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Language learning and gaze in text-based interaction

The main aim of the current project is to develop methods for analyzing language learners’ verbalized and non-verbalized noticing (Markee 2000, Schmidt 1990) of grammar and vocabulary, through a combination of interactional and psycholinguistic approaches. At a more detailed level, the project aims to investigate the relationship between teachers’ corrective feedback strategies and learners’ signs of noticing. In the project, learners of English interact with future or practicing teachers of English in Synchronous Computer-Mediated-Communication (SCMC). The particular affordances of SCMC allow for a combination of an interactional analysis of the emerging conversation and an analysis of the individuals’ focus of attention in relation to linguistic content and form, primarily through the employment of eye tracking and keystroke logging equipment (cf. Smith 2010). After the interactive task, data for triangulation is collected. It is suggested that the proposed novel setup can be used to evaluate the effects of different types of interactive teaching strategies on learners’ language awareness.

Schmidt (1990) introduces the concept of noticing, and argues that “[i]n order to overcome errors, learners must make conscious comparisons between their own output and target language input.” (Schmidt 2010:4) Research on classroom interaction has seen verbalized repair from the learner as a sign of noticing (cf. Markee 2000). However, it has also been suggested that it would be unnatural to always verbalize noticing through repair (Aston 1986). From this follows that not every aspect of noticing will be verbalized in interaction, and that learning might take place without being made explicit. The current project will result in suggestions for how interactional and psycholinguistic perspectives on noticing and language learning can be combined, something which is difficult to accomplish by focusing on regular classroom interaction.

This presentation will focus on study design and potentially relevant gaze patterns. It is argued that noticing in text-based language learning, and especially re-identifying previous errors after corrective feedback, involves similar processes as those investigated in global text processing (cf. e.g. Hyönä et al. 2003) and in the inconsistency paradigm (cf. e.g. Rinck et al. 2003), and the specific measures in focus here are scan path sequences and lookback/second-pass fixation times. The presentation will also include a discussion concerning the sometimes complex methodological considerations that are part of combining interactional and psycholinguistic perspectives, as well as qualitative and quantitative analyses.


Aston, G. 1986. Trouble-shooting in interaction with learners: The more the merrier? Applied Linguistics, 7: 128-143.

Hyönä, J., Lorch, R. F. & Rinck, M. 2003. Eye Movement Measures to Study Global Text Processing. In Radach, R., Hyönä, J & Deubel, H. (eds.), The Mind's Eye. Cognitive and Applied Aspects of Eye Movement Research. Amsterdam: Elsevier: 313-334.

Markee, N. 2000. Conversation Analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Rinck, M., Gámez, E., Díaz, J.M. & De Vega, M. 2003. Processing of Temporal Information. Evidence from Eye Movements. Memory & Cognition, 31(1): 77-86.

Schmidt, R. 1990. The Role of Consciousness in Second Language Learning. Applied Linguistics, 11: 129-158.

Schmidt, R. 2010. Attention, awareness, and individual differences in language learning. In Chan, W. M. et al. (eds.), Proceedings of CLaSIC 2010, Singapore: 721-737.

Smith, B. 2010. Employing eye-tracking technology in researching the effectiveness of recasts in CMC. In Hult, F. M. (ed.), Directions and prospects for educational linguistics. New York: Springer: 79-97.