What is Task-Based Learning?

David Weller
6 min readOct 16, 2019
The process of a task-based learning lesson.

What is task-based learning? Or should that be ‘task-based language teaching’? How do you ‘do’ it in class? What’s the difference between this and ‘project-based learning’? Read on!

Task-Based Learning (TBL) is a lesson structure, a method of sequencing activities in your lessons.

Sometimes called ‘Task-Based Language Teaching’, TBL lessons students solve a task that involves an authentic use of language, rather than completing simple language questions about grammar or vocabulary.

Task-Based Learning is a good way to get students engaged and using English. That, plus the collaborative element, builds confidence with language and social situations. It’s also been shown to be more aligned with how we actually learn a language.

So why doesn’t everyone use TBL all the time?

Well, there are a number of disadvantages with task-based learning, which we’ll look at in a minute. A lot of teachers try it once, it falls flat, and they don’t use it again. A big part of that first failure is that the ‘task’ isn’t really a task.

So What is a Task?

Good question. TBL calls for a specific kind of task, one that fits these requirements:

It involves meaningful communication A ‘gap’ between what the students know to prompt communication (e.g. they have different information, or a difference of opinion) Students can choose how to complete it, and which language they use to do so There’s a clear goal, so students know when it’s completed

A task could be to create a presentation, some kind of media, a piece of text, or a recorded dialogue.

It could be trying to work out the solution to a practical problem, like planning a complex journey, or deducing missing information, like working out who started a rumour at school.

It could even be justifying and supporting an opinion, like arguing for your preference in an election or favourite competitor in a TV show.

Whichever task you choose, like ‘Present, Practice, Production’ (PPP), Task-Based Learning is a structure with three stages:

1. The Pre-Task

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David Weller

Lessons, stories and visuals to develop your language teaching and learning. 20 years in education, 3 books, and a twice-monthly newsletter.