In the context of TESOL, language skills of speaking, writing, listening, and reading are divided into productive and receptive skills. Productive skills are speaking and writing and involve making language. Receptive skills are listening and reading and involve receiving language.
Theories that are commonly associated with receptive skills include top down and bottom up processing. With top down processing the reader/listener is focused on the “big picture”. This means that they are focused on general view or idea of the content they are exposed to. This requires have a large amount of knowledge and experience to draw upon in order to connect understanding. Prior knowledge helps the individual to know what to expect as they receive the information.
Bottom up processing is the opposite. In this approach, the reader/listener is focused on the details of the content. Another way to see this is that with bottom up processing the focus is on the trees while with top down the focus is on forest. With bottom up processing students are focused on individual words or even individual word sounds such as when they are decoding when reading.
Type 1 & 2 Tasks
Type 1 and type 2 tasks are derived from top down and bottom processing. Type 1 task involve seeing the “big picture”. Examples of this type include summarizing, searching for the main idea, making inferences, etc.
Often type 1 task are trickier to assess because solutions are often open-ended and open to interpretation. This involves having to assess individually each response each student makes which may not always be practical. However, type 1 task really help to broaden and strengthen higher level thinking skills which can lay a foundation for critical thinking.
Type 2 task involve looking at text and or listening for much greater detail. Such activities as recall, grammatical correction, and single answer questions all fall under the umbrella of type 2 tasks.
Type 2 tasks are easier to mark as they frequently only have one possible answer. The problem with this is that teachers over rely on them because of their convenience. Students are trained to obsess over details rather than broad comprehension or connecting knowledge to other areas of knowledge. Opportunities for developing dynamic literacy are lost for a focus on critical literacy or even decoding.
A more reasonable approach is to use a combination of type 1 and 2 tasks. Type 1 can be used to stimulate thinking without necessarily marking the responses. Type 2 can be employed to teach students to focus on details and due to ease at which they can be marked type 2 tasks can be placed in the grade book for assessing progress.
This post explained various theories related to receptive skills in TESOL. There was also a look at different the two broad categories in which receptive skill tasks fall into. For educators, it is important to find a balance between using both type 1 and type 2 tasks in their classroom.