Using content-based and task-based teaching in a critical thinking setting to improve EFL learners’ writing

Hamid Marashi, Samira Mirghafari


The purpose of this study was to compare the effect of content-based and task-based instruction in a critical thinking setting on EFL learners’ writing. Accordingly, 60 female learners out of a total number of 90 intermediate learners studying at a language school in Tehran were selected after taking a piloted sample of the Preliminary English Test (PET) for homogenization prior to the study. Subsequently, they were put into two experimental groups: 30 learners in the content-based teaching group and 30 learners undergoing the task-based teaching treatment. Both experimental groups experienced the two teaching approaches in a critical thinking setting. A sample PET writing was administered as the post-test of the study after 16 sessions of treatment spanning nine weeks. A comparison of the mean scores of the two groups on this post-test through an independent samples t-test revealed that there was no significant difference between the two groups at the post-test. The probable reason for this result together with the pedagogical implications of this study and the suggestions for further research are elaborated extensively in the paper.


content-based teaching, task-based teaching, critical thinking, writing

Full Text:



Alagozlu, N. (2007). Critical thinking and voice in EFL writing. Asian EFL Journal, 9(3), 118-136.

Baleghizadeh, S., & Asadi, R. (2013). The effect of task repetition and task recycling on EFL learners’ oral performance. Issues in Language Teaching, 2(2), 137-163.

Birjandi, P., & Malmir, A. (2009). The effect of task-based approach on Iranian advanced EFL learners’ narrative vs. expository writing. Iranian Journal for Applied Studies, 1(2), 1-26.

Brinton, D. M., Snow, M. A., & Wesche, M. (1989). Content-based second language instruction. New York: Newbury House.

Brown, H. D. (2002). Principles of language learning and teaching (4th ed.). New York: Longman.

Bruton, A. S. (2005). Task-based language teaching: For the state secondary FL classroom. Language Learning Journal, 31(1), 55-68.

Canilao, M. L. E. N. (2009). Mission possible: How to make writing more meaningful and fun for learners. ELT World Online, 1, 1-8.

Carless, D. (2009). Revisiting the TBLT versus P-P-P Debate: Voices from Hong Kong. Asian Journal of English Language Teaching, 19, 49-66.

Charles, M. (2007). Reconciling top-down and bottom-up approaches to graduate writing: Using a corpus to teach rhetorical functions. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 6(4), 289-302.

Cobb, M., & Lovick, N. (2007). The concept of foreign language task, misconceptions and benefits in implementing task-based instruction. Bridges, 21, 7-15.

Cohen, E. D. (2010). Critical thinking. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Cortes, V. (2004). Lexical bundles in Freshman composition. In R. Reppen, S. Fitzmaurice & D. Biber (Eds.), Using corpora to explore linguistic variation (pp. 131–145). Amsterdam, PA: John Benjamins.

Crandall, J. (1987). ESL through content-area instruction: Mathematics, science, and social studies. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Crandall, J., & Tucker, G. R. (1990). Content based instruction in second or foreign language. In A. M. Padilla, H. H. Fairchild & C. M. Valadez (Eds.), Foreign language education: Issues and strategies (pp. 187-200). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Davies, S. (2003). Content-based instruction in EFL contexts. The Internet TESL Journal, 9(2).

Davison, C., & Williams, A. (2001). Integrating language and content: Unresolved issues. In B. Mohan, C. Leung & C. Davison (Eds.), English as a second language in the mainstream: Teaching, learning and diversity (pp. 51-90). Harlow: Pearson.

Dixon, F., Cassady, J., Cross, T., & Williams, D. (2005). Effects of technology on critical thinking and essay writing among gifted adolescents. Prufrock Journal, 16(4), 180-189.

El-Din, Y. A. S. (2007). Content-based projects in the EFL classroom. Retrieved from

Ellis, R. (2000). Task-based research and language pedagogy. Language Teaching Research, 4, 193-220.

Ellis, R. (2003). Task-based language learning and teaching. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fahim, M., & Rad, S. E. (2012). Developing critical thinking in Iranian EFL students’ argumentative essays through Shor’s problem-posing pedagogy. Iranian EFL Journal, 8(4), 9-27.

Fallahi, S., Malayeri, F. A., & Bayat, A. (2015). The effect of information-gap vs. opinion-gap tasks on Iranian EFL learners’ reading comprehension. International Journal of Education Investigations, 2(3), 170-181.

