The anxiety that almost every teacher has is mostly about overthinking ‘how they can be sure if their students understood the topic well’. Especially if a topic is commonly considered as a hard topic, teachers tend to be cautious, careful and on alert. Imagine a teacher teaching the alphabet to their first graders, they will be searching for the new teaching methods, trying new approaches, integrating new tools, which results in a huge effort, hard work, success or – the worst – failure.
I am not sure if we are aware of the fact that while we assert that we have student-centered teaching philosophy and we show the huge effort to boost the success of our students, indeed, we focus on ourselves. It is a commonly believed truth that the more the teacher is well-equipped, the more the students will have a better learning experience. No matter how ideal this approach is, sometimes a perfect lesson plan or the method you have been using successfully for years can fail.
As a novice teacher, I used to think that if I present the information using different methods and then assign them with a practice test which is full of different activities, I can be sure that my students learnt, as in the end they will have completed all the activities I prepared. Obviously, I was a typical product-concerned teacher thinking that those activities are the best proof of learning. Although I tried my best to observe them while completing the activities, I didn’t give them a chance to construct their own learning, rather I dictated my own activity and expected them to learn the way I wanted them to. As a teacher, the guide of the class, I am aware that I should have the control of their learning experience to some extent, however, I shouldn’t be the one who shapes their learning experience. It is them who decide and perform: floor is theirs. That breakthrough of my teaching life has urged me to raise students who are responsible for their own learning, more precisely, students who can construct knowledge.
Construction reminds me of raising buildings for which you create the blocks, you decide where, how, how many to put, draw how tall it should look. Sometimes, things change, you get rain or drought, the blocks you thought solid may not be as solid as you think, you might need help. However, with all these difficulties or normalities, you learn while you are on the way. In the end, you might not have what you always wanted to have but you learn what was wrong, what you should change or keep doing. Therefore, with this inspiration, I aimed to show my students to see how they can learn from their process. Task-based approach allows students to decide how they will plan, analyze and report. The approach’s objectives are more likely to raise beginner researchers rather than passive learners, which is a lifelong facility. What the teacher should do here is to structure the system and act by the student. It looks like a driving class in which students drive and the instructor is always there to check and step in incase of an emergency. Providing students with peer feedback and teacher feedback will give them the chance to get out of their comfort zone and synthesize their learning experience with the others. Instead of giving thumbs up and downs, telling them changing things or suggesting resources will make them feel supported and motivated.
It is easy to set up a task for a teacher, however, it is important to remember that the structure of the tasks are subject to change as we are living in the 21st century. Technology has become an integral part of our lives and it would be a big mistake to imagine an education system separated from technology. With the light of this fact, the task-based approach encourages teachers to assign students with digital tasks. Furthermore, it urges teachers to structure their task-based approach around technology. Before covid, I wasn’t assigning my students with interviewing a native speaker task, as online networking tools weren’t much popular. Going one step further, teachers started to integrate their courses into learning management systems such as Google Classroom, Canvas etc. Structuring the courses around technology requires assigning students with the tasks they are supposed to structure around technology. Structuring and assigning tasks around the technology will not be enough to implement the class, it is a requirement to design the tasks considering students needs, multiple intelligences and feedback mechanism to offer a healthy learning process while assisting students with the opportunity of constructing their knowledge.
The research study, Task-based language teaching online:A guide for teachers, puts the emphasis on well-structured online tasks as they not only serve as digital tools but also provide classrooms to become a process- based learning environment in which students are constructing their learning.
Now that we are on the same page with creating a task-based instruction, it is time to discuss the tools we could make use of during the implementation. As we discussed above, it is highly important and favorable to adapt the tasks to the technology during the process not only while presenting the information but also while assessing the learning experience. I used to suffer from a dilemma whether to turn the assessment into a learning experience or considering it as a proof of learning. I preferred the former one and haven’t regretted it as I believe all human beings better learn from their mistakes. That is the reason why process, feedback and report is important since they offer a chance to see the gaps. Kathy Dyer offers 75 formative assessment tools helping teachers to facilitate students with better learning experiences. Rather than product-based summative assessment tools, formative assessment tools will support students during their construction journey allowing them both to practice and to evaluate themselves. Among all the tools, my favorite one is EdPuzzle on which you embed the video you would like to use in your classes and you create question sections onto video. During the session, students watch, listen, brainstorm, answer, take notes and come up with the conclusions. They set on a journey and explore and construct their own learning.
Although EdPuzzle is just a digital video tool, it is the teacher’s responsibility to augment the effectiveness of the tool by blending it with multiple skills and objectives. Kathyrn Nieves from Edutopia suggests that integrating Universal Learning Design into digital learning platforms provides students with flexibility to actualize themselves while constructing their own learning experience. During their own learning experience, students will be able to reflect on their experience, observe what their peers are doing, benefit from the feedback they get but most importantly they discover other learning styles by interacting with their peers.
Process is a good teacher, it is not impatient to complete itself. Remember the times you were baking cookies: even though you know what and how much exactly you should add, you learn what should be less or more. You taste, you decide on the shape. It doesn’t matter whether you fail or bake the most delicious cookies in the world: in either way you learn. Therefore, give the stage to your students, let them construct their own learning and support them at each step.
Frost, R. (n.d.). A Task-based approach, British Council Turkey.
Retrieved from : https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/a-task-based-approach#:~:text=Task%20%2Dbased%20learning%20offers%20an,as%20the%20students%20complete%20it.
Barralt, M., Gomez, J.M., (2017),Task-based language teaching online: A guide for teachers. Language Teaching and Technology Forum. (21-3), 28-43
Nieves, K. (2020), Creating Digital Lessons That Support Learning Differences. Edutopia.
Retrieved from: https://www.edutopia.org/article/creating-digital-lessons-support-learning-differences
Morin, A. (2021). What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)? Understood. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.understood.org/articles/en/universal-design-for-learning-what-it-is-and-how-it-works
Dyer, K.(2021). 75 digital tools and apps teachers can use to support formative assessment in the classroom. Northwest Evaluation Association.