W.Littlewood_Osaka-K.. - Task-based Learning Special Interest Group

Report
William Littlewood
[email protected]
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
A view of learning: ‘learning through
communicating’
◦ E.g. Stephen Krashen; N.S. Prabhu; Gertrude
Moskowitz

A view of language: ‘doing things with words’
◦ e.g. J.L. Austin; Michael Halliday; Henry Widdowson

The two ‘streams’ from these sources often
convey conflicting messages
2

From the beginning there has been confusion
between:
◦ A ‘strong version’ of CLT: if people ‘learn
by communicating’, students should
communicate all the time (‘experiential’
learning)
◦ A ‘weak version’ of CLT: people can also
learn how to ‘do things with words’ through
conscious learning and practice (‘analytic’
learning)
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According to Allwright & Hanks (2009):



The strong version stimulated the ‘radical rethink’ that language teaching needed.
However it was not commercially viable as it
could not form the basis for published courses.
This ‘commodity problem’ was solved by the
‘much less challenging ideas’ of the weak
version).
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

The weak version of CLT presents a more
familiar framework for teaching: it includes
familiar forms of controlled, analytic learning,
e.g. grammar practice and exercises.
Thornbury (2011): ‘The old PPP model by
another name’
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


Both ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ versions involve the
teachers in creating and organizing
communicative activities for experiential
learning.
In this respect ‘tasks’ are a category of
communicative activity with special design
features
They pose challenges for teachers and
learners used to a more transmission–
oriented approach.
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
The challenges faced by many teachers include:
◦ new organizational skills e.g. for group activities
◦ unfamiliar roles in the classroom e.g. ‘facilitator’ not only
‘knowledge transmitter’
◦ classroom management esp. with large classes
◦ students resorting to the mother tongue in tasks
◦ students performing tasks with minimal use of language
◦ excessive demands on their own language competence
◦ conflict with educational traditions and conceptions of
learning
◦ incompatibility with public examinations
(e.g. Butler, 2011, Jeon, 2009, Littlewood, 2007, Wang, 2007)
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

‘A strong version where learners choose whatever
language forms they wish to convey the meaning
required by the task’
‘A weak form of task-supported teaching
(analogous to P-P-P) through which tasks
provide opportunities to practise language items
that have been introduced in a traditional way’
(Carless, 2009)
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

There are many variations and choices for
teachers to select from when they are
carrying out TBLT.’ (Carless, 2012)
‘There is no single way of doing TBLT.’ (Ellis,
2009)
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
Ellis finds only two common features in the
versions advocated by Ellis, Long and Skehan:
◦ The role of tasks in creating contexts for
natural language use;
◦ The need to also focus on form.

That is: they recommend both experiential and
analytic strategies but offer variation in how to
do so.
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

This flexible conception of TBLT integrates
easily into a ‘context-sensitive postmethod
pedagogy’ (Kumaravadivelu, 2006, p. 20).
We may look at TBLT and tasks in the broader
context of postmethod pedagogy, in which
tasks:
◦ provide necessary contexts for communicative
language use, which are part of both the strong and
the weak versions of CLT and TBLT;
◦ can also serve as focuses for attention to relevant
form.
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Three views from the bridge:

The experiential – analytic dimension

The communicative continuum

Task-engagement
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1. Experiential and analytic learning
Experiential learning
←→
Analytic learning
Communication (main
focus: meaning + message)
↓
Subconscious learning and
activation
↓
Fluent language becomes
increasingly ‘correct’
↓
←→
Instruction (main focus:
form + meaning)
↓
Controlled practice and
learning
↓
Learnt language becomes
increasingly fluent
↓
←→
←→
Communicative
Communication tasks
Competence
Focused tasks
Enabling tasks
‘Strong’ versions of CLT / TBLT ←
→ ‘Weak’ versions of CLT / TBLT
Task-based teaching
→
←
Task-supported teaching
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2. The ‘communicative continuum’
Experiential strategies


Analytic strategies
Authentic
communication
Structured
communication
Communicative
language
practice
Precommunicative
language
practice
Noncommunicative
learning
Using language
to communicate
in situations
where the
meanings are
unpredictable, e.g.
creative role-play,
more complex
problem-solving
and discussion
Using language
to communicate
in situations
which elicit prelearnt language
but with some
unpredictability,
e.g. structured
role-play and
simple problemsolving
Practising pretaught language
in a context
where it
communicates
new information,
e.g. information
gap activities or
“personalised”
questions
Practising
language with
some attention to
meaning but not
communicating
new messages to
others, e.g.
“question-andanswer” practice
Focusing on the
structures of
language, how
they are formed
and what they
mean, e.g.
substitution
exercises,
“discovery” and
awareness-raising
activities
Focus on meanings and
messages


