English Department Forum: Helping Learners to Think for Themselves

English Department Forum

Helping Learners Think for Themselves:
A Task-Based Approach to Teaching Critical Writing


Maria Luz Elena N. Canilao

10 December 2007
4.30-6.00 p.m.
Natividad Galang Fajardo Conference Room
Ground Floor, Dela Costa Building
Ateneo de Manila University

Writing is one task that many students hate to do and one course many teachers avoid to teach. Learners often see it as a burdensome experience, and teachers usually consider it as a tedious process. However, with the advent of TBLT(Task-Based Language Teaching), many language educators have discovered that writing courses may be taught in a more effective and creative way. This paper illustrates how task-based activities may be used to aid students in becoming analytical thinkers, confident communicators, and autonomous learners.

Language is used for a purpose in a particular context. Without a purpose anda context for writing, students find it difficult to express their ideas. Thus, authentic communication activities or tasks that define the language situation are essential in providing cognitive scaffolds for learners(Littlewood, 2003). This paper shows how lifelike tasks can make writing courses more meaningful and describes how students can reach self-actualization in a non-threatening atmosphere that promotes collaboration andcritical language awareness. It discusses how research paper writing, for example, may be made more relevant and enjoyable through the use of oralcommunication tasks. The feedback of four Ateneo de Manila University college classes in the Philippines shows that, in general, students find oral communication tasks useful in enhancing their critical thinking andcommunication skills and sharpening their socio-political awareness.

Being a language educator in the twenty-first century means having the initiative to explore innovative means of empowering students, and TBLT is one key that may be used in helping them achieve their learning goals.

*Speaker's Bio*
Maria Luz Elena N. Canilao is an instructor of the English Department in theAteneo de Manila School of Humanities. She has an M.A. in Literature and Language from the Ateneo de Manila University and a Certificate of Advanced Studies in the Communicative Teaching of English (with Distinction) from Lancaster University, U.K. She is a regular ACELT (Ateneo de Manila Center forEnglish Language Teaching) trainer and consultant. She was the chairperson ofthe Ateneo de Manila High School English Department from 2000 to 2003.

For inquiries and confirmation of attendance, please email to Ms. Cori Perez at maqperez@ateneo.edu

Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University
Katipunan Road, Loyola Heights,
Quezon City 1108 Metro Manila
426-6001 local 5310/5311