It is my suggestion that as teachers we embrace Task-Based Language Teaching. Teaching and learning go hand in hand, but they are not done for granted. The main goal of teaching is to let the learner at the end of the lesson be able to put into practice what she or he has been taught. Piaget Dowey, assisted by Vygotsky and Vico, in his theory, the constructivist learning theory (Bhandari, M. 2012) explains that learning is effective if it is learned by being constructive. According to him, language is effectively understood when learners participate in learning rather than absorbing knowledge directly from the teacher (Benson, S. D. 2015). Embracing this mode of teaching, therefore, places the learner at a good strategic point of more understanding and language acquisition which they can put in practice (Shehadeh, A., & Coombe, C. A. 2012).
It simply refers to a teaching mode using authentic language (In Branden, K, In Bygate, M., & In Norris, J. M. 2009) while teaching as the teacher accommodates some tasks related to the language they are being taught. It is a model of teaching where learners get to learn language through interaction with the environment while carrying out tasks based on real-life situation using the targeted language. (Benson, S. D. 2015). For instance, when the students need to know something about hospital oriented language, then they are taken to visit a doctor so that they get to learn the language used in hospitals They can as well be given learning resources like charts that they can discuss in groups.
Ideally, it encourages meaningful communication experience amidst the students. The learning mode is simply student-centered (Bhandari, M. 2012). He eases associated with this method of teaching is that teacher does not predetermine which language will be studied in a particular lesson. It dependents on the environment that the students are going to interact with while carrying out their tasks and the experience they already have on the topic of discussion.
Stages of Task-based Language Teaching
It is very critical to understand the steps that are involved in this mode of teaching before rejecting the idea. Truly, it is a very straightforward and engaging style of teaching that we need not ignore. The fact that one step leads to the next step in the teaching activities makes it fascinating. It all starts with pre-task stage (East, M. 2012). This is where the teacher introduces the topic that she or he anticipates to let the learners understand. She also uses this opportunity to give the students directions on what she expects them to do the real task doing time and as well helps them recall what some language that might be of importance during the learning. The teacher may also use recordings of other people carrying out a specific task to give the learners a picture of the task they are going to carry out. Also, the learners are given time to make notes and prepare for the task.
The next stage is simply the task stage where the students complete specific tasks in groups with the help of relevant language resources. The role of the teacher here is just to offer encouragement and monitor the activities of the students. This is followed by the planning stage where the students prepare a report, in written or oral form to account for what they did during their task. They also have to rehearse on how they will deliver the finding with the assistance of the teacher (Harmer, J. 2007).
After the planning, the real task report is given. This is the report stage. The teacher gives the students a chance to give the report in the order that he or she chooses. As this happens, the teacher gives feedback on the report and may sometimes play the previous recording on the same task so that the students compare and find a way of improving. This is followed by the analysis stage where the teacher highlights relevant parts of the report that the learners need to remember as far as the topic of study is concerned. Lastly is the practice stage where the teacher selects language area that she would wish that the students practice for perfection in a specific area. Practice activities are therefore encouraged to allow the students get used to the use of the language learned.
The theoretical rationale for task-based language teaching
The desire to implement this teaching mode is theory based. Different scholars have studied it and come up with results that can be trusted and depended on. They have shown that this mode of study is very effective and that scholars who went through this mode of study or learning have shown competence in their fields of study. It stems from the constructivist learning theories (Thomas, M., & Reinders, H. 2010). According to this theory, knowledge of a given language is gained or constructed by the learners depending on prior experience and understanding of the real-life environment. It, therefore, argues that for better learning to take place, the students themselves have to interact with the environment so that their learning is based on them. Knowledge is better retained when acquired through experience.
This theory also argues that learning is simply the search of for meaning through the linking of prior knowledge with the new experience in life. This makes it very easy for learners to have more understanding of the language being taught using the task after an introduction and the preview of the same task done by other people. After the teacher has introduced the topic and played for the students some recording on the same topic, the learners can link it to the experience he is going to achieve when carrying out own tasks. More understanding is then experienced than when the traditional mode of teaching is used.
The constructivist theory explains that task-based language teaching exposes students to working actively in groups with self-reflection. When left alone to carry out a given task that relates to real life world, they can reflect what they normally hear parents saying or doing, and with the assistance of the teacher, they get the specific language they ought to know. The knowledge gained through this is very easily retained by the students since they have contributed directly to obtaining the language education.
Lastly, the theory explains that teachers act as facilitators and co-constructors of knowledge. This is through monitoring and responding to the student’s queries. This assumption shows that learning should not be viewed as a passive process of students absorbing information directly from the teacher. Instead, the students actively strive to make sense of new experiences in life and knowledge through activities, concern, interest and prior experiences. The role of teachers is so limited, but then the students are exposed to good retaining power.
The limitations and the potential pitfalls of TBLT
This mode of teaching is not perfect. Anything with advantages must have weaknesses. I would not want to hide this from us. We need to embrace this mode of learning and teaching knowing fully what it entails, advantages and disadvantages. It is, therefore, critical to let us know its limitations and potential pitfalls of this mode of teaching. For instance, some students naturally need close supervision in learning. For such students, it becomes tough for them to notice language forms like grammar or other forms of language accuracy when left to work in groups. They need a teacher to explain clearly each part of a discussion and help them recognize the use of correct grammar and other accuracy requirements in a language.
