What is Task-Based Learning?
*** Using tasks ***
Teachers have been using tasks for hundreds of years. Frequently, in the past, the task was a piece of translation often from a literary source. More recently, tasks have included projects for producing posters, brochures, pamphlets, oral presentations, radio plays, videos, websites and dramatic performances.
The characteristic of all these tasks is that rather than concentrating on one particular structure, function or vocabulary group, these tasks exploit a wider range of language. In many cases, students may also be using a range of different communicative language skills.
*** What makes ‘task-based learning’ different? ***
The traditional way that teachers have used tasks is as a follow-up to a series of structure/function or vocabulary based lessons. Tasks have been ‘extension’ activities as part of a graded and structured course.
In task-based learning, the tasks are central to the learning activity. Originally developed by N. Prabhu in Bangladore, Southern India, it is based on the belief that students may learn more effectively when their minds are focused on the task, rather than on the language they are using.
In the model of task-based learning described by Jane Willis, the traditional PPP (presentation, practice, production) lesson is reversed. The students start with the task. When they have completed it, the teacher draws attention to the language used, making corrections and adjustments to the students’ performance. In A Framework for Task-Based Learning, Jane Willis presents a three stage process:
* Pre-task – Introduction to the topic and task.
* Task cycle – Task planning and report
* Language focus – Analysis and practice.
*** Does it work? ***
Task-based learning can be very effective at Intermediate levels and beyond, but many teachers question its usefulness at lower levels. The methodology requires a change in the traditional teacher’s role. The teacher does not introduce and ‘present’ language or interfere (‘help’) during the task cycle. The teacher is an observer during the task phase and becomes a language informant only during the ‘language focus’ stage.