Document Type : Original Article

Authors

Department of English Language Teaching and Literature, University of Mazandaran, Iran

Abstract

Task-based language teaching (TBLT) with its strong theoretical bases and emphasis on meaningful and interactive use of language has received substantial attention in the context of foreign language teaching. The present study investigated the extent to which TBLT was incorporated into the textbooks and the extent to which teachers were aware of its concept in the bilingual education setting in Mazandaran province, Iran. A descriptive qualitative approach, using content analysis of the textbook based on a general task framework (Ellis, 2003) and a survey through a questionnaire, was employed to determine the implementation of tasks. Findings related to the textbook analysis indicated that the number of tasks in the textbook was relatively limited for real communication. Regarding the teachers’ (n=28) perceptions of TBLT, the results of the one-sample t-test analysis revealed that the participating teachers agreed with the idea of using tasks in teaching English language. Based on the findings, it is recommended that TBLT materials should be included in the bilingual textbooks in order to enhance learners’ collaboration and interactional skills.

Keywords

  1. Introduction

During the last two decades, task-based language teaching (TBLT) has received substantial attention in second language acquisition research and pedagogy. The task-based approach emerged as a response to the existing problems and inefficiencies of previous approaches to language teaching including grammar-focused methods such as Presentation-Practice-Production (PPP). According to Ellis (2003), tasks are necessary for communicative language teaching, therefore, language teachers, materials developers, and course designers must be familiar with the concept and value of the tasks.

Based on a survey of educational policies, Nunan (2003) reported that teachers and educational administrators are being urged to change their earlier forms of language teaching approach to task-based language teaching (TBLT). In the Iranian EFL context, the amount of tasks is not enough for developing the real use of language and task-based interaction (Eslami Rasekh, 2010). Most of the English textbooks are based on grammar-focused activities, and as Foroozandeh (2011) has pointed out, they have been designed "on the basis of the tenets of Reading Method and Situational Language Teaching"(p. 69). Textbooks do play a vital role in the teaching and learning process especially with younger learners whose first exposure to studies begins with books. Many researchers have pinpointed the advantages and disadvantages of using textbooks in education (Mohammadi & Abdi, 2014; Richards, 2001; Richards & Renandya, 2002). However, these studies were mostly focused on the assumption that the textbook plays a vital role in the traditional learning environment. For a task-oriented teaching environment, with abundant learning activities and tasks, the role of textbooks and teachers’ perspectives toward TBLT need to be evaluated. Despite the efforts of several textbook designers to develop useful learning materials, there is relatively limited research on the contents of textbooks used in young learners’ language education and their teachers’ viewpoints in the incorporation of tasks in the teaching and learning process.

Considering the crucial role of the textbooks in the process of learning and teaching language, to the best knowledge of researchers, there is a scarcity of research on the evaluation of the textbooks studied by approximately 300 young learners in the bilingual elementary schools in Mazandaran province. Given this gap in the literature, the current study set out to accomplish two goals. Firstly, it involves the evaluation of one of the science textbooks, Science Grade 2, taught in the second grade of the bilingual elementary schools. Secondly, the study aims to assess science teachers’ perceptions of TBLT, its implementation in bilingual schools, and their practical reasons for choosing or avoiding the TBLT approach in the classrooms.

 2. Literature Review

      This study is situated within the theoretical framework of task-based language learning and teaching, particularly the methodology involved in the consideration of procedures and implementation of tasks. TBLT is a student-centered methodology, allowing learners to communicate language use through tasks. Nunan (1989) contended that in the task-based approach, the movements of teaching have changed from the linguistic knowledge or outcome towards the procedures of learning. Thus, instead of mastering linguistic knowledge by presentation, practice, and production, this approach emphasizes the learning process through learner interaction and effective communication. According to Shehadeh (2005), learners acquire linguistic knowledge “by interacting communicatively and purposefully while engaged in meaningful activities and tasks” (p.16). In this respect, three crucial roles for teachers to play have been proposed by Van den Branden, (2009): interactional partner “taking the role of a motivator”, organizer of “temporal and spatial aspects of task performance” and “conversational partner and supporter, as the more proficient knowledgeable interlocutor” (p. 284).

