Tasks, design, and the architecture of pedagogical spaces

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This chapter focuses on teachers’ uses of pedagogical tasks in the classroom. It has long been recognised that the task-as-workplan inevitably changes once in process in the classroom (Breen, 1987). However, since relatively little empirical attention has been given to tasks in action in the classroom, we know remarkably little about how far workplans actually do change, and in what ways. This chapter highlights the role played by the teacher, intentionally and unintentionally, in making adjustments to the workplan prospectively in pre-lesson planning and dynamically while implementing the task in the classroom. To this end, I propose conceptualising the task as a succession of workplans, open to change at different phases of classroom use, and outline a framework for tracing those changes as the task unfolds in process. In the second part of the chapter, I apply this framework to the analysis of two teachers working with the same task. Drawing on teacher interviews, classroom transcripts and stimulated recalls, I show how one teacher appears to successively ‘re-task’ the original workplan, while the other appears to unintentionally de-task it, and track the cumulative impacts of each change on the opportunities for language use created. I conclude the chapter with a brief consideration of how insights from a multidimensional approach to the workplan, such as the one proposed here, could be drawn on to support beginning teachers or those transitioning to TBLT.


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