This has reference to Jane Willis' replies to my questions about task-based teaching.
Thank you very much for your responses to my previous set of questions. You ended your reply with the sentence: “I hope this is helpful - please post other ways you have got your learners' feedback on tasks!” Let me respond to you with a long reply.
I teach the course Engineering English at an engineering college in Chennai, India. I can say I specialize in English for Science and Technology (EST) as I have been teaching EST courses since 1997 and my PhD research is on English for Engineering.
I give a number of tasks to students of engineering. Here I’d like to share with you one of the tasks that I had given to my first-year undergraduate students of engineering a few months ago and the effectiveness of the task in achieving the objectives set. Before that let me explain the context and in brief mention the area of my research.
Engineering English is a compulsory course for all the first-year students of engineering and technology studying at colleges affiliated to Anna University, Tamil Nadu, India. At the end of the third-year or at the beginning of the fourth-year, IT companies visit campuses to recruit candidates to their companies. Candidates with good communication skills and soft skills taste success and those who lack such skills become depressed and get frustrated. Very often recruiters complain that about 50 % of students do not have employability skills. When they mention the word ‘employability skills’ what actually they mean is ‘communication skills’. A number of educationists and HR managers have highlighted the importance of taking steps to enhance students’ communication skills. In this context, I started carrying out a research on evaluating the course and suggesting steps to modify the course based on the engineering students’ present and future language needs.
Visit an IT company and meet a HR manager or a few IT professionals. Talk to them about their job responsibilities and ask them who they talk to in English at the workplace and what language skills are important for them at work?
Your task is to identify their language needs, write a report to the teacher suggesting ways to modify the English language course to suit their present and future language needs.
The objectives of the task were:
- to enhance students’ speaking (interviewing) skills
- to develop their writing skills
- to expose them to the real world communication
- to identify the language needs of IT professionals
- to enable students to suggest activities and tasks to make the Engineering English course more effective
- to involve learners in the course design
List of language skills identified
The students identified a number of language skills IT professionals need to carry out their responsibilities effectively at the workplace.
- speaking politely
- using positive language
- distinguishing between formal and informal speech
- speaking convincingly
- breaking the ice before trying to talk to strangers
- asking questions and handling questions
- active listening
- writing reports
- giving an oral presentation
- speaking to a group
The effectiveness of the task was evaluated and during the evaluation session students gave their feedback about the task.
- Most students found the task very meaningful and enjoyable though some of them had difficulty meeting people and interviewing them.
- They found the task meaningful.
- It said it instilled confidence in them.
- The task created awareness among students about the language needs of students.
- They identified the language needs of IT professionals and it motivated them to prepare themselves to the workplace.
- They gave some valuable suggestions to modify the course.
Jane, I’d like to ask you to respond to these questions:
- What is your reaction to the task?
- If some students do not find a task 'interesting', is it not a task?
- How will you modify the task to involve maximum number of students?
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