Peculiarities of task-based method in teaching the professional English language

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The article is dedicated to the analysis of the application of the task-based method, which for a rather long period of time has been used for teaching the professional English language, with the aim of defining to what extent students use the material learned previously, in real situations.On the grounds of analysis of theoretical sources and pedagogical practices, the author offers a direction for searching the most efficient approaches and ways of solving the question of developing the problematic active basis for teaching the professional English language. The main stages of the lesson using the task-based method are examined and analyzed. Particular attention is paid to the advantages and disadvantages of this method. As a result of the research, it was indicated that the task- based method promotes the development of communication skills in pairs and groups, the ability of all participants to argue and debate in the learning process.

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Introduction. In recent years a debate has developed over which interactive approaches to structuring and planning and implementing English lessons are more effective. The task-based method is considered as an active learning method, which requires participation and involvement from the student in the classroom. Nowadays there is a great amount of controversies between the necessity of implementation of innovative methods of training and the absence of elaborations concerning the task-based method. Here there are some of them: there is not enough theoretical works concerning the use of the task-based method in teaching English; absence of theoretical grounding and description of the process of building up a training methodical case with the obligatory element, such as algorithm, inte- grating the context of this process and its psychological and pedagogical aspect. The task-based approach is one way in which such active learning strategies can be performed in Sevastopol economic and humanitarian institute.The main aim of this article is to analyze the most effective directions and means of implementation of the task-based method in teaching the professional English language in practice and its theoretical grounds. Presenting of the main material. While teaching ‗Professional-oriented aca- demic foreign language course‘ in Sevastopol economic and humanitarian institute, teachers should take into account that a lot of students are more inductive than de- ductive personalities, it means that they learn better from examples than from logi- cal development starting with basic principles. In this case the use of task-based lesson can be a very effective classroom technique. In task-based learning, the lesson is mainly focused on the task itself (grammar reference and lexical area are not so important). The aim of the lesson is not to ‗learn the structure‘ but to ‗perform the task‘. It‘s important to note that if students want to fulfill the task successfully they have to use the right language and ex- change their ideas with each other. The language, however, becomes an instrument of communication which helps to complete the task correctly. To reach the objec- tive students can use any words they know. Sometimes there is no ‗correct answer‘ for a task outcome. Students make their own decision how to complete it and use appropriate language. Having analyzed the scientific research on the task-based problem, the follow- ing fact can be admitted that the stated problem was searched by the scientists at different times. Studying of the fundamental works shows that students can learn more effectively when they are actively involved in the learning process. Y. P. Surmin [10], D. L. Rogers [7], D. Brown [2], A.L. George, A.J. Bennett [4], C. Richards, Thomas S. C. Farrell [6], R. Benbunan-Fich, S. R. Hiltz [1], N. V. Akinfieva [8], O. V. Bobienko [9] and others, showed the problems dealing with the task-based method implementation in the process of teaching higher school stu- dents. Ellis Rod observed that his students could just as easily learn language through linguistic problems as they could with non-linguistic problems. Ellis Rod also was of the belief that tasks were a way to tap into a learner‘s natural mecha- nisms for second language acquisition. [3] This method allows teachers and stu- dents to concentrate on how language is used to achieve understanding between persons, and how language can be used to accomplish certain tasks. The main function of the task-based method is to teach students to solve complex unstructured problems that cannot be solved in a logical way. The method promotes the development of independent thinking among students, the ability to listen and take into account the alternative point of view, to give reasoning for their own, formulates interest and positive motivation towards learning. With the help of this method, stu- dents have the opportunity to develop and improve analytical and evaluative skills, learn to work in a team, find the most rational solution to the problem posed and master the ability to use the material in practice. Analytical and communicative abilities are developed. Students are left one-on-one with real situation. Training using the task-based method teaches the search and use of knowledge in a dynamic situation, developing the flexibility of the mind, dialectical thinking. The highest stage of the professional