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Written by - Sridatt Lakhan image source: Once implemented the way it was meant to be, the evidence suggests, it is an academically sound approach to teaching and learning. The PBLA programme, now being implemented in all ESL non-credit classes that are funded by Citizenship and Immigration, has two critical shortcomings which I have encountered while trying to implement it in my classroom.
The shortcomings are identified in the academic literature. Guide for Teachers and Programs ed. The guide mentioned above, now used to train instructors myself included throughout the country, ignores two substantive and interrelated caveats central to the smooth implementation of the PBLA programme.
The first is on the issue of needs assessment and tasks based on authentic materials that are used in real-life situations. The PBLA guide in question, like many other teaching guides, rightly emphasizes needs assessment.
Here lies the problem. Current needs assessment simply consists of asking learners to check boxes with items such as clothes, transportation, food, time, money and so on. Surely we can generate endless tasks and activities from such topics, but what is it about any of those topics that the learner really needs to transfer into real-world situations?
A task-based needs analysis and not a needs assessment could determine real world language tasks learners need in the real world of today and tomorrow. The second point, directly related to the first, is that the Guide for Teachers and Programs fails to address the question of differentiation.
I have also tried using a few of them. They are great, but not for a whole class since each part of one of them has to be differentiated, in one way or another, to suit the individual needs of each student.
The mechanics of constant differentiation- some call it modification- of both the learning task and assessment task is not a subject addressed in the above-mentioned guide. Differentiation, after much time and painstaking detail, is doable and it wonderfully serves each individual student.
This means that I and maybe others too need to learn how to do it effectively and quickly. I am not questioning the merits of PBLA.
There is indeed strong academic support for its use. There is also strong academic support for task-based needs analysis and the mastering of differentiation of tasks in PBLA. I see a bright future for PBLA. Portfolio-based language assessment PBLA: Guide for teachers and programs ed.
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