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Task-Based Learning

The Task-Based Learning Approach

An Introduction to Task-Based Learning (TBL)

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Task-based Learning (TBL) is an English teaching approach that has roots in the Communicative Language Teaching method, where the teaching process is done entirely through communicative tasks. In order to fully acquire language, it must have real meaning by being used in natural contexts. With Task-based Learning, teachers ask students to complete purposeful tasks that elicit the use of the target language. Assessment centers around the general outcome of the task, rather than meticulously picking apart each element of speech. In doing this, you celebrate the successful, appropriate completion of a task, which in turn boosts student confidence immensely.

General Principles of Task-based Learning

Relevant tasks

Task-based Learning tasks can be categorized by the type of mental processes used in the activity, such as listing, comparing, problem-solving, creative thinking, and sharing personal experiences.

Tasks are extremely varied, but all share several common features

They must focus on meaning and comprehension, rather than repetition and recitation. There must be a clearly defined outcome to determine the task’s effectiveness and the student’s success. For example, the task could be to book a transportation ticket over the phone. In this case, the outcome would be to successfully book the ticket. There must be a gap between teacher instruction, student performance, and end analysis. Lastly, it is highly effective if students are allowed to choose and utilize the resources that they deem necessary to complete the task. Please note: this does not include pulling out a phone and turning to Google translate.

Students learn by interacting

Sitting in a classroom and being lectured at for an hour is not conducive to language acquisition and production- nor is it good for confidence and a sense of enjoyment! Each student needs to be engaged and encouraged to participate.

Focus on using and eliciting authentic language

So many textbooks and foreign language classes center around memorizing and mimicking awkward grammar patterns that aren’t typically used in real life situations. The language that you use with students and that you want to instill in them needs to be genuine and viable in order for the experience to be effective and useful for them.

Errors are a natural part of the learning process

While correcting them is important to a certain degree, you do not want to embarrass or dissuade students from trying to communicate. Praise students for task successes instead of picking out each tiny error. Errors can be fixed with time, but confidence can be shattered in a second.

Focus on the process as a whole rather than the end product

Learning is just that: a process. Teachers must provide students with the tools that they need, give guidance, and encourage students to call upon previous language and personal experiences. This methodology does not result in a multiple-choice test grade. Each step of the process is equally important to task triumphs and, eventually, real world language success.

Participation in and completion of tasks is extremely motivational

Tasks address real life needs and allow students to use their bag of language tools to meet those needs. Additionally, the use of tasks allows variation in the classroom, omits boredom (if planned properly), and encourages students to use a wide variety of communication styles and techniques, such as comparing, debating, and persuading.

Tasks provide two key processing elements that are necessary for language learning: input and output

Copying lines and reciting a song or poem are incapable of meeting this criteria in their very design. Incorporating opportunities for both input and output into every task enable language leaners to practice negotiation, listening and re-defining, rephrasing, and on-the-spot thinking- all things that occur naturally in our lives on a daily basis.

Learn more about the 4 major ESL lesson planning frameworks under the umbrella of the Communicative Language Teaching method.

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