Task-Based Language Teaching
This methodology uses tasks to create meaningful language use from students.
In task-based instruction, the lessons focus on the meaning of the tasks, not on the target language. Language is allowed to emerge as students concentrate on task completion.
A task is any activity that students complete to accomplish a goal that is not focused on language.
Tasks should be related to the real world so they are as authentic as possible. Real-world tasks are more useful to students because they are meaningful.
Tasks should also be relevant. Relevant tasks are based on the needs of the students. Tasks are closely related to the real world. For example, making a doctor's appointment is something students may actually need to do. In business training, tasks can be modeled after activities in a company, like choosing a mail delivery service.
Tasks should be varied. Some different types of tasks:
- Negotiation and Ranking Tasks
- Performance Tasks
- Business Tasks
- Design Tasks
- Problem Solving Tasks
- Opinion Gap Tasks
Real world tasks often involve several of these elements. Consider an example of ordering delivery food on the telephone.
- Negotiating - Choosing which food to order
- Information Gap - Asking operator for food specials
- Problem Solving - Ordering within the budget
Task Difficulty has an important effect on the outcomes and learning goals. Easy tasks allow students to focus on form, while difficult tasks allow students to focus on meaning. Teachers should alter task difficulty depending on the students and the desired outcomes. Task difficulty can also be different for different learning levels, making task-based language teaching a good solution for mixed-level classes.
Task-based language teaching should be learner-centered. Students should have the chance to choose tasks as well as assessments or performances. By allowing students to choose tasks, teachers ensure task relevance and lessons are learner-centered.
The Task Cycle
Implementing task-based instruction in the classroom takes organization. Each task should be a part of a larger task cycle. The task cycle contains three main components:
1. Task Choice
Choose a task or topic for the lesson. Try to choose tasks that are authentic and related to the learner. The best option is to involve students in choosing the task for the lesson.
2. Discussion and Activation
Use discussion questions to introduce the topic or theme to the students. Look for background knowledge of the topic or the language functions.
3. Language (Optional)
Give students the vocabulary or grammar structures they will need to complete the task. Often, it is best to give the vocabulary, but discussing grammar before the task will make students focus on form throughout the task.
4. Model the task
The teacher should model the task so students are clear about the expectations and goals. This could be in the form of a video, audio recording, or teacher performance. Writing and reading tasks can be modeled with examples on paper or computers.
1. Students complete the task.
Students work independently or in teams on a task, while focusing on meaning and task completion.
Students reflect on the task and what they accomplished. They should also consider what they learned and how they improved throughout the task. The teacher should provide discussion questions and prompts to facilitate meaningful reflection from the students.
2. Task Feedback
The teacher should give feedback on task completion and success first. Language feedback will come later, but first the teacher must comment on the work and achievements of the students.
3. Language Feedback
Focussing on the language that emerged provides learners the chance to reflect and improve their language abilities. It also does not detract from the focus on meaning during the task because the activity is now almost over. Extra practice could accompany some major language gaps from the students. Task repetition is also an option.
Depending on the task and the situation, teachers may wish to have students complete the task again. Often the teacher adds variations to challenge the students in new ways. Task repetition is not always necessary. It is, however, effective in role-play type tasks. However, if tasks are authentic enough, they shouldn't be able to be repeated. For example, buying an online product as a task can only be completed once if the purchase is authentic.
Task-based language teaching is an exciting and effective methodology. It works very well in group second language classrooms. The ideas, strategies, and resources on this site will help you implement task-based instruction into your classrooms.