Engaging L2 Learners in Information-gap Tasks: How Task Type and Topic Familiarity Affect Learner Engagement

Jian Xu, Xuyan Qiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines four learner engagement dimensions (behavioural, cognitive, emotional and social) in pedagogical task performance and provides insights into the effects of two task types (information-seeking and direction-giving) and topic familiarity on learner engagement in a semester-long English course. A total of 28 foreign language learners engaged in eight interactive tasks, and all played the roles of both information-receiver and information-provider alternately under familiar and unfamiliar conditions. Seven measures of engagement and an open-ended questionnaire were employed to understand the learners’ engagement in the tasks and their emotional responses to them. The results revealed that the information-providers produced more words and also spent more time on information-seeking tasks wherein they would exchange information than on direction-giving ones that required them to ask for and provide instructions or directions. This was the case for topics they were unfamiliar with; however, when they were faced with familiar topics, they produced significantly more words, spent more time, and spoke more elaboratively in direction-giving tasks. The information-seeking tasks elicited positive emotions, but the direction-giving tasks yielded mixed feelings, attaching positive emotions to familiar tasks but negative ones to unfamiliar tasks. The pedagogical implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
JournalRELC Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • English as a foreign language
  • Task type
  • interactive tasks
  • learner engagement
  • topic familiarity


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