A Framework for Task-Based Language Teaching

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A framework for task-based language teaching

Introduction and overview
In the first section of this chapter, I introduce a framework for task-based language teaching. The framework defines and exemplifies the key elements in the model that underlies this book including real-world/target tasks, pedagogical tasks and enabling skills. The next section outlines a procedure for creating an integrated syllabus around the concept of the pedagogic task. The section that follows is devoted to materials design considerations. It provides a procedure that can be used for planning lessons, materials and units of work. In the final section, the principles underlying the procedures described in the body of the chapter are laid out.

A task framework
As we saw in Chapter 1, the point of departure for task-based language teaching is real-world or target tasks. These are the hundred and one things we do with language in everyday life, from writing a poem to confirming an airline reservation to exchanging personal information with a new acquaintance. These three examples, by the way, illustrate Michael Halliday’s three macrofunctions of language. Halliday argues that at a very general level, we do three things with language: we use it to exchange goods and services (this is the transactional or service macrofunction), we use it to socialize with others (this is the interpersonal or social macrofunction), and we use it for enjoyment (this is the aesthetic macrofunction). Typically, in everyday interactions, the macrofunctions are interwoven, as in the following (invented) example: A: Nice day. B: That it is. What can I do for you? A: I’d like a round-trip ticket to the airport, please. In order to create learning opportunities in the classroom, we must transform these real-world tasks into pedagogical tasks. Such tasks can be placed on a continuum from rehearsal tasks to activation tasks. 19

A framework for task-based language teaching A rehearsal task bears a clear and obvious relationship to its corresponding real-world counterpart. For example, the other day I was teaching on a course designed to help my students develop job-seeking skills. The task that my students had to complete was as follows. Pedagogical task: rehearsal rationale

Write your resumé and exchange it with a partner. Study the positions available advertisements in the newspaper and find three that would be suitable for your partner. Then compare your choices with the actual choice made by your partner. This task has a rehearsal rationale. If someone were to visit my classroom and ask why the students were doing this task, my reply would be something along the lines of, ‘Well, I’m getting them, in the security of the classroom, to rehearse something they’re going to need to do outside the classroom.’ Notice that the task has been transformed. It is not identical to the process of actually applying for a job in the world outside the classroom. In addition to the work with a partner, the students will be able to get feedback and advice from me, the teacher, as well as drawing on other resources. Not all pedagogical tasks have such a clear and obvious relationship to the real world. Many role plays, simulations, problem-solving tasks and information exchange tasks have what I call an activation rationale. The task is designed not to provide learners with an opportunity to rehearse some out-of-class performance but to activate their emerging language skills. In performing such tasks, learners begin to move from reproductive language use – in which they are reproducing and manipulating language models provided by the teacher, the textbook or the tape – to creative language use in which they are recombining familiar words, structures and expressions in novel ways. I believe that it is when users begin to use language creatively that they are maximally engaged in language acquisition because they are required to draw on their emerging language skills and resources in...
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