For generations, language teachers have set students tasks to complete. However, these tasks did not always reflect communication needs in the real-world. Task-based learning (TBL) is an approach to language education which aims to address this issue. If students are given effective tasks, they see a clear connection between the need to communicate and the successful completion of a realistic task. For some teachers, the use of a TBL approach in classes can be a daunting shift from their familiar methods. Using these guidelines can help to make TBL part of any teacher’s classroom expertise.
Here, teachers engage the students’ interest in the task ahead with related topics and themes. Images, video, or real-world objects can generate interest. During this short stage, the teaching of course content is avoided.
Gauging the task level to the students’ language ability takes experience. Changing the language demands means that tasks can easily be adapted according to student level. For example, at lower levels, students can look at a financial problem and rank possible solutions. At higher levels, students can look at the financial problem and hypothesize about possible solutions themselves.
Language is just one element that makes a task easier or more difficult. Teachers can manipulate a range of factors to change task demands. These factors include time limits, topic choice, group numbers, and the amount of support material.
Errors during the task
During the task, the teacher’s role is to listen, quietly make notes, and offer minimal support. The notes are used later in the lesson during the feedback and input stages. With time, students learn to trust this method as they know that clear language teaching will take place after the task. While working on the task, students need to draw on their available language resources by themselves.
Following the task, students remain in groups and plan to present their task conclusions to the class. Here, students need time to prepare these presentations for the public arena. Students naturally focus more on accuracy and formality as they are motivated to create a positive impression before the rest of the class.
Students will make lots of errors during the task stage. It is not possible to deal with all of them at one time. Focussing on common errors will benefit the majority of learners. Teachers should aim to work on a targeted number of language areas rather than, for example, looking at many verb tenses. Also, teachers must avoid naming students when discussing errors. Students need to have the confidence of knowing that they will not be publicly shamed for making mistakes.
Task-based learning can make an effective addition to any teacher’s classroom toolkit. Giving students a model answer to the task at the end will round off the cycle well. Students enjoy comparing their conclusions with the model task. They will also benefit from the exposure to effective language in the task area. In short, task-based learning can offer students and teachers a valuable means of developing language proficiency.