as well as strategic planning and rehearsal can promote spoken language production. It is accepted by more than half of the online questionnaires’ respondents and the focus group participants that with familiar topic, structure, strategic planning, and rehearsal, students could produce better speech in CAF.

Regarding contributions of knowledge, this study provides a reference and
supplement for the theoretical framework of tasks and spoken language production in teaching English speaking in a university of science and technology as well as offering teaching practice in the context of this target students for classroom practitioners. Meanwhile, the pedagogical implications in the context of this study can be applied to many different contexts in Chinese ELT.

In terms of implications, first, for CE teachers, this study establishes an opportunity for teachers of CE speaking class to reflect on their teaching practice; to think about how the context of teaching to design and implement more tailored tasks for target students; and create awareness that task design and implementation are influenced by various factors such as familiarity of information, degree of structure, rehearsal, and strategic planning.

Second, the implication for the university of science and technology shows that the General English courses in the CE curriculum should be taught at different levels.

Last but not the least, this study may have implications for government policy makers in China and language teachers in international contexts that would accommodate the learning needs of the diverse students in both China and abroad.
Date of AwardMar 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Nottingham
SupervisorRobert Adamson (Supervisor)


  • task characteristics
  • task conditions
  • spoken language production

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