Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

The Effects of Task-Based Teaching Approach on College Writing Classes

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

The Effects of Task-Based Teaching Approach on College Writing Classes

Article excerpt

Abstract

Task-based language teaching (TBLT) which lays stress on the natural and gradual acquisition of language through fulfilling various tasks is a learner-centered teaching methodology. It is an instructional approach that can fit neatly into English teaching classrooms. Its basic theoretical foundation is Krashen's acquisition theory. Researchers both at home and abroad have carried out various researches in this field and proved that taskbased teaching can enhance learners' communicative competence. This paper takes advantages of Willis's framework of TBLT and researches on the feasibility and effectiveness of TBLT. An empirical study for writing classes by implementing TBLT was carried out by the author for two hours every week for one semester. All the findings from this research indicate that taskbased teaching approach can cultivate learners' selfstudy awareness as well as improve learners' writing competence and language proficiency significantly. In this study, TBLT approach is very effective for writing classes.

Key words: Communicative competence; Target language; English writing; Task-based language teaching

INTRODUCTION

Task-based language teaching (TBLT), which is a subcategory of communicative language teaching, is one of the most important methodologies in English teaching. In the past decades, TBLT has gained much attention from educators and researchers in various teaching fields. TBLT was developed in the 1980s under the influence of communicative language teaching and hence, the notion of "task" also derived from communicative approach. TBLT, also known as task-based language learning (TBLL) or task-based instruction (TBI) puts much emphasis on requiring learners to fulfill meaningful tasks and the use of authentic language by using the target language. According to Skenhan (1998), for learners in TBLT, the first priority should be given to the accomplishment of learning tasks rather than the mastery of language forms. TBLT emphasizes that the language should be acquired naturally by accomplishing various tasks.

Writing, as one of the four basic language skills, is of great importance for English learners. Wolff(2000, p.111) thinks "writing is not only a means of communicating, but also a tool of learning a language". From this interpretation, we can see a good command of writing skills is crucial to the improvement of language learning. However, in Chinese English learning context, writing is often a headache and a difficult process for many students. For many teachers, it is always a tough experience to figure out satisfactory ways for students to participate in classroom activities actively and effectively in writing classes. The employment of effective teaching approaches in college writing classes is of great importance to students' learning outcomes. This paper aims to provide a practical and helpful way to improve learners' writing abilities by utilizing Jane Willis's framework of TBLT in writing classes.

1. DEFINITIONS AND FRAMEWORK OF TBLT

1.1 Definitions of the Word "Task"

In Task-Based Teaching (TBT) classroom, the task is the core for TBLT. According to the different understandings from the perspectives of cognition, psychology or language teaching, many researchers give different definitions to the word "task". Nunan (1989, p.10) defines it as: "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 principally focuses on meaning rather than form. The task should also have a sense of completeness, being able to stand alone as a communicative act in its own right." Skehan (1998, p.95) summarizes some features of a task: "Meaning is primary; there is a goal that needs to be worked toward; task completion has some priority." From Ellis's (2003, p.16) viewpoint, a task is:

a work-plan that requires the learners to process language pragmatically in order to achieve an outcome that can be evaluated in terms of whether the correct or appropriate propositional content has been conveyed. …

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