Although this approach has been advocated by many SLA scholars (Bygate, Skehan, & Swain, 2001; Ellis, 2003), many studies have reported some difficulties in the implementation of task-based interactive approach from teachers’ perspectives (Carless, 2007; Jeon & Hahn, 2006; Lin & Wu, 2012; McDonough & Chaikitmongkol, 2007). Pham and Nguyen (2018), for instance, have reported such problems as the lack of knowledge of TBLT, classroom management and difficulty in student assessment, which may consequently result in some levels of resistance in the task-based implementation. Similarly, the bilingual educational setting with values emphasizing regular teaching and assessment may also be incompatible with this approach. As Van den Branden (2016) has pointed out, the role of the teacher has not been adequately considered in both pedagogical and research literature. Thus, it is significant to explore teachers’ perceptions, reflecting their feelings, thoughts, and understanding of an innovative approach.

As mentioned above, the task-based approach emphasizes the procedures of learning which specify how the activities could be converted into actual lessons. A further aim of this study is to add to the existing body of research by evaluating the lessons of Science Grade 2, a bilingual education textbook, to explore the extent to which tasks have been incorporated into the lessons. The following review of literature is divided into two sections dealing with the prior research on textbook evaluation based on TBLT framework and teachers’ perceptions.

 

2.1.Textbook Evaluation Based on TBLT Framework

In the Iranian context, many studies have focused on the evaluation of textbooks based on various checklists. According to Shahmohammadi (2018), two lines of research have emerged from textbook evaluation studies. The first line attempts to develop criteria for the successful evaluation of textbooks. The second line of research has focused on the evaluation of certain textbooks to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Rahimpour and Hashemi (2011), for instance, evaluated three English language textbooks taught at the high school level. They concluded that English textbooks are not based on teachers’ expectations. Razmjoo and Jozaghi (2010) designed a checklist to evaluate the TopNotch book series based on the features that characterizing Gardner’s (1998) Theory of Multiple Intelligence. Their results indicated that the Top Notch series, to a large extent, addressed verbal, visual, logical, musical, and interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. However, it was not rich in natural and existential intelligence. In another study, Razmjoo (2007) compared textbooks taught in Iranian high schools and private institutes in terms of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) principles. He concluded that, unlike the high school textbooks, private institute textbooks represent the CLT principles.

Very limited studies have been conducted on the evaluation of textbooks based on the TBLT framework. Alemi, Jahangard, and Hesami (2013) evaluated the two most popular coursebooks (Top Notch and Interchange) taught in the Iranian ELT institutes.  Based on Nunan’s (1999) classification of the tasks, they attempted to identify the types and number of tasks. The results indicated that both textbooks employed more linguistic tasks compared to cognitive ones. However, the number of co-operative tasks was more frequently found in the Interchange series, while in the Top Notch series, the practice tasks were abundant.  

Sahragard, Rahimi, and Zaremoayyedi (2009) evaluated the third edition of the Interchange series in terms of such features as the objectives and the strengths/weaknesses of the series. Findings of their study indicated that, despite having some deficiencies, the Interchange series have several pedagogical features including productive tasks that can promote learners’ communicative competence. In addition, a great emphasis was placed on pair work and meaningful interaction. On the other hand, there were some negative sides in the series including an overreliance on input enhancement, lack of auditory and visual activities, and disregarding the role of self-directed activities in task completion.  They concluded that the textbooks do not seem to be successful in promoting communicative competence effectively.

Thus, considering the significant role of textbooks in the language learning and teaching process, evaluation seems necessary (Nguyen, Newton & Crabbe, 2015; Zarina, 2010) for the evaluation of textbooks based on the TBLT framework. Tomlinson (1999) refers to an important point by asserting that "there can be no one model framework for the evaluation of materials; the framework used must be determined by the reasons, objectives, and circumstances of the evaluation"(p.11). Additionally, Tomlinson, Dat, Masuhara, and Rubdy (2001) argue that before evaluating a textbook, it is essential to have some information regarding the role of the textbook, the teachers, and the learners in the program. Therefore, since textbooks play a vital role especially in young learners’ language learning in an EFL context, and also due to the merits of incorporating TBLT into a language textbook, research in this area seems necessary; however, very limited studies have been conducted to evaluate textbooks in the bilingual education context in terms of their task features.

