The phrase English as a foreign language or English as a second language means the language that has been mastered after the vernacular (or mother tongue). It could mean an intentionally learned language or one more language, the learning of which takes place in a multilingual environment with no special training.
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According to Mike Long, the learners and their purposes of learning a second language can be divided into the two groups: those who learn the second language voluntarily (“school children required to ‘pass’ a foreign language, college students satisfying a language requirement or working toward a BA in literature, young adults headed overseas for university courses, as missionaries or to serve as volunteers, or adults needing a L2 for vocational training or occupational purposes” (2014, p. 98)) and the involuntary language learners whom the circumstances forced to soak up the language, which includes people of all ages. In our case, we are talking about learning English as a foreign language, which means learning it in non-English-speaking countries.
As regards to the methods of teaching, the most widely used approach in the leading language schools all over the world today is the communicative approach. As the name implies, in the communicative method a crucial part is assigned to the communication practice. Its main purpose is helping students overcome the language barrier and relieve them from the fear of speaking in the foreign language, while simultaneously developing the language skills from writing and speaking to reading and listening (listening comprehension).
Grammar is studied in the process of communication; at first, students develop and remember the words, phrases, and language formulas, and then they begin to disassemble them in terms of grammar. No reproducing exercises or drills are used in the classrooms with communicative approach; instead, task-based learning in the form of web quests is applied.
During the task-based learning the student must be exposed to the foreign language to the extent possible in order to monitor its use, build its hypothesis, and as a result, experiment with it. One of the main objectives when selecting the type of task-based learning is the increase in the students’ activity; it is the targeted activity of the student, not the teacher; the teacher should set the specific tasks before the student, enabling him/her to conduct a spontaneous, individual and original experiment with the foreign language.
As a result of fulfilling each of these tasks, the student will develop the extensive personal experience of using the foreign language; at this stage, the instructor plays a significant role. The teacher should help the student to come to the realization of the activities, which follow the experiment.
According to Nunan (2002), there are five main characteristics of the task-based learning:
- the emphasis is made on teaching students to communicate in the target language;
- introduction of authentic texts (educational materials) to the learning situation;
- providing students with the opportunity to focus not only on language but on the process of learning; and
- increasing the individual experience of students as an important element contributing to training.
The scope of the task-based learning has substantially increased, since today students may use online sources to search for the information required to fulfill the tasks; it resulted in the creation of web quests.
The WebQuest technique was developed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March at San Diego State University “as a type of computer-based tool for teachers to enhance students’ understanding of complex topics” (Schumm 2006).
In other words, it is a problematic task with role-playing game elements, for the fulfillment of which the Internet information resources are used. Compared with other tasks based on the Internet resources such as Hotlist, Multimedia Scrapbook, Treasure/Scavenger Hunt, and Subject Sampler (Mongan-Rallis & Hughes n.d.), web quests are more challenging both for students and teachers.
It aims to develop students’ skills of analytical and creative thinking; the instructor who creates a web quest must possess a high level of the subject, methodical and informational communication competency. Web quests may be dedicated to diverse topics; the degree of problematic tasks complexity may vary. Depending on the materials being studied, the results of a fulfilled task can be presented as an oral presentation, computer presentation, essay, web pages, etc.
According to Bernie Dodge’s WebQuest model, there are the following types of web quest tasks: retelling, compilation, mystery, journalistic task, design, creative product, consensus building, persuasion, self-knowledge, analytical, judgment, and scientific tasks (Dodge 2002). Let us take a more detailed look at each task.
The retelling task includes demonstrating the understanding of the subject on the basis of materials from various sources submitted in a new format, such as a presentation, poster or a story. Some examples of retelling web quest are as follows: Will That Volcano Spoil Our Party, Tropical Travelers, and Deserts of the World (College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, n.d.).
Compilation task is aimed at transforming the format of the information obtained from the various sources; for example, “a cookbook compiled from recipes solicited from relatives, a virtual exhibition or a time capsule” (Dodge 2002).
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When solving a mystery, students draw conclusions based on the contradictory facts. The journalistic task involves the objective presentation of information (dividing the opinions and facts). The design task includes the development of a plan or project on the basis of predetermined conditions. For example, in the Travel Japan web quest, students need to complete the introductory sheet about Japan using the Internet (Travel Japan n.d.).
The creative product task involves making a creative work in a particular genre, such as a play, poem, song or video. According to Bernie Dodge, there are some limits put on this task, as it requires “historical accuracy, adherence to a particular artistic style, use of the conventions of a particular format, internal consistency, limitations on length, size, or scope” (2002). Consensus building task is aimed at the elaboration of an attitude to a sensitive issue, such as a controversial political event.
The goal of persuasion web quests is winning over an opponent or a neutral-minded individual, while the self-knowledge tasks are developed around “long term goals, ethical and moral issues, self-improvement, art appreciation, personal responses to literature”, meaning those issues related to the personality aspects (Dodge 2002). When it comes to the analysis-based web quests, the analytical tasks teach students how to search and systematize all kinds of information.
The examples include Poe Webquest (Literary Criticism and Poe Webquest n.d.). Dodge’s two remaining web quest types, the judgment and scientific task, are dedicated to justifying a certain point of view and examining various phenomena, discoveries, and facts on the basis of unique online sources, respectively.
The use of web quests and other tasks based on the Internet resources in language learning requires students to have the appropriate level of language proficiency in order to work with the authentic resources of the Internet. In this regard, the effective integration of web quests in the process of learning of foreign languages is possible in the cases where the web quest is a creative task in completing the study of any subject and is accompanied by the lexical and grammatical exercises on the basis of linguistic material of the authentic resources used in the web quest. Implementation of such exercises may either precede the work on the quest or run in parallel with it.
Web quests consist of the following sections: Introduction, Task, Order of Work on the Task and the Necessary Resources, Assessment, Conclusion, Used Materials and the Instructor’s Comments. The task formulates a problem and describes a presentation form for the final result.
The order of work and the necessary resources include the sequence of actions, the roles assigned, and the resources necessary to perform the task (links to the websites or any other sources of information), as well as the auxiliary materials (examples, templates, tables, forms, instructions, etc.) allowing a more efficient organization of work on the web quest.
The assessment is a description of the criteria and parameters for assessing the web quest, which is represented as an evaluation form. The evaluation criteria depend on the type of the learning tasks that are completed as part of the web quest. The conclusion summarizes the new abilities developed by the students while solving this quest. The materials used are links to the resources that have been used for the creation of the web quest.
To conclude, it should be emphasized that the communicative approach is one the most effective ways of teaching EFL students with a high level of competence. The communicative approach can take the form of online task-based learning, which includes hotlist, multimedia scrapbook, treasure hunt, subject sampler, and web quest.
College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Why do the humanities matter? n.d., Digital Desert Library. Web.
Dodge, B 2002, WebQuest Taskonomy: A Taxonomy of Tasks. Web.
Literary Criticism and Poe Webquest n.d. Web.
Long, M 2014, Second language acquisition and task-based language teaching, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken.
Mongan-Rallis H & Hughes T n.d., Teaching Strategies: Using the Web as a Teaching & Learning Resource, WebQuests. Web.
Nunan, D 2002, Second Language Teaching and Learning. Heinle and Heinle Publishers, Boston.
Schumm, J 2006, Reading assessment and instruction for all learners, Guilford Press, New York.
Travel Japan n.d., WebQuest Template. Web.