Adventures in Language

Teaching Languages Today | What is Task-Based Language Teaching? (feat. Lara Bryfonski)

August 17, 2022 Mango Languages
Teaching Languages Today | What is Task-Based Language Teaching? (feat. Lara Bryfonski)
Adventures in Language
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Adventures in Language
Teaching Languages Today | What is Task-Based Language Teaching? (feat. Lara Bryfonski)
Aug 17, 2022
Mango Languages

If you’re like a lot of language teachers today, you’re trying to shift learning objectives from a hyper focus on grammatical accuracy to a more holistic communicative competence. And that’s no easy task! In this episode, our host Emily Sabo (linguist, PhD) sits down with Georgetown University linguist and Second Language Acquisition researcher Dr. Lara Bryfonski to discuss one of the best solutions out there right now: Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT). Listen to find out what TBLT is and how you can use it in your classroom!

To download your free TBLT resources, click here:

Want to listen to more? Check out our episode on Individual Differences here:

You can connect with Dr. Lara Bryfonski at or on Twitter @lbryfo. If you enjoyed the episode, subscribe to the podcast or leave us a review! 

#languageteaching #worldlanguages #mangolanguages

Show Notes Transcript

If you’re like a lot of language teachers today, you’re trying to shift learning objectives from a hyper focus on grammatical accuracy to a more holistic communicative competence. And that’s no easy task! In this episode, our host Emily Sabo (linguist, PhD) sits down with Georgetown University linguist and Second Language Acquisition researcher Dr. Lara Bryfonski to discuss one of the best solutions out there right now: Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT). Listen to find out what TBLT is and how you can use it in your classroom!

To download your free TBLT resources, click here:

Want to listen to more? Check out our episode on Individual Differences here:

You can connect with Dr. Lara Bryfonski at or on Twitter @lbryfo. If you enjoyed the episode, subscribe to the podcast or leave us a review! 