 

2.2. Teachers’ Perceptions of TBLT 

In recent years, the implementation of TBLT has gained considerable attention among instructors and materials developers. Although the TBLT classroom is a learner-centered approach, the teacher’s role is also crucial in the implementation of TBLT. A language teacher in the task-based approach acts as a coach or trainer rather than a lecturer or examiner. Gibbons (1998) emphasized the role of the teacher in complementing and supporting the motion in the formulating and negotiating of meaning in the task.

Willis and Willis (2007) mentioned six different roles for a teacher in a TBLT classroom. A teacher is someone who teaches the language, manages groups and pair work, acts as a leader and organizes the discussion, motivates the students to participate in the activities, facilitates the task process, and works as a language advisor. As Van den Branden (2016) pointed out, "a teacher brings TBLT to life” (p. 179). He further believes that to expand the empirical base on teachers’ role in TBLT, in addition to the teacher’s role as mediator-of language learning and the teacher-as-change-agent, the teacher-as-researcher is another role that needs to be assumed for TBLT teachers who are actively involved in classroom-based research. Although teachers work with a task-based syllabus in the classroom, they should design the task-as-work plan in their classrooms (Breen, 1989). Teachers should also select the content of the course according to the learners’ needs analysis (Long, 2015). According to Breen (1989), during the task, the task-as-work plan turns into a task-in-action and a task-in-interaction. In this regard, “teachers have at least three crucial roles to play, namely motivator, organizer, and conversational partner or supporter” (Van den Branden, 2009, p. 284).  As Van den Branden (2016) stated, in the Post task stage, teachers can use standardized tests or tests designed based on tasks to assess their students’ task performance and language improvement. Teachers should use some meaningful tasks for learner assessment; it is also suggested that they should focus on task communication rather than accuracy and form and give the learners some feedback on their performance with formative assessment (Long, 2015; Norris, 2009).

Samuda (2005) studied the important aspect of task implementation and the role of teachers in providing a focus on TBLT. According to Samuda (2005), the task and the teacher play a substantially complementary role in the context of tasks in which semantically complex form-meaning plotting is made. Thus, the participation of the teacher plays a significant role in the completion of the tasks by directing learners’ attention toward form-meaning relationships. At different phases of their teaching process, teachers try to induce various types of explicit and implicit focus on form through discoursal or interactional means.

Barnard and Nguyen (2010) conducted a study on teacher perception in Vietnamese high schools. They asked teachers to write thoughtful comments on their attitudes towards TBLT and their experiences of TBLT application in their classrooms. They stated that TBLT is an influential model of language teaching in these schools.

Mustafa (2010) aimed to investigate teachers’ levels of use and challenges in the implementation of TBLT in the classrooms. An in-depth interview was conducted for data collection; furthermore, a questionnaire was used to understand the teachers' levels of use of TBLT adoption.  Her findings indicated that classroom challenges in the adoption of TBLT included class size, assigning tasks in mixed ability classes, and having a centralized examination-oriented education system.  Teachers also reported such challenges as uncertainty about adopting a teaching approach, either TBLT or traditional approach, focusing on fluency or accuracy, as well as the tasks and content.

Nguyen, Newton, and Crabbe (2015) examined the implementation of TBLT in a Malaysian primary school. The data were collected by detailed analysis and coding of the textbook activities developed for the second and fourth years. Furthermore, they made observations in primary school classrooms and conducted interviews with teachers and students. The results indicated that the textbooks offer a limited starting point for teachers interested in TBLT. Furthermore, many activities did not fulfill the essential task features due to a lack of communicative outcomes and structured opportunities to engage learners in cognitive processes.

Pohan, Andhimi, Nopitasari, and Levana (2016) conducted a study on 55 teachers’ understanding and implementation of TBLT and their reasons for using or avoiding TBLT in the Indonesian context. They employed a descriptive qualitative approach to investigate the issue by employing Jeon and Hahn’s (2006) questionnaire. The results indicated that the majority of teachers had a relatively high and positive level of understanding and attitude toward TBLT implementation.

