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Project Details
Funding Scheme : General Research Fund
Project Number : 15640416
Project Title(English) : Secondary School Students’ Cognitive Processing in Integrated Writing Tasks in Chinese (L1) and English (L2)  
Project Title(Chinese) : 中學生在中文(一語)和英文(二語)綜合寫作中的認知過程 
Principal Investigator(English) : Dr Zhu, Xinhua 
Principal Investigator(Chinese) :  
Department : Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies
Institution : The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
E-mail Address : ctxhzhu@polyu.edu.hk 
Tel :  
Co - Investigator(s) :
Dr YU, Guoxing
Panel : Humanities, Social Sciences
Subject Area : Education
Exercise Year : 2016 / 17
Fund Approved : 304,100
Project Status : Completed
Completion Date : 30-6-2019
Project Objectives :
To design and pilot instruments and protocols (including integrated writing tasks, rubrics, especially eye-tracking data collection and analysis system, interviews), collect and analyze preliminary data, thus establish the research questions and plan for the major study.
To preliminarily identity the cognitive process which have a significant effect on the IW task performance in Chinese (L1).
To preliminarily identity the cognitive process which have a significant effect on the IW task performance in English (L2).
To preliminarily examine the similarities and differences between the cognitive processes employed in performing the two tasks of Chinese (L1) and English (L2).
To preliminarily contribute to better understanding of the construct of IW tasks and the theory development of IW from the perspectives of cognitive processing.
Abstract as per original application
(English/Chinese):
Integrated writing (IW) has become increasingly popular in both first (L1) and second language (L2) teaching and assessment; however, most empirical studies were conducted in L2 context, only very few studies looked at IW in Chinese as L1. Furthermore, we noticed that the vast majority of the studies were product-oriented, i.e., with the written output as the primary unit of analysis. There is a dearth of research on writers’ cognitive processes in completing IW tasks. The very few studies that did investigate writers’ cognitive processes involved a small number of adult participants and tended to focus on some limited aspects of cognitive process, without systematically taking into account the complex nature of the dynamics of cognitive process. This proposed study aims to address these research gaps by comparing a large number of Hong Kong secondary school students’ cognitive processes when completing IW tasks in both Chinese (L1) and English (L2). In Stage 1 of the study, 360 Secondary Six students will complete two IW tasks in Chinese and in English. The students’ writings will be evaluated, both holistically and analytically. The analytical assessment aims to understand the extent and type of cognitive processing (see Table 1) involved in the writings; and the holistic assessment, the overall quality of test performance. Structural equation modeling (SEM) will be used to explore the underlying construct and relationships between different aspects of cognitive processing, as well as the relationships between cognitive processing and overall test performance. In Stage 2, another 36 Secondary Six students will complete the two writing tasks on computer, and their eye-movements during the test will be recorded. Immediately after a participant completes the two tasks, we will conduct stimulated recall interview with him/her, using episodes of the recorded eye-movements as stimuli to further explore their cognitive process. The SEM of the cognitive processes identified from the writings, the eye-movements and interviews are the three interrelated data sources, but from different perspectives. Not only the product (the writings they would produce) but equally importantly their cognitive processes as evidenced in their eye-movements throughout the whole duration of the tasks are analysed to explore the dynamics of cognitive process in IW tasks and the similarities and differences between L1 and L2 tasks.
