A Look at Task-Based Language Teaching

January 19, 2013

Workshop Review: Dale Coulter

By Ella Dickenson

Photo by John O’Dwyer

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this workshop, and so it was that I arrived at the Berlin School of English with some trepidation. However, after free coffee to unfreeze my icicle riddled brain, I quickly perked up! The event was graciously hosted by Anthony Gaughan who introduced our speaker for the day, Dale Coulter. Straight away he got everyone involved with a range of interactive group based activities, to get us thinking about the topic of the day, Task Based Learning (TBL).

We initially covered definitions of TBL and how it could be usefully applied in classrooms. This included an analytical look at the learning pathway itself, which was split into; Pre – Task, During Task, and Post Task phases.

In groups we then had to decide on a topic, around which we came up with our own ideas for tasks. Ideas were interesting and ranged from organizing a rock concert, to planning a conference call. In our feedback we were encouraged to think reflectively on the different phases of the TBL pathway and the logistics of how these would be achieved.

We next moved on to some suggestions on strategies we could use to focus the learner on form, with lots of input from the group. I found this part particularly useful, because our workshop had teachers from all different backgrounds and levels of experience. It was invaluable to hear Dale and other members of the group give useful suggestions on techniques we could use, such as Dictagloss, and telling stories. It also included thought provoking discussion on what constitutes form, such as; discourse, vocabulary, pronunciation and conversational structures and reconstruction tasks.

Dale next focussed us on Deep-end Tasks, which are less scaffolded tasks in the TBL spectrum. Learners have less teacher preparation and greater autonomy, and they are encouraged to encounter the form in the context of the task. We discussed the pros and cons of this approach, and thought about what sort of tasks would be best suited to this method, such as those of a more reflective nature.

After a welcome break of tea and biscuits, rejuvenated, we returned for the culmination of the session where Dale put us into mixed groups to design a whole lesson plan for a TBL lesson. The task was designed to test our knowledge and apply what we had learnt in the workshop to ‘real life’. We then had to feedback our lesson plans to all the different groups and explain what our ideas were.I have included as an attachment to this review, the lesson plan my group came up with for those who are interested.

I have been to quite a few ELTABB events, and personally I felt I got so much out of this workshop. By analyzing and reflecting on all the tasks as we went along, it encouraged us to look more deeply at our own teaching style to see where it can be tweaked and improved. It also gave me lots of ideas of new tasks I can practice with my students…..Poor Guinea Pigs

For those who would like to find out more about what Dale has to say, you can also follow his blog at: languagemoments.wordpress.com