Testing task difficulty evaluating parameters and identifying gestures as a valid indicator

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In second language acquisition, tasks based on various types of inputs are very popular. These inputs can be textual, aural or visual (or a combination of all three). Perceptions of task difficulty varies from student to student and assessing the complexity of the task can be a challenge to designers. This study investigates how ten Hong Kong participants, second language speakers of English, ranked the difficulty of three tasks based on different input modalities \textual, aural and visual. It also compares participants' rankings to those calculated through a number of parameters used to evaluate speakers' speech performance (Skehan, 2009; Robinson, 2011). In addition, this study explores the validity of new parameters based on gestures. A meta-analysis of gesture studies confirms that gestures, movements of the hands and arms when speaking, are used by speakers to reduce cognitive load but also to help listeners understand the message (Hostetter, 2011). Different modality inputs might be imposing different cognitive loads, both in the processing of the information and in its transformation into speech/gesture. If there is a link between cognitive load and gesture, through studying gestures we might be able to find out more about the cognitive loads imposed by different modalities. Our hypothesis that there would be more gestures in the narrations of the more demanding tasks was confirmed by this study. This suggest that a gesture based parameter might be a good indicators of task difficulty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-346
Number of pages25
JournalAsian EFL Journal
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Cognitive load
  • Evaluating parameters
  • Gestures
  • Multimodal tasks
  • Second language acquisition (SLA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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