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Task-Based Instruction

Centro Colombo Americano In-Service Training Listing. Generates talk as learners explain their ideas. Processes involved
January 15, 2009 include brainstorming, where learners draw on their own knowledge and
experience either as a class or in groups, and fact-finding, where learners
Sources: Willis, J. (1996). A Framework for Task-Based Learning. England, find out things about each other or others.
UK: Pearson Education; Lindsay, C. & Knight, P. (2006). Learning and 1. Ordering and sorting. Involves four main processes:
Teaching English. Oxford, NY: Oxford University. (1) sequencing items, actions, or events in a logical order,
(2) ranking items according to personal values or a specified
What are Tasks? criteria, (3) categorizing items in given groups, and
Activities where the target language is used by the learner for a (4) classifying items in different ways, where the categories
communicative purpose in order to achieve an outcome. These themselves are not given.
activities focus on the process of communicating by setting tasks 2. Comparing. Involve comparing information of a similar nature but
for the learner to complete using the target language. from different sources or versions in order to identify common
points and/or differences. Processes involved include matching,
All tasks should have an outcome. Tasks could be anything from an
finding similarities, and finding differences.
information gap to problem-solving.
3. Problem-solving. Make demands upon peoples intellectual and
The challenge of achieving that outcome is what makes TBL
reasoning powers, and by providing a challenge, are engaging and
motivating. Students can use their full range of skills and language
often satisfying to solve.
at the same time, rather than in discrete units as sometimes happens
4. Sharing personal experiences
with CLT.
5. Creative tasks. These are often called projects and involve pairs or
An example of an activity that lacks an outcome would be to show
groups of learners in some kind of freer creative work. They also
students a picture and say Write four sentences describing the
tend to have more steps/stages than tasks, and can involve a
picture. Say them to your partner. Here, there is no communicative
combination of task types. Organizational skills and team-work are
purpose, only the practice of the language form.
important in getting the task done.
6 Types of Tasks
Starting Points for Tasks
Personal knowledge and experience: Many tasks are based on the
learners personal and professional experience and knowledge of the world.

Problems: The starting point in normally the statement of the problem.

Visual Stimuli: Tasks can be based on pictures, photographs, tables, graphs,


etc.

Spoken and written texts: Recordings of spoken English, extracts from


videos, and reading texts can make good task material. An example of a
task here would be to read or listen to the first part of a story, and given a
few additional clues, discuss or write an ending.

Childrens activities: Action games, miming and guessing, and popular


playground games are effective with young learners.

Pre-Task Language Activities


Pre-task activities to explore topic language should actively involve all
learners, give them relevant exposure, and create interest in doing a task on
this topic. They provide support for complex tasks and activate schemata, as
well as present new vocabulary, grammar, and language functions that the
learners will need to complete the task.

Example activities
a. Classifying words and phrases: think of ways to categorize
b. Odd One Out: write sets of related words or phrases on the board,
inserting one item into each set that doesnt fit.
c. Matching phrases to pictures
d. Memory Challenge: same as matching, only you take the pictures
down after 1-2 minutes, and the learners must match the
phrases or captions to the pictures from memory.
e. Brainstorming and mind maps

Adapting Textbook Materials to TBI


Opportunities for task-based learning can happen by making small changes
in the way the textbook materials are used.

Change class management. Switch from whole class to group


activities.
Change the order of activities.
Change the balance of study in certain sections of the text.

The Task-based Framework


The task-based approach 159; Swain, 1995; Skehan, 1998: 16-22); on the other hand, the
The notion of task is, on the one hand, as old as humankind may be realization of the product is part of the activity motivation which tasks
in the common sense of the concept and it is even quite well seek to promote (Ellis, 1985:300). The product is the rationale for the
established in the rapidly changing world of TEFL. On the other hand, task, and for that reason the realization of the product must be
it is a relatively unheard-of term in the lexicon of many Englsih related to the learners interests and needs.
teachers in Obregon.
Regarding the organization and planning of tasks, Dave Willis and
In TEFL, the term task has received a number of definitions, which Jane Willis (2001:163), after stating six propositions to guide ESL,
are summarised in Nunan (1989: 5-11). Nunan himself defines it as a explain that what is needed is a methodology rooted in meanings and
piece of classroom work which involves learners in comprehending, which exploits natural language behaviour, activities which
manipulating, producing or interacting in the target language while encourage a focus on form and a syllabus which is holistic and which
their attention is principally focused on meaning rather than form. The is specified both pragmatically and linguistically.
task should also have a sense of completeness, being able to stand
alone as a communicative act in its own right. (Nunan 1989:10) To achieve these demands, they create a task-based framework
(Willis and Willis 1996 and 2001). This task-based framework, which
Skehan (1998: 95) prefers to collect the most important features of creates a bridge between the concepts of task and didactic unit,
tasks from other authors works, saying that a task is an activity in consists of three parts and some sub-elements. (See Graphic 1)
which:
- meaning is primary;
- there is some communication problem to solve;
- there is some sort of relationship to comparable real-world activities;
- task completion has some priority;
- the assessment of the task is in terms of outcome.

From our perspective, a task is the sum of activities performed to


produce something from an input. These activities are the means to
achieve the goals established in the teaching-learning process. The
output of the task must be a real-world material product. During the
performance of the activities the teacher and the learners must
assume different roles, which go beyond the teacher as the centre of This task-based framework represents an interesting way of
the classroom. organising the ESL curriculum. On the one hand, the teacher does
not explicitly establish the list of structures and the range of
The emphasis on a product as a result of the task is justified for two vocabulary which would be studied during a unit, but they devise
reasons: on the one hand, research on second language acquisition tasks to fulfil some goals based on the learners needs and interests.
has shown that, apart from some comprehensible input, it is On the other hand, it goes beyond the traditional method of
necessary to produce some comprehensible output to provoke organizing language teaching described by Skehan (1998:93-95) as
acquisition, and the creation of a material product and its subsequent the 3 Ps, Presentation, Practice and Production.
presentation can foster that comprehensible output (Ellis 1985: 157-
Furthermore, this framework, like the task-based approach itself, has
some interesting advantages. First, it focuses on meaning while it
does not forget about form. Second, it fosters not only individual work,
but basically pair- and group-work. Third, this framework does not
constrain the selection of activities or the use of the textbook.
Moreover, the task-based approach encourages the integration of
skills in a realistic manner. Finally, this framework moves beyond the
concept of assessment as the measure of the acquisition of a closed
set of linguistic items predefined by the teacher.

In conclusion, a task-based approach, within this task-based


framework, can provide teachers and students with a space for
communication which is not present in many language lessons. Now,
this approach must be complemented with the three following
elements, the content-based approach, language awareness and the
intercultural competence.