Farrokhi and Saadi (2013) surveyed first-year high school students’ perceptions of textbook towards tasks and speech acts and compared their perceptions with the actual content of the textbooks. The findings of their study indicated that the learners for the most part had a positive perception about the tasks and the teaching of speech acts as being highly effective; however, they rated the language function section of their textbooks to be ineffective in this respect. They concluded that there is a great gap between the Iranian learners' perceptions and the actual content of their textbooks.

In a recent study, Khatib and Dehghankar (2018) explored the attitudes of university students and instructors about the nature of the TBLT-oriented English for specific purposes program and its effect on the speaking and writing skills of the students. Sixty ESP students majoring in Law attending two different classrooms and ten ESP instructors participated in this study. The experimental class received TBLT-oriented instruction and the control group received the ordinary material developed for ESP courses. The results indicated the superior performance of the experimental group in acquiring productive skills. Furthermore, they reported significant differences between the participants’ attitudes toward the course and the perceived needs of TBLT. They suggested that ESP courses with TBLT orientation should be incorporated into university courses.

Although abundant studies have been conducted on TBLT in ESL, and EFL contexts; there is no convincing literature regarding the investigation of the textbooks taught in elementary bilingual schools. Given the scarcity of research on textbook analysis and teachers’ perceptions of the TBLT implementation, the current study intended to, firstly, evaluate one of the science textbooks based on Ellis’s (2003) general task framework and secondly, to investigate the language teachers’ perceptions of TBLT implementation in their classes. The current study, therefore, attempts to answer the following research questions:

1. To what extent task-based activities are used in the Science Grade 2 of bilingual elementary school education in Mazandaran province?

2. What are the perceptions of English teachers of the task-based language teaching in bilingual elementary schools?

 3.Methodology

3.1. Design and Context of the Study

A descriptive-qualitative approach based on Ellis’ (2003) general task framework was employed to determine task-based features through content analysis in Science Grade 2. Furthermore, a questionnaire adapted from Jeon and Hahn (2006) was used as a survey instrument to depict teachers’ perceptions of the TBLT approach.

The present study investigated the textbook and teachers’ perceptions of TBLT in the context of bilingual education settings during the academic year of 2018-2019. Bilingualeducationinvolves teaching two languages, both native and foreign, in the formal educational systems. In the Iranian bilingual schools, practiced in Mazandaran province, children attend their classes from 8:00 to 12:00 a.m. and study the Persian textbooks. After serving lunch, they start learning the same content in the English language from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. The courses they study in both Persian and English include general English, Reading, Mathematics, and Science.

 

3.2. Participants

The participants of this study were 28 English language teachers who had majored in teaching English as a foreign language, English literature, or translation studies. They were both males (n=5) and females (n=23) teaching at the bilingual elementary schools located in Mazandaran province (Babolsar, Qaemshahr, Babol, and Sari), Iran.  The selection of these teachers was based on convenience sampling and they constituted almost half of the teachers working at the bilingual elementary schools in this province. Ten teachers were within the age range of 30-39 and 18 were within the range of 20 to 29 years old.  Six teachers had less than 5 years of experience, and the rest of the teachers had 5 to 20 years of experience in teaching English. After a brief explanation about the study, they were requested to answer the questionnaire items.

 

3.3. Instruments

A task-based approach questionnaire was administered to the participants who were familiar with their learners’ needs at the bilingual elementary schools. The survey instrument was a questionnaire adapted from Jeon and Hahn (2006) to explore the bilingual school teachers’ perceptions of TBLT in a classroom setting in the context under investigation. Jeon and Hahn (2006) developed and validated the questionnaire items based on Nunan’s (2003) checklist, used to evaluate communicative tasks. In addition, the questionnaire has been used as a validated instrument in several similar studies (Jeon & Hahn, 2006; Pham & Nguyen, 2018; Tabatabaei & Hadi, 2011).

The four-section questionnaire was composed of 15 Likert-scale items and two open-ended questions. The first section was intended to collect demographic information about the participants. The second section dealt with the understanding of the teachers regarding the basic concept of task and TBLT principles. The third section focused on the teachers’ views of TBLT practice in the classroom. In the final section, they were requested to assess their reasons for choosing or avoiding the implementation of TBLT.