development of specialists is the stage of im- provisation and professional creativity. Professional competence is also character- ized by a range of professional opportunities, perfect possession of tools, tech- niques and technologies of professional activity. It manifests itself in the creative character of the activity, in an active search for innovative approaches and innova- tive technologies, personal initiative and professional communication skills. Tasks are prototypes of real life. During the solution of the situation, students acquire professional skills, ana- lytical and practical skills, creative and communicative skills, and gain experience in future activities. The method promotes the formation of professional compe- tence, a single set of knowledge, skills and professional positions. The task-based method includes elements of research training, developmental learning, and project activities. In the process of analyzing the situation, students im- merse themselves in an imaginary professional reality, explore and analyze the prob- lem, interacting with each other, exchanging discoveries using English language. Due to the group or individual analysis of specific situations in the profession- al activities of a specialist, the formation of professional knowledge in English takes place that encompasses not only knowledge in the specialty, but also a certain set of knowledge from different scientific fields, the acquisition of professional skills that predetermine the success of a specialist, his ability to apply knowledge in practice, and, of course, the development of professional skills, i.e. professional actions that allow a person to easily and confidently carry out work. The main thing is that the task-based method promotes the development of professional identity, complex system of ideas about the world of the profession and about you as a professional in a particular field of activity. Identity is expressed in the recognition of the identity of the profession, the professional group, who set the general content characteristics of the pro-formality, as well as the awareness of identity to oneself, manifested in the uniqueness of professional experience, indi- vidual style of activity, skill. Teachers have the alternative in teaching a foreign language while using task - based learning. In a task-based lesson the tutors don‘t pre-determine what language will be studied, the lesson is based around the completion of a main task and the language studied is determined by what happens as the students complete it [5]. There is the following order of such lessons: Pre-task: The topic of the lesson is introduced by the teacher who gives the students clear instructions on what they will have to do at the task stage and might help the students to refresh some language in their minds that may be useful for the task. The students have the opportunity to think about the theme of the lesson and to ex- press their ideas and opinions to each other and to the teacher. A variety stimulat- ing activities may be used such as answering quiz questions, reflecting on different options and completing charts. The class may work individually or in simultaneous pairs, take notes and spend time preparing for the task. It is important to get the students to use the key expres- sions in the useful language box that they have. The teacher goes round, monitors and assists where necessary. Task: In this stage, the students complete the task either in pairs or small groups. It depends on the type of the activity. The instructor is generally reduced to the role of observer. Planning: Then the students practice what they are going to say in pairs or in groups in order to engage all the participants. A short oral or written report related to the is- sues can be presented to tell the whole class. The teacher gives each pair or group several minutes to discuss how to answer a question related to the task, and then ask a randomly selected person to present the group‘s answer and reasoning. During this time the teacher monitors the language being used, notes down the points than need correction, gives a piece for advice. Report: Students then report back to the class orally or read the written report. The teacher chooses the order of when students will present their reports and may give the students some quick feedback on the content. At this stage the teacher may also play a recording of others doing the same task for the students to compare. Analysis: The teacher then highlights relevant parts from the text of the recording for the students to analyze. They may ask students to notice interesting features within this text. The teacher can also highlight the language that the students used during the report phase for analysis. Practice or feedback: At the end, the teacher chooses language areas to practice based upon the needs of the students and what is emerged from the task and report phases. After that the students do practice activities to increase their confidence and focus on useful language. The choice of tasks will be based on the interests of students while at the same time covering as broad a range of areas of experience as possible. It is important that the task be flexible enough to allow for some individualization. In this way, students with different levels of proficiency, different interests and different back- grounds can work together and learn from one another. Focus on the main advantages of task-based learning: in all stages students may use all their language resources rather than just