#AusELT Twitter chat summary: Task-based Learning (1st Aug 2013)

This is a summary of the #AusELT Twitter chat that took place on the 1/8/13, 8.30pm AEST. The topic of discussion was task-based learning (TBL) and the chat was moderated by @ElkySmith. The transcript is available on Storify here. If you’re keen to find out more about #AusELT, please join the discussion on the first Thursday of every month and/or join the #AusELT Facebook page. Looking forward to seeing you there soon and sharing ideas.

Jigsaw_peopleSmllWhat is Task-based learning?

There are a number of different definitions of TBL but this was the general consensus of the chat. Task-based learning can be one lesson or a series of lessons which focus on an authentic ‘real-world’ task which can be chosen to suit the needs, interests and goals of the students. Although TBL is not based on practising a particular language point, some language can be given to the students prior to the task (however, there are differing opinions regarding this). Required functional language however often emerges through the task and is clarified as necessary but the focus remains on a common outcome – the task which is presented individually or collaboratively at the end of the lesson (or series of lessons). As with all classroom learning environments, setting clear goals/aims, instructions and roles are important for students and for the task to be successful. Assessment of the task was only briefly discussed and the use of linguistic features is one aspect to consider.

How about project-based learning?

@ELTExperiences brought up project-based learning (PBL) and how it can be well-suited to younger learners. In PBL, students can be quite autonomous leading up to presenting their final project. Although topics/themes may be decided by the teacher, the final outcome of the project may not be known until it is presented.

The teacher’s role in TBL

In regards to planning for TBL, @andrea_rivett suggested planning backwards and considering the task to achieved and @SophiaKhan4 suggested that teacher-made materials could be reduced by using authentic materials related to the task. @SophiaKhan4 also stated that textbooks don’t always provide suitable tasks for the students as they are made for a global audience and aren’t specific enough for the students. As a result, in teachers incorporating TBL need to deal with different needs but as @Eslkazzyb suggested, it isn’t necessarily more work. This was supported by @kathywa29798411 who thinks that the language produced by the students could be predicted by the teacher.

Examples of TBL

prosklisiSuggestions by @SophiaKhan4 for a General English class were: creating a tourist brochure/ad, planning a dinner party and giving a presentation. For EAP classes @MeredithMacAul1 suggested various problem-solving simulations such as ‘water shortage’ and ‘overpopulation’ and @AgsBod included listening to lectures, organising group projects and webquests.

Overall positives of TBL

  • Connect with learners’ interests and needs
  • Can be used with elementary level
  • Can be used for mixed class levels
  • Can be used in monolingual classes (plan in L1 and deliver in L2)
  • Can be used in General English, EAP and ESP contexts

Overall negatives of TBL

  • Dominant students may take over
  • Students may not understand the rationale for this type of task
  • Needs to be set up very carefully

Useful links

NB: Some of these links were suggested in the chat, and some on the #AusELT Facebook page – thanks to all contributors!

Summary by @andrea_rivett

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