 

3.4. Data collection Procedure

The first stage of the data analysis involved qualitative analysis of the textbook. Using Ellis’ (2003) general task framework, the textbook was evaluated by the researchers. The tasks were first categorized in terms of their associated features by the first and second authors separately. Next, they gathered together and discussed their analysis, removed disagreements, and agreed upon one list of categorizations. To enhance the validity of the categorization, it was reviewed by the third author of the paper. Finally, the frequency of each category was calculated.

In the second stage of the study, the participating teachers were visited and were given a questionnaire to collect information about their familiarity with the application of tasks. After collecting the questionnaires and reviewing their answers about the task-based approach, their responses were analyzed.

 

3.5. Data Analysis

The analysis of the study took place in two stages. For the analysis of the first research question, the Science textbook, developed for the second grade of bilingual elementary school (Bishehsari, 2018), was used as a sample textbook representing the textbooks of bilingual education. The textbook, consisting of twenty units, was analyzed according to the task-based framework (Ellis, 2003). Based on this framework, task features were classified into four major categories each one consisting of sub-categories. Generally, 11 different task features were categorized under the four main categories of input, condition, process, and outcome.

For the analysis of the second question, a validated semi-structured questionnaire consisting of Likert-scale and open-ended items was given to the participants teaching at the bilingual elementary schools in Mazandaran about their attitudes toward the task-based activities included in the book. The Likert-scale items were given a numerical value (1-5) from strongly disagree to strongly agree, respectively. The open-ended items were also collected and categorized by the researchers. SPSS software version 24.00 was employed to analyze the data. Descriptive statistics and mean values were obtained and one-sample t-test analyses were conducted in order to evaluate how well the participants understood each of the concepts of TBLT, the views they held towards the TBLT implementation in the bilingual school classrooms, and the main reasons teachers chose or avoided TBLT implementation.

 4. Results

After evaluating Science Grade 2, the results were tabulated and subjected to a series of statistical analyses. According to Ellis’s (2003) framework, input was divided into two dimensions of medium and organization. The frequency and percentage of this category and its subcategories are presented in Table 1.

 

Table1.

Distribution of Input Categories

Input

 

Frequency

Percent

Medium

Pictorial

119

10.0

 

Oral

0

0.0

 

Written

1087

90.0

Organization

Tight

20

26.0

 

 Loose

55

73.0

 

As illustrated in Table 1, the medium of input presentation was predominantly in written form. The analysis indicated that very little attention has been paid to the pictorial (10%) medium and no oral input is provided in the form of audio-recorded material to the learners. This demonstrated that no CD or video material accompanies the textbook and the teacher is the only source of oral input. The second category is related to the organization of input, which is divided into tight (26%) and decreased (73%). It appeared that learners do not have enough opportunities to do the activity in the step by step manner and no detailed explanation is provided for them to guide them throughout the completion of the activity.

The second part of the framework is related to the task condition which was divided into four dimensions including information configuration, interactant relationship, interaction requirement, and orientation.  Table 2 presents the results related to this category.

Table 2.

 Distribution of the Condition Categories

Condition

 

 Frequency

 Percent

Information

 Split

3

5.0

configuration

 Shared

70

95.0

Interactant  

 One-way

40

98.0

relationship

 Two-way

1

2.0

Interactant 

 Required

1

100.0

 requirement

 Optional

0

0.0

Orientation

 Convergent

58

88.0

 

 Divergent

8

12.0

 

According to Table 2, the information configuration category was mainly shared (95%) and very little information was split (5%). This meant that the learners have the same responsibility in doing the activities and all of them must complete the same task in the same way as the other learners. Interactant relationship was subcategorized into a one-way and two-way interaction. The total amount of interactant relationship is devoted to one-way (98%) interaction, that is, learners should perform the tasks by themselves without any interaction with others, and only in 2% of the occasions, they can have two-way interaction. The third part, interaction requirement has two dimensions of required and optional. Throughout the textbook, only on one occasion, the task required interaction. There was only one instance of the required interaction. For the fourth category, orientation was predominantly convergent (88%) and only 12% belonged to divergent tasks. This means that most of the activities have the same result and learners achieve the same goal; therefore, there is little opportunity for creativity in the completion of the activities.