Realisation of objectives: Objective 1: Development of instruments (1) Chinese integrated writing task (CIW), English integrated writing task (EIW), and scoring rubrics. We developed these tasks to assess students’ integrated writing performance. The integrated writing tasks were conducted in two modes: the paper-based test and the computer-based test with the eye-tracker tracking and recording students’ eye movements in the process. The scoring rubrics of these tasks were developed to evaluate students’ writing performance holistically (overall skills) and analytically (cognitive processes). (2) Strategy inventory for integrated writing. In order to investigate how the use of strategies influences integrated writing processes, we adopted the strategy inventory for integrated writing used by Yang and Plakans (2012). (3) Chinese and English intertextual inference verification tasks (IIVT-C and IIVT-E). With reference of previous studies (Braasch, Bråten, Strømsø, & Anmarkrud, 2014; Karimi, 2015, 2017),we developed these tasks to measure students’ ability to draw valid inferences by synthesizing information from multiple materials (IIVT-C and IIVT-E). (4) Chinese single- and multiple-text reading comprehension tests (STRC and MTRC) . Building upon the Six Types of Reading Comprehension Processes (Zhu, 2005a) involving literal, inferential, and creative comprehension, we developed a single-text comprehension test (STRC) to measure students’ ability to process intra-textual information. The test included one reading passage that discussed the differences between criticism and critique in academic discussion, and six short-answer questions. Building upon the conceptualization of multiple-text comprehension as a constructive and integrative process (Afflerbach et al, 2009; 2015), we developed a multiple-text comprehension test (MTRC) to measure students’ ability to process inter-textual information on integrated writing. The topic of the test is artificial intelligence (AI). The test materials comprised five reading passages followed by four multiple-choice questions and four short-answer questions. (5) Observation and stimulated-recall interview protocols used in the eye-tracking study. A researcher observed a participant doing Chinese and English integrated writing tasks and took notes on critical episodes (e.g., searching for information, reviewing or editing a sentence or paragraph, etc.) observed on a secondary monitor of the participant’s computer throughout the task process. The participants were invited to a stimulated-recall interview immediately after completion of an integrated writing test. The participant was invited to watch the task video with the researcher. The critical episodes noted down earlier were used to facilitate the interview. The interview protocol consisted of three parts, asking a participant to explain (1) What were you thinking when you were ______ (i.e., scrolling the window up and down, highlighting a word/words, replacing a word with another one, or pausing for a while); (2) Why did you (do what you did); and (3) Is there any difference in terms of the ways you go about the Chinese and English task? Objectives 2 & 3: Cognitive processes that influence integrated writing performance in L1 and L2. 1) Discourse synthesis abilities: Quotation, summarization, and synthesis. The data collected from the paper-based and computer-based integrated writing tasks of Secondary four students in Hong Kong. We performed a hierarchical regression analysis to determine the respective effect of the three discourse synthesis skills on students’ performance on the CIW and the EIW. Students’ scores on the discourse synthesis subscales formed the three independent variables, and the holistic rating was the dependent variable. In order to delve into the predictive contribution of the three discourse synthesis skills, we entered the data in different orders, resulting in six regression models for each hierarchical regression. 2) Eye movement. Three secondary four students participated in the eye-tracking study while completing the Chinese and English computer-based integrated writing. Based on the results of the tasks, the three students were divided into three proficiency groups: (1) high performance in both tests (Student A); (2) high performance in the Chinese test, but low performance in the English test (Student C); (3) low performance in both tests (Student B). We defined areas of interest (AOI) in each reading passage based on its relevance to the writing topic. A reading passage may contain relevant AOIs and/or irrelevant AOIs. In the CIW, there were 10 relevant and three irrelevant AOIs. In the EIW, six relevant and three irrelevant AIOs were defined. The eye tracking data consisted of full recordings of the three participants’ eye movements while they were doing the tests. The data were analyzed in terms of Fixation duration, Fixation count, Visit duration, and Visit count, within individual AOIs and AOI groups. 