International Journal of Applied Linguistics vol:19 issue:3 pages:264-285
Mediating between predetermined order and chaos. The role of the teacher in task-based language education.
Tasks are not blueprints for action. A number of empirical studies carried out in intact classrooms have shown that teachers and students reinterpret the tasks that they are offered by syllabus developers in ways that suit their own purposes, learning needs and interaction styles. This observation has raised fundamental questions about the degree to which teachers who are working with tasks can make any prediction on the learning that will come of out of task-based interactional work. In addition, if learners’ reactions to tasks are fairly unpredictable, teachers may be inclined to associate task-based work with organisational chaos and with the seemingly unattainable challenge of having to cater to every individual learner’s personal whims. Drawing on classroom-based research carried out in Flanders, and describing two task-based lessons that were observed in intact Dutch as a second language (DSL) classrooms, this article shows that between the extremes of deterministic predictability on the one hand and complete chaos on the other, lies a rich pedagogical space that teachers and learners who work with tasks can exploit to construct shared projects with clearly determined goals. In such pedagogical spaces, the true potentiality of task-based classroom work lies in the ongoing exploration of multifaceted form-meaning-function relationships, and in the rich opportunities that the teacher may take to cater to individual learner’s needs within the conceptual and social boundaries of the shared project.