The third part of the framework concerned task processes. This category had two dimensions of cognitive and discourse mode. Table 3 presented the distribution of this category identified in the textbook.

 

Table 3.

Distribution of Process Categories

Processes

 

Frequency

Percent

Cognitive

Exchange of  formation

0

0.0

 

Exchange  of   Opinion

0

0.0

 

Reasoning

0

0.0

Discourse mode

Monologic

 3

100.0

 

Dialogic

 0

0.0

 

Table 3 indicated that the textbook contains no task involving the exchange of information or opinion among learners or between learners and teacher. It is also evident that the higher level of cognitive processing such as reasoning has not been emphasized in the development of the textbook and learners might be engaged in lower levels of cognitive processing such as rote learning and memorization. The second dimension of this category, discourse mode, did not involve any dialogic interaction and a limited number of activities (3) are completed in monologic format. Thus, it is clear that there is no opportunity for learners to interact with each other during the completion of the activities.

The fourth part of the framework involved task outcome, which is divided into three dimensions, namely, medium, discourse, and scope. Table 4 presented the results of the analysis concerning this category.

 

Table 4

Distribution of Outcome Categories

Outcome

 

Frequency

Percent

 

Pictorial

18

53.0

Medium

Oral

1

 3.0

 

Written

15

44.0

Discourse

Description

0

0.0 

 

Argument

0

0.0

 

Recipes

0

0.0

 

Speech

0

         0.0         

Scope

Closed 

 49

84.0

 

Open

9

16.0

From the total amount of outcome, 53% is devoted to pictorial medium, 3% to oral, and 44% to written medium. Thus, the activities require learners to provide pictorial responses.  In the second category of discourse, no opportunities are provided for learners to produce longer segments of speech or writing at the discourse level as is evident in real communication. Within the scope dimension, the activities are mostly of closed (84%) nature, suggesting that the responses of the learners are controlled and in 16% of the occasions, learners are allowed to produce open-ended responses.

In order to examine bilingual school teachers’ perceptions of TBLT in their classroom practice, a questionnaire, consisting of four sections, adopted from Jeon and Hahn (2006), was employed. Section 1 of the questionnaire asked for demographic information and section 2 included 15 items on the Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). The midpoint score was set (3) as the theoretical mean of the population, standing for a neutral stance for each item. Tables 5 and 6 present the descriptive statistics on the responses provided to the items (1-7) and (8-15), dealing with the teachers’ understanding and implementation of TBLT, respectively.

 

Table 5.

Teachers’ Understandings of TBLT

Items

Frequency

Mean

  SD

 

1

28

4.25

0.70

2

28

3.89

0.99

3

28

3.92

0.89

4

28

3.89

1.06

5

28

3.75

0.75

6

28

3.78

0.91

7

28

4.10

0.68

 

Table 6.

Teachers’ Perceptions of Implementation of TBLT

Items

Frequency

Mean

SD

 

8

28

4.10

0.87

9

28

4.0

7

1.11

10

28

3.96

0.92

11

28

3.82

0.98

12

28

3.25

1.26

13

28

4.07

0.94

14

28

3.64

0.86

15

28

4.42

0.79

It is clear from Tables 5 and 6 that the mean scores were above the midpoint (3=theoretical mean of the population). In order to determine the significance of the differences between the mean scores of our sample and the population’s, 15 one-sample t-test analyses were conducted, comparing the means of each item responded by 28 teachers and the theoretical mean of the population. A summary of the results of these analyses is presented in Table 7.

 

Table 7.

One-sample t-test Analyses of Teachers’ Understandings of TBLT

Items

 

t- value

 

df

 

Sig.

 

1

9.44

27

.000

2

4.75

27

.000

3

5.46

27

.000

4

4.43

27

.000

5

5.28

27

.000

6

4.53

27

.000

7

8.54

27

.000

 

According to Table7, the mean scores of all items (1-7) were significantly higher than that of the population (p<.05). In other words, the participating teachers demonstrated considerably a high level of understanding of TBLT and agreed with the idea that tasks are communicative goal-directed activities (Item 1) with a clearly defined outcome (Item 3), involving a primary focus on meaning (Item 2) and the use of the target language (Item 4). They agreed that TBLT is consistent with the principles of CLT (Item 5) and is a student-oriented approach (Item 6), consisting of pre-task, task, and post-task stages (Item 7). Table 8 also presents a summary of the results of one sample t-test analysis of the items representing teachers’ perceptions of TBLT implementation.

