Investigating the Influence of Genre Type on Students' English Writing Performance in the Continuation Task

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Zhong, Jiali
genre type, writing performance, continuation task
The continuation task, a newly developed writing task that requires learners to extend an incomplete reading prompt with logic and coherent writing, has been recently implemented as a high-stake test in China. Researchers have found a variety of characteristics of the continuation task that impact students’ writing performance, with the genre being an important one. Yet, the exploration of the impact of the two types of genre or reading material (narrative and argumentative) on students’ writing performance in the continuation task has still been limited. As such, this study explores English language learners’ writing performance (writing scores and textual features of the written responses) in the narrative and argumentative continuation tasks and their perception of the two writing tasks within the context of Chinese senior high schools. Eighty-six Chinese senior high school students in grade 11 were invited to complete two continuation tasks, one with narrative source text and one with an argumentative text, and two self-rating questionnaires that asked participants about their perceptions of the completed tasks. Afterwards, select participants were recruited to participate in two rounds of focus-group interviews to further expand upon and share their perceptions of their experiences in completing each writing task. Senior high school students performed quite similarly (no significant difference) in writing scores awarded to narrative and argumentative writing responses, and they perceived the two writing tasks to be of similar level difficulty, which suggest that both genre type of tasks could help assess students’ language ability. Different language features (e g., lexical complexity, syntactic complexity, etc.) appearing in the narrative and argumentative written responses and students’ report of alignment to the source text in the writing process indicate that different genres of reading prompts could cue students to use different language resources. This study complements the literature of genre effect on EFL students’ written responses to continuation task in mainland Chinese educational context. The results could hold implications for continued research on similar topics, pedagogy, and assessment.
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