Lesson 3: Designing Communicative Tasks

What Is a Task?

Defining a "task."

Duration: 01:31


This lesson focuses on defining what a task is. And actually there's been a lot written on this in the literature on task-based language teaching. Some people say that a task is not really a language unit at all, that it's really a unit of activity. But how we're going to define a task in this lesson is: a human activity (that is, you are going to be doing something) that is goal-directed (that is, you're doing something to accomplish a particular goal). But the real crux here is it's going to require interaction -- interaction between two people -- partners -- or a small group.

So for example, say you want to hire a job candidate. You have an opening in your company and you need to hire somebody. That's a task. And, if you break it down, the first thing you are going to do you might review some resumes, you might post the job, you go over the resumes that you get from the applicants. You then have to match their qualifications to the actual job. And then as a group you're going to have to have that difficult decision-making process and come to some kind of agreement. So that's a pretty good example of what I mean here by task. There is an activity, you're hiring somebody, and the activity is goal-oriented and it requires interaction among a small group.

A task is (1) a classroom activity or exercise that has (a) an objective attainable only by the interaction among participants, (b) a mechanism for structuring and sequencing interaction, and (c) a focus on meaning exchange; (2) a language learning endeavor that requires learners to comprehend, manipulate, and/or produce the target language as they perform some set of workplans. (Lee 2000:32)