 

Table 8.

One-sample t-test Analyses of Teachers’ Perceptions of TBLT Implementation

Items

t- value

df

 Sig.

8

6.69

27

.000

9

5.06

27

.000

10

5.53

27

.000

11

4.42

27

.000

12

1.04

27

.305

13

6.03

27

.001

14

3.91

27

.000

15

9.56

27

.000

Considering the implementation of TBLT, Table 8 showed that the participating teachers believed that they are interested in implementing TBLT in their classrooms (Item 8), providing a relaxed environment (Item9), activating learners’ needs and interests (Item10), and promoting integrated skills (Item11). They also agreed with the statements that the TBLT is appropriate for classroom arrangements (Item14) and the materials used in TBLT ought to be meaningful and focused on the real-world context. Nonetheless, the mean score of the teachers for Item12 was not significantly different from that of the population (p > .05). In other words, teachers stood neutral to the item stating that the mental load on the teachers as facilitators of the learning process is high in TBLT implementation (p=.305).

The next section in the questionnaire concerned the teachers’ willingness to use TBLT or avoiding the implementation of TBLT. The result of the analysis of this section is presented in Table 9.

 

Table 9.

Teachers' Willingness to Use TBLT or Avoiding Implementation of TBLT

Response

Yes

No

No

Total

Frequency

19

6

3

28

Percent

67.0

21.0

10.0

100.0

 

Concerning the teachers’ willingness to implement TBLT, 19 out of 28 teachers (67%) answered that they were currently using task-based methods or techniques, and six teachers (21%) responded negatively. Three teachers did not provide any response to this question. On the whole, it can be concluded that most of the teachers expressed that they were willing to implement TBLT in their teaching practice. Table 10 presents the participants’ reasons for deciding to use TBLT in the classroom from the highest to the lowest frequency.

 

Table 10.

 Reasons Teachers Use TBLT in the Classroom

Items

Frequency        

Percent

Creating a collaborative learning environment

18

64.28

Improving learners’ interaction skills

16

57.14

Creating a collaborative learning environment

14

50.00

Encouraging learners’ intrinsic motivation

11

39.28

Promoting learners’ academic progress

8

28.57

Being appropriate for small group work

18

64.28

 

As Table 10 showed, teachers’ responses regarding their specific reasons for using task-based techniques in the classroom were scattered. Most of the teachers valued TBLT for creating a collaborative learning environment. About half of the respondents believed that learners’ interactional skills are improved by using TBLT and their intrinsic motivation is enhanced. However, slightly less than half of the teachers agreed with TBLT’s potential to develop learners’ academic progress, and finally, one-third of the teachers stated that TBLT is suitable for small group work. The final section of the questionnaire dealt with the reasons why teachers avoid using TBLT in their classrooms. Teachers had to choose their responses from among the reasons stated in the questionnaire for avoiding the implementation of TBLT in their classrooms. Table11 presents the results of the analysis.

 

Table 11.

Reasons for Teachers' Avoidance of TBLT in the Classroom

Items

Frequency        

      Percent

Having a large class size

9

32.14

Assessing learner’s task-based performance

8

28.57

Students’ not being used to task-based learning

7

  5.00

Having little knowledge of task-based instruction

7

 25.00

Inappropriate materials in textbooks

4

14.28

Having limited target language proficiency

2

 7.14

 

The analysis of the responses to this item indicated that one-third of the participating teachers believed that "Large class size is an obstacle to use task-based methods", which is the most important reason expressed by the teachers for their avoidance to use tasks. The next reason expressed for their avoidance in using tasks was the difficulty involved in assessing students’ performance.  Some participants also selected such reasons as students’ unfamiliarity with task-based learning and having limited knowledge of task-based instruction.  The least chosen reason was related to their limited target language proficiency.

