Understanding students’ conceptions of task assignments

Alexandra List, Hongcui Du, Ying Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Building on research emphasizing the importance of task in reading performance, the present study examines students’ conceptions or definitions of five common academic task assignments (i.e., argument, essay, opinion, summary and research tasks). Results showed that while students have robust schema for some task assignments (e.g., argument, research report), citing a large variety of task elements in defining each of these assignment, other task assignments are only superficially conceptualized by learners (e.g., opinion, essay). While prior work has demonstrated the important role of task assignment in students’ text processing and performance, this is among the first studies to associate emergent differences not only with the tasks assigned but also with students’ task conceptions. Given the emphasis placed on argument tasks in supporting deeper level processing, we were especially interested in students’ conceptions of argument tasks vis-à-vis summary tasks. Students’ conceptions of these and other task assignments were compared using Cochran's Q, a non-parametric alternative to the repeated measures ANOVA. Finally, linear regression found students’ conceptions of an argument task to be associated with performance on an argument writing task assignment. For instance, students considering argument construction to require citation use was associated with their inclusion of citations in their written responses. This study is among the first to examine students’ own conceptions of common task assignments and to link task conceptions with performance. Implications for instruction are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101801
JournalContemporary Educational Psychology
StatePublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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