General Overview of TBLT and Its Applicability to the University English Classrooms in Japan

By Shimomura, Fuyu | International Journal of Education, October 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

General Overview of TBLT and Its Applicability to the University English Classrooms in Japan


Shimomura, Fuyu, International Journal of Education


Abstract

Instead of the formerly dominant PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production) model, the TBLT (Task-Based Language Teaching) model has gained attention in SLA researches and practices during the last two decades. To better understand the TBLT model and its efficacy in the sociocultural contexts of university English classrooms in Japan, this paper reviews the major TBLT publications and explores why TBLT is popular, analyzes its strengths and limitations, explores its theoretical background, and considers the Japan-specific sociocultural factors that need to be considered when implementing the model. At the end, the paper also identifies the areas of the model that require further researches.

Keywords: TBLT, Japan, university, English teaching

1. Shifts toward the TBLT Model from the PPP Model

There are a variety of pedagogies for English language teaching. Some scholars have already noted that there have been some shifts observed in the trends of these pedagogies over the years in university English classrooms (Dickinson, 2010; Ellis, 2000; Hosseini & Rahbar, 2012; Nunan, 2004). One of these frequently observed trends is the recent shift to the TBLT (Task-Based Language Teaching) model from the formerly dominant PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production) model in ELT research and practice around the world. The PPP model was predominant in the field until the TBLT model started gaining attention in the last decade of the 20th century (Dickinson, 2010; Ellis, 2000; Nunan, 2004; Nunn, 2001; Wicking, 2009).

As the name indicates, in the PPP model, teachers present the model of grammatical knowledge or grammatical knowledge, and students practice and learn how to produce particular pronunciation or grammatical knowledge. The model characterizes "the pre-selected items, controlled repetition, and direct instruction of grammar", which emphasizes form-focused activities such as patterned repeating practices or drills (Hosseini & Rahbar, 2012, p.254). Given its form- and grammar-focused nature, it has already been noted that the model has a risk that both learners and teachers will be "overtly concerned with grammatical form, even during the 'production stage' when the focus should be on meaningful language use" (Dickinson, 2010, p. 13). Therefore, it is noted that the PPP model tends to help students acquire grammatical knowledge rather than communication competence. Dickinson (2010) even reports that in the worst case there have been some instances in his classrooms in which "learners become so obsessed with accurately producing the target language that no meaningful communication takes place at all" (Dickinson, 2010, p. 13). This indicates that using the PPP model has a potential risk of leading students to acquire too much grammar and making them less likely to attain communicative competence.

Furthermore, some scholars also attribute the transition from the PPP model to TBLT model to the shift in conceptualization of learning itself. For instance, Nunan (2004) identifies that learning used to be identified as "a process of habitual formation". Given that the PPP model is based on imitating the presented model and repeating practices until learners acquire particular skills, the model appears a good match with the definition of learning (p.7). After the Vygotsky's learning theory became prevalent, however, many learning scientists have started to perceive learning as social processes that "cognitive processes [learners] engage in as they learn are seen as fundamentally important" to better understand the effective learning processes (Nunan, 2004, p.7). In other words, the PPP model does not fit well with the trends of shifts in the perception of learning as social processes that became prevalent as the Vygotskyan approach became popular.

In sum, both the contents of learning and how students learn are nearly completely fixed in the PPP model, and therefore, the opportunities for teachers to improvise content and practice based on learners' needs are relatively few. …

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