In response to the open-ended questions about reasons for implementing or avoiding TBLT, some of the teachers additionally wrote specific reasons for their choices:

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4. Discussion

The analysis of Science Grade 2 revealed that there are very limited task-based features in the textbook. The input is mainly presented in written form with very limited pictures and no audio/video equipment is accompanying it. The information is predominantly shared and one-way interaction along with convergent activities is evident as the main features of the textbook. It seems that the textbook does not provide any opportunity for higher levels of cognitive processing such as reasoning and the exchange of information. On the other hand, learners may be engaged in lower levels of cognitive processing such as monologic rote learning. In terms of the final feature of Ellis’s (2003) framework, that is, the outcome of learning, the learners are required to produce either pictorial or written responses.  Furthermore, it appears that the learners are not provided with enough opportunities to produce longer stretches of language at the discourse level and share their own opinions and ideas. Most of the responses are controlled with a very limited chance of producing extended open responses. To sum up, the textbook under investigation does not seem to follow Ellis’s (2003) task-based framework. Nonetheless, to make more sound judgments regarding the characteristics of such textbooks, further studies need to be conducted.

The analysis of the results concerning the second question (Items 1 to 7 in the questionnaire) revealed that the participants had a clear understanding of the concept of tasks. It can be concluded that teachers, regardless of their teaching levels, considerably express their understanding of the important features of TBLT. The findings, in addition, supported revelations of the investigation led by Zare (2007) and Khatib and Dehghankar (2018), indicating that the Iranian EFL and ESP students and instructors had a positive perspective towards TBLT. The findings are consistent with the findings of Jeon and Hahn (2006) who examined EFL teachers’ perceptions of TBLT in Korean secondary school classrooms. Tabatabaei and Hadi’s (2011) study on Iranian EFL teachers’ perceptions of TBLT approach also indicated that the teachers had a positive attitude towards TBLT.

The results of the analysis of the second section of the questionnaire (Items 8 through 15) indicated that the participating teachers were positive to receive TBLT as an instructional technique in classroom practice. Except for one item (12), indicating that TBLT gives much psychological burden to the teacher as a facilitator, teachers agreed with the idea of implementation of TBLT. These findings accorded with the study of Jeon and Hahn (2006) in which most of the teachers showed a great tendency to implement TBLT but hesitated to do so in the actual classroom because of their students’ willingness to have a teacher-centered approach.

The findings of the final sections of the questionnaire (the two open-ended items) revealed that teachers might have different reasons for choosing or avoiding the implementation of TBLT. Some teachers expressed such reasons for their willingness to employ TBLT as having a collaborative learning environment, improving learners’ interaction skills, and learners’ intrinsic motivation. Nonetheless, some others expressed their hesitation to use TBLT due to large class size being an obstacle to use task-based methods, assessing learner’s task-based performance, students’ unfamiliarity with task-based learning.

 Therefore, the participants predominantly were in favor of the TBLT approach, firstly, because of its collaborative and interactional nature and secondly, because of its motivational potential. The most frequently mentioned reason why teachers avoided using TBLT was the large class size which was an obstacle in implementing task-based methods. These findings are consistent with Jeon and Hahn (2006), and Pohan et al. (2016) in which most of the teachers were in favor of task-based methods and acknowledged that TBLT increased learners’ motivation and small-group interaction. Although the context of learning and materials in the bilingual setting does not seem to be aligned with the TBLT approach, most of the teachers showed enthusiasm for utilizing TBLT as an instructional technique, because they believed that TBLT may increase learner interaction and communicative abilities.

 

 5. Conclusion

The findings of this descriptive study could shed some light on the evaluation of the textbooks widely used in the bilingual setting and bilingual teacher’s perceptions toward TBLT. The results could be helpful for materials developers, syllabus designers, language teachers, and authorities to make decisions on the inclusion of task-based oriented learning. It should be mentioned that the current study suffers from several methodological limitations such as involving a very limited number of participants and employing questionnaires instead of observation and interview. Since the participants were selected based on convenience sampling from the bilingual education schools, it is not possible to generalize the findings of this study to other contexts such as language institutes. Further studies could be carried out to evaluate bilingual textbooks (particularly mathematics and reading textbooks) and investigate a larger sample of teachers regarding their perceptions of TBLT implementation using interviews and observations.

 

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