Language Teacher Noticing as Professional Development

This month we are publishing Language Teacher Noticing in Tasks by Daniel O. Jackson. In this post the author explains the concept of ‘teacher noticing’ and the book’s aims.

To teach effectively we need to notice. Detailed accounts of how language teachers attend to and act upon student contributions in a range of ways are somewhat rare, however. The article I have already published on this topic needed expansion. My new book dives deeper into this key aspect of teachers’ mental lives and how it develops. The Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching (PLLT) series is the ideal venue for this research.

Teacher noticing involves attention, interpretation, and decision-making. It is a form of reflection that happens during engagement with learners. That engagement can be cognitive, affective, or social – it’s something we experience every time we teach. For years, such encounters have informed my practice and my identity as a teacher. This book examines noticing by a group of pre-service English language teachers studying at my university in Japan. It offers fresh insight into the teacher’s role in task-based language teaching in this setting and beyond.

The book’s main purpose is to introduce the concept of teacher noticing to the second language field. It situates noticing among related concepts and theories, but instead of being a purely theoretical book, it uses evidence to shed light on noticing in practice. I drew on a rich array of sources and methods to illustrate the implications for teacher development. The results show how tasks guide pre-service teachers to notice verbal and nonverbal resources that underlie successful communication in a second language.

I regard this effort as a tribute to and a continuation of the work of the late Richard “Dick” Schmidt, who was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He is especially renowned for his widely cited noticing hypothesis. Dick was my PhD supervisor and he truly was a great mentor. For this book, I revisited his account of learner noticing and sought out connections with teacher noticing. It frames joint attention by teachers and learners within expanding contexts of tasks, programs, and schools.

Ultimately, I aim to encourage dialogue between teacher educators and language teachers about learning to notice. Pre-service teachers should have opportunities to observe on video how they interact to orchestrate performance on a range of tasks. I also offer practical suggestions to improve the noticing skills of in-service teachers. A key point for reflection is to consider when, what, and how you and your students notice during lessons.

Lastly, I could not have come this far without the support of my loving family, many wonderful students, teachers and colleagues, the PLLT series editors, and everyone at Multilingual Matters – thank you all!

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Language Teacher Recognition by Alison Stewart.

Behind the Books: Language Teacher Recognition

Alison Stewart speaks about her new book Language Teacher Recognition, including some images and a clip from the classrooms featured in her research.

Language Teacher Recognition is available now on our website. Enter the code BTB30 at the checkout to get 30% off!

Does a Language Teacher’s Identity Matter?

Next month we are publishing Language Teacher Recognition by Alison Stewart. In this post the author explains how the book came about and what readers will learn from it. 

Does a language teacher’s identity matter? What about the case of Filipino teachers of English working in Japan?

Filipinos used to be denied access to jobs as English teachers in Japan because they weren’t regarded as “native speakers”, and hence not the right kind of people to teach English. Nowadays, they are being hired in large numbers to work across the range of public and private schools, particularly in elementary and preschool education. What has changed? And how has this affected the lives of Filipinos living in Japan?

I first came across a group of Filipino English teachers a decade ago and have been following the group’s activities and progress since then. The successes of many of the group’s members inspired me to start collecting their stories. Through the narratives of eight women and one man, we can see how the changing social conditions of Japan – from migration patterns to educational reforms to shifts in ideologies about language and identity – are reflected in the career paths and aspirations, the disappointments and the triumphs, of Filipino teachers in Japan.

Seven of the teachers belong to an organization, Filipino English Teacher in Japan (FETJ), which supports and trains would-be English teachers. The different narratives allow us to trace the various, at times conflicting, interests and motivations that have propelled the rapid growth of this organization from informal study group to social activism on behalf of a marginalized minority in Japan to teacher training NPO and conduit to potential employers.

Identity is a hot topic in language education research these days, but this is the first time that it has been explored through the lens of Recognition Theory. In the book I’ve attempted to explain why recognition deserves our attention, how it differs from the poststructuralist approach that currently dominates the field, and how it can underpin a “moral turn” in the field. A focus on mutual recognition in different social domains – between those we care for, in large social groups, and in society at large – places social justice firmly at the center of our research endeavors.

The narratives of the nine Filipino teachers, and my own story as well, are presented in their entirety. This too is a break away from current research practices. Readers will find their own resonances in the stories, but I have used them as stepping-stones into discussions on privilege and marginalization, on language teacher associations, on language teaching as a career, and on the very language that we use to talk about identity in language education research.

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan by Diane Hawley Nagatomo.