• In terms of tasks, Cummins' model (1981), (Fig. 1) is useful as a way of categorizing tasks in a continuum from cognitively undemanding to cognitively demanding; and along the other continuum from context-embedded to context-reduced.
  • Blooms taxonomy is another way of determining how demanding a task is. The continuum for Blooms goes from knowledge to comprehension to application to analysis and then to synthesis. (Although the last three levels can involve a similar degree of difficulty, they do require different skills).
  • Communicative based approaches refer to tasks which involve students being active in their own learning as well as providing ample opportunities for language use (Gibbons, 1991).
Fig. 1: Dimensions of Language proficiency . Cummins, 1981

  • Using Cummins' model (Cummins, 1981) and Blooms taxonomy as a way of assessing the difficulty of a task and its appropriateness for the students is helpful in terms of aligning tasks to the needs of the students.
  • Students will gain confidence with tasks that are set at their level of ability and this will help to raise the level of achievement.
  • The value of the language exchange and language use in communicative tasks is important for second language acquisition.
  • Cazden (2001), a renowned researcher in the area of spoken discourse in the classrooms, considers classroom talk to be of great importance (Cazden, 2001, p.2). High rates of classroom interactions directly correlate to progress made by students.

  • The Teacher needs to allow students to take a more active role rather than be passive learners.
  • As spoken language is important in terms of the identities of the students (Cazden, 2001) as well as impacting on their progress attention needs to be given to how much time students are given to interact and on the responses made to those interactions. An eye opening exercise is to tape part of a teaching sequence and then analyse how much time the students have to interact, to express themselves in terms of the language objectives of the lesson, and the responses made to student discourse.
  • A ‘safe’ environment needs to be established as well as trust for students to feel free enough to participate.
  • Tasks need to be carefully designed to be accessible to students but not so context embedded and cognitively reduced that they just become 'busy' work.


Cazden, C. (2001). Classroom discourse: The language of teaching and learning. Portsmouth: Heineman.

Cummins, J. (1981). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In California State Department of Education (Ed.), Schooling and Language Minority Students: A Theoretical Framework (pp. 3-49). Los Angeles: Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center, California State University.

Gibbons, P. (1991). Learning to learn in a second language.NSW: Primary English Teaching Association.