#languageteaching #worldlanguages #mangolanguages

Emily Sabo, PhD [00:00:00] You are listening to a Mango Languages podcast. Language teaching is hard, but there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. That's why we created this show, Teaching Languages Today, a podcast for world language educators about what's working and what's not. Listen in for the problems the fellow teachers are facing. Learn what solutions they found and get some much needed self care reminders of why you fell in love with teaching in the first place. Hi, I'm Emily, your host for the show. In each episode I'll be taking you on a journey into seeing world language ed through a new lens by sitting down with an all star lineup of teachers, administrators, parents and students. It's my hope that the stories you hear in this show will get you thinking and feeling different about what you do in the classroom. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:00:59] [Speaking foreign Language] Welcome back to Teaching Languages Today. I'm your host and professional language lover, Emily. If you're like a lot of language teachers today, you're trying to shift learning objectives from a hyperfocus on grammatical accuracy to a more holistic, communicative competence. And I'm sure you know this, but that is no easy task, which is why I'm excited about this episode, because I got to sit down with Georgetown University linguist and second language acquisition researcher Dr. Lara Bryfonski to discuss one of the best solutions out there right now. It's called task based language teaching or TBLT. Have you ever heard of TBLT before? Well, either way, you are in for a treat because Lara, a former K-12 language teacher, has a lot of knowledge to share about it. In this episode, we get into what TBLT is some of the research behind how it works and how you can use it in your classroom. Lara also shares the findings from one of her recent research studies on the topic, which has direct implications for language teaching in the real world. Are you ready for some teaching tools that will help your learners speak more confidently and comfortably in the target language? Well, without further ado, here was my conversation with Lara Bryfonski. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:02:13] Hi, Lara. 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:02:14] Hey, Emily. How are you? 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:02:16] I'm good. Welcome to the show. It's so great to have you. Now, you and I have crossed paths in the conference circuit, but this is our first time chatting and podcast land. I'm so excited. Yeah. So when it comes to TBLT, I have so many questions prepared, especially because from what I understand of it, it seems like TBLT can address, if not solve a lot of problems that language teachers face day to day in the classroom. All that to say. I have been so excited for this conversation, so can we just jump right in? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:02:44] Yeah, I think we should just dove in and see where the conversation takes us. Have some fun. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:02:48] Okay. Sounds good. Okay, so, Lara, why don't you start by telling us what is task based language teaching? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:02:55] Yeah, such a great question. So task based language teaching is a really exciting approach to language pedagogy that takes tasks: so what students really need to do with their language that they're learning. So maybe that for some older learners it's applying for a job or being able to read manuals at work or talk to customer service. For students that maybe a younger age like the students in the study we're going to talk about today, it's things that any kid would have to do in school. So maybe playing an activity or a game with a friend using the target language and intestate language teaching. We designer courses around those different tasks rather than the traditional way of language teaching, which is to design them around grammar points. So we usually see these textbooks where we start with the present tense and then the future tense and we move through language like that. So task based language teaching really turns that on its head and says, Let's actually think about what we're using language for. And then when we need to learn these grammar points or maybe vocabulary that's going to come up naturally and be focused on through communication in the tasks. So it's backed by a lot of research and second language acquisition, which makes it so exciting for me as a former language teacher and as a current researcher. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:04:12] You have this beautiful study that came out in 2021. So tell us about that study. What was the central question of that paper? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:04:19] Yeah. So this paper looked at the role of teachers in task based language teaching. So something interesting that happens when you split the classroom in this way where the task is now central and students are communicating because a lot of people say, well, what's the teacher doing? Because we think of teachers being this very important figure in the classroom that takes the knowledge and gives it to the students piece by piece. So if students are learning through tasks, what is the teacher's role here? But actually in TBLT, the role of the teacher is so important because they need to really individualize the instruction to make sure that learners are getting the kinds of tasks that are suitable to their needs, but they're getting opportunities to make meaning and that they're getting feedback on whether or not the language they're using is working or not for the task. So they actually need to know a lot about second language acquisition and research and get all this information so that they can design their classroom to help learners learn through tasks. So my study looked at that how can we train teachers to implement this? And right now, the study that that is in language teaching research is from a collection of bilingual schools in Honduras that are really trying to make their language teaching very cutting edge and integrating these types of approaches like task based language teaching. So the teachers in this study do a kind of a crash course in language teaching over the Summer before they teach for the first time. And they're a unique population because most of them are brand new teachers, so they have no prior experience in classrooms. They're total novices. Some of them might have had education degrees or other experiences teaching, but they really were quite new. And so it's very interesting to see what happens when you get a new teacher information about this new approach and then you see what what do they do with that information in the classroom? Do they filter that through their own beliefs about how languages are learned? Maybe their own experiences, learning languages? Do they absorb all of this just like a sponge and just deliver it immediately? So I was really interesting to see what happens when you tell someone about TBLT, especially a new teacher, and look to follow them in the classroom. And I actually recorded them designing and teaching these lessons, and then we reflected afterwards on what happened and what they thought. So that was really interesting to see it before and after. