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Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT): From Theory to Practice

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This iteration of our course is now over. To register interest for the next one, please visit the product page.

This 11 week, 46-hour online tutored course is aimed at teachers, teacher-trainers, directors of studies and/or course designers who are interested in adopting task-based language teaching (TBLT) to deliver English as a second or foreign language. It will also be relevant to teachers of other languages who are interested in this approach. No prior experience of TBLT is needed but some grounding in the current theory and practice of English language teaching (ELT) will be useful.

Our premise is that the established, coursebook-driven approach to teaching English, both in private and public sector ELT around the world, simply isn’t working. We set out to make the case why, and to argue that TBLT—which is aimed at learners’ specific needs and respects what we know about language learning—should take its place.

To do this, we will argue that Mike Long’s version of TBLT is the optimum version. We’ll take you through its implementation from needs analysis through syllabus and material design to classroom delivery. At the same time, however, we acknowledge that Long’s TBLT is a resource-heavy model which is not easily applied in more restricted circumstances. We will therefore be exploring, in parallel, lighter versions of TBLT that could be adopted by smaller schools or individual teachers working with groups with specific needs.

Course aims

Overall, the course aims are to:

  • introduce the theory behind Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT)
  • make the case for Long’s TBLT as the optimum version, informed both by research and classroom experience
  • develop lighter versions of this model for adoption in more restricted circumstances
  • take you through the steps of designing a TBLT syllabus, from needs analysis to task design and sequencing
  • present a robust model for implementing and evaluating TBLT in the classroom

Course structure

You can begin the course now by working through Session 1, Why TBLT. This will also give you a feel for the course structure. Each session (from session 2 onwards, starting on March 1st 2019) will include:

  • Carefully selected background reading
  • A short (25-30 min) video presentation from the session tutor
  • Interactive exercises to explore key concepts
  • A forum discussion topic to explore with your tutor and fellow course participants
  • A 1-hour group videoconference with your tutor
  • An assessed task (e.g. short essay, presentation, task analysis etc.)

We estimate that the time needed to work through each session will be around 4 hours, including background reading and assessment.

Course material, required reading & suggested reading

There is only one required text:

  • Long, Mike. (2015). Second Language Acquisition and Task-based Language Teaching. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Aside from that, course material will be provided on a session-by-session basis.  We also recommend these websites for further reading and exploration:

The following books and articles are also relevant as a general introduction to TBLT, although not all of these writers agree with each other (see Long’s critique of the approach of the Willises, for example, in Long (2015), pp. 210-212).

  • Long, M. H., Lee, J., & Hillman, K. (in press). Task-based language learning. In: Malovrh, P., & Benati, A. (eds.), Cambridge handbook of language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.*
  • Nunan, David (2004). Task-Based Language Teaching.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Skehan, Peter (2003). Task-based instruction. Language Teaching 36, 1-14.*
  • Willis, Jane (1996). A Framework for Task-based Learning. Longman.
  • Willis, Jane and David Willis (2007). Doing Task-based Teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

*These articles will be made available to participants when they sign up, as will other supplementary materials on a session-by-session basis.

More information

All other content (c) Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona, 2018. All rights reserved.


0. TBLT orientation

Length: 20 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Easy

Introduction This short session is purely for orientation. First, please watch the screencast at the top. Please bear in mind that the session shown in the video may not match exactly with the session when it is launched. Below you will find some further information on important features of the course. When you have finished [...]

1. Why TBLT?

Free Preview

Length: 120 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

In this first free session, Geoff Jordan explains the rationale behind adopting Task-Based Language Teaching in contrast to today’s dominant coursebook-driven methodology, which is based on a synthetic, structural syllabus. The main argument is that a meaning-focused approach like TBLT — with timely switches to focusing on form — is more suited to meeting learner’s needs, and fits better with what we know about how learners learn.

2. How we learn an L2

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

In this session Geoff takes a closer look at Long’s cognitive-interactionist theory of how we learn a second language. He takes a look at explicit versus implicit learning, input and noticing, maturational restraints and fragile features of the L2. This gives us the basis for Long’s version of TBLT.

3. Which TBLT?

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

In this session we’ll look at the definition of a task and examine a selection of views on how they should be used in language learning. We’ll then focus on Long’s TBLT, as well as other versions respectful of Long’s principles, with the aim of identifying the teaching and learning contexts best suited to each one.

4. Long’s TBLT in more detail

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

Because we claim that Long’s version of TBLT is the optimum one, in this session we’re going to take a closer look at how it’s put together. In particular, we look at how the needs analysis is used to identify target tasks, and the process by which pedagogic tasks are derived from this.

5. The needs analysis: identifying target tasks

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

In this session, we investigate the first stage in the process of writing a TBLT syllabus: the identification of target tasks via a thorough needs analysis (NA). We’ll look both at a full NA as advocated by Mike Long, and a version for more restricted circumstances.

6. Analysing target discourse

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillan

In this session we’ll break down how Long’s TBLT deals with the creation of representative target task models. We look at three case studies presenting various degrees of difficulty for the teacher or team carrying out the analysis.

7. Mulling it over with Mike Long

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

For this session, there is no particular reading and no assessed output task. This is your chance to review the course so far, consider what is coming, and pick the brains of Mike Long. Mike will also tell us more about designing and sequencing pedagogic tasks.

8. Syllabus design

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

With target tasks identified, broken down and analysed for discourse, we move on to the next step: sequencing these tasks into a syllabus. Although this is perhaps the most challenging aspect of Long’s TBLT, we look at recent research that provides some clear principles for deriving and sequencing pedagogic tasks.

9. Materials

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

In this session we’ll look at some guiding principles for the creation of materials to support pedagogic tasks in the classroom. We’ll study the difference between simplified, authentic and elaborated materials, and show how classroom tasks can be developed for various levels and needs. We’ll also look at the issue of constructing a bank to house and share TBLT materials.

10. Methodological and pedagogical principles

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

In Long’s TBLT, what takes place in the classroom is guided by principles rather than prescribed. Here we give you an overview of those principles, including their theoretical underpinnings as well as examples of how they can be applied in the classroom.

11. Focusing on form

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

This session will take a closer look at Long’s key methodological principle, to focus on form in meaning-based activities. We’ll ask how we can judge whether to intervene or not, to what extent this type of momentary language focus should be implicit or explicit, and on what occasions we might be justified in extending it.

12. Assessment and evaluation

Length: 240 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

In this final session, we’ll break down how learning on a task-based course is tested, using criterion-referenced, performance-based assessments. We’ll also look at how the whole programme can be evaluated and improved upon for later iterations of the course.