TBLT Conference a Great Success

TBLT2015Martin East, current co-president of the New Zealand Association of Language Teachers, recently attended the 6th biennial conference on task-based language teaching (TBLT) which took place in Leuven, Belgium. The TBLT conferences, established ten years ago, represent the premier and most significant opportunity for researchers and practitioners in TBLT from across the world to meet together.

The theme of TBLT 2015 was Tasks for Real. Martin reports that a particular strength of the conference was the clear interface between research and practice, demonstrated through research-based papers, shorter ‘show and tell’ presentations that gave snippets of task-based work in different contexts, workshops that enabled participants to engage with aspects of TBLT in practice, and research-informed colloquia. Martin’s paper, an invited contribution as part of a colloquium on task-based language assessment, gave him the opportunity to present aspects of his research findings into the NCEA interact standard.

The opening plenary, by Professor Kris van den Branden, focused on what makes a task a task. Kris underscored the important role that teachers play in facilitating successful tasks in classrooms. In particular, he outlined seven key concepts that, in his view, make teachers effective:

  1. Care - or having a genuine interest in the progress and development of students;
  2. Control - or facilitating tasks in the context of an ordered and structured environment;
  3. Clarity - or making sure that the expectations of tasks are made fully clear to students;
  4. Challenge - or making sure that tasks push students beyond their boundaries so that they can develop their language acquisition;
  5. Captivate - or present tasks that will be motivating and interesting for students;
  6. Confer - or offer opportunities for feedback and feed forward in the context of task execution and task completion; and
  7. Consolidate - or provide post-task opportunities to deconstruct the learning and to look at next steps.

In addition to catching up with key New Zealand-based TBLT experts, such as Rod Ellis (ten principles of effective instructed language learning), and Jonathan Newton (six principles of effective intercultural language teaching and learning), Martin particularly appreciated the opportunity to meet and converse informally with internationally recognised experts in the field. These included Jane Willis, from the UK, whose influential work on tasks in action spans several decades, and Mike Long, from the US, a key theorist and exponent of the famous ‘focus on form’ concept.

TBLT assessment colloquium2