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Task-Based Instruction in Foreign Language Education

Betty Lou Leaver and Jane R.Willis (Eds)
Georgetown University Press, 336 pages
ISBN: 1-58901-028-0

Task-based instruction, or task-based learning as we know it in the UK, has been around for a couple of decades now, also guised as ‘learning-by-doing’ and ‘active learning’. Although elements of TBI/TBL have been incorporated into an eclectic language learning approach, many teachers have found it difficult to adopt wholesale and task-based learning course materials have not sold as well as their authors might have hoped.
However, task-based methodology has continued to develop, has a sound theoretical background, and has been either the basis of or incorporated into many local, regional and national language-learning programmes, some of which are described in detail in this book.

The book, however, is not merely a collection of case studies. A considerable amount of space is also devoted to a consideration of technology and Internet resources in task-based programmes, while there is also a substantial section dealing with task-based assessment and teacher development as well as an overview of theory.
The eight studies of the application of task-based instruction are diverse, ranging from the US government’s Slavic language programme to programmes for teaching Japanese and teaching Spanish to professionals. Each case study is detailed and considers the rationale behind the programmes in depth.

Of topical interest is the section dealing with the Internet, which seems to be an ideal complement to task-based learning. Many tasks are described which teachers may assign as homework or use in the classroom or multimedia laboratory. The value of such activities in fostering learner autonomy is considerable.

The section devoted to teacher development draws on the logical parallel between the classroom and the training room, but also gives valuable advice on the creation and choice of appropriate and meaningful tasks for students, and sensible suggestions for trainers and administrators when assessing teachers’ progress and efficiency. In the area of assessment, the task-based instruction framework merely draws attention to the importance of achievement tests and the production of suitable criteria for evaluation.

Task-based instruction/learning is primarily aimed at improving fluency through the creative manipulation of language, and teachers concerned with the productive skills will find many useful ideas in the projects and programmes described in this book. The book will also appeal to all advocates of task-based methodology, whilst serving as a as a comprehensive document of the theory and application of the approach in recent years.

188 January/February 2006