Task-Based Teaching: An Innovative Method for an Unchanged Practice
It seems that the teaching methods being used today have been left in the dust when it comes to the race of modernizing the world. In a world of technology, why are students still being talked at by a teacher infront of a whiteboard? These types of traditional teaching methods have proven to be ineffective, especially in second language acquisition. The Task-Based Teaching (TBT) method develops classes around completing tasks that are relevant to real life. Activities have a problem-solving and goal-oriented focus, rather than one of memorization and recall ability. The approach is based on the assumption that language learning is a process of obtaining the ability to communicate and have social interactions, rather than a commodity achieved after learning linguistic information.
Because of the fact that every person processes information differently and because there are so many circumstances that affect learning, it can be hard to find a method that is adaptable enough to be effective for every learner. A teacher might need to adopt a different approach for adults and children, beginners and advanced speakers, people from western and eastern cultures, or when there is a limited amount of resources, varying group sizes, or ESL for specific purposes, like law or business. Methods like the Callan method might not work for someone who grew up in a culture where learning was focused on creativity more than memorization, or the Total Physical Method might not be possible if the class is being taught in a small closet with a sleeping baby next door.
TBT allows for adaptation to all types of learners. It can incorporate anything from traditional, read-and-write styles of teaching to interactive, real-life, touch-and-feel ways of teaching. Depending on the students unique learning style and the resources available, a TBT lesson could be anything from reading a dialogue about going to the zoo, to having a mock conversation about the zoo with pictures or stuffed animals as props, to actually going to a zoo and interacting with the experience in the language being taught. As long as there is a communicative goal being achieved or a problem being solved, all of them apply. The last alternative would be ideal for visual and auditory learners and would be a prime example of using the Constructive approach.
Students being taught through the TBT method learn in the way they did their mother tongue or in the way they would have if they had moved to a foreign country. All vocabulary, grammatical structures and colloquial phrases are relevant and contextualized in the way they would be to a child or someone experiencing the “task” in real life. People become ready to learn when their life situation creates a need to learn, so, basing the teaching in the completion of tangible tasks rather than uncontextualized and inapplicable lists and charts creates that need to learn in the student. A desire for communication is what drives babies to procure their first language and foreigners their surrounding language.
The idea of mimicking first language acquisition can further be taken advantage of by tailoring lessons to the students' life experiences and interests. Without the restraint of responsibilities, babies and children simply follow their curiosity, which fuels their desire and ability to learn the communication skills needed to pursue that infatuation. In the same way, solving a math problem with a math-enthusiast, getting a CEO to talk about how they would create a business, going to the beach to learn with a surfer, playing games with kids, or preparing a meal with a gastronomist are all ways to make tasks motivation-fueling, memorable learning experiences.
A common yet underestimated roadblock for students in language learning is lack of motivation to continue learning. When students can’t see accomplishment or progression in their learning it can make them unwilling to continue, even if only on a subconscious level. Given that the goal of learning a language is communication and not necessarily an understanding of how the language functions, having students’ communicative competence grow is more rewarding than an understanding of why they can communicate what they can. Thinking, “Wow, I can ask where the bathroom is in English!”, builds more self-confidence in speaking than thinking, “I can say five verbs in the simple future tense!” The TBT method develops the kind of communication skill that is tangible to the student’s real-life experience through simulating real-life scenarios with tasks.
A class taught with the TBT method is flexible and adaptable, there is no single, correct way of teaching it. The criteria are that the students complete tasks related to real-world experiences and have a goal to accomplish that lets them communicate something. A teacher might begin by introducing a grammar concept through quick questions or teaching vocabulary relevant to the task with a visual aid. Ideally, the tasks should be as close to the real-life equivalent as possible and be done with minimal intervention from the teacher. Corrections can be made after the task is finished if it is a task with a physical end result (like a job application letter or a written report), or during the task, if it is based heavily around speaking.
The Task-Based Teaching method is effective because it is able to take into account the extensive factors that affect the uniqueness of each student’s ability to learn. The second language is learned as similarly as possible to the way the mother tongue is learned. Each lesson has a clear communicative goal that is accomplished by the student, which builds self-confidence and sustains motivation. Language learning is about having the ability to express oneself, not having the ability to explain language; and that is the basis of the Task-Based Teaching method.