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The relationship between executive functions and integrated writing in Chinese (L1) and English (L2) among secondary students in Hong Kong

Project Scheme:
Early Career Scheme
Project Year:
Project Leader:
Dr LIAO, Xian
(Department of Chinese Language Studies)

This project aims to extend the research scope to explore the roles of EF in completing IW tasks in both L1 and L2.

Integrated language skill is important to students’ academic learning and further career development. Integrated writing (IW) has become increasingly popular in both first (L1) and second language (L2) teaching and assessment. The IW task requires students to retrieve and organize the ideas carried by the sources of reading or listening materials, then draw upon their writing knowledge to compose the required essay. Due to its hybrid nature, it brings a huge challenge to students due to its hybrid nature that complex skills are involved, thus it is very necessary to explore the relevant factors that influence students’ performance in IW. Executive functions (EF) refers to a set of cognitive processes (i.e., working memory, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and planning) necessary for performing goal-directed behaviour. Whereas an increasing number of studies have found that EF is an important factor accounting for individual difference in various literacy skills (i.e., independent reading and writing), its relationship to more complicated skills such as IW has not been systematically discussed. This project aims to extend the research scope to explore the roles of EF in completing IW tasks in both L1 and L2. A total of 300 Grade 10 students from six local schools will be invited to participate in this study. They will be asked to complete a battery of research instruments repeatedly at two time points, including one IW task in Chinese, one IW task in English and four psychometric tasks measuring students’ EF. Demographic information such as age, gender, and social economic status will also be collected. In addition to descriptive statistical analyses and basic correlation, hierarchical regression and structural equation modelling will also be performed. The findings will help to identify the significant contributors of EF to IW performance in L1 and L2 concurrently and overtime, respectively; examine the relationship between individual differences in EF and the IW performance; and investigate the mechanism by which EF affect the development of IW skills across languages. The contribution of this project is multi-fold. On a theoretical level, it will deepen our theoretical understanding on the underlying factors influencing performance in complicated literacy skills; Moreover, it also taps into the knowledge on the mechanism that domain-general factors impact the learning of L1 and L2. On a practical level, it could shed light on the teaching and learning of IW skills among secondary students.