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TBLT: From Theory to Practice (Nov 2019)

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This 90-hour, online tutored course is aimed both at classroom teachers and 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, as well as teacher-trainers, directors of studies and materials writers. No prior experience of TBLT is needed but some grounding in the current theory and practice of English language teaching (ELT) will be necessary.

To purchase this course, please visit the product page.

Our premise is that the established, coursebook-driven approach to teaching English, both in private and public sector ELT around the world, is both inefficient and badly thought through. 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 course designers through the steps of designing a TBLT syllabus, from needs analysis to task design and sequencing
  • present a robust model to teachers for implementing and evaluating TBLT in the classroom

Course structure & dates

The course is delivered over 12 sessions, most of which are 2 weeks long and require 8 or 9 hours minimum work, and of which 10 have assessments (Session 0 is for orientation only). Participants have the choice of taking all the assessments (or Output tasks) for full certification, or choosing the teacher certification stream (5 Output tasks) or course designer certification (8 Output tasks).

These differentiated outcomes are due to the fact that Mike Long’s TBLT is not meant to be set up and delivered by teachers alone. However, all participants are expected to take part in all sessions, even if they choose not to complete all Output tasks, in order to get a holistic view of Long’s TBLT.

The table below outlines course dates, hours required and the differentiation between the streams.

SessionStartEndTopicMain tutor(s)Assessed?*Time estimated (hrs)
1Pre-course7/11/19Why TBLT?GeoffNo4
28/11/1921/11/19How we learn a L2GeoffYes-all8
322/11/195/12/19Which TBLT?NeilYes-all8
46/12/1919/12/19Long's TBLT in more detailGeoff, RogerYes-CD8
Festive break20/12/192/1/20N/AN/AN/AN/A
53/1/2016/1/20The needs analysis: identifying target tasksGeoffYes-CD9
617/1/2030/1/20Analysing target discourseNeilYes-CD8
731/1/206/2/20Mulling it over with Mike LongMikeNo5
87/2/2020/2/20Syllabus designGeoff, MikeYes-CD9
106/3/2012/3/20Methodological and Pedagogical PrinciplesGeoffYes-T5
1113/3/2026/3/20Focus on FormNeilYes-T8
1227/3/209/4/20TBLT assessment & roundupGeoff, Glenn, NeilYes-CD9

*‘Yes-all’ means the assessment should be done by all participants; ‘Yes-CD’ means the assessment is required for course designers and is optional for teachers; ‘Yes-T’ means the assessment is required for teachers, and is optional for course designers.

You can begin the course now by working through Session 1, Why TBLT. This will also give you a feel for the course structure. Most sessions (from Session 2 onwards, starting on November 11 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 most sessions (from Session 2 onwards) will be a minimum of 8 hours, including background reading and assessment.

An outline of all sessions is available below.

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.. 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, 2018-2019. All rights reserved.


1. Why TBLT? (Nov 2019)

Free Preview

Length: 240 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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 480 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? (Nov 2019)

Length: 480 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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 480 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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 540 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Hard

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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 480 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Standard

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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 300 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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 540 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Hard

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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 480 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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 300 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 (Nov 2019)

Length: 480 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 (2019)

Length: 540 minutesAuthor: Neil McMillanComplexity: Hard

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