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:06:40] And what was your prediction like a priority? What were you expecting to find? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:06:45] It's a great question. So there has been a lot of prior work that's looked into training teachers, mostly more experienced teachers, where there's kind of optimist clash in their previous beliefs about language teaching. And then TBLT comes in and they think, Oh, I'm going to have to start from scratch and redesign everything. It's going to take so much work. So there's some kind of conflict. Sometimes there's cultural conflicts, too, especially in societies around the world where there is a really strong cultural connection with teachers being the, you know, the powerful figure in the classroom. And students are more secondary. They're sitting there quietly and learning. So to flip that is difficult for some teachers. So I thought that there would still be variation. But since these were all new teachers, I thought that we would definitely see a lot of them take on TBLT as kind of an exciting opportunity to learn this research driven approach to language teaching. And so I wasn't surprised to find that there was a lot of variability and what happens when the teachers implement it? You had teachers who totally rolled with it and they tried all these very innovative tasks. They explored their students interests and tried to design activities that would get them excited to be using their language in meaningful ways. And then you had teachers who, even though they were novices, just like everyone, we have beliefs about language learning. And they thought, well, I can't. I had one teacher in the study she's quoted saying, How am I? How are they going to be able to do this activity if I don't teach them all the verbs that they need to know in the past tense? So I have to I have to teach that way. And so when she went to the classroom, those beliefs just were driving her so strongly that she started her lesson with a very didactic teacher, centered, here is an -ed ending, and here's how it goes on verbs to make the past tense. And there seemed to be a connection between teachers that had some type of prior experiences. So even the ones that had they were all novices, but even the ones that had a little bit of background to draw from, they seemed to utilize the different principles of task based language teaching a bit more effectively in these first lessons than the true, true novices. They struggled a little bit more to implement it. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:08:52] Tell us, what did the training look like? What kinds of things did these teachers do in this intervention period? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:08:58] So something fun is that we. So I was one of the trainers at the time and I before COVID, I used to go to Honduras every single Summer to to help out help the Honduran partners with these trainings for their teachers. And now we can talk about this maybe later. Now it's the next round of studies here is that it's all been put online because of COVID. So that's been super interesting. But back then, when it was all in-person, we kind of did a task based approach to teacher training. It was kind of treat them like they were the students. And I would model how I would design a lesson that was task oriented. But in this case, the task was learning about second language acquisition, learning about how to juxtapose these different approaches, the very grammar style it had to kind of get that terminology and vocabulary in order to understand how TBLT fit in to that picture. So we've got very communicative approaches, we've got very grammar based approaches. We have this task based approach that we would like you to do, and here's how you can take your curriculum and here's how you can break that down into pieces to make lessons, and how you can structure your lesson to support language learning through TBLT. So they actually had to do these things and I was kind of modeling as a teacher role. So they cycle through lots of different mini lessons on different topics from actually writing lessons to what our tasks, how to give feedback that's effective and supports language learning. One thing that our language teachers are always very concerned about is how do I encourage the students to use the language in the classroom? Because especially in bilingual schools, you know, everybody speaks, in that case, Spanish, and we don't want to disparage their bilingual abilities. Being bilingual is awesome and they should. They are going to be great users of two languages. But how do we get the students speaking English? The same question comes up here in the US. If a teacher is teaching Spanish and they have their high school students who are all speaking English, so we talk about how do we support and promote output in the classroom using the language in meaningful ways. So they do all that and then they get to try it out. So we have a Summer camp and the Summer camp has all the kids there and they actually get to use those kids as guinea pigs for their lessons. So they have to you know, they're making it fun because it is a Summer camp, but they get to try out everything that they want to do that next academic year for the younger students. They might practice doing a morning meeting where we do the weather and we maybe they sing, sing songs, alphabet, all these different things that they want to try out with their kids. A little writing lesson, writing a letter to your parents or your siblings or your friends, so about your summer vacation or whatever. So these are the types of tasks that little kids are really doing. And so they they get to trialed all that and get feedback from their peers on their practicum teaching. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:11:46] Whenever you have that teacher who steps into the classroom and really, really believes, in order for my students to do this task, I have to teach them all of the verbs that they might need to use in this exercise or this activity. What would be a TBLT approach? What could she have done with tbal t in mind? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:12:05] Yeah. So one thing that that she could have done was to kind of think of, well, they have a curriculum which has. You know, things that all kids need to know in that year. So taking the task from the curriculum as the main point of departure, rather than thinking, okay, I need to teach verbs, thinking, okay, I want to teach what I did on my Summer vacation and how to write a letter, because that's a task that that third graders need to do. So, yes, past tense might be part of that. So we have to talk about how past is going to emerge from this letter writing, because students are talking about what happens during their Summer vacation and maybe they're like drawing pictures, illustrating it and making books and sharing them with their friends in their class, or they're doing all these things that are going to elicit the past tense. And so with the teacher's role in this scenario is going to be is to really be monitoring their production, how they're using past tense and supporting them to use it more accurately in the moment when they need it. So the idea here is that that connection that they're making, when they're really using it in a meaningful way and getting that feedback right then at the point where you need it is really what's going to foster those close connections in our brains that help us internalize language and be able to use it more fluently in the future. And they'll be doing that over and over and over again if they're writing a letter in the past. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:13:27] Is part of that is part of the thinking that they should start the task? And then as they are trying to talk about the past, they might stumble upon the realization, Oh, I don't know how this verb works in the past. And that actually will help them learn it better because they wanted to know for their meaningful purpose. 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:13:45] Yeah, I think for some students for sure we'll be like that. There's all different ways that people are motivated and some of them are very motivated by a curiosity to understand how this verb form works. A lot of linguists are like that, I think as language learners. Other students might be motivated by the task itself, by getting it accomplished, and some people might be motivated by more like extrinsic things. Like, I just want my teacher to be happy with me and I want I got a sticker on my paper or whatever. So yeah, some, some might. And, but we do know that students that do notice that so who start to say, oh, I noticed that every time that I write this letter, my teacher, you know, she helps me correct some of these verb forms. Or I asked her for help and she's she's talked to me and then she was using this word form students that sought to notice those differences and start using them themselves. That noticing does seem to facilitate language learning as well. So the more you kind of you notice, the more it seems that you learn. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:14:42] Right. And I think one thing that people can easily misconstrue about TBLT you and you hinted at this earlier, Lara, is that like the teacher doesn't do anything like that and that's not true. It's not that there's no like traditional teaching or there's no chance for the student to explicitly learn these verb forms. They're not learning everything on the fly. Right. Can you talk a little bit about how that would work in this situation? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:15:06] Yeah, definitely. So the teacher is definitely not just standing there after they gave them their the activity. They are going around monitoring the classroom. And this is something that the teachers in my study tended to do really effectively, because one of the one of the really important things that TBLT is that students are learning in this very collaborative, cooperative environment where they're getting this individualized feedback. So the teacher is constantly on their feet monitoring what all the students are doing and giving them that feedback when they need it in the moment. And a lot of times, especially in this example of like a writing class, you're structuring it around an activity that usually has some sort of presentation at the end. What's a really fun way for the students to also practice their oral language skills so the students all come up and present on their papers. They are even more feedback potentially on the past tense endings, if that was critical to being understood in their in their writing. So the teacher is giving them even more important feedback in this school. They definitely structure their writing around the stages of the writing process. So the kids have to go through their drafting and the editing and the revising, so they're getting even more feedback around around those things. So in that way, it's really giving them that repeated exposure that we know is so important for development within the meaningfulness of the test. So the teacher is actually way more active, I think, than if if you give kids like a fill in the blank worksheet to fill in, like the -ed endings or something like that, they will sit really quietly and they will and they will do it and it will be great. And the teacher might be like, Great, I can sit back and relax. This class is going amazing. So it's not that TBLT is any easier on the teacher. In fact, I think it's actually harder more work to think of when can I bring be a meaningful input to my students when they need it most? 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:16:53] And I think part of it too is what happens before the activity. Could you introduce, let's say, a past tense activity, like what did you do last Summer as a writing prompt before having ever taught the -ed ending in English, like, how do you think about that in the process of TBLT? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:17:10] T I think of it as a way. Most teachers would start a lesson like that if they're using a task based approach with all of modeling. So maybe they read a bunch of stories that are very similar so students are already picking up on. Again, it's not like the -ed ending is the is being talked about necessarily, but they're reading stories that are in the past. Maybe the teacher does like a think aloud saying like we're going to be writing stories about the past. Last Summer I went to the beach with my family and it was really fun. So I'm going to write a story to my friends and they might actually think through the process out loud of modeling how they would write the story. And so, again, they're getting this information. And really at the end of it, it's not necessarily in TBLT that the students wrote papers where the ending was correct. In every instance, that's not the goal. We're moving away from this idea that accuracy is the only way that success in language can be judged. The goal is that they did successfully write a letter to their friends and transmit that. And in this in this case, it's the stakes are low because we're writing maybe we should say an email, I guess, today. But in the paper, they really are writing letters to their friends. But, you know, the stakes could be higher in a classroom of adults where the task is to be able to ask your professor to write you a letter of recommendation. And maybe a student really actually does need to do that. And at the end, they actually have to write that letter to their professor and get the response so that the accomplishment isn't necessarily where they using all of the endings, write in their letter. It's whether or not the task was successful. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:18:51] I think it's such a simple but absolutely radical, different way of thinking about classroom, because as a perfectionist, you know, when you're like a Type A person, I'm sure a lot of the teachers listening can identify with these terms. I think it's so easy to to think that accuracy is the only way or it's the best way to measure progress. And it's just it's just not it's just not true. 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:19:17] Right? Yeah. We forget about all the other dimensions of language, fluency. So being able to get your point across, maybe at the rate of speech that you want to without too many hesitations or what stumbling and having to backtrack how complex what you're saying is. So are you using embedding clauses? Are you doing things that are a little bit more complicated than just a straightforward, present tense sentence. Vocabulary, we could talk about that being complex, too. Like maybe we're using just the most basic words. Maybe we're using really technical vocabulary that we that we had to study. Maybe we. So it's not just about is every grammar point, right? Is every word exactly right. So there are so many ways of looking at language other than accuracy. And I totally agree that it is really radical to change our viewpoint of saying, well, I wanted them to learn the past tense ending. Well in TBLT, the teacher isn't going to say that because the task is not to learn the past tense ending. They'll need it eventually to to to write it. But, you know, it might not be 100% accurate at first, and that's fine because that's not the point of the task. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:20:28] I can even see as a as a as a linguist, I've taught I've never actually taught a fully TBLT class. I feel like the the courses, the language courses I've taught have all been a hybrid curriculum that I've inherited. But I feel like if I were to learn a new language right now, let's say pick up, you know, Japanese, I would going into every lesson, my brain is still wired to expect. Okay. What's the grammatical objective of today's lesson? What is the vocab in there? It's just so ingrained. But I my my prediction would be that after like two weeks, I would really be like, oh, okay. I actually don't need to, like, search for these grammar and vocab objectives. This is truly the objective that I want, and it's helping me learn the language. 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:21:17] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I completely agree. And I, you know, as a language learner myself, I have definitely been in the exact same situation of begging my teacher like, but did I say this right? Come on, tell me, tell me, was it right? Did he say all of these things right.? I'm just not so confident. And even a teacher that is trying to be maybe not in a fully TBLT classroom, but is trying to not correct every single grammar point because they know that will just discourage their students if they get back a paper with read all over it. I think it's still hard to to transition to a perspective of how well did this person get their point across? Were they able to get what they needed from the situation? They tried to order a pizza. Did they get back the the half pepperoni, half cheese pizza or did they get something totally different? So, you know, we think about success in a lot of ways. And, you know, that could come down to. Saying something that inaccurately, of course, but maybe maybe you didn't say pepperoni. And so that's why you didn't get the right thing on your pizza. But at the end, you're going to notice more that your pizza is wrong than you think about all of these different particularities of your grammar. And the idea here is that through doing these tasks and subdividing them into subcomponents, so in the ordering a pizza example, you know, when you call or you maybe open up the app, you have some preliminary things you have to do. There's lots of different pieces and teachers can break down the tasks into these subcomponents so that they're not just throwing people in to this whole complicated task that they have to learn all at once. So you do have to subdivide into into subtasks to be able to learn. Of course. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:23:01] You gave us a little bit of a preview of what you found in the results when you took a peek at the data. But I guess my biggest question is what what surprised you? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:23:10] So something that I thought was really interesting was looking at so what I did after I recorded all of their first time trying out their task based lessons and that teaching practicum, as we did, stimulated recall interviews, which means that right after they taught, I sat down with them with a video which can be very scary for teachers. I definitely remember when I was in my teaching practicum myself that the idea of watching me back teaching was absolutely horrifying. So, you know, we try I tried to make it as little stress as possible, and all I did was I said, What were you thinking when you did this? And we pause the video and they told me they just externalized all of the things that were running through their minds and all the decision making that they that they made. And it was very recent. So, you know, we hope that hadn't been too much decay in their memories at that point. And so that was super fascinating and surprising to see how they were really focusing on so many individual issues that were popping up all the time. And they kind of, you know, they were new teachers. So they it makes sense, I guess, that they were concerned about just kind of maintaining control of the classroom and not losing track of what was going on. But a lot of them, you know, they kind of had to leave their lesson plans and let them go because they started to lose track based on trying to support individual students here in their lot, which, you know, is not a bad thing. Individualizing instruction is a really important aspect of TBLT, but I didn't realize until I talked to them after all of their lessons, how focused they really were on this idea of the environmental concerns of the classroom and the individualizing of the instruction. They weren't really yet able to focus on a lot of these higher level aspects that we had learned about in the training, about the focus on forms, how to, you know, elaborate their input to provide lots of rich input to the students. So, you know, they just weren't quite there yet. But again, it was their first time. So we totally give them all the credit in the world that is due because teaching, especially children, is so, so difficult at first. But and seeing seeing how some teachers, you know, really took the the principles from the training and implemented them so well. And how and how some teachers really did their own thing was just fascinating to see how one training can bring about so many different approaches to language teaching. It really shows you how when, you know, just as with language teaching, it filters through all of your individual students the same thing. When you're training teachers, it filters through all of their preexisting beliefs, their past experiences, their other individual differences, you know, their their prior teaching experiences, prior learning experiences. Maybe if they're speaking the language that they are teaching as their first language, or maybe they are also second language speakers, a lot of the teachers in my study were second language speakers of English because they were they were locals to the schools. So, you know, they're also filtering things through their second language. So that definitely also impacted how they understood the training, how they what they took from the training. And so you saw all of that kind of emerge in this very diverse way in the classroom. So it's really interesting to think about how we can follow teachers and understand why they do what they do after they get a training experience. So that's what really motivated me to do the study. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:26:37] And what about the corrective feedback? I know that was one thing that a lot of the teachers struggled to master. Can you talk about that? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:26:46] Yeah. So providing corrective feedback is such an important piece of TB and so much research in Second Language acquisition has looked into all of the different ways that feedback can be effective. The problem is, is that there's no perfect answer. You can't just tell a teacher, Well, every time that you hear an error, do this, there's no perfect way to do it. And so for these novice teachers, I think that they felt overwhelmed by. All of the different language that they were hearing in the classroom and weren't always sure what necessarily to do. But a lot of them I saw doing the type of feedback that's most common in classrooms, which is recast. So they, you know, a student ask them a question and they, you know, they would say maybe with a quizzical face it back to them in a corrected way, like, you can drink water. Yeah, you can go drink water. That was very common. But the interesting thing was, is that when I asked them, what were you thinking, they were so again, they were so focused on just like maintaining the classroom environment and making sure everyone had what they needed, that they didn't even really they weren't thinking about. That is correct. The feedback at the time, they would say things like, Yeah, he was going to get water. Like they weren't thinking like, Oh, I actually retested that and I was giving him more input in this interesting way. So they, they were just, you know, in survival mode, I think, at the beginning, which totally makes sense. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:28:09] And remind me in terms of the experimental methodology. Did they record just one session or is there another one? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:28:16] In this study? We just recorded one session, but there was a lot more data that was analyzed. So they took a survey before they engaged in the training where they told me all about their different beliefs. So I asked them questions like, What does it mean to be successful in a language? Does it mean to be accurate? Does it mean to be able to do tasks? And I asked them all about their prior experiences in language teaching, how they learned languages. So there was a lot of that background information that was gathered before the training happened. And then they also submitted reflections every single day of the training where they talked about things that they were noticing and things that they were still confused about. So I had this huge collection of all of the different points. Not all of this fit into this one study. There's a few different pieces that didn't make it to the final cut, but there was their reflections and then their simulated recall. And then after the training ended, they took the same survey again so I could measure whether or not their beliefs actually changed, if they felt like they had readjusted their understanding of maybe how languages are learned or how they felt about their philosophy towards language teaching. And I interviewed them about the training and what they thought about it and what they took from it. So they really got this very holistic picture of the experiences of the training. According to Mike Long, who is one of the most influential theorists of task based language teaching, he has ten principles that for him define the most essential methods that you would use in a task based classroom. So the rubric that I developed to look at how these teachers implemented TBLT was just based on what his principles are. