Task Complexity, Peer Interaction and Learner Autonomy: A Case Study

Nishevita Jayendran, Lavanya Murali, Anusha Ramanathan, Jennifer Thomas, Sujata Bhonsale, Surbhi Nagpal, Mayuri Kulkarni


This paper investigates practices that support student autonomy in an ESL lab. Adopting a mixed methods, case study approach and drawing on observations, surveys and interviews with 46 ninth grade students and teachers in an interventionist language learning program in a semi-urban, government high school in Mizoram, India, we argue that language learning spaces that support peer collaboration to accomplish production tasks of increasing complexity lead ESL learners towards autonomy. Recent studies in language learning have shown that task complexity pushes learners towards language production. Paired interaction in task completion supports the process. This paper draws on observations of students’ behaviour in the language lab designed by the Connected Learning Initiative, a collaborative project between the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston and the Tata Trust that aims to provide course content focusing on listening and speaking skills in English to students in government schools in India. The study tried to capture student behaviour at a moment of transition from a simple to a complex task. We observed that peer interaction creates a safe learning space by enabling learners to negotiate progressively complex language tasks through risk taking that leads to self-reflexivity and learner autonomy.


TELL, Task Complexity, Peer Interaction, Autonomy

Back to Table of Contents
Download Full Paper (PDF)