18 - Task-Based Language Teaching  pp. 223-243

Task-Based Language Teaching

By Jack C. Richards and Theodore S. Rodgers

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Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) refers to an approach based on the use of tasks as the core unit of planning and instruction in language teaching. Some of its proponents (e.g., Willis 1996) present it as a logical development of Communicative Language Teaching since it draws on several principles that formed part of the communicative language teaching movement from the 1980s. For example:

  • – Activities that involve real communication are essential for language learning.
  • – Activities in which language is used for carrying out meaningful tasks promote learning.
  • – Language that is meaningful to the learner supports the learning process.

Tasks are proposed as useful vehicles for applying these principles. Two early applications of a task-based approach within a communicative framework for language teaching were the Malaysian Communicational Syllabus (1975) and the Bangalore Project (Beretta and Davies 1985; Prabhu 1987; Beretta 1990) both of which were relatively short-lived.

The role of tasks has received further support from some researchers in second language acquisition, who are interested in developing pedagogical applications of second language acquisition theory (e.g., Long and Crookes 1993). An interest in tasks as potential building blocks of second language instruction emerged when researchers turned to tasks as SLA research tools in the mid-1980s. SLA research has focused on the strategies and cognitive processes employed by second language learners. This research has suggested a reassessment of the role of formal grammar instruction in language teaching. There is no evidence, it is argued, that the type of grammar-focused teaching activities used in many language classrooms reflects the cognitive learning processes employed in naturalistic language learning situations outside the classroom.