practiced one pre-selected item; the tasks are based on realistic problems or situations from the students‘ ex- periences with the language that is personalized and relevant to them; using a task-based method, the teacher gives the participants the opportuni- ties to have a much more varied exposure to language (a whole range of lexical phrases, collocations and patterns as well as language forms); the language acquires to the students‘ needs. This fact dictates what materi- al will be covered in the lesson rather than a decision made by the teacher or the textbook; students spend a lot of time communicating with each other. So their com- municative skills are constantly improving; the tasks are designed to motivate and actively engage students. Taking into account peculiarity of advantages of task-based lessons, the fol- lowing disadvantages require attention: Students in monolingual classes prefer to speak their own language, that‘s why the facilitator may have difficulty in conducting the lesson. The teacher has to monitor students quite closely in order to force them real- ly to use the target vocabulary. It is more evident with students with lower level whose range of language material and grammatical structures is quite limited. While preparing the task-based lesson, the teacher should pay attention to the following steps: to clear up learning objectives; to adopt the lesson to the map of the course or unit; to identify the best strategy for using the task-based materials; to take into the consideration students‘ level of knowledge, skills and abilities. Every facilitator Sevastopol economic and humanitarian institute should follow such tips: Encourage everyone to take part in every stage of the lesson. Make sure that your instructions are clear and all students understand the task and topical vocabulary. Get the students to use useful language and communicative skills they have acquired in the previous units. Make notes of important errors and deal with them at the end. Give feed- back in a sympathetic and constructive way. Let student to express their own conclusions. Encourage imaginative and creative solutions to the problems. Make up pairs, teams, leading groups. Delegate the tasks and ensure that the students interact effectively with each other. Do not spend much time on the activities. The lesson needs to have pace. Before reaching a decision, the students should discuss the key issues of the task and present all the options. Focus on language practice and effective teamwork. Offer a variety of interesting activities in which the students may discuss the topic of the unit and exchange the ideas about it. Work of students on the content of the task-based lessons can be assessed by the teacher in the following skills: analytical, organizational, decision-making skills, interpersonal communication skills, creativity, oral and written communica- tion skills in a foreign language (lexico and grammatical aspect). There are follow- ing evaluation criteria and number of points (total 100 points): Lexical and grammatical skills and abilities (30 points): use of lexicon on the topic (10 points): the use of communicative cliches according to the situation (5 points); the use of a variety of grammatical constructions in accordance with the task and the requirements of the given year of language training (5 points); pronunciation (5 points); literacy speech (5 points); Content (30 points): compliance with the topic, sufficient depth of disclosure of the topic (10 points); ability to make decisions and argue them. Ability to draw conclusions (10 points); ability to ask and answer questions from an opponent. Ability to argue their answers (10 points); Analytical skills (20 points): possession of reasoning logic (10 points); the skill of searching, analyzing and evaluating information (10 points); Organizational Skills and Skills (20 points): compliance with regulations (5 points); activity (5 points); ability to work in a team and make decisions (10 points); It should be noted that these evaluation criteria are not a dogma and can be de- veloped by the teacher for each specific case of using the task-based method. Conclusion. Further to the practical application and testing of scholarly knowledge, task-based method can also help students prepare for real-world prob- lems, situations and crises by providing an approximation of various professional environments. Thus, through the examination of specific tasks, students are given the opportunity to work out their own professional issues through the trials, experi- ences and research findings of others. An obvious advantage of this method is that it allows students the exposure to settings and contexts that they might not other- wise experience. This method also incorporates the idea that students can learn from one another by disputing with each other, by asserting something and then having it questioned. On the whole, it should be said that advance preparation by the teacher, suita- bility of the course syllabus, students‘ motivation, authenticity of materials and ac- tivities in which the learners are involved, as well as adequacy of the assessment measures and objectives pursued in the case, provide the key to the success of the task-based method.

About the authors

Viktoria V. Mironenko

Crimean Federal University named after Vernadsky

Cand. Ped. Sci., Associate Professor of the Social and Humanitarian Disciplines Department apt. 8, Prospect Antichniy 3, Sevastopol, 299059


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