Problems of Task-based English Language Teaching in Chinese High School Classrooms

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Problems of Task-based English language teaching in Chinese high school classrooms


  1. Introduction

There are more and more people learning foreign languages, and there are many non-native teaching methods for this trend. The exploration of effective methods such as task-based language teaching (TBLT) has been extremely popular in recent years and has been widely promoted by scholars and governments. With the wide application of China and other second-language countries in English courses and education policies, some issues have also been concerned in the debate and need to be resolved. In the task-based language teaching classroom, teachers organize teaching activities through tasks, emphasizing students’ participation, realization, interaction, communication and cooperation in task activities. Through the overview of TBLT, its advantages cannot be ignored or denied. However, some problems have been discovered when promoting and applying TBLT in high school Chinese teaching classrooms. These challenges exist in a variety of ways, such as teacher misunderstandings about TBLT, classroom settings, classroom management, and basic knowledge of task progress learners. The paper concludes with a review of several real issues in implementing task-based teaching, as reflected in the Evaluation Institute.

This paper consists of three parts: the concept and principle of task-based language teaching in high school; the role of teachers and students in task-based language teaching; the problems and countermeasures in task-based language teaching in high school.

  1. Task-based language teaching

The teaching of communicative language is a task-based language learning process. TBLT is one of the branches of CLT, but the principles and concepts of TBLT are different from CLT and role. When designing loops and lesson plans, the main idea of TBLT is based on individual tasks. Ellis (2003: 4-5) expressed support for the “Tales of TBLT”, pointing out that TBLT should be based on “meaning”. But these meaningful tasks are still some challenges and difficulties for students, so the task should be more in line with the current level of knowledge of the students.

David Numan (1993) defines TBLT as a task-based approach to language teaching, so it should focus on acquiring knowledge from practical tasks. This task involves communication and feedback between the language and the real situation. The six components of the TBLT are pre-task, mission, planning, reporting and analysis:


The teacher first explains the topic given and gives the student clear instructions about what should be done during the task and helps the student to supplement the language that may be useful to the task. Advance tasks often also include a record of the person responsible for the task, which provides the student with a clear model of their expectations, so the student is better off taking notes and preparing for the task.


Students use the language resources provided by the teacher and are supervised by the teacher to complete the task and receive rewards.


Students conduct mini-talks to report on specific actions during the mission and to express their practice and content through the use of new knowledge. In the process, the teacher should correct grammatical errors, structural defects, and logical logic errors for the students.


Students do the oral report or give a mini writing to report their achievement which is done during task. At the same time, teacher should arrange the order of each group and give a quick feedback, which in order to clear the structure and correct the mistakes. In this task, teacher also can do some comparison between recording and student their own report.


The teacher then emphasis the similar part and analyze for students. And pay more attention on the part which students interested in. Teachers are supposed to pick up the phase and structure which have been used by student in reports.


Finally, teacher selects language areas to practice by using the language knowledge students using in the task and add some relevant structure and phases. Students may have more confidence to participate the activities because of the former task and teachers corrections.

  1. Role of teacher in task-based language teaching classroom

Swan’s (2005) study shows that task-based language teaching weakens teachers’ guidance to a certain extent and should be centered on promoting learners. Swan commented that “the main purpose of TBLT is to make teachers play the role of managers and promoters of communicative activities, rather than as an important source of a new language.” Task-based teaching method also puts forward higher requirements for teachers. Teachers should not only have a high level of language knowledge and skills, but also have a wide range of knowledge. Because such an active class requires teachers to have stronger classroom driving ability. Not only should you be familiar with the language points taught, but you should also have the ability to design and organize tasks. This makes task-based teaching method more difficult than traditional teaching method in practice. In order to fully play a role in the TBLT curriculum, teachers should encourage students to innovate independently. Complete the task and encourage students to communicate and collaborate with their peers. Teachers should also help students to use existing language knowledge and language materials, and on this basis to develop new language knowledge. Therefore, the functions of teachers in TBLT are more like managers and facilitators than leaders. One of the biggest innovations of TBLT is to change the central position of Chinese teachers. The task-based language teaching method puts forward a lot of requirements for teachers: teachers should not only have experience and professional skills, English teaching skills, but also have the ability to manage and arrange classrooms.

  1. Role of student in task-based language teaching classroom

Unlike traditional courses, task-based language instruction courses require students to actively participate in the classroom. Because the classroom center is not a teacher, but the students themselves. Throughout the process, students need to apply and combine their own linguistic knowledge rather than repeating examples from textbooks or materials provided by teachers. The background of language practice is based on the goals that students achieve during their missions. Therefore, students should interact and recall their own language resources to complete tasks smoothly and effectively. Task-based teaching enables students to put themselves in real situations and solve specific problems by expanding their own thinking, so as to achieve the application and improvement of language knowledge and skills. This interactive, cooperative and communicative way of learning opens a window for students and can actively stimulate their interest in learning, emotional engagement and spiritual exchange, which is completely in line with the spirit of the English curriculum standards.