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:30:03] Okay, so here are those ten TBLT principles summarized. I'm going to go through them quickly, but if you want more information on these, then check out the link in the description where we have all of these ten principles outlined for you in a really helpful way. Okay, so TBLT principle number one, use task, not text as the unit of analysis. So basically focus on an authentic task, not grammatical tables and a textbook. Number to promote learning by doing that, one speaks for itself. Use active learning strategies, not passive ones. Number three provide elaborate input. This is like as opposed to simplified input. Number four is related to number three. It's provide rich input. And so this has to do with providing like rich authentic input, something that is specific to the task rather than generic to, you know, something specific to the task to be like talk about what you did yesterday as opposed to explain the past tense conjugation rule. Number five is encourage inductive chunk learning. This has to do with allowing your learners to kind of pick things up on the fly and not necessarily feel like they need to explicitly understand each piece of the word or the sentence structure, but just kind of let it flow in over time. Number six is focus on form. This is in contrast to a focus on forms with an S. So learners attention is drawn to linguistic problems as they arise within the context of meaningful task based interactions, which has shown to promote second language development. Number seven is providing negative feedback. And by negative feedback, they, of course, don't mean, you know, scolding. This means corrective feedback as opposed to positive reinforcement feedback. I don't find the term negative feedback helpful because it it tends to cast, well, a negative connotation to the whole phrase. So we're going to think about it as providing corrective feedback. Number eight is respect, learner syllabi and developmental processes. For this one, you want to recognize the developmental sequences for the acquisition of a variety of second language target structures. So the instruction is supposed to be directed at or just above the learner's current developmental level. This goes with Crash and I plus one formula, if you're familiar with that. Principle number nine is to promote. Cooperative collaborative learning in this contrasts from more individualized or competitive style learning. In finally number ten individualize instruction. We all know that our students have individual differences that give them different strengths or challenges in the language learning process. So by differentiating your instruction based on learners individual needs, you're more likely to help them reach their goals. Okay, so those are the ten main TBLT principles summarized. And again, if you want a nice PDF top, you think about these in a bit more depth. Then check out the link that we have for you in the description. Okay, so now we've learned the ten principles of task based language teaching. How did the teachers in Lara's study do on these ten principles after their table? Teacher training? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:32:58] Number nine, promote cooperative and collaborative learning. That was something that everyone scored high. And again, because they like I said, they were really focused on that. They also did well supporting learning by doing and using tests. A lot of them did use test. So while there were a few that I highlighted in the study that really held on to their grammatical structure teaching beliefs on on the whole they were, they were orienting towards tasks. So that was definitely a bright point in the study that it seemed like the hallmark of TBLT did transmit some of these other pieces that are more technical obviously are still developing, which make sense. It was their first time. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:33:38] I'd love to see how I do. You know if I was taking. Yeah, this training and I'd love to see how it informs the way I make decisions on the fly, you know, with a TBLT the approach. Yeah. I really appreciate the elaborate input one because I know I've made that mistake myself as a teacher. You know, I think there's this underlying fear that some personalities, teaching personalities have. I want to make sure my students never feel lost. Right. Always just trying to, you know, bring it down to their level and you might even miss the mark and make it under their level. And then it's too it's way too basic. And they're not you're not giving that I plus one, you know, desirable difficulty. So I think that one so important. 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:34:20] Yeah. And I think that you know that is what causes the experience that a lot of people have, especially I would say in like us based context, because that's what I'm most familiar with, where you took like Spanish class for like all of school, like ten years, maybe even. And then people say, Oh yeah. And then I went to Spain on vacation and I couldn't even order a coffee. Like I could not use my language at all. And you think, Well, that's just insane that we spent all these times and time in language classrooms and some people's pieces, not everyone's case, obviously, and then they just feel like they can't use it. And I think that often that can be attributed to oversimplify, like repeated oversimplified language and memorizing lots of grammar and vocabulary, but never applying it to any of the situations. So that's why I and I definitely had that scenario when I was learning French in college. You know, I could read later on today and write an essay, and then I went on my study abroad. I could barely communicate with my host mother. Follow her conversation started this very grammar based understanding of French. When I moved to Honduras, I did not speak any Spanish at all. I totally learned it in the moment from talking to parents, getting to know families, integrating into the community as best I could. And I surpassed my French abilities in the first year that I lived there. So it really blew my mind. And that was not TBLT that was just like immersion, but it definitely felt like a very personal experience and to how memorizing grammar doesn't always lead to feeling successful in a community when you really want to be able to communicate. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:36:01] Absolutely. And we actually have a video and a podcast about this exact experience, because this experience can be so demoralizing when you study for so long and then you like are dropped somewhere new and you're like, Why am I so lost? And you know, there's a lot of different reasons why, but one of them is if you have this hyper focus on grammar accuracy, you're missing all of the other nuggets of like dialectal diversity. And just like we're individual diversity, not communicative competence. 