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Task-Based Language Teaching

Rod Ellis
University of Auckland
Three Dimensions of Language
Teaching
Goal (i.e. ‘why’ the language is being taught)
Content (i.e. ‘what’ is taught)
- Type A syllabuses
- Type B syllabuses
Methodology (i.e. ‘how’ it is taught)
- accuracy
- fluency
Grammar Translation
Goal Content Methodology

Ability to read Type A (list of Accuracy (i.e.


literature in grammar accurate
the L2 rules and translation of
words to be L2 into L1)
taught)
Audiolingualism
Goal Content Methodology

Ability to Type A (list of Accuracy


communicate linguistic (I.e. focus on
items to be target-like
taught) use of the
L2)
Notional/Functional Teaching
Goal Content Methodology

Ability to Type A (i.e. a Accuracy (i.e.


communicate list of notions focus on
and functions target-like
use of the
L2)
Task-Based Teaching
Goal Content Methodology

Ability to Type B (i.e. a Fluency (i.e.


communicate series of focus on
message- message
focused conveyance)
tasks)
Rationale for Using Tasks
1. Developing implicit knowledge – learners
can only develop implicit knowledge of a
second language incidentally as a result of
the effort to communicate.
2. Automatization – learners can only gain in
fluency by attempting to use the L2 in real
operating conditions.
Defining a ‘Task’
1. A task is a goal directed.
2. A task involves a primary focus on
meaning.
3. The participants choose the linguistic
resources needed to complete the
task.
4. A task has a clearly defined outcome.
Types of Task
1. Unfocussed tasks
a. Pedagogic
b. Real world
2. Focussed tasks
An Example of a Pedagogic
Task
1. Four students – each has one picture and
describes it to the rest of the class.
2. Students from the rest of the class ask the
four students questions about their pictures.
3. One student from the class tries to tell the
story.
4. If necessary Steps 2 and 3 are repeated.
Some Typical Pedagogic
Tasks
1. Information-gap tasks (e.g. Same or
Different)
2. Opinion-gap tasks (e.g. Balloon debates)
3. Reasoning-gap tasks
4. Personal tasks
5. Role-play tasks
Note: Tasks can be dialogic or monologic; they
can be performed orally or in writing.
A Real-World Task
Look at the e-mail message below. Listen to Mr.
Pointer’s instructions on the tape. Make notes if you
want to. Then write a suitable reply to Lesieur.

Dear Mr. Pointer


Please send flight number, date and time of arrival
and I will arrange for someone to meet you at the
airport.
Lesieur.
A Focussed Task
Can you spot the differences?

A
A Focussed Task
Can you spot the difference?

B
A Framework for Describing
Tasks
1. Goal
2. Input
3. Conditions
4. Predicted outcomes:
a. Process
b. Product
Two Approaches to Using
Tasks
1. Use tasks to support a Type A approach.
- task-supported teaching (Type A)
- weak form of communicative language
teaching
2. Use tasks as the basis for teaching
- task-based teaching (Type B)
- strong form of communicative teaching
Designing a Task-Based
Curriculum
1. Select task types according to general
level.
2. Determine the themes/topics of the
tasks
3. Grade tasks in terms of task difficulty
4. Specify language/skills/ text types
required to perform the task.
The Methodology of Task-Based
Teaching
Three phases in a task-based lesson:
1. Pre-task phase
2. Main task phase
3. Post-task phase
The Pre-Task Phase
Some options:

1. Allow the students time to plan.


2. Provide a model
3. Do a similar task
4. Pre-teach key linguistic items
The Main Task Phase
Some options:
1. Whole-class vs. small group work
2. Set a time for completing the task.
3. Vary the number of participants.
4. Introduce a surprise element.
5. Tell students they will have to present
a report to the whole class.
The Post-Task Phase
Some options:

1. Students give a report.


2. Repeat task (e.g. students switch
groups)
3. Consciousness-raising activities.
Focussing on Form

Opportunities to focus on form arise in


task-based teaching:
Definition:
Focus on form … overtly draws
students’ attention to linguistic
elements as they arise incidentally in
lessons whose overrriding focus is
on meaning or communication.
(Long 1991)
cf. Focus on forms
Three Types of Focus on
Form
1. Reactive focus on form (error
correction)
2. Teacher-initiated focus on form
3. Student-initiated focus on form
Reactive Focus on Form: An
Example
T: What were you doing?
S: I was in pub
(2)
S: I was in pub
T: In the pub?
S: Yeh and I was drinking beer with my
friend.
Dual Focus
Learner 1: And what did you do last weekend?
Learner 2: … I tried to find a pub where you
don’t see – where you don’t see many
tourists. And I find one
Teacher: Found.
Learner 2: I found one where I spoke with two
English women and we spoke about life in
Canterbury or things and after I came back
Teacher: Afterwards …
Problems and Solutions
Problem Solution

1. Students lack Devise activities that


proficiency to develop ability to
communicate in the communicate
L2 gradually.
2. Students Use small group
unwilling to speak work; allow planning
English in class. time; learner training
3. Students develop Select tasks that
pidginized language demand fully
system grammaticalized
language
Problems with the Educational System
and Solutions
Problems Solutions

1. Emphasis on Review philosophy


‘knowledge’ learning of education.
2. Examination Develop new more
system communicative
exams
3. Large classes Use small group
work; develop tasks
suited to large
classes.
Conclusions
1. Task-based teaching offers the opportunity
for ‘natural’ learning inside the classroom.
2. It emphasizes meaning over form but can
also cater for learning form.
3. It is intrinsically motivating.
4. It is compatible with a learner-centred
educational philosophy.
5. It can be used alongside a more traditional
approach.