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Tasks, talk and teaching : task-based language learning and the negotiation of meaning in oral interaction

Authors Courtney, Michael J. HKUST affiliated (currently or previously).
Issue Date 2001
Summary Undergraduates in Hong Kong universities are taught in an English-medium environment but come from an educational background where classroom opportunities to practise speaking in English are limited. Stimulating and motivating oral materials are an essential tool to help students to practise in the classroom in meaningful ways. Interactive peer-group oral tasks not only provide a practical basis for oral development within a language syllabus, but they can also promote the essential skill of critical thinking. A theoretical justification for their use can be derived from second language acquisition research but the best justification is from learners themselves. This report explores the key theoretical issues surrounding the use of such pedagogy. The main issue is so-called “negotiated meaning”, specifically in relation to such classroom tasks. However, exploration of this theoretical area inevitably takes us into a general discussion of the role of interaction in discourse analysis – particularly in relation to developments in the fairly recent field of conversation analysis. Previous studies have made strong claims in relation to the potential of interactive communication tasks for language acquisition. However, researchers have based their claims on small samples and limited descriptions of task design and task performance. The present study used a much larger intact sample and a more detailed and inclusive task taxonomy. The first part of the investigation establishes a method for classifying the design of commonly used oral interactive tasks (the input). A method is developed to quantify the performance (the output) of such tasks statistically. Finally, the central performance activity of negotiated meaning is discussed in some detail in relation to task participant interaction and the theoretical question of language acquisition. The investigation concludes that statistically significant links between input and output were evident, thereby offering a principled basis for the choice and use of oral interactive tasks for both pedagogic and evaluation purposes.
Note This report is a shortened, edited version of the author’s thesis, ‘Input, output and interaction. Oral task design, performance and evaluation’, for which he was awarded the degree of PhD at the City University of Hong Kong, 1998.
Language English
Format Book
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