How to Effectively Use Tasks in Language Teaching

This month we published Using Tasks in Second Language Teaching edited by Craig Lambert and Rhonda Oliver. In this post, the editors give a detailed overview of the work and explain who they hope will benefit from it most.

Many teachers want to use tasks in their teaching but are unsure how to do so effectively in their own teaching contexts, where they may work with low proficiency or low motivation learners, large classes and be under pressure to prepare for discrete point tests.

The challenge facing teachers and course administrators in using tasks in many second and foreign language contexts around the world is thus to find an expedient solution which balances institutional requirements, available resources, and learners’ dispositions with their own professional skill sets.

The present volume addresses these concerns. The research in our new book is based on the experiences of practitioners and researchers using tasks in different educational, cultural and geographical contexts. They demonstrate how tasks have been used effectively in teaching and provide a range of insights into the issues associated with using tasks successfully in challenging contexts.

We divided the book into three parts so that a broad audience of readers can draw on different elements of the book according to their needs:

  • Part 1 clarifies key issues when using tasks for second language instruction
  • Part 2 describes approaches practitioners have adopted when using tasks in challenging contexts around the world
  • Part 3 consists of studies which investigate the relationship between tasks and performance in a range of international contexts

Part 1 is made up of papers which clarify key issues facing practitioners in using tasks, including:

  • The choice of an appropriate instructional framework
  • Using tasks with low-proficiency learners
  • Designing tasks to motivate general-purpose learners
  • Using technology-mediated tasks
  • Challenges in using tasks in test-oriented contexts
  • The skill set teachers need to use tasks effectively

Part 2 then contains descriptive studies of how tasks have been used successfully by teachers and program designers in:

  • Rural Australia
  • Ukraine
  • Brazil
  • Mexico

Finally, Part 3 consists of studies on the effects of different approaches to task implementation in contexts including:

  • Japan
  • Iran
  • Chile
  • Spain
  • The United States

We hope that the different parts of the book will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Many chapters reach out to pre-service and in-service teachers because of their content. This is particularly true of the initial chapters, which provide concrete advice about practical issues to address when using tasks in different contexts. Subsequent chapters then describe actual practices that have been used in various regions of the world, with different learners and through different media. On the other hand, later chapters in the book may be of more interest to second language acquisition (SLA) researchers and students in MA courses in that they provide observations from different regional contexts on the effects of implementing tasks in different ways on L2 performance.

This book will thus help teachers and course designers find useful solutions for incorporating tasks effectively given the expectations and constraints of the contexts in which they work. It provides a range of insights into the issues and constraints involved, how they have been successfully overcome, and the skills required by teachers to negotiate effective context-based solutions to using tasks effectively in their teaching.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Reflections on Task-Based Language Teaching by Rod Ellis.

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