Farralelli, M. (2009). Critical literacy approach in the EFL class. Journal of NELTA, 14(1-2), 26-31.

Goddard, Y. L., & Sendi, C. (2008). Effects of self-monitoring on the narrative and expository writing of four fourth-grade students with learning disabilities. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 24(4), 408-433.

Graham, S., & Harris, K. (2005). Writing better: Effective strategies for teaching students with learning difficulties. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Granger, S. (1998). Learner English on computer. London: Longman.

Granger, S., Hung, J., & Petch-Tyson, S. (2003). Computer learner corpora, language acquisition and foreign language teaching. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Hancock, M., & McDonald, A. (2009). English result intermediate. London: Oxford University Press.

Inayah, N., & Nanda, R. P. (2016). Efforts to improve writing skills of high school students. Studies in English Language and Education, 3(1), 50-64.

Kasper, L. F. (2000). Content-based college ESL instruction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kasrayian, A., & Fakhar-Rohani, M. R. (2005). Essay writing. Tehran: SAMT.

Kavaliauskiene, G. (2004). Research into the integration of content-based instruction into the ESP classroom. Journal of Language and Learning, 2, 136-150.

Khabiri, M., & Firooz, M. (2012). The comparative effect of practicing cooperative learning and critical thinking on EFL learners’ writing. Issues in Language Teaching, 1(2), 371-394.

Khodabakhsh, S., Jahandar, S., & Khodabandehlou, M. (2013). The impact of critical thinking tasks on paragraph writing ability of Iranian EFL learners. Indian Journal of Fundamental and Applied Life Sciences, 3(3), 639-648.

Kim, Y., & Kim, J. (2005). Teaching Korean university writing class: Balancing the process and the genre approach. Asian EFL Journal, 7(2), 1-15.

Krashen, S., & T, T. (1983). The natural approach: Language acquisition in the classroom. Oxford: Pergamon.

Langman, J. (2003). The effects of ESL-trained content-area teachers: Reducing middle-school students to incidental language learners. Prospect, 18(1), 14-26.

Leung, C. (2001). Evaluation of content-language learning in the mainstream classroom. In C. L. B. Mohan, & C. Davison (Ed.), English as a second language in the mainstream: Teaching learning and identity (pp. 177-198). New York: Longman.

Liaw, M. L. (2007). Content-based reading and writing for critical thinking skills in an EFL context. English Teaching and Learning, 31(2), 45-87.

Lightbown, P. M., & Spada, N. (2006). How languages are learned (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lunenburg, F. C., & Ornstein, A. O. (2008). Educational administration: Concepts and practices. Belmont, CA: Cengage/Wadsworth.

Mahmoodi, M. H., & Dehghannezhad, M. (2014). The effect of teaching critical thinking skills on the language learning strategy use of EFL learners across different EQ levels. Journal of English Language Teaching and Learning, 7(16), 55-84.

Malmir, A., Tabataba’i, A., NajafiSarem, S., & Ghasemi, A. (2011). The effect of task-based language teaching vs. content-based language teaching on Iranian intermediate ESP learners' reading comprehension. Iranian EFL Journal, 7(6), 79-94.

Marashi, H., & Hatam, G. (2009). Using tasks in a content-based program: Does it enhance vocabulary learning? Iranian Journal of Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Literature, 1(4), 73-91.

Marashi, H., & Jafari, R. (2012). The comparative effect of using critical thinking, constructivist learning, and a combination of the two techniques on EFL learners’ writing. Iranian EFL Journal, 8(4), 206-225.

Marashi, H., & Noochirwani Tehran, S. (2011). The comparative impact of content-based and task-based teaching in a critical thinking setting on EFL learners’ reading comprehension. Journal of English Studies, 1(4), 27-40.

Marashi, H., & Zargari, M. (2017). Mixing explicit grammar instruction with TBLT to improve autonomy and writing. Iranian EFL Journal, 13(2), 78-100.

Marsh, D. (2011). Using critical discourse analysis to raise critical language awareness in Japanese medical students: An exploratory action research. (Master), University of Birmingham, Birmingham.

Mason, M. (2010). Critical thinking and learning. New York: Wiley.

Nasiri, M., & Atai, M. R. (2017). An investigation into the effects of joint planning on complexity, accuracy, and fluency across task complexity. Journal of English Language Teaching and Learning, 9(20), 49-74.