3) L1 Single- and multiple-text comprehension in Chinese and English integrated Writing. We carried out EFA to examine the construct validity of CIW and EIW, and then performed SEM with Mplus 7.4 to examine the effects of reading comprehension on L1 and L2 integrated writing performance and the cross-language effects of L1 reading and writing on L2 integrated writing of Secondary four students from four secondary schools in Hong Kong. Objectives 4: Similarities and differences between L1 and L2 integrated writing in terms of the cognitive processes involved 1) Discourse synthesis abilities: Quotation, summarization, and synthesis. The results showed that all the three variables (i.e., quotation, summarization, and synthesis) had a significant positive correlation with students’ overall integrated writing performance in L1 and L2. The hierarchical regression analysis indicated that 63.6% of the variance in students’ overall CIW performance was accounted for by the three discourse synthesis variables. The three variables significantly accounted for 47.9% of the variance in the overall EIW performance. The regression analysis indicated that the scores on the three discourse synthesis skills in the CIW significantly accounted for 12.3% of the variance of the overall scores on the EIW. 2) Eye movement. An obvious contrast between the high-performing and low-performing students was observed in the CIW. Student A and Student C, the two higher-achievers, spent over 83% and 95% of the time reading the texts relevant to the task, and 16% and 4% of the time on the irrelevant texts respectively. In contrast, Student B, the low-performer, spent 60% of the time on the irrelevant source texts, and only 39% on the relevant texts. Similar patterns recurred across the cases of Total visit duration, Fixation count, and Visit count. In the English task, a similar pattern was observed across the three participants selected. The consistent pattern also existed in Total visit duration, Fixation count, and Visit count. 3) Single- and multiple-text comprehension on integrated writing. SEM analyses indicated that STRC had a positive direct effect on MTRC. STRC and MTRC both directly contributed to L1 and L2 integrated writing. However, the effects varied slightly. MTRC had a greater effect on CIW, relative to STRC. In contrast, STRC had a greater effect on EIW than on CIW. The results suggest that L1 integrated writing seemed to rely more on multiple-text reading comprehension ability, whereas L2 integrated writing was influenced more by the ability to deal with single-text information in L1. Furthermore, a cross-language effect from CIW to EIW was also observed, indicating the transferability of integrated writing ability from L1 to L2. Objectives 5: The study contributed to better understanding of the construct of IW tasks and the theory development of IW from the perspectives of cognitive processing.
Summary of objectives addressed:
Objectives Addressed Percentage achieved
1.To design and pilot instruments and protocols (including integrated writing tasks, rubrics, especially eye-tracking data collection and analysis system, interviews), collect and analyze preliminary data, thus establish the research questions and plan for the major study.Yes100%
2.To preliminarily identity the cognitive process which have a significant effect on the IW task performance in Chinese (L1)Yes100%
3.To preliminarily identity the cognitive process which have a significant effect on the IW task performance in English (L2)Yes100%
4.To preliminarily examine the similarities and differences between the cognitive processes employed in performing the two tasks of Chinese (L1) and English (L2)Yes100%
5.To preliminarily contribute to better understanding of the construct of IW tasks and the theory development of IW from the perspectives of cognitive processing.Yes100%
Research Outcome
Major findings and research outcome: The project (considered as a pilot study by RGC) has the major preliminary findings and research outcome as follows: Secondary school students’ discourse synthesis performance on Chinese (L1) and English (L2) integrated writing assessments The paper was published by the journal Reading and Writing. The results of hierarchical regression analyses concurred with previous studies that discourse synthesis skills (i.e., quotation, summarization, and synthesis) are significant indicators of integrated writing performance (Keck, 2014; Plakans & Gebril, 2013, 2017), explaining up to 63.6% of the variance in overall writing performance in L1 and 47.9% in L2. It was also found that 12.3% of the overall EIW performance was contributed by Chinese discourse synthesis skills. The finding suggests that discourse synthesis abilities may transfer from L1 to L2. Despite the transferability of discourse synthesis skills from L1 to L2, findings of the eye tracking tests and stimulated recall interviews revealed that students’ approaches to discourse synthesis differed in L1 and L2 assessments. The stimulated recall interviews revealed that students’ engagement with source texts was closely associated with their representations of the writing task in the pre-writing stage where metacognitive control over the planning, evaluation, and revision processes has a significant role to play. Misinterpretation of task requirements would cause inappropriate selection of source texts, thereby inclusion of irrelevant information. Effects of L1 single- and multiple-text comprehension on L2 integrated writing Building upon above findings, the results of SEM analyses revealed that L1 reading comprehension, including STRC and MTRC contributed significantly to integrated writing performance. The SEM analyses also revealed significant cross-language effect of CIW on EIW. The ability to write from multiple texts in L1 is predictive of the ability in L2. Moreover, cross-language transfer also existed between L1 reading comprehension and L2 integrated writing performance. The results suggest that literacy skills are transferable from L1 to L2 not only in the same skill domain (e.g., integrated writing) but also between skills (e.g., from reading to writing). Apart from its direct effects on L1 and L2 integrated writing, STRC also affected EIW indirectly through the mediation of MTRC and CIW. Cross-language transfer from L1 to L2 in both multiple-text comprehension and integrated writing was also observed. The transferability between L1 and L2 integrated writing also implies that the developmental level of intertextual processing in L1 could serve a significant predictor of the achievement levels of learners in L2 integrated writing.
