“Teach the students” teachers often say when they talk to each other, “don’t just teach the book”. Still, a teacher’s worth may depend on their ability to finish the book. In cultures where language teaching is based on a course book, the material to be covered often becomes more important than the students themselves.
Task based learning offers a refreshing look to teaching languages.
Central to this approach is the task that needs to be completed. Teachers need to focus on this task and, sort of, work backwards. For example, at the end of the week students may need to present a short play that they have scripted themselves. They may also have to prepare the props and think about directing and rehearsing the play. The grammar structures, the vocabulary and the functions they study during the week depend on the language they need to complete the task. All the activities or exercises they do are interrelated and directly relevant to the task.
Does it work? Yes, it works like a dream. The central task needs to be geared to the needs and the strengths of the students so that it’s challenging but appropriate for their level. Is it challenging for the teacher? Yes. A teacher has to be able to assess their students very quickly and custom tailor their lessons in order to teach exactly what the students need to communicate and complete the task.
Why then? Why not just teach the book? Because task based teaching is enjoyable and motivating, because students work in a natural context and the language they learn is personalized and relevant to them. Because students use what they learn and they learn quickly, because it’s natural, communicative and effective.
If you are interested in reading more on task based learning you may want to read:
Doing Task-based Teaching
Dave Willis and Jane Willis 2007, Oxford University Press