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:36:33] 100%. Yeah, I do think that a lot of students are too focused on accuracy, accuracy, accuracy. And you know, that comes from your experience being graded over and over again on how accurate you are. And you know, again, with TBLT the the outcome should be a task based assessment. So rather than giving people a quiz on how accurate they can be, you ask them to actually do the task. And you have a rubric that's aligned with how successful they were at doing that task and that might have a multidimensional look at language and language use involves. But it's not definitely not going to be just about how many times they said the -ed ending and if it was right every single time. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:37:18] Right, exactly. Okay. So stepping back, looking at everything that you've learned over the years about TBLT, what do you think is the one thing that teachers, language teachers should be taking away from this work? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:37:30] That's such a great question. One thing so taking us outside this dichotomy of just grammar approaches and just your natural approaches to language and actually seeing this middle area where we have the task and we have the form coming in when it's needed, I think I think that that was really inspiring to me. And it's been through this work that I've been training with the teachers that I work with and other teachers in other contexts. I think that that has always been the area that has. Proving to be the most exciting like there is. There's a slightly different way to do it that can can be really fun and can cause a classroom to be full of talking and energy where students are really using the language. And that's what I think is most exciting about it. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:38:14] And I think this has a lot of overlap with the question of should language learning be explicit or implicit? Like both. There's like a messy gray middle ground there where like combining them both provides a whole new approach. And I think that's what you're describing in a way with TBLT is it's like, yeah, it's not hyper grammar focus, it's not full quote unquote, natural immersion. It's, it's something else. It's, it's a little bit of both. It's different. 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:38:44] Yeah. 100%. 100%. Yeah. The explicit implicit debate will go on and on forever. And I love I love thinking about these debates and these concepts, especially because even if you teach someone in a really explicit way, that doesn't mean that they're going to for sure, just, like, develop explicit knowledge. And the same thing is in reverse, right? If you teach in a really natural way, that doesn't mean that students necessarily will learn really implicitly. I mean, there's there's so much going on and each individual person and that's why all this research on individual differences in language learning is so fascinating because that really shines a light on to how people can take in the same information. And because of all of our individual experiences, the anxiety that we're experiencing, how motivated we are and why we're motivated from our backgrounds, our race or ethnicity, our experiences and education systems, our culture. We're filtering through all of that, and that is and maybe we just have a general aptitude for language learning where we can see patterns really well. Our working memory is really excellent and that helps us notice things and the input and memorize them more easily. I mean, you're seeing that diversity of experiences because people have all these individual differences and that's one of the I think one of the most fascinating areas of learner based language learning research right now. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:40:02] And if you want to know more about the research behind individual differences in language learning, then check out my colleague and fellow language lover Kaitlyn Tagarelli's about this series, The Science Behind Language Learning, which is another sister series hosted by Mango Languages. And I highly recommend it if you haven't listened to it yet. Okay, back to the conversation. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:40:22] If any teacher is listening right now or hearing TBLT for the first time or they're hearing it now and thinking, Oh, I've heard about that, but this is actually clicking now. Where could they go to learn more? 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:40:35] Oh yeah. There's so many there are so many amazing resources on TBLT. So the the academic side, the book that I pulled these ten principles from by Mike Long is kind of the Bible. If I, if I TBLT out for me and for a lot of researchers. But there is also a task bank that Lara Kosinski Weiss at the University of Indiana is developing where you can find that other teachers or researchers have use. On the more research side, Iris the IRIS database is another place that people have uploaded tasks that they've used for research purposes, but they can also be used in classrooms by teachers. So these are both two kind of like repositories that you might find inspiration at least, and definitely different approaches for using task. The International Association for TBLT has a great website that has resources, publications, featured projects all in this domain of TBLT, and they have a conference that is also really fun to check out there 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:41:40] Well, thank you so much for being on the show. 


Lara Bryfonski, PhD [00:41:42] Yeah, thank you so much for having me. This has been so fun. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:41:45] Yeah. Yeah. You take care. 


Emily Sabo, PhD [00:41:49] Well, that was my conversation with Georgetown linguist and second language acquisition researcher Dr. Lara Bryfonski. We covered a lot of great information and resources about TBLT in this episode, and for our listeners, fret not. If you weren't taking notes because we have summarized all of that information into a nice, simple one pager that you can download for free through the link in the description. If you're still hungry for more teaching languages to the content, go ahead and check out all the other episodes in this series. If you haven't caught up on them yet. Oh, and of course, if you enjoyed the episode, give us a leg. Give us a follow. We appreciate you. Well, that's all for me today. Thanks for listening. Dope of Abyssinia by. This episode was hosted, produced and edited by Dr. Emily Sabo, a production manager is Dr. Erika Caturegli in our audience was Oh, wait, that's you. 

 Emily Sabo, PhD [00:42:47] Thank you so much.