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Presentation The Task-Based Syllabus. By Lin Xiao lan, Zhou Xiao Zhou, Su Xiao Wen, Cheng Men Seb.23, 2008. Theoretical assumptions.

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Presentation The Task-Based Syllabus

By Lin Xiao lan, Zhou Xiao Zhou, Su Xiao Wen, Cheng Men

Seb.23, 2008

theoretical assumptions
Theoretical assumptions

Task-based syllabus design has interested some researchers and curriculum developers in TEFL since the mid-1980s, as a result of widespread interest in the functional views of language and communicative language teaching.

(in language teaching) a SYLLABUS which is organized around TASKS, rather than in terms of grammar or vocabulary. The syllabus may suggest a variety of different kinds of tasks which the learners are expected to carry out in the language.
  • It has been argued that this is a more effective way of learning a language since it provides a purpose for the use and learning of language other than simply learning language items for their own sake.
the definitions of tasks
The definitions of tasks
  • A task is a piece of classroom work which involves learners in comprehending, manipulating, producing, or interacting in the target language which their attention is particularly focuses on meaning rather than form (David Nunan 1989. 10).
  • …a piece of work undertaken for oneself or for others, freely or for some reward. Thus, examples of tasks include painting a fence, dressing a child, filling out a form, buying a pair of shoes, making an airline reservation…In other words, by “task” is meant the hundred and one things people do in everyday life. (Long 1985:89)
From this one we can draw on the following features:
  • it is a piece of meaning-focused work,
  • a piece of work involving learners and communicative language skills, and a series of interactions which are needed to meet the learners’ ends.

In other words, a task is a piece of work which is done by learners in everyday life, involving learners in processing information and using target language, then a final product is completed.

The other definition is Syllabus: refers to the selecting and grading of content (Nunan.1989. 14).
  • Task-based syllabuses are constructed with varieties of tasks as the basic blocks, focusing on using the target language in real world rather than drilling on the isolate grammatical items.
fundamental components
fundamental components

A task is consisted of six fundamental components

1.“Goals” . the general goal of tasks is to attain communicative language skills, which is a most important aspect in the nature of language learning.

Let’s think about this matter: what do we attain our native language for? No matter who they are, their purpose is to get information from others, expressing their own feelings, communicating with the others in the society and so on. So one of the most important aspects of language using is communication. It is the goal that task-based syllabuses are based on. Personally this kind of syllabuses is more suitable for our needs.

2.“input”, which refers to the verbal and non-verbal data such as a dialogue, a reading passage, a picture or a chart etc.

Apparently these materials are objective and can be used in everyday life. And this can result in a short-term achievement, leaving the learners the sense of success, which will surely enhance the learners’ interests and motivation.

3.“activities”. Task-based syllabuses involve learners’ participation, including series of activities, which lead to learners’ higher interest and motivation. In the activities every learner is a player.

They augment their amount of knowledge and language skills by involving in different kinds of activities. It is said that learning is living and it is also playing and growing. Children begin to know this world by touching and doing. So do language learners.

4.“Teacher role and learner role” may be the most controvertible issues in the educational field in China these years.

Which one should be paid more attention, teacher-centered or learner-centered? Now we are sure to choose the learner-centered one, because we know it is the scientific way to learn language. Teacher, as we know, is a monitor or a server in language teaching, because learning is the learner’s own developmental process, just like a baby growing up gradually by contacting the world s/he is living in. In Task-based syllabuses learner role is emphasized and the main body in learning comes out.

Goals     ↘             ↙ Teacher role

Input     →    Tasks     ← Learner role

Activities  ↗              ↖ Settings

the merits of the task based syllabuses
The merits of the task –based syllabuses

①.  Compared to grammatical syllabuses and functional-notional syllabuses, it is not the language but the tasks which are selected and graded.

②.  The tasks which are designed according to input data, learners’ current level with precise goals can be rearranged and graded in various ways

③.  Task–based approach promotes naturalistic learning and acquisitioned processes, particularly when combined with group work, they provide a close fit with communicative language teaching.
the problems in task design
The problems in task design

①.  It is hard to find clear criteria for the selection and grading of tasks.

Just as Nunan states “determining task complexity is made difficult ,not only by the range of factors involved, but also by the interaction of these factors with each other”.

②.  It is obvious the task difficulty is affected by complexity of input data.

However task can be designed easy or difficult by setting activities which require different learner responses. So in designing the tasks,

can we completely ignore the materials?

Are authentic materials better than elaborated written texts?

How can learners be exposed to the language as a system?

There are no precise answers in it. 

③.  In task-based teaching, how can we deal with language knowledge? Should grammar be taught in it? If so, how can it be dealt with by the teacher and students? The status of grammar is not clear.
the problems of task based syllabus
The problems of task-based syllabus

1. It is very difficult for the designers to select, grade and sequence the tasks  scientifically.

2. It neglects the importance of the knowledge of the target language. In some sense, the language knowledge is the basis for a further learning of the target language. A second language learner outside the linguistic environment which a native speaker enjoys can speak the target language fluently but can’t accurately without enough linguistic knowledge. It can be said that fluency will be meaningless and valueless without accuracy.

3.The teacher’s syllabus is only a teaching syllabus but the learners have their own in-built syllabuses for learning or acquiring based on their own motivations, interests, needs, experiences, background knowledge, aptitudes, cognitive styles, and so on. Sometimes, there is a mismatch between these two syllabuses.

4. It neglects the differences between different cultures. So, learners from different cultural backgrounds can have different understandings and responses in the same task.

  • 1. The tasks must be suitable for the language learners –not too difficult and not too simple, so in this case how to make a balance about these two tendencies comes ambiguously.
  • 2. It is hard to find clear criteria for the selection and grading of tasks.
The teacher-centered and form-focused syllabuses have been dominating  the foreign language teaching in China for a long time. It is agreed that language teachers should have a thorough reflection of the language teaching at both a theoretical and practical level. It is hoped that the theory about the task-based syllabus can show them the direction to improve their teaching methods