Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT) also known as task-based instruction (TBI), is an educational framework of teaching foreign languages. It is claimed that it is a model that can help learner acquire a second language effectively.




TBLT was born when teachers realised that the traditional method of repetition and memorisation of grammar rules rarely led to fluency and the need for a new approach to language teaching was necessary to fill the existing void. TBLT evolved from the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) movement. Their supporters firmly believed that grammar alone is not enough to equip the learner with the requires skills that will allow them to use the language in real life situations.

TBLT focuses on the use of authentic language by using authentic materials that bridges the gap with the outside world. Students are asked to perform tasks that can help them to communicate in their target language more effectively.


TBLT focuses on the use of authentic language


What is the definition of task in TBLT?

According to Willis (1996) tasks are “activities where the target language is used by learners for the communicative purpose (goal) in order to achieve an outcome”.

Foster and Skehan (1996) defined tasks as “activities that are meaning-focused and outcome-evaluated and have some real-world relationship”.

Nunan’s (1989) definition of task is as follow: a task is “a piece of work which involves learners in comprehending, manipulating, producing or interacting in the target language while their attention is principally focused on meaning rather than form”.


Task-based lesson plans are divided in three parts


How does a task-based lesson plan look like?

The outline is basically divided in three parts:

Pre-task

The teacher tells the students about the task and what is expected from them. Learners are responsible for selecting the appropriate language themselves. Usually the teacher does not prep the students with vocabulary or grammar, as these might distract the students from the main purpose of the exercise.

Task

During this phase, the students perform the tasks in small groups, and the teacher only observes. He/she may advise when requested.



Review

Learners can review each other’s work and give feedback.

Students are assessed according to the adequate completion of the task.


Type of tasks

The tasks learners can be asked to do can be:

Listing

They might be asked to complete a list or some brainstorming activity.

Ordering

They will have to sort out specific information in categories or sequence.

Comparing

Learners search for similarities or differences. They should be able to identify and match items.

Problem solving

They should analyse real situations and hypothetical scenarios, reason and make decisions, the result is to give solutions to problems and then evaluate.

Some examples can be to follow directions to a venue, order something at a restaurant, apply for a library card etc.

Sharing personal experiences

Learners narrate, explore, describe and explain attitudes, reactions and opinions.

Creative tasks

These include activities such as brainstorming, comparing, sorting, ordering and problem solving.

[Willis:1996]


Advantages of TBLT


What are the advantages of this method?

Learners learn to rely on their existing knowledge and language skills to solve the tasks.

They are exposed to new language and different approaches, all this improving their overall language skills.

Students acquire a deeper sense of understanding of the language.

Vocabulary is introduced in a real-life situation.

Students have an active participation in the process.

It is student-centred and caters for a more meaningful way of communicating.

Students are more engaged and such boosting their motivation.

The Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) is gaining more followers worldwide, and the International Conference on Task-Based Language Teaching takes place every two years and features some of the world’s foremost scholars and practitioner of the approach. This year it took place at Carlton University, in Canada. The first one began in Belgium in 2005.

There are also numerous critics that disapprove components of the TBLT teaching method and framework.

Seedhouse (1999) argued that TBLT emphasises too much on tasks and communicating meaning. There is a lot more to communication than performing tasks.

I think that TBLT could be integrated into a teaching program focussed on communication without being the sole means of transferring knowledge to the students.


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