Neff, J., Ballesteros, F., Dafouz, E., Martínez, F., & Rica, J. P. (2004). Formulating writer stance: A contrastive study of EFL learner corpora. In U. Connor & T. A. Upton (Eds.), Applied corpus linguistics. A multidimensional perspective (pp. 73-89). New York: Rodopi.

Nunan, D. (2004). Task-based language teaching: A comprehensively revised edition of designing tasks for communicative classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nunan, D. (2006). Designing holistic units of task-based learning. In P. Robertson & R. Nunn (Eds.), The study of second language acquisition in the Asian context (pp. 396-420). Korea: Asian EFL Journal Press.

Paul, R., Elder, L., & Bartell, T. (1997). California teacher preparation for instruction in critical thinking: Research findings and policy. Sacramento, CA: California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Paul, R. W., & Elder, L. (2006). Critical thinking: The nature of critical and creative thought. Journal of Developmental Education, 30(2), 34-35.

Pithers, R., & Soden, R. (2000). Critical thinking in education: A review. Educational Research, 42, 237-249.

Plews, J. L., & Zhao, K. (2010). Tinkering with tasks knows no bounds: ESL teachers’ adaptations of task-based language-teaching. TESL Canada Journal, 28(1), 41-59.

Prabhu, N. S. (1987). Second language pedagogy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rao, D. B., & Prasad, S. S. (2009). Creative thinking of school students. New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House.

Rezaei, S. (2014). Writing in task-based class for EFL learners. International Journal on Studies in English Language and Literature, 2(2), 11-14.

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richards, J. C., & Schmidt, R. (2002). Longman dictionary of language teaching and applied linguistics. London: Pearson Education.

Rodgers, T. S. (2001). Language teaching methodology (ERIC Issue Paper). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics.

Rogers, R. (2004). An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education. New Jersey: Erlbaum Lawrence.

Sabah, S., & Rashtchi, M. (2016). Critical thinking in personal narrative and reflective journal writings by in-service EFL teachers in Iran: Assessment of reflective writing. Journal of Teaching Language Skills, 35(3), 157-182.

Sattayatham, A., & S, H. (2007). Medical students’ most frequent errors. Asian EFL Journal, 9(2), 170-193.

Seidlhofer, B., & Widdowson, H. (1999). Coherence in summary: The contexts of appropriate discourse. In W. Bublitz, U. Lenk & E. Ventola (Eds.), Coherence in spoken and written discourse: How to create it and how to describe it (pp. 205-219). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Sendag, S., & Odabas, F. (2009). Effects of an online problem based learning course on content knowledge acquisition and critical thinking skills. Computers and Education, 53(1), 132-141.

Shajeri, E., & Izadpanah, S. (2016). The impact of task complexity along single task dimension on EFL Iranian learners' writing production. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 6(5), 935-946.

Soleimani, H., & Mahdavipour, M. (2014). The effect of variations in integrated writing tasks and proficiency level on features of written discourse generated by Iranian EFL learners. Journal of Teaching Language Skills, 33(2), 129-159.

Stoller, F. L. (2004). Content-based instruction: Perspectives on curriculum planning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24(1), 261-283.

Stryker, B. S., & Leaver, B. L. (1997). Content-based instruction in foreign language education: Models and methods. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Tajeddin, Z., & Hosseinpur, R. (2014). The impact of deductive, inductive, and L1-based consciousness-raising tasks on EFL learners’ acquisition of the request speech act. Journal of Teaching Language Skills, 33(1), 73-92.

Tilfarlioglu, F. Y., & Basaran, S. (2007). Enhancing reading comprehension through task-based writing activities: An experimental study. The Reading Matrix, 7(3), 134-152.

Tittle, P. (2010). Critical thinking: An appeal to reason. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Tribble, C. (1996). Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Troncale, N. (2002). Content-based instruction, cooperative learning, and CALP instruction: Addressing the whole education of 7-12 ESL students. TESOL and Applied Linguistics, 2(3), 244-264.

Vaughn, L. (2009). The power of critical thinking: Effective reasoning about ordinary and extraordinary claims. New York: Oxford University Press.

Willis, J. (2004). Perspectives on task-based instruction: Understanding our practices, acknowledging different practitioners. In B. L. Leaver & J. R. Willis (Eds.), Task-based instruction in foreign language education: Practices and programs (pp. 3-44). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Zare-ee, A. (2012). The effects of task complexity on English language learners’ listening comprehension. Issues in Language Teaching, 1(2), 225-250.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Print ISSN: 2355-2794, Online ISSN: 2461-0275

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.