An ELT Glossary : "Noticing"

  • Definition : The name given to the idea (associated with Schmidt, 1990) that if learners pay conscious and cognitively "deep" attention to the form and meaning of certain language items in input, this will contribute to the internalization and learning.
  • Proponents of "noticing" argue that it is only when language is "noticed" that it will be acquired, in contrast with the views of eg Krashen (see The Input Hypothesis) , who argues that receptive exposure is sufficient and that processing will be non-conscious.
  • Examples : 
  1. If language items are highlighted in a text they are more likely to be "noticed" than otherwise as the highlighting makes them more "salient"
  2. Guided discovery activities are intended to promote "noticing".  By making the learners work out rules for themselves, these activities may result in deeper cognitive processing of the material to be learnt than if the learners are simply "told" the rules by the teacher or coursebook.
  3. Associating language with emotion and personal experience can help provide the depth of cognitive processing necessary for "noticing". This is the rationale behind many personalisation activities Eg: if learners have been studying expressing likes and dislikes, they may be asked to think back to when they were at school and tell their partner about one thing they loved doing, one thing they hated doing, and one that they liked/enjoyed doing.  They can also tell their partners if they felt the same way as them (A: I hated studying maths when I was at school / B : Oh I didn't mind doing maths, in fact I enjoyed it. But I loathed doing sports

Further Reading

Batstone, R, Noticing  (ELTJ)
Cross, R.J. "Noticing" in SLA : Is it a valid concept?  (TESL- EJ)
Noonan, F. Teaching ESL students to "notice" grammar  (ITESLJ)
Schmidt, R. Attention, awareness, and individual differences in language  learning

Related Reading

Batstone discusses "noticing" at further length in his book  Grammar (OUP)