A Task-Based Design for Integrating E-Mail with FL Pedagogy

A Task-Based Design for Integrating E-Mail with FL Pedagogy

Shannon Johnston (The University of Queensland, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-895-6.ch018


A task-based approach to e-mail provides a sound pedagogical orientation for real language interactions between learners and native speakers. The literature suggests that e-mail-oriented tasks are important for successful e-mail experiences (e.g., as evidenced in Kung, 2002; Müller-Hartmann, 2000) and demands a greater pedagogical role for e-mail (e.g., Marcus, 1995; O’Dowd, 2004; Warschauer, 1995). Nunan’s concept of task-based teaching (2004) appropriately links e-mail and pedagogy. This chapter presents a discussion of e-mail tasks within the Nunan task-based framework, and follows it with evidence from a study of tasks in senior secondary Indonesian as a FL classes in Queensland, Australia. With this proposal, the author hopes to inform teachers, and stimulate research of task-based e-mail as a pedagogically rigorous teaching method. The impacts of context and a teacher’s personal theories on outcomes are areas requiring further research attention.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Key-Pals: E-mail correspondence partners. In this study key-pals refers to the student partnerships, but there are also teacher partners that also act like key-pals.

E-Tandem Learning: Students learning each others’ languages who exchange e-mail messages in both languages and assist each other to develop their language communication skills.

E-Mail: Electronic mail, asynchronous messages exchanged via networked computers, most commonly the World Wide Web.

ICT (Information and Communications Technology): Computer-based technology that contains information and/or has electronic communication facilities, in particular Internet-based technologies.

Task-Based Teaching: Orienting learning around tasks, and addressing language, communication, culture and other relevant knowledge in the context of these tasks through other tasks or learning activities.

Focus on E-Mail: Focus on form is an SLA term for attention to grammatical forms in a foreign language that arises in the context of carrying out other tasks, involves the practice of noticing, paying attention, creating hypotheses and testing these hypotheses in practice. In this chapter ‘focus on…’ refers to applying the same practices with any aspect related to e-mail communication, for example linguistic, sociolinguistic, strategic, cultural, pragmatic, genre features.

Foreign Language Context: Teaching and learning another language in a classroom context in an environment where the target language is not a common language of the community, for example learning Indonesian in Australia, and English in China.

Tasks: Real-world or realistic classroom endeavors that are purposeful, goal-oriented, student-centered and draw on language, communication, and cultural knowledge and skills for successful completion.

Pedagogy: Decisions teachers make and implement in carrying out formal and informal curricula in classroom practice.

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