The effectiveness of task - Based - Language teaching in improving IELTS reading skill

Abstract. The present paper attempts to emphasise the mutual connection between

testing and teaching in light of evaluating the effectiveness of task-oriented IELTS

activities on the performances of IELTS trainees in their reading test. For this

purpose, the learners in an IELTS preparation center in Hanoi were treated with

IELTS reading materials under the adoption of task-based language teaching

approach (TBLT) for three months. Two instruments to collect data were employed,

namely Pre-IELTS Test and Post-IELTS Test, and a questionnaire. The study

reveals that after the experimental time, the participants’ reading scores improved

considerably.

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respectively. With the last item “I have learnt and known new words, expressions
and sentence patterns via reading passages”, 40% expressed their advocate, 33, 3%
strongly agreed.
2.2. Discussion and conclusion
For the first research question about the influences of TBLT on learners’ IELTS
reading skill, the data showed that there was considerable progress in the performance of
IELTS takers after three month of applying TBLT into their course as their mean score
increased by 0.5. Not only in the post test could they get higher score, their performance
in other IELTS reading tests later was also improved. Specifically, when asked, just under
65% were confident that they could earn 27-34 correct answers, which was equivalent to
6.5-7.5 band scores, and majority of participants could often complete the task on time.
This finding might support the finding of Panahdi since he also realized that the result of
students ‘learning reflected through test scores was productive when task-based language
testing and teaching got more emphasized [17]. Therefore, the data indicate that students
could improve their IELTS reading skill when TBLT was employed.
Where the second research question is concerned, an overwhelming proportion of
participants owned positive views towards the benefits of TBLT in terms of learning more
new words or structures, strengthening the ability of reasoning and analyzing by figuring
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the outlines and summarizing the main ideas of the text, and answering the questions
designed concerning the content of the passage. To be more specific, TBLT helps promote
learners’ retention of vocabulary in different authentic contexts. Once they know and
accumulate a wide range of vocabulary, it is likely easier for them to understand the
passages and therefore can locate information needed to answer the questions in the IELTS
reading tests. Moreover, this approach also enabled learners to realize their weaknesses
and identify the direction to improve their reading skill. Along with this, the learners had
plenty of chances to interact with teacher as well as other classmates so they can learn
from each other and being confident to perform the tasks. This is consistent with the data
collected by Hadi when he investigated the learners’ perceptions towards TBLT. Most of
the participants in his study also agreed or even strongly agreed that task-based method
had interactional and collaborative nature to create motivation for learners to do the given
tasks [5].
2.3. Pedagogical Implications of the Study
This study has shed some light on the use of task-based learning in enhancing the
reading skill of IELTS learners in an English center in Hanoi. The findings of the study
offer some pedagogical implications for researchers, teachers and learners as below.
First, despite some certain promising aspects of TBLT, specific problems still may
be found during the adoption of this approach. Attentively considered, TBLT requires
long-term planning, serious organisation and proper implementation rather than only
three months as in this study. This, therefore, presents challenges for EFL teachers and
researchers to make more theoretical researches in a deep-going path and explore TBLT’s
applications, especially its applications to the improvement of IELTS reading performance
for Vietnamese test takers.
Second, the attitudes of learners towards TBLT is of great importance since it is
one of the key factors contributing the success of the course. TBLT with its own natures
of creating relaxing, collaborative, authentic, and motivational learning environment for
students can engage IELTS learners in different tasks and suffer less pressure to achieve
the high score. However, the characteristics and needs of students differ according to
various contexts so it is not necessary to obtain the same outcomes when applying the
same teaching method in different institutional settings. The implication from this is that,
learners’ voices need to be acknowledged so that a diversity of possible changes can be
made to adapt with their real needs and long-term learning path. Otherwise, TBLT or any
other pedagogial approaches might not uphold their utmost potential benefits.
2.4. Limitations
Despite the fact that the current study earns the positive results, some shortcomings
should be taken into consideration. Initially, the experimental time in this research was
quite short (only three months) compared to other previous studies. The participants did
not have much exposure to the practice of TBLT, as a result, this might have affected their
true feeling about TBLT. If they had more time working with this approach, they might
have been more aware of the changes in their perceptions and opinions about TBLT.
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The effectiveness of task-based-language teaching in improving IELTS reading skill
Another limitation lies in the methodology. This quantitative study collected data to
measure the possible improvement of the learners in doing IELTS reading test after being
treated with TBLT and their attitudes to TBLT. However, the test results could be decided
by many other variables like the psychology, the health conditions, and even the luck of
the participants. Hence, the scores sometimes could not exactly reflect the progress of
learners. Besides, there is some problems when the attitudes of the learners were gathered
and quantified via Likert-scale questionnaires. The learners might not have had many
chances to express their feeling and opinions and had to limit their responses within
the items given. If one more qualitative instrument like focus group or semi-structured
interview was employed, the participants would show more detailed attitudes as needed.
The need of one more instrument in the study can also strengthen the reliability and
triangulate the findings. Thereby, it is hopeful that these limitations will be minimized
when further studies are conducted in the future.
3. Conclusion
Lucidly taken, the overall finding of this study reveals that learners can improve
their reading skill through the application of TBLT. Therefore, teachers of EFL should
plan and organize various useful tasks during IELTS reading lessons so that students can
attain more communicative lively vocabulary and structures, strengthen their ability of
reasoning and analyzing the texts, as well as summarizing the main ideas. All of these
micro-skills are found to be necessary for learners to understand the reading passages
well, thus can answer the test questions correctly. Besides, since the students’ attitude
towards TBLT also influences their learning process and outcomes, teachers need to get
familiar with TBLT, understand its basic principles and techniques in order to produce an
effective task-based lessons.
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