TBL (Task Based Learning)


Inspired  by N.S. Prabhu in the 1970’s with the Bangalore Project, focuses on making completion of a task, using learners own language resources, the objective for the students (Thornbury, 2006).  See video example here

The aim is to ‘create a real purpose for language use and provide a natural context for language study’ (Willis, 1996 p 1).

TBL follows the structure of Pre-task, task cycle (task, planning and report), language focus (analysis and practice) and feedback (Willis, 1996)

Unlike the PPP model which focuses on the use of specific target language, resulting in restrictive, unnatural situations, TBL can integrate  all four skills and forces students to think about language forms in general rather than an individual grammar or language point.   Teacher changes from instructor to supporter/inventor

Task-based learning allows students to gain a higher level of confidence in speaking and to speak spontaneously with greater ease in real life situations (Willis, 1996).

TBL has been criticised by Michael Swan for only being useful to reinforce what students already know but not so useful when it comes to new language.

It has proved useful to divide the learning process in TBL into 3 phases.  The pre-task phase, the doing-of-the-task phase and the post-task phase.  Together they form a task cycle.  The major role (task) of the teacher changes from phase to phase.  It also has a different focus when used with beginners than when used with advance learners.

Advantages of TBL

  • It is useful for moving the focus of the learning process from the teacher to the learner.
  • It gives the learner a different way of understanding language – as  a tool instead of a goal.
  • It brings teaching away from abstract knowledge into a real world situation.
  • Helpful in meeting the immediate needs of the students and provides a framework for creating interesting classes and able to address the needs of the students.


Since it encourages learners to use their own language and lexis. It is necessary for the teacher to help students expand on these.

Task based instruction is not teacher centered rather it requires individual and group responsibility and commitment on the part of all students.  If students are notably lacking in these qualities, task-based instruction may be difficult to implement succesfully.

Thanks again for the notes Aoife!