Take an approach to teaching that will motivate your students and get them communicating in English
Why Task-Based Learning?
Task-Based Learning (TBL), also known as Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) is a tried and tested “fluency first” methodology, and it is well supported by research into Second Language Acquisition. It values Motivation, Exposure, Use – as well as a Focus on Form i.e. the clarification of language by the teacher.
Motivation: Well-motivated students, those who get genuine enjoyment from their language lessons, will do more independent study and make vastly more progress.
Exposure: Being exposed to interesting texts, including recordings and the output of other language users, is by far the major factor in successful language learning.
Use: Students need the opportunity to use the language themselves. “A task-based methodology is based on the belief that out of fluency comes accuracy, and that learning is prompted and refined by the need to communicate.” Dave Willis (1990)
English language students in most contexts want more than a list of structures and vocabulary; ultimately, they want to express themselves in English. TBL prioritises communication as the driver of language acquisition; it helps students say what they want to say – in English.
The dominant processes underlying language acquisition are implicit; language is learned incidentally while the students are attending to meaning. Furthermore, as teachers, we want to develop procedural knowledge – knowledge how to do something – as opposed to knowledge of rules. (You could compare playing a musical instrument, or the facility with which you we usually operate our laptops or mobile devices.) Teachers who use TBL don’t overvalue students’ explicit knowledge of rules.
“Instruction cannot affect the route of interlanguage development in any significant way.” (Ortega, 2009). Students’ deep knowledge of language develops in its own way, not according to the familiar structural syllabuses of most coursebooks. TBL respects the students’ own internal syllabus, or as Selinker (1972) labelled it, their interlanguage.
In TBL, much of the focus on form (explicit teaching) is reactive; it tends to come later in the lesson, as a result of the teacher’s having monitored students’ performance. The main focus of the lesson is on exposure to language, and on the students’ expressing their own meanings. The teacher supports the students’ own language development, rather than seeking to control it.
The language focus in lessons tends to be wide-ranging, rather than teaching “a structure a day”, providing a rich and nutritious diet of lexis, grammar and pronunciation – as opposed to what Thornbury famously called “Grammar McNuggets” (i.e. the language chopped up into bite-size chunks of grammar, ready to serve).
You are likely here and reading this as current circumstances mean you are doing most, if not all of, your teaching online. We are therefore, for the time being, presenting activities and lessons with a view to their delivery on Zoom or similar platforms, where there is relative ease of use of breakout rooms, whether new ideas or older ones that we have updated in terms of the procedure.
The content of many of these tasks will often reflect the new reality we live in, and will often encourage students to discuss their views and lives in relation to the impact of the virus on the world, lockdown and so on. However, we don’t intend to limit ourselves to discussing this and we hope, over time, to develop a robust and varied set of tasks on a range of topics, tasks that are easy to implement and adapt to your learners’ needs and interests.