Responding to the current MEXT objective of traditional teacher-centered classes giving way to a more communicative and interactive approach, Thompson and Millington constructed some task-based exercises to develop students’ oral communication strategies while focusing upon specific English challenges such as article usage. Their methodology was demonstrated by six volunteers describing and ordering photographs into a coherent story, related by one member, paying particular attention to article usage. (Narrations have been shown to produce the most plentiful and correct article use; in classroom practice, the next stage of this exercise is for the class to work in groups transcribing the narration, correcting and then performing it.)
We shared observations of the group’s interaction—and the extent to which Willis’s task stages of pre-task, task cycle and language focus had been followed. The presenters noted a major problem of task-based learning is that so many points demand simultaneous attention that the tendency is to just let them go, and deal with them later, which is perhaps concentrating too much on communication and not enough on awareness of language construction. The presentation concluded with an open discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of using tasks in this particular learning context.