‘Communicative tasks’
 ‘Focused tasks’ 
Task-based


Focus on forms and
meanings
‘Enabling tasks’
(May be) Task-supported
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Authentic communication
I love music!
How do you feel when you listen to music? Why do you like music?
Discuss with your partner. Write down five reasons.
•__________________________________________________________
_______________________________________
•__________________________________________________________
_______________________________________
•__________________________________________________________
_______________________________________
•__________________________________________________________
_______________________________________
•__________________________________________________________
_______________________________________
(adapted from Vidal, 1996)
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Authentic communication
Designing an alternative world
1 Students and teachers brainstorm aspects of the environment they
like and those they would like to see improved. These may include
changes to the geographical setting, nature, animal-life, housing,
society, family, leisure activities, politics, etc.
2 Students are put into groups according to common interests. The
groups identify the language and information they need. The students
carry out individual and group research on the selected topics. The
students discuss aspects of this ‘Alternative reality’ and then report
back. They decide on the different ways (stories, recordings, games,
etc.) to link all the research and present the final product.
3 Students present the topic and evaluate the activity.
(adapted from Ribé & Vidal, 1993)
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Structured communication
The World Tomorrow
•Students are asked to write down a list of changes they expect to see in the
world by a date 50 years in the future. For example:
•We will have a working day of four hours.
•Every home will have a video telephone.
•People will live to be 100 years old or more.
•The ideas are then read out and discussed. Those that most of the class agree
with may be written up on the board.
•Later, students may choose predictions that appeal to them and use them as
the topic for a short essay.
(adapted from Ur, 1988/2009)
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Communicative language practice
Fill in this chart about your classmates’ preferences
•Name
•Favorite
•Favorite •Favorite
male singer female
TV actor
singer
or actress
•Favorite •Favorite
TV
place to
series
visit
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Pre-communicative language practice
•With your partner, practise asking and answering questions about
what John and Rachel have to do and what they would like to do.
(The cues could also be in the form of pictures.)
•John
•Rachel
•Obligations
•Clean floors
•Wash windows
•Empty the bins
•Type letters
•Answer the telephone
•Do photocopying
•Desires
•Go to evening
school
•Get a better job
•Marry Fiona
•Earn more money
•Take holiday abroad
•Marry her boss
(adapted from Harmer, 1987)
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Non-communicative learning
•In the examples below, look carefully at the position of the
adverbs always, often, sometimes, usually, and never. What
are the rules?
•We are usually hungry
when we come home.
•I sometimes go to the
cinema on Fridays.
•John is always late.
•We never eat much in •You can always come and
the morning.
visit me.
•His parents were often
tired in the evening.
•I am never sure
whether this word is
correct.
•They have never written
to me again.
•Jane often arrives at
school early.
•I will never know why he
did it.
•They always come
home late at night.
•Pat has often seen him
with two dogs.
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3. Task engagement
High engagement
B: form-oriented but
engaging
D: message-oriented and
engaging
Form-
Messageoriented
oriented
A: form-oriented and
boring
C: message-oriented but
boring
Low engagement
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


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Field A: form-oriented and not engaging,
e.g. a boring drill
Field B: form-oriented and engaging, e.g. a
word puzzle
Field C: message-oriented and not engaging,
e.g. a role-play not related to Ss’ interests
Field D: message-oriented and engaging,
e.g. a personalized role-play or discussion
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

Neither (or both)
We need a broader, encompassing conceptual
framework which will orient us in creating
experiences that are:
◦ real and meaningful to learners, and
◦ help them towards fulfilling their communicative
needs

The framework may be called
‘communication-oriented language teaching’
or ‘COLT’ (Littlewood, 2014)
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Allwright, D. & Hanks, J. (2009). The developing learner: An introduction to exploratory practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
Butler, Y.G. (2011). The implementation of communicative and task-based language teaching in the Asia-Pacific Region. Annual
Review of Applied Linguistics, 31, 36-57.
Carless, D. (2009). Revisiting the TBLT versus P-P-P Debate: Voices from Hong Kong. Asian Journal of English Language Teaching,
19, 49-66.
Carless, D. (2012). Task-based language teaching in Confucian-heritage settings: Prospects and challenges. On Task, 2, 1, 4-8.
Ellis, R. (2009). Task-based language teaching: Sorting out the misunderstandings. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 19,
3, 221-246.
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Estaire, S. & Zanon, J. (1994). Planning classwork: A task-based approach. Oxford: MacMillan Heinemann.
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Harmer, J. (1987). Teaching and learning grammar. London: Longman.
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Hiep, P.H. (2007). Communicative language teaching: Unity within diversity. ELT Journal, 61, 3, 193-201.
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Ho, W. K. & Wong, R.Y.L. (Eds.). (2004). English language teaching in East Asia today. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press.
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Jeon, J.H. (2009). Key issues in applying the communicative approach in Korea: Follow up after 12 years of implementation. English
Teaching, 64, 1, 123-150.
Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006). Understanding language teaching: From method to postmethod. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Littlewood, W. (2007). Communicative and task-based language teaching in East Asian classrooms. Language Teaching, 40, 3,
243-249.
Littlewood, W. (2014). Communication-oriented language teaching: Where are we now? Where do we go from here? Language
Teaching, 47, 3, 349-362.
Ribé, R. & Vidal, N. (1993). Project work: Step by step. Oxford, Heinemann.
Thornbury, S. (2011). Language teaching methodology. In J. Simpson (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of applied linguistics (185199). London: Routledge.
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Ur, P. (1988/2009). Grammar practice activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Vidal, N. (1996). Teach your teacher music. Madrid: Alhambra Longman.
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Wang, Q. (2007). The National Curriculum changes and their effects on English language teaching in the People’s Republic of
China. In J. Cummins & C. Davison (Eds.), International handbook of English language teaching (pp. 87-105). Boston, MA : Springer
Science & Business Media. Online access via SpringerLink.
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Appendix
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Optimal combinations of analytic
and experiential strategies.
How to structure classroom
interaction more effectively (also
without direct teacher control).
How to deepen the content of L2
communication in the classroom.
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Appendix (cont.)

The role of the L1 as a resource in
the language classroom

How to create a rich L2 environment
in the classroom.

How to create better links between
practice, theory and research.
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