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Tasks in Textbooks: Barking up the Wrong Tree? A paper presented at the 3 rd Biennial Conference on Taskbased Language Teaching, Lancaster University, UK, 13 -16 September 2009. Alan Waters, Lancaster University E-mail: a. [email protected] ac. uk

Rationale Increasing focus on pedagogy of language learning tasks (e. g. , Van den Branden 2006, Carless 2007, Samuda & Bygate 2008) BUT mainly still ‘laboratory’ investigations and application of theoretical models (Bygate, Norris & Van den Branden 2009) Also need ‘bottom-up’ studies which theorise from practice of typical language teaching situation (cf. Waters 2009 b)

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The study (1): focus & research questions Textbooks as ‘entrée’ into world of everyday language teaching Research questions: ◦ What role do tasks play in ELT textbooks? ◦ To what extent does the picture resemble or differ from the one in applied linguistics in general, and why? ◦ What implications might there be for further research and theorising in this area?

The study (2): scope Textbooks focused on = Headway, Cutting Edge, Innovations, Language to Go and Lifelines, i. e. , series produced by major UK publishers -> availability & familiarity BUT most textbooks local Intermediate level only -> convenience and ‘representativeness’ Picture at other levels? Analysis = ‘on paper’ only, vs. classroom use

The study (3): definition of ‘task’ Numerous lists of numerous ‘candidates’ (e. g. , those in Bygate, Skehan & Swain 2001, Ellis 2003) ‘An activity which involves a primary focus on using language as communication, i. e. , one intended to achieve some kind of purpose over and above displaying a knowledge of the language as an end in itself. ’ Term often missing/misapplied in textbooks -> focus on function of textbook element

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Findings (1) ‘False positives’, e. g. , Headway (Soars & Soars 2003), Unit 4, p. 34 ‘What do you think? ’; p. 33, ‘Practice’: item 4; p. 108: item 5). Interpretation often problematic -> role usually multi-dimensional Close matches, e. g. , ‘Get Talking’ (Ex. 8) in Unit 4, Language to Go (Crace & Wileman 2002) [see Appendix 1] - also see, e. g. , Hutchinson 1997: 26, item 5; Cunningham & Moor 1999: 42 -43; Dellar et al. 2004: 51, item 8.

Findings (2) Other purposes of ‘Get Talking’ task: links to earlier exercises 1. Task language: 2. Task content: ◦ Ex. 1: phrasal verbs for describing typical events in a tour; Exs. 3 – 5: structure of a ‘model’ itinerary; Exs. 6 & 7: use of present tense forms for talking about the future. ◦ Ex. 1: Talking about familiar journeys; Exs. 3 – 5: touring parts of London via Thames; Exs. 6 & 7: ‘carrier content’ related to day trip theme. Cf. Hutchinson 1997: 26, item 5; Cunningham & Moor 1999: 42 -43; Dellar et al. 2004: 51, item 8.

Findings (3): the emergent picture Task as means of drawing together discrete language and content strands of earlier part of learning unit in order to provide opportunity to apply them in holistic manner (see Fig. 1). Task defined by pedagogic role in sequence of other items is related to. Resembles ‘task-supported learning’ (TSL), vs. ‘task-based learning’ (TBL) (Ellis 2003: 2834), BUT…

Findings (4): a ‘task-enhanced’ approach The term ‘TSL’ implies task plays pivotal role, other elements have only auxiliary role But data indicate relationship other way round (cf. Waters 2009 a), i. e. , it is the rest of the unit which supports the task Thus ‘task-enhanced learning’ (TEL) a more appropriate term: the task supplements ‘traditional’ textbook fare (and is defined in relation to it), not replaces it.

Implications for applied linguistics A more objective definition of ‘task’ Differentiation from ‘exercise’, ‘activity’, etc. Understanding rationale for textbook treatment of tasks can create potential for greater relevance -> Why are tasks incorporated into textbooks in manner shown?

The rationale for TEL 1. Lack of awareness of benefits of TBL by publishers, authors, teachers, etc? 2. TEL a better fit in terms of typical ‘situational constraints’ (see, e. g. , Carless 2002, 2004, 2007): majority of its methodology more feasible in ‘TESEP’ (Holliday 1994) settings TEL and the ‘out of class’ context: 3. ◦ Textbooks provide visible representation of curriculum (Hutchinson & Hutchinson 1996) ◦ In TBL/’focus on form’, syllabus emergent, retrospective; in TEL/’focus on forms’, syllabus explicit, prospective ◦ Latter more suited for textbook as ‘route map’ (etc. )

Conclusion Task use in textbooks a product of need for compatibility with defining features of typical language teaching situation Study of textbook use of tasks can raise awareness of how to make them work effectively in mainstream language teaching (cf. Waters 2009 a) Also helps ‘R & D’ become more ‘bottom up’, i. e. , more rooted in and able to build more on typical existing practice (cf. Waters 2009 b)

References Bygate, M. , J. Norris & K. Van den Branden (2009). Coda. Undertsanding TBLT at the interface between research and pedagogy. In Van den Branden, K. , M. Bygate & J. Norris (eds. ) Task-based language teaching. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 495 -499. Bygate, M. , P. Skehan & M. Swain (eds. ) (2001). Researching pedagogic tasks : Second language learning, teaching, and testing. Harlow: Longman. Carless, D. (2002). Implementing task-based learning with young learners. ELT Journal 56. 4, 389 -396. Carless, D. (2007). The suitability of task-based approaches for secondary schools: Perspectives from Hong Kong. System 35. 4, 595 -608. Carless, D. R. (2004). Issues in teachers' reinterpretation of a task-based innovation in primary schools. TESOL Quarterly 38. 4, 639 -662(624). Crace, A. & R. Wileman (2002). Language to go intermediate student's book. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Limited. Cunningham, S. & P. Moor (1999). Cutting Edge intermediate student's book. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

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References (contd. ) Dellar, H. , A. Walkley & D. Hocking (2004). Innovations intermediate coursebook. London: Thomson. Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Holliday, A. (1994). The house of TESEP and the communicative approach: The special needs of state English language education. ELT Journal 48. 1, 311. Hutchinson, T. (1997). Lifelines : Intermediate student's book. Oxford University Press. Hutchinson, T. & E. G. Hutchinson (1996). The textbook as agent of change. In Hedge, T. & N. Whitney (eds. ) Power, pedagogy and practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 307 -323. Hutchinson, T. & A. Waters (1987). English for specific purposes : A learningcentred approach. Cambridgeshire: Cambridge University Press. Samuda, V. & M. Bygate (2008). Tasks in second language learning. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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References (contd. ) Soars, L. & J. Soars (2003). New Headway intermediate student's book. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Van den Branden, K. (ed. ) (2006). Task-based language education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Waters, A. (2009 a). Advances in materials design. In Long, M. H. & C. J. Doughty (eds. ) The handbook of language teaching. Wiley-Blackwell, 311326. Waters, A. (2009 b). Ideology in applied linguistics for language teaching. Applied Linguistics 30. 1, 138 -143. Willis, J. (1996). A framework for task-based learning. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

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