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The Effects of Types of Rhetorical Tasks, English Proficiency, and Writing Anxiety on Senior High School Students’English Writing Performance
English writing tests are a designated section in Scholastic Academic English Test (SAET)and Department Required English Test (DRET) in Taiwan, but the types of writing tasks utilized in SAET and DRET are slightly different. According to the College Entrance Examination Center (CEEC), narrative writing skill is the main concern of SAET, while expository writing skill is the major focus of DRET. To understand whether the designated order of writing tasks in the entrance exams is necessary, this study investigated the effect of task type—narrative task and expository task—on senior high school students’ English writing performance. In addition, two other factors, the students’English proficiency level and their writing anxiety degree, were also considered to test whether each of them interacts with task type in influencing writing quality. Students’opinions about different types of writing tasks were explored as well. The participants contained four intact classes, including 77 male students and 74 female students. All of them were required to complete the two writing tasks under a testing condition. Immediately after they finished their essay writing, they had to respond to a post-writing questionnaire. In addition, their English proficiency levels were assessed via a shortened version of intermediate-Foreign Language Proficiency Test (FLPT), their writing anxiety degrees were measured by Second Language Writing Anxiety Inventory (SLWAI), and their perceptions about English writing were probed through a background questionnaire. The results demonstrate that most of the participants preferred narrative writing to expository writing, and they considered narrative writing much easier than expository writing. But quantitative analyses show that the two types of rhetorical tasks did not account for the variation in the participants’writing performance. Besides, no significant interaction between the types of the tasks and the proficiency levels or the writing anxiety levels was found. However, English proficiency and writing anxiety each had significant influence on the quality of their writing. The high-intermediate group outperformed the low-intermediate group both in the narrative writing and the expository writing, and the low writing anxiety group surpassed the high anxiety group in the two writing tasks. Interestingly, the effect of the type of rhetorical task was significant in the low anxiety group, who performed better in the narrative task. Furthermore, based on the participants’ responses to the questionnaires, vocabulary and grammar were two major areas that impeded their delivery of thought. The findings of this thesis, on the one hand, suggest CEEC should re-consider the designated order of administering narrative task and expository task in the entrance exams. On the other hand, the findings offer some implications for English teachers to design a more wholesome writing course for learners of different needs.
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