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Task-based or task-supported language teaching? A view from the bridge

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1 Task-based or task-supported language teaching? A view from the bridge
William Littlewood

2 Two sources of CLT since the 1970s
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

3 Result: CLT’s identity problem
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)

4 The ‘strong’ version of CLT
According to Allwright & Hanks (2009): The strong version stimulated the ‘radical re- think’ 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).

5 The ‘weak’ version of CLT
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’

6 Communication in the classroom
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.

7 CLT and TBLT: Some challenges
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)

8 Strong’ and ‘weak’ versions of TBLT
‘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)

9 The variability of TBLT
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)

10 The variability of TBLT (Ellis, 2009)
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.

11 Tasks and TBLT in postmethod pedagogy
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.

12 Tasks and TBLT in postmethod pedagogy
Three views from the bridge: The experiential – analytic dimension The communicative continuum Task-engagement

13 1. Experiential and analytic learning Experiential learning
←→ Analytic learning Communication (main focus: meaning + message) Instruction (main focus: form + meaning) Subconscious learning and activation ← → Controlled practice and learning Fluent language becomes increasingly ‘correct’ Learnt language becomes increasingly fluent Communicative Competence Communication tasks Focused tasks Enabling tasks ‘Strong’ versions of CLT / TBLT ← → ‘Weak’ versions of CLT / TBLT Task-based teaching ← → Task-supported teaching

14 2. The ‘communicative continuum’
Experiential strategies   Analytic strategies Authentic communication Structured communication Communicative language practice Pre- communicative language practice Non- communicative 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 pre- learnt language but with some unpredictability, e.g. structured role-play and simple problem- solving Practising pre- taught 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-and- answer” 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   Focus on forms and meanings ‘Communicative tasks’  ‘Focused tasks’  ‘Enabling tasks’ Task-based   (May be) Task-supported on

15 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)

16 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)

17 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)

18 Communicative language practice
Fill in this chart about your classmates’ preferences Name Favorite male singer Favorite female singer Favorite TV actor or actress Favorite TV series Favorite place to visit

19 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)

20 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. John is always late. His parents were often tired in the evening. I am never sure whether this word is correct. I sometimes go to the cinema on Fridays. We never eat much in the morning. Jane often arrives at school early. They always come home late at night. They have never written to me again. You can always come and visit me. I will never know why he did it. Pat has often seen him with two dogs.

21 3. Task engagement High B: form-oriented but engaging Form- engagement
D: message-oriented and Message- oriented A: form-oriented and boring Low C: message-oriented but

22 The communication - engagement matrix
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

23 Task-based or task-supported teaching?
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) meaningful and motivating, and lead learners to fulfil their communicative needs This broader approach may be called simply ‘communication-oriented language teaching’ or ‘COLT’ (Littlewood, 2014)

24 References 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, Carless, D. (2009). Revisiting the TBLT versus P-P-P Debate: Voices from Hong Kong. Asian Journal of English Language Teaching, 19, 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, Estaire, S. & Zanon, J. (1994). Planning classwork: A task-based approach. Oxford: MacMillan Heinemann. Harmer, J. (1987). Teaching and learning grammar. London: Longman. Hiep, P.H. (2007). Communicative language teaching: Unity within diversity. ELT Journal, 61, 3, Ho, W. K. & Wong, R.Y.L. (Eds.). (2004). English language teaching in East Asia today. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press. Jeon, J.H. (2009). Key issues in applying the communicative approach in Korea: Follow up after 12 years of implementation. English Teaching, 64, 1, 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, Littlewood, W. (2014). Communication-oriented language teaching: Where are we now? Where do we go from here? Language Teaching, 47, 3, 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 ( ). London: Routledge. Ur, P. (1988/2009). Grammar practice activities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Vidal, N. (1996). Teach your teacher music. Madrid: Alhambra Longman. 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 ). Boston, MA : Springer Science & Business Media. Online access via SpringerLink.

25 Some key issues for context-specific approaches to COLT
Appendix Some key issues for context-specific approaches to COLT 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.

26 Some key issues for context-specific approaches to COLT
Appendix (cont.) Some key issues for context-specific approaches to COLT 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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