TBL is a natural extension of communicative language teaching. In TBL, the emphasis is on the task rather than the language. For example, students perform real-life tasks such as getting information about bus timetables, or making a presentation on a certain topic. Later, after the task has been completed, they can look at the language they have used and work on any imperfections that have arisen, correcting grammatical mistakes or thinking about aspects or style.

A typical TBL sequence starts with a pre-task (where students are introduced to the topic and told what the task will be). This is followed by a task cycle where the students plan the task, gathering language and information to do it, and then produce the piece of writing or oral performance that the task demands. In the final language focus phase, students analyze the language they used for the task, making improvements and practicing any language that needs repair or development. (The Practice of English Language Teaching 3rd edition pp86-88 by Jeremy Harmer [Longman])

TBL, like a communicative methodology, has allowed teachers and students to concentrate on how we achieve things with language, and how we can use language for certain tasks. It is a significant departure from the original PPP sequence, since it takes the third element (production) as the starting point, not the end-point of the procedure.

Task-based language learning (TBLL), also known as task-based language teaching (TBLT) or task-based instruction (TBI) focuses on the use of authentic language and on asking students to do meaningful tasks using the target language. Such tasks can include visiting a doctor, conducting an interview, or calling customer service for help. Assessment is primarily based on task outcome (in other words the appropriate completion of tasks) rather than on accuracy of language forms. This makes TBLL especially popular for developing target language fluency and student confidence.

According to Jane Willis, TBLL consists of the pre-task, the task cycle, and the language focus.


The core of the lesson is, as the name suggests, the task. All parts of the language used are deemphasized during the activity itself, in order to get students to focus on the task. Although there may be several effective frameworks for creating a task-based learning lesson, here is a rather comprehensive one suggested by Jane Willis.


In the pre-task, the teacher will present what will be expected of the students in the task phase. Additionally, the teacher may prime the students with key vocabulary or grammatical constructs, although, in “pure” task-based learning lessons, these will be presented as suggestions and the students would be encouraged to use what they are comfortable with in order to complete the task. The instructor may also present a model of the task by either doing it themselves or by presenting picture, audio, or video demonstrating the task.


During the task phase, the students perform the task, typically in small groups, although this is dependent on the type of activity. And unless the teacher plays a particular role in the task, then the teacher’s role is typically limited to one of an observer or counselor—thus the reason for it being a more student-centered methodology.


Having completed the task, the students prepare either a written or oral report to present to the class. The instructor takes questions and otherwise simply monitors the students.


The students then present this information to the rest of the class. Here the teacher may provide written or oral feedback, as appropriate, and the students observing may do the same.


Here the focus returns to the teacher who reviews what happened in the task, in regards to language. It may include language forms that the students were using, problems that students had, and perhaps forms that need to be covered more or were not used enough.


The practice stage may be used to cover material mentioned by the teacher in the analysis stage. It is an opportunity for the teacher to emphasize key language.

What makes ‘task-based learning’ different?

In task-based learning, the tasks are central to the learning activity. Originally developed by N Prabhu in Bangladore, southern India, it is based on the belief that students may learn more effectively when their minds are focused on the task, rather than on the language they are using.
In the model of task-based learning described by Jane Willis, the traditional PPP (presentation, practice, production) lesson is reversed. In A Framework for Task-Based Learning, Jane Willis presents a three stage process:

  • Pre-task – Introduction to the topic and task.
  • Task cycle – Task, planning, and report
  • Language focus – Analysis and practice.

Does it work?

Task-based learning can be very effective at Intermediate levels and beyond, but many teachers question its usefulness at lower levels. The methodology requires a change in the traditional teacher’s role. The teacher does not introduce and ‘present’ language or interfere (‘help’) during the task cycle. The teacher is an observer during the task phase and becomes a language informant only during the ‘language focus’ stage.

Advantages of TBL

  • Related to learners’ real language needs
  • Tasks create contexts that facilitate acquisition of the L2
  • Tasks are motivating
  • Teacher can monitor communicative ability in L2
  • Learners learn a language through using it to communicate.

Task-based learning is generally meant to conform to a framework or pattern

Introduction to topic and task
(Engagement, input language, preparation/groups)
Task cycle
Task,  ‘planning’
(working on post-report), presenting report
Language focus
Reflect and analyse the language produced, do practice

It will occur to you that this is a top-down approach to language form and is therefore very much fluency oriented

The use of tasks can be justified on the grounds that learners are negotiating meaning, and can re-shape the input

Source :

  • Jane Willis, A Framework for Task-Based Learning, Longman ELT

  • Jeremy Harmer, How to teach English, Longman ELT