Task-based instruction

Teresa Pica, PhD
Presented by Reem Alshamsi & Kherta Sherif Mohamed
What is Task-Based Instruction?
Characteristics of TBI Approach
Historical Background
Task-based Syllabus Development
Major Contributions
Future Directions
Teresa Pica, PhD
Ph.D. (Educational Linguistics) University of
Pennsylvania, 1982.
Areas of Expertise
Second language acquisition
Language curriculum design
Approaches to classroom practice
Classroom discourse analysis
She is currently director of the TESOL
What is Task-Based Instruction?
Activities that engage
the learner in
meaningful, goaloriented communication
to solve problems,
complete projects and
reach decisions.
(Pica, 2008)
Characteristics of TBI Approach
An emphasis on learning to communicate through
interaction in the target language.
The introduction of authentic texts (teaching
materials) into the learning situation.
The provision of opportunities for learners to focus
not only on language, but on the learning process
Considers the learner’s own personal experiences as
an important part of classroom learning.
Classroom language learning is linked with language
activation outside the classroom.
(Nunan, 1991)
Task-based Instruction allows for...
Learner attention, comprehension, and
 As
learners carry out a task, they will:
Build skill base over time
 Practice language skills in L2
 Obtain feedback on their comprehension
 Draw inferences about L2 rules and features
 Develop the accuracy of their output
(Pica, 2008)
What is the “task” in Task-Based?
Classroom work which
involves learners in
producing, or
interacting in the target
language... (Nunan,
A task is an activity
which requires learners
to use language, with
emphasis on meaning,
to attain an objective
(Bygate, Skehan, &
Swain, 2001)
Types of Tasks
Ordering and Sorting
Sharing personal experiences
Creative tasks
(Willis, 1996)
Task Components
(Shavelson & Stern, 1981: 478)
For example: In
task-based learning,
students can
present their work
in poster format to
present and reflect
upon the language
they have learned
through the process
of achieving their
task goal.
(Samuda, 2001)
Historical Background
Early developments in task-based
instruction reflected principles and
practices found in communicative
language teaching.
These theories described the ways in
which instructional activities could
promote development of language for
“authentic use”
(Allwright, 1979)
Historical Background: Prabhu’s
work in Bangalore, India
Bangalore Madras Communicational
Teaching Project (CTP)
“Bangalore Project” the first large scale
project to use tasks as the foundation for
Prabhu advanced the idea that form is
best taught when attention is given to
(Prabhu, 1980)
Prabhu’s Cognitive Classification:
Prabhu distinguished between 3 unique task
formats based on the type of cognitive
operations the tasks involve:
Opinion Gap
Information Gap
Reasoning Gap
“A task could be characterized by a
single format or an integration of two
or three...”
(Prabhu, 1987)
Task-based Syllabus Development
Procedural Syllabus: Language-learning as
simulated as students work to meet task
objectives (Prabhu, 1987)
Process Syllabus: Language-focused tasks are
warranted by learners’ needs and wishes and
include a role for learner contribution to syllabus
and task design (Breen 1987; Candlin 1987)
A task-based syllabus should reflect principles of
authenticity (Long & Crookes, 1992)
Major Contributions: Task-based Language Teaching
as a means to Second Language Acquisition (SLA)
The concept of the “task” used successfully
in both classroom and research contexts:
 The
“task” seen as a vital, versatile
instructional tool and research instrument
 Tasks viewed as an important aspect of
psycholinguistic, socio-cultural, and
pedagogic processes of second language
(Pica, 2008)
Major Contributions: L2 Learning through Implicit
Grammar Teaching
The most effective tasks
promote incidental
learning of L2 form (i.e
grammar) by making
message communication
the principal activity
needed to attain task
Tasks draw learners’
attention to language
form incidentally as the
need arises during task
(Long, 1991)
“Focus on Form”
The demand for the
completion of the task sets up
the conditions for participants
to focus their attention on
their linguistic and
communicative shortcomings
and needs and thus engage in
what Long calls “focus on
form” incidentally.
(Long, 1991)
Teaching the “Authentic” Experience
“Tasks came to be characterized by
objectives and outcomes that
reflected authentic experiences of
everyday life and required use of
language consistent with
communicative practices outside the
(Pica, 2008: 72)
Current Research in TBI
Direct instruction on specific forms is
more likely to lead to L2 grammar
learning when forms are simple and deal
with explicit knowledge
Difficult and complex forms however,
require implicit and inferential learning
environments such as those established
through task-based projects.
(Ellis, 2002)
Current Research in TBI
Language learning develops independently of
Learners acquire language according to their
own inbuilt internal systems regardless of the
order in which they are exposed to particular
Learners do not acquire language as a
structural system first and then learn how to
use this system, but rather discover the
system itself in the process of learning how
to communicate
(Finch, 2006; Ellis, 2003)
Critiques of TBI Approach
Approach to task specification and
selection fails to account for sequences
and processes of language learning
Assesses learner’s proficiency at the end
of a task rather than overall outcomes (i.e.
language use outside the classroom).
Meets students communicative needs
without focusing on the form
non-authentic classroom settings
Future Directions?
roles of tasks in classroom:
 Can
tasks shown to facilitate individual
students’ grammatical needs in controlled
contexts be used to assist groups of students
in language classroom?
 Can language teachers extend languagelearning tasks to address their students
needs as well?
 Can programs be developed, designed, and
evaluated with tasks as their central unit?
Future Directions
Teaching language and technology
 Should
instruction assist the purpose of
communication? OR should it coordinate it?
Designing the task to achieve goals
beyond the classroom – how?

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