The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Using Task-Based e-tivities to Maximize Online English Language Learning during the Covid-19 School Closure: An Action Research Study

Francesca Ripamonti, University of Milan - Liceo Scientifico "G. Gandini" (Italy)


The COVID-19 emergency has forced educators and students worldwide to abandon classrooms and move into distance education settings. This has involved losing contact with practices and schemes consolidated over the years and, urgently, finding new and effective alternatives to face-to-face education on an unprecedented scale. Language learning has had no immunity. This contribution intends to show how, among the numerous critical issues that have emerged, the health crisis has also become an experimental moment for language teaching. Having to go "beyond the distance", our research tried to develop a didactics of virtual closeness relying on the theoretical paradigms of Task-Based Language Learning (TBLL) approach and the foundations of the Companion Volume of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFRCV): online interaction and mediation. This paper reports on an action-research study conducted during the second lockdown (autumn 2020) when digital technologies and virtual schooling had inevitably become an established practice. It was a vertical study as the participants belonged to two different educational levels, respectively: a group of 45 eleventh-grade high school students in Lodi, and a group of 25 Human Sciences undergraduates attending an English for Specific Purposes (ESP) workshop at the State University of Milan. It was an action-oriented study since, albeit with distinct objectives, the two groups engaged in task-based e-tivities originating from contingent needs-analysis and aiming at fostering real-world relevant communication (North, 2020) while interacting online with peers and educators, who played the role of facilitators, selecting, sequencing and monitoring tasks to help participants negotiate meanings (Richards & Rogers, 2014). Learners' central role in the assigned e-tivities was to complete authentic tasks which were purposefully tailored following criteria of "essentiality, naturalness and utility" (Ellis, 2003) to actively engage students with the language in meaningful contexts, even in remote settings. Qualitative and quantitative tools for collecting data included participants' observations, interviews and analysis of students' products. Formative assessment was assured by constant monitoring and ongoing feedback, while the summative assessment was carried out at task completions with rubrics whose criteria were shared with students. Preliminary results indicated that task-based e-tivities had high potential in promoting learners' opportunities for "natural" language learning in distance teaching. They also offered learners with fertile inputs of target language thus contributing to the improvement of communicative fluency without disregarding accuracy.

Keywords: task-based e-tivities, language teaching; interaction; online schooling; action-research.


  • Ellis, R. (2003).Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford University Press
  • North, B. (2020). The CEFR Renewed: inspiring the future of language education. Italiano Lingua Due, 12(1), 549-560
  • Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S. (2014). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge University Press.
  • Skehan, P. (1998). Task-based instruction. Annual review of applied linguistics, 18, 268-286.

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