Potential for further development of the research
and the proposed course of action:
1) Based on the preliminary findings of this study project (considered as a pilot study by RGC), the main study will be conducted by applying for GRF projects. A. A close investigation into integrated writing processes. A close investigation into integrated writing processes using concurrent think-aloud method that ask participants to give a concurrent account of their thought processes could shed more light on the complexity of integrated writing processes. Additionally, the eye tracking tests were conducted with a very small sample in the completed project. Collecting data from a larger sample will allow in-depth statistical analysis. B. A longitudinal study on the development of students’ integrated writing competence. This completed project only involved students at the senior secondary level (Grades 10 and 11). To add depth to the findings of this project, it is necessary to carry out a longitudinal study to observe and track the development of integrated writing competence of students ideally during the upper primary or junior secondary levels. 2) An investigation into instructional approaches to integrated writing This project found that processing skills (i.e., quotation, summarization, and connection) are significant predictors of L1 and L2 integrated writing performance. It is necessary to investigate the necessary pedagogies used in developing students’ language proficiency.
Layman's Summary of
Completion Report:
Integrated writing entails writers to integrated information from multiple sources and to coordinate different language skills simultaneously. It constitutes an integral part of Hong Kong’s language curriculum at the secondary school level and is considered as critical competence for academic and career success. This project explored the effects of various cognitive operations on integrated writing performance in Chinese (L1) and English (L2). The findings suggest that the ability to write from sources in L2 can capitalize on the ability that have already acquired in L1 with regard to single-text and multiple-text comprehension and discourse synthesis strategies. This study contributed to existing literature by establishing the cross-language connection between reading and writing in L2 integrated writing. It also provided evidence that supports the adoption and early implementation of integrative pedagogy of reading and writing in L1 to better facilitate the development of L2 integrated writing competence.
Research Output
Peer-reviewed journal publication(s)
arising directly from this research project :
(* denotes the corresponding author)
Year of
Publication
Author(s) Title and Journal/Book Accessible from Institution Repository
2020 Xinhua Zhu, Guan Ying Li*, Guoxin Yu, Choo Mui Cheong  Secondary school students’ discourse synthesis performance on Chinese (L1) and English (L2) integrated writing assessments. (2020) Reading and Writing  Yes 
Recognized international conference(s)
in which paper(s) related to this research
project was/were delivered :
Month/Year/City Title Conference Name
Singapore Secondary school students’ performance on integrated writing task in Chinese as a first language  The 5th International Conference on the Teaching and Learning of Chinese as a Second Language 
Hangzhou Inspiration from the Integrated Assessment of Chinese Language in Hong Kong: Discussing on the Assessment Practice of Teachers based on Assessment Literacy  High-level Forum on the Educational Reformation for Remarkable Primary School Teachers in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau 
Other impact
(e.g. award of patents or prizes,
collaboration with other research institutions,
technology transfer, etc.):

  SCREEN ID: SCRRM00542