This mode may not provide an accurate and effective interaction opportunity to all the students in a given group. Naturally, not all people will have a high self-esteem. For them that have no self-esteem, it becomes a challenge to have them participate in the group discussion. They just leave the others who have no challenge with their self-esteem to participate. In fact, most of the time they feel that what they are having in their mind is wrong so that they cannot talk about it. Therefore, the chances are high that the group discussion is going to be dominated by a few who have confidence. The result of this is unequal language learning among the students.
Additionally, the students tend to use their first language in completing a given task but not the targeted language. It is not because they are not willing to use the targeted language but because they are used to their first language and do not see any problem with it. It, therefore, means that the teacher’s target of teaching new language has to fail in most instances. It is true that following all the students in their groups in so difficult for one teacher. Therefore, controlling the language they use becomes very problematic. Unconsciously, they use the language they already know and feel proud to have completed their task.
It is also important to note that not all students will be motivated by the TBLT. Some students naturally dislike working in groups and will therefore not enjoy this mode of learning. It shall be a waste of time. People have different likes and dislike. It, therefore, becomes a waste of time to teach students who already do not have passion on the mode of teaching that is given to them. With this, the purpose of learning shall not be achieved (Thomas, M., & Reinders, H. 2010)
Lastly, this model of teaching and learning is associated with a minimal acquisition of new grammar or vocabulary features. The fact that the tasks are divided into many other small groups makes it difficult it difficult for the teacher to deliver to the class equally. It, therefore, means that there is minimum learning of new language. It is like it is a waste of time for a language class to end without the learning of new language regarding vocabulary or grammar
Factors to be considered in designing a TBLT
This mode of language teaching is a bit critical and so there must be factors that must be put in place before it is designed for a class. If not considered, then the results cannot be enjoyable. The end results shall be regrets for a waste o time. As we purpose to accept this mode of teaching, we need to understand factors that can lead to its success. This is the only thing that will help us so that we do not run back to the traditional mode of teaching that we are trying to quit from. For instance, we need to put in mind the task difficulty of the task we want to give the students. Ideally, there are some tasks that should be handled by the teacher himself and not the students. If a task that is above the ability of the students is given to them, they may get quite discouraged of learning that next time they will not want to be given any other task. This stops the learning process (Shehadeh, A., & Coombe, C. A. 2012).
Another factor that needs to be considered is the pre-task planning. Planning is a very important factor that determines the result of the activity to be undertaken. Poor planning automatically results in failure of the tasks. Teachers, therefore, have to ensure that they plan for the task very carefully so that the students can gain the best from the lesson. This includes the preparation of the material that the students should be using as well as the time phrase that the students shall be used to complete a given task. Failure to do this carefully, the students will not be able to complete a specific task. Hence, no learning shall have been achieved (Robinson, P. 2011). The time set up for a specific task must be enough for the completion of that task so that the students do not strain a lot in carrying out the task. The resources should also be made available and in a well organized to make learning easy.
Additionally, the teacher has to consider the learning motivating factor of most students. There are some students that are not motivated at all to work in groups. Some also are not motivated to talk about their world probably because the world has harassed them. Talking about some areas of life do not entertain them at all, especially when they have to talk about them in groups. Forcing such students to complete such asks is very ineffective. They are forced to do what they do not like and therefore feel demoralized to learning languages.
The size of the class also matters a lot. Research has shown that teachers have not been able to complete language syllabus because they handle big classes that make it difficult to give all the students chance of present their reports of the tasks they have carried out. Before designing a TBLT, it is effective to put in mind the size of the class they would wish to handle. If the class is so big, it means that the teacher is likely to fail to attain his or her teaching goal. However, if the class is small that the goal can be achieved, then it would be considerate to design a task-based language teaching mode (In Branden, K, In Bygate, M., & In Norris, J. M. 2009).
The interest and attention of the students also need to be considered. When handling students who lack concentration in anything that they do, using this mode of teaching may not be effective at all (Long, M. H. 2015). There are some students who cannot totally concentrate even when it is the teacher handling them. Such students cannot concentrate at all when left to learn through tasks in groups. Such students have no interest in learning at all. Such students need very close supervision from their teachers, something that cannot be achieved through TBLT. However, when handling students who can be attentive and have an interest in learning, then this mode becomes the best.
Ideally, we need not assume this mode of language teaching as it will assist us to come up with the most effective results. It is truly student-centered (Long, M. H. 2015). The flexibility of accepting this mode of study is so effective, and it is us the teachers that shall celebrate the success of our teaching. From the constructivist theory, (Robinson, P. 2011), students that go through this mode of learning have a high retaining power of the language they have acquired (Benson, S. D. 2015). They are also willing a lot to practice the language they have learned through interaction with the environment. When they become professionals, they show job competence, flexibility and can work under less supervision with satisfaction.