1. Task Based Language Learning

Task based language learning is a relatively new approach to second language acquisition. It requires learners to complete meaningful, real-world tasks such as writing an email, letter, essay or article, making a phone call, conducting an interview, and designing and creating media. The focus of a task is primarily on pragmatic meaning and any focus on form, i.e. grammar, vocabulary, lexis, etc., tends to be addressed according to issues that emerge during participation in the task itself. This makes TBLL particularly suitable for individualised learning and promoting learner independence.

Professor Rod Ellis on Task Based Language Learning (2007)

What is a task?

  1. A task involves a primary focus on (pragmatic) meaning.
  2. A task has some kind of ‘gap’.
  3. The participants choose the linguistic resources needed to complete the task.
  4. A task has a clearly defined outcome.

Why do Task Based Language Learning?

  • Tasks can be easily related to students’ real-life language needs (i.e. ‘pedagogic tasks’ can be designed to reflect ‘target tasks’).
  • Tasks create contexts that facilitate second language acquisition (i.e. an L2 is best learned through communicating).
  • Tasks create opportunities for focusing on form.
  • Students are more likely to develop intrinsic motivation in a task-based approach.
  • A task-based approach enables teachers to see if students are developing the ability to communicate in an L2.

Advantages of task-based learning

  • Task-based learning offers the opportunity for ‘natural’ learning inside the classroom.
  • It emphasizes meaning over form but can also cater for learning form.
  • It is intrinsically motivating.
  • It is compatible with a learner-centred educational philosophy.
  • It can be used alongside a more traditional approach.

Principles of Task Based Language Learning

  • Learners require exposure to the real (authentic) and varied language of speakers of the target language (often modified; always comprehensible).
  • Learners must be exposed to and use the kind of language that they want and need for their own interests or purposes.
  • Learners must be provided with opportunities for unrehearsed and meaningful language use in purposeful interaction, where they take informed risks, make choices, and negotiate meaning while seeking solutions to genuine queries.
  • Teachers ensure that activities are interconnected and organised with clearly specified objectives and promote the desire to learn.
  • Teachers should elicit self-correction, enable personalised feedback, and consider learners’ individual developing language systems (interlanguage).
  • Teachers must set activities for learners that help them notice language forms; induction/discovery is preferable to deduction/presentation; teachers should (explicitly) instruct form in the context of activities where meaning is primary.
  • The whole language (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) should be integrated.
  • Teachers evaluate learners in a formative manner and in terms of the process of achieving a goal; learners need to evaluate their own performance and progress.

Source: Tinkering with tasks knows no bounds: ESL Teachers’ Adaptations of Task-Based Language-Teaching John L. Plews and Kangxian Zhao TESL CANADA JOURNAL/REVUE TESL DU CANADA 43, VOL. 28, NO 1, WINTER 2010

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