Task-based instruction

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Task-based instruction

Second Language Learning

2011

2 Table of contents Introduction. ……………………………………………………………… Tasks in SLA. ……………………………………………………………. A starting role for tasks ………………………………………... Two constructs for task-based research and language pedagogy. What are tasks? …………………………………………………………. Divergence about task-based instruction (TBI). ………………. Task-based second language learningand interaction. …………………. Building efficient tasks. …………………………………………………. Conclusion. ……………………………………………………………… References. ………………………………………………………………. 3 3 3 5 6 9 10 12 14 16

3 Introduction Following a rationale that has much in common with my two first papers (on output hypothesis and interaction) for EDSL 623 Second Language Learning, a deeper understanding of the role task-based instruction(TBI) plays in the context of second language learning and teaching seemed to be a complementary one. This paper intends to investigate on the different orientations, definitions and constructs that have helped frame the task-based instruction (TBI) in the SLA context. The paper will develop in the direction of defining what task means in SLA, the authors mostly involved with the theme, differentperceptions of the task-based instruction and the contribution research on the theme has offered SLA. Moreover, the topic interaction, when leveraged by tasks, will be addressed followed by a more pragmatic section that presents the design criteria for TBI. I will conclude this present paper with considerations regarding my own practice and the possible inferences and improvements in my EFL teacherpractice. Tasks in SLA A starting role for tasks In the end of the 80’s, task-based language teaching (TBLT) was still an innovation at the level of official policy and practice, although it was used as a central construct in a number of emerging research agendas. Nowadays, TBLT seems to be a new orthodoxy with major publishers claiming at least one major series to be “task-based” (Nunan, 2004).Nunan (2004) suspects that, following the gap existing between the rhetoric and the reality in relation to Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) when schools that claimed to be

4 teaching according to the principles of CLT were doing nothing of the sort, the same may be also true for TBLT. That may partially reflect that, as with CLT, there are numerous interpretations and orientations to theconcept (p.14). David Nunan is the author of two important guides for ESL teachers as me, named: Task-based language teaching (Nunan, 2004), and Designing tasks for the communication classroom (Nunan, 1989). The first major influence in the use of tasks in language teaching has come from Michael Long. He has made at least three major contributions to task work. First, he has argued that tasksshould be chosen according to learner need. He initiated debates to explore why not all tasks are equally effective and to devise research techniques for exploring which tasks would be more useful and when. Also, Long has argued for tasks that promote what he calls negotiation for meaning, that is, tasks that to be completed push learners to engage in checking and clarifying as it is developed (Skehan,2002, p. 291). Following the salient preoccupation regarding student need analysis, a study carried by Lambert (2010) on the meaningfulness of tasks and the learner need analysis helps shed light on a problem known as TENOR (Teaching English for No Obvious Reason). It demonstrated that it is possible to identify and build consensus on task types common across workplace domains, and that, givenadequate support, students can specify target tasks as a basis for organizing focused, goal-oriented instruction in a context. The study also provides a heuristic framework and procedures for task-based needs analyses. It helped me understand that better teaching refers to fulfilling emergent needs genuinely stemming from students and not from the teacher. Another important researcher who has...
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