Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why Tasks are not incorporated into many Japanese secondary school English classrooms (Part 2)

This is a continuation fo my last post. Today, I read a great article that attempts to explain problems that teachers have with adopting communicative language teaching (CLT) and task-based language teaching (TBLT) into East Asian classrooms. The article is Communicative and task-based language teaching in East Asian classrooms by William Littlewood and appeared in Language Teaching (2007), 40: 243-249.

Littlewood gives 5 concerns that teachers have with CLT and TBLT
1) Classroom management: Students misbehave or slack off
2) Avoidance of English: Students and teachers do not use English during the task
3) Minimal demands of language Competence: Students use minimal language or non-verbal communication to complete a task; they do not challenge themselves to experiment with new or complex language.
4) Incompatibility with public assessment: Task objectives are inconsistent with standardized tests or university entrance examinations
5) Tasks conflict with educational values and traditions: TBLT and CLT are based on western conceptions of learning that might differ from that of countries in East Asia.

Littlewood argues that a solution for these problems is for teachers to "adapt" rather than "adopt". He argues that no single set of methods will fit all teachers in all contexts. Thus a teacher should probably attempt to adapt the strengths of multiple methods to their respective contexts to maximize their students' learning potential.

Littlewood's last argument is that many teachers have misconceptions about TBLT and CLT. For example, many teachers believe that in CLT students only speak and do not study grammar. Regarding TBLT, there are various definitions for "task" in the literature and many educators have different ideas of what a task is. He argues that if teachers have a better understanding of CLT and TBLT it will help them adopt these approaches into their teaching.

This year, I hope to offer some solutions for the issues raised in my first and second post through working with secondary school English teachers in my community. Hopefully, I will have some solutions posted in a couple of months.

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