Edited by Virginia Samuda, Kris Van den Branden and Martin Bygate
[Task-Based Language Teaching 12] 2018
► pp. 132–164
Chapter 5. Optimal conditions for TBLT?
A case study of teachers’ orientation to TBLT in the commercial EFL for adults sector in the UK
This chapter reports a non-interventionist study of ways in which teachers understand TBLT principles, how they draw on them in their everyday working practices, and how they combine aspects of TBLT with other approaches and principles to develop their own, contextually appropriate pedagogies. Unlike teachers in earlier studies (e.g., Carless, 2009; Deng & Carless, 2009; McDonough & Chaikitmongkol, 2007), the teachers participating in this study were not bound to a particular syllabus type, nor were they required to implement TBLT. They were all relatively experienced, working with small classes of motivated adult students in private language schools in London. Given the prominent position of TBLT in the academic and professional literature and the relative autonomy that these teachers had to innovate and experiment within a well-resourced context, it seemed reasonable to expect that TBLT principles would feature at least to some extent in their practices; if teachers anywhere are taking up TBLT on their own initiative, one would expect it to be happening in this type of context. Given this, the chapter begins with a discussion of educational settings that might be considered particularly compatible with TBLT and presents the concept of ‘optimal’ conditions for its adoption. Next, three case studies of teachers working on intensive EFL courses for adults are presented. Data on those teachers’ knowledge and beliefs about tasks, TBLT and the principles that underlie the approach are presented and analysed, and these are cross-referenced with their use of tasks and other kinds of activities in lessons they were observed teaching. Similarities and differences between principles and descriptions of TBLT in a selection of research and teacher education literature and the understandings, beliefs, and practices of these teachers, are highlighted and discussed. The final section looks at implications for researchers, teachers, and teacher educators, and discusses ways in which capturing what teachers actually do in successful and less successful lessons may help develop an approach that is genuinely grounded in both theory and practice.