Designing a Computer-mediated, Task-based Syllabus: A Case Study in a Taiwanese EFL Tertiary Class
Keywords: task-based language teaching, computer-mediated communication, blog, project-based
learning, EFL context
Julian Cheng Chiang Chen
University of Maryland, USA
Julian ChengChiang Chen recently earned his PHD in the Second Language Education and Culture program at the University of Maryland College Park, USA. He used to teach EFL in Taiwan at the college level for years. His research areas include computer mediated communication, task based language teaching and blended learning. He is also interested in exploring the effect of Second Life, a 3-D virtual learning environment, on ESL/EFL learners second language acquisition.
Despite years of formal instruction, most Taiwanese tertiary students still cannot function in English spontaneously and are demotivated by commercially ready made textbooks that fall short of addressing students real-life needs and interests. This case study was conducted in response to the concerns raised above with hopes that EFL students could use English in authentic contexts but not for artificial purposes imposed by forms-focused instruction. Operationalized under the 10 methodological principles (MPs) for the task-based language teaching (TBLT) syllabus design (Doughty & Long, 2003), this case study mirrored the six key components of a TBLT design: (a) needs and means analysis, (b) syllabus design, (c) materials design, (d) methodology and pedagogy, (e) testing, and (f) evaluation. In particular, it capitalized on Taiwanese students cultural competence in L1 as a springboard for channeling their L1 knowledge into L2 production. Due to the booming popularity of computer mediated communication (CMC) in the digital age, this study incorporated blogs as a platform for students to jointly construct their sites, interact with peers, transfer their background knowledge from L1 to L2 in the process of task completion, and to develop their communicative and cross-cultural competence in a collaborative virtual community. Content analysis was employed to illustrate the process of how this case study was carried out under the TBLT framework. Overall evaluation of this TBLT syllabus was highlighted by students blogging vignettes, followed by pedagogi cal implications for English teachers who are interested in adopting CMC task-based instruction in EFL contexts.