Willis (1996) argues that student motivation, attitudes, and participation play an important role in the performance of the task. TBLT, as an interactive teaching method, requires students to be proactive and self-confident.


  1. Classroom reality in Chinese classroom

Scholar Wang (2010) believes that the problems faced by Chinese teachers and students can be divided into three parts: language methods, lack of language skills, and inefficient classroom organization. In Chinese classes, the ratio of teachers to students is usually 1:30 in developing cities. In underdeveloped regions, this ratio can be as high as 1:59. Since teachers can’t care for each student in limited class time, the imbalance of the teacher-student ratio limits the promotion of Chinese school TBLT. On the other hand, Chinese students who are second language learners may lack a solid knowledge base of the English language.

Carless (2004) studied the implementation process of task-based language teaching in Hong Kong high school “background and goal-oriented curriculum”. After analyzing the data, Carless’s conclusion is that the problems in the classroom include the teacher’s lack of understanding of the context, leading to misleading mission objectives. The task-based language teaching methods used by these teachers do not focus on the communication of real scenes. Three years later, McDonough and Chaijitmongkol (2007) conducted an innovative TBLT course study for learners at Chiang Mai University in Thailand. In contrast, task-based courses are more successful than experiments in Hong Kong because of the limited English proficiency of high school students in Hong Kong. Of course, the language foundation of college students is definitely stronger than that of high school students. Hong Kong teachers lack a clear understanding and analysis of TBLT concepts and principles, while university teachers are not. The curriculum is uninterrupted, but this is not the case with university courses.

Therefore, the situation of Chinese classroom may not meet the requirements of task-based language teaching.

  1. Misunderstanding of teacher

In the design process of teaching tasks, most English teachers in China are generally misunderstood. In the teaching process of the TBL course, teachers should pay attention to the language behavior of high school students. However, most English teachers in China are unable to bridge the gap between task-based teaching and high school English language behavior, which leads to design tasks not designed around language tasks, but only for tasks. Teachers only emphasize the design and performance of tasks, resulting in insufficient expression of language behavior.

Task-based instruction has higher requirements for the connection of each part. From the perspective of high school English task-based teaching classrooms, the requirements of language goals are higher. Most teachers lack experience and expertise. English teachers often use task-based instruction to simply adjust the design of task communication activities for each class to facilitate design tasks while ignoring the integrity of the unit, which is not conducive to the learning of the student system.

  1. Solutions

In recent years, with the advancement of curriculum reform, the task-based teaching method has been highly praised and recognized by the majority of frontline teachers. Teachers are important players in every task, so you must carefully understand each different job and carefully guide students to complete the work. Here are a few solutions proposed in this article:

7.1 Realistic and interesting tasks

Task-based teaching activities should be close to the real-life of students and increase the fun of learning. The more students are interested in a certain thing, the stronger their curiosity and the higher the level of participation, so that they can maximize their own subjectivity and actively complete their learning tasks. Therefore, when designing task-based teaching activities, teachers should start from the students’ actual life experience and interests, and realize the goal of learning tasks through the means of perception and experience and exploration cooperation.

7.2 Self-motivated learning

Task-based teaching activities should guide students to self-learning and cooperative learning, to maximize the students’ horizons. The essence of the learning process is the initiative and enthusiasm of the students.

7.3 Language and life practice combined

The use of the task-based approach is combined with the student’s language practice. Grammar class is the key to students’ English learning in high school, and it is the key way for students to strengthen their vocabulary. The main purpose of high school English grammar teaching is to create language situations through the implementation of extremely effective teaching strategies so that students can understand and master grammar knowledge in the practice of language use. Therefore, the teacher should combine the abstract grammar learning process with the student’s actual life scene, so that students can learn effectively in a fun environment.


  1. Conclusion

Countries that English as second language  such as china, students do not have many chance to get touch or communicate with native speakers, however, TBLT is a special stage for them to get more interact by using English, which stimulate students’ motivation and interests of learning English. In recent years, teachers in china shows interested in applying TBLT in English teaching class. However, this paper points out the challenge of applying task-based English language teaching in Chinese high school classroom. And present the definition and methodology of TBLT. By analyzing both roles of teacher and student and comparing with the target role, the weakness of Chinese classroom is obsoletely. The real situation in language classroom in china is lower-level than TBLT requires. Not only teachers and students level cannot adapt TBLT demanding, but also the curricular setting and education policy in China. Task-based language teaching method requires students to be able to recognize the different demanding of each task, and also participate in classroom activities. Students can participate in various activities, such as listening, discussing, and communicating in different tasks, such as team cooperation and group competitions. Each task requires the task with a clear topic and goal, and make the task completed in the form of student activity, so that each student has the opportunity to participate in communicating and creating. TBLT also provide different topic which enable each student be interested in, which offers a stage for improvement and improvement for future learning, also lay a solid foundation.



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