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
Rationale for Using Tasks • Developing implicit knowledge – learners can only develop implicit knowledge of a second language incidentally as a result of the effort to communicate. • Automatization – learners can only gain in fluency by attempting to use the L2 in real operating conditions.
Defining a ‘Task’ • A task is a goal directed. • A task involves a primary focus on meaning. • The participants choose the linguistic resources needed to complete the task. • A task has a clearly defined outcome.
Types of Task • Unfocussed tasks a. Pedagogic b. Real world • Focussed tasks
An Example of a Pedagogic Task • Four students – each has one picture and describes it to the rest of the class. • Students from the rest of the class ask the four students questions about their pictures. • One student from the class tries to tell the story. • If necessary Steps 2 and 3 are repeated.
Some Typical Pedagogic Tasks • Information-gap tasks (e.g. Same or Different) • Opinion-gap tasks (e.g. Balloon debates) • Reasoning-gap tasks • Personal tasks • 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? B A
A Focussed Task Can you spot the difference? A B
A Framework for Describing Tasks • Goal • Input • Conditions • Predicted outcomes: a. Process b. Product
Two Approaches to Using Tasks • Use tasks to support a Type A approach. - task-supported teaching (Type A) - weak form of communicative language teaching • Use tasks as the basis for teaching - task-based teaching (Type B) - strong form of communicative teaching
Designing a Task-Based Curriculum • Select task types according to general level. • Determine the themes/topics of the tasks • Grade tasks in terms of task difficulty • Specify language/skills/ text types required to perform the task.
The Methodology of Task-Based Teaching Three phases in a task-based lesson: • Pre-task phase • Main task phase • Post-task phase
The Pre-Task Phase Some options: • Allow the students time to plan. • Provide a model • Do a similar task • Pre-teach key linguistic items
The Main Task Phase Some options: • Whole-class vs. small group work • Set a time for completing the task. • Vary the number of participants. • Introduce a surprise element. • Tell students they will have to present a report to the whole class.
The Post-Task Phase Some options: • Students give a report. • Repeat task (e.g. students switch groups) • 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 • Reactive focus on form (error correction) • Teacher-initiated focus on form • 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 …
Conclusions • Task-based teaching offers the opportunity for ‘natural’ learning inside the classroom. • It emphasizes meaning over form but can also cater for learning form. • It is intrinsically motivating. • It is compatible with a learner-centred educational philosophy. • It can be used alongside a more traditional approach.