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What is Task-Based Language Teaching?
Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) is an educational framework for the theory and practice of teaching second or foreign languages (see http://www.tblt.org.) Within this framework, students act primarily as language users, whereas in traditional instruction they are positioned primarily as language learners. TBLT employs meaningful, communicative tasks as the central unit for language learning activities.
Ellis (2009) argues that to be successful a task should (a) focus on the meaning, (b) include a “gap” in learner skills, (c) be completed relying only on the learners’ own resources, and (d) have a well-defined outcome that does not focus on language.
Task assessment (Norris 2009) is primarily based on successful task outcome (in other words, the concrete completion of real world tasks) rather than on accuracy of prescribed language forms (Long 2015).
TBLT’s commitment to the pedagogical benefits of real-life language settings can be realized particularly well via online collaboration. According to O’Dowd and Waire, “telecollaborative tasks generally involve different linguistic and cultural communities and thereby have a strong possibility of producing negotiation of meaning and providing opportunities for the exploration of different cultural perspectives.” (O’Dowd & Waire, 2009, p. 175).
Guth & Helm (2011) suggest that when applied to a telecollaboration project, a task cycle should be organized in the following sequence:
- preparatory pre-task activities, which may include:
- Activating background knowledge
- Exploring and acquiring new content knowledge
- Exploring new vocabulary and language use
- Conducting preliminary discussions
- Revising instructions for the task
- interactive task activities, which may include
- Activating autonomous learning
- Collaborating with remote partners
- Actualizing intercultural analysis
- Practicing language skills
- reflective post-task activities, which may include
- Instructor’s feedback and students’ self-reflections on language use and intercultural competence
- Guided class discussion/debriefing
- Structured journal writing, reports, presentations
Multiple types of tasks have been used in telecollaboration projects over the years. O’Dowd and Waire (2009, p. 176-177) examined a wide corpus of research and identified three main categories of tasks according to the type of communicative activity involved in the task. Namely, these categories are
- information exchange, including authoring “cultural autobiographies,” carrying out virtual interviews, engaging in informal discussion, and exchanging story collections;
- comparison and analysis, including comparing parallel texts, comparing class questionnaires, analyzing cultural products, and translating; and
- collaboration and product creation, including collaborating on product creation, transforming text genres, carrying out “closed outcome” discussions, and making cultural translations/ adaptations. Given the wide range of task types available, it becomes important for teachers to recognize the options that are best adapted to their specific institutional and learning contexts
Ellis, R. (2009) Task-based language teaching: sorting out the misunderstandings. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19(3), 221-246.
Guth, S., Helm, F. (2011). Developing multiliteracies in ELT through telecollaboration. ELT Journal, 66(1), 42-51. DOI: 10.1093/elt/ccr027
O’Dowd, R., Waire, P. (2009) Critical issues in telecollaborative task design. Computer assisted Language Learning, 22(2), (pp.173-188), DOI: 10.1080/09588220902778369
Norris, J. (2009). Task-based teaching and testing. In Long, M. H. & Doughty, C. J. (eds.), Handbook of language teaching (pp. 578-94). Oxford, Blackwell.