Why We Notice

We recently published Language Teacher Noticing in Tasks by Daniel O. Jackson. The author previously wrote a post explaining the concept of ‘teacher noticing’ – in this follow-up post, he discusses why we notice.

Following up on my previous blog contribution on Language Teacher Noticing in Tasks, I wanted to share that book’s practical implications. In my view, one role of a language teacher is to consciously perform the art of noticing. This differs from noticing by learners and is grounded in core assumptions about language learning and teaching. As the book explains, teacher noticing involves attending to, interpreting, and making decisions about events while engaging with learners. Noticing is essential to teaching practice because it supports five major goals.

The first three pertain directly to instruction. Namely, noticing helps us to:

  1. Build rapport – Harmonious relationships and a friendly atmosphere improve the learning environment. Teachers need to be able to swiftly orient to student identities to achieve rapport, which provides the foundation for communication and engagement. We can also ask students what they want us to notice.
  2. Support acquisition – Because second language development is highly individualized, scholars argue that it is effective to focus on form at the point of need during communicative lessons. This means attending to a learner’s use of language and acting on it appropriately. To provide such feedback, we can tell students what we noticed.
  3. Enhance participation – Learning-centered lessons depend on active participation. Teachers can notice various dimensions of engagement by asking themselves at key points during their lessons: Who are my students connecting to? What are they doing/thinking? How do they feel about it?

The final two goals link instruction to teacher development, where noticing is used to:

  1. Foster reflection – Noticing-based reflection is valuable because it relies upon evidence drawn directly from teaching experiences. By focusing on interactions with learners, we improve our classroom practice, refine our noticing skills, and develop professional identities as “noticers” of student learning.
  2. Guide observation – We can also co-notice with teaching colleagues during class visits. By sharing our insights, we can coach others toward professional development. To enhance post-observation feedback sessions, try to establish a focus prior to the observation, to which the teacher and all observers pay close attention.

These reasons to notice are discussed in more detail in the book, which opens the door to an integrated account of noticing by teachers and learners by providing a theoretical framework and methodological options for future studies. The book also reports a task-based study of noticing by pre-service English teachers in Japan. More research is needed on when, what, and how language teachers notice, as we live through and learn from these challenging times.

You can read the author’s previous post here.

For more information about Language Teacher Noticing in Tasks please see our website.