Taking a Hard Look at the Task-Based Approach: Do Learners’ Speaking Skills Really Develop and if So, How?
This paper examines the development of speaking skills through the use of a task-based approach with first year undergraduates at B2 level in English. A case study was made to describe how learner spoken output changed over a semester with regard to fluency. Three different areas: description of people, description of places and narrative, were introduced through the use of a variety of tasks. After learners attempted the tasks there was a focus on form based on learner questions, mistakes noted and suggestions from the teacher. Learners then repeated the tasks. After 3 weeks learners were assessed on the same monologic task and on a new interactive task. At the end of the semester learners performed three new monologic tasks, one in each of the areas covered. On the basis of recordings, a comparison is made between language highlighted during the focus on form stages of the task cycle and language used by the learners during the assessed tasks. Particular attention is given to formulaic expressions and lexicalized chunks and fluency. Learner introspection on what they noted down during the lessons, what their personal goals were and how they prepared for the assessment, obtained through questionnaires, helps to interpret the findings. In this way, insight is gained into whether in fact a task-based approach encourages input to become intake. The learner reflections on their learning during both the task-based approach and the assessed tasks adds a new perspective to the existing research on tasks.
KeywordsFinal Test Repeated Task Summative Assessment Progress Test Great Fluency
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