A Study of the On-task and Off-task Activity Carried Out by Teenage Learners During a Content and Language Integrated Learning Task

By Zoraida Horrillo Godino.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Many pieces of research showing that second language learners’ participation in oral tasks promotes (language) learning have been published. However, despite the benefits shown, teachers are reluctant to implement oral tasks in pairs or small groups because they believe that the learners will stop doing them as soon as they are left to control the development of the tasks. In order to explore what learners actually do when carrying out an oral task, the on-task and off-task activity developed by a mixed-ability class of learners during the implementation of an oral task was studied. This task was part of a CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) teaching sequence, in which the content of Natural Sciences and English as a Foreign Language are integrated. The informant learners were twenty-three teenagers who attended class the day on which the oral CLIL task was implemented. They were taking the third year of ESO (Compulsory Secondary Education) in a public, state-run school near Barcelona, Spain. They were asked to do an info-swap (information-exchange) task in pairs and to record their voices. Their recordings were subsequently transcribed. Next, types of on-task and off-task activity were identified in the transcripts of their recordings. The time they spent in performing these types of activity was measured in seconds and percentages were subsequently calculated for every type of activity. One significant result of this study was that most of the learners spent the greatest part of the time devoted to doing the task in engaging in conversation about the rainforest (the area of Natural Sciences on which the CLIL teaching sequence focuses). Another result was that some learners continued to use the target language, English, even when they stopped doing the task.

Keywords: CLIL, TESOL, Task-Based Learning, Task, On-Task, Off-Task, Jigsaw, Info-Swap, Cooperative Learning, Oral Interaction, Classroom Research, Collaborative Research, Teacher Collaboration, Dyad

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 11, pp.113-136. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.256MB).

Zoraida Horrillo Godino

Research Assistant, Faculty of Education, Language and Literature Pedagogy, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Zoraida Horrillo Godino completed a BA degree in English Philology, an MA in Teacher Education and an MA in Research on the Pedagogy of Language and Literature. She worked as a researcher for the Open University of Catalonia (OUC) and for the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). She also worked as an in-service teacher educator on the CLIL approach at the Institute of Educational Sciences of the UAB and as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) at Catalan primary and secondary schools. She is currently working as a TEFL at a school for learners with especial educational needs; and she is carrying out research on teacher education.


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