Noticing and second language acquisition: Studies in honor of Richard Schmidt

This volume celebrates the life and groundbreaking work of Richard Schmidt, the developer of the influential Noticing Hypothesis in the field of second language acquisition. The 19 chapters encompass a compelling collection of cutting­edge research studies exploring such constructs as noticing, attention, and awareness from multiple perspectives, which expand, fine tune, sometimes support, and sometimes challenge Schmidt’s seminal ideas and take research on noticing in exciting new directions.

Contents

Chapter 1

View/download the Preface

Part One: Situating the Noticing Hypothesis in SLA

Chapter 2

Schmidt’s Noticing Hypothesis: More Than Two Decades After | Ronald P. Leow

This chapter succinctly and critically traces some major research trajectories that originated with Schmidt’s (1990) noticing hypothesis, from its theoretical underpinnings to empirical findings from several strands of research premised upon it, to the thorny issue of the operationalization and measurement of attention and (levels of) awareness (together with the accompanying methodological issue of reactivity), to the role of unawareness in SLA. The chapter provides some reflections on Schmidt’s noticing hypothesis from theoretical, methodological, and terminological perspectives. 

Chapter 3 

Noticing and L2 Development: Theoretical, Empirical, and Pedagogical Issues | Shinichi Izumi

Noticing is claimed to be an important psychological process by which second language (L2) learners convert input into intake for second language acquisition (SLA). Since Schmidt and Frota’s (1986) seminal paper in which the noticing hypothesis was first proposed, many empirical and theoretical papers have been published, all based on the assumption that noticing plays a central role in driving L2 development forward. Admitting the importance of noticing in SLA, however, what remains underexplored are the issues concerning how noticing may be related to overall SLA processes, beyond simply converting input into intake, which, as crucial as it may be, is no more than an initial step in the long process of L2 learning. To illuminate this area of SLA research, this paper first reexamines the notion of noticing in terms of different types of noticing and their relationships to overall SLA processes. It then takes up, by way of example, two key theoretical constructs proposed in the SLA literature—the U-shaped learning curve and developmental sequences—and examines how noticing may play differential roles at different points in IL development. By so doing, I hope to highlight some areas in need of further research on the relationship between noticing and long-term L2 development.

Chapter 4

Attention, Awareness, and Noticing in Language Processing and Learning | John N. Williams

This chapter reviews current psychological and applied linguistic research that is relevant to Schmidt’s landmark theoretical analysis of the concepts of attention, conscious awareness, and noticing. Recent evidence that attention and awareness are dissociable makes it possible to ask which of these constructs is required for either processing familiar stimuli or learning novel associations. There is good evidence for processing familiar stimuli without conscious awareness and even without attention. There is mounting evidence for learning without awareness at the level of understanding regularities, particularly when meaning is involved (semantic implicit learning). There is even some recent evidence for learning without awareness at the level of noticing form, for example, learning associations between subliminal and liminal words. Thus, whilst attention does appear to be necessary for learning, awareness might not be. It is suggested that future research should probe the types of regularity that can be learned without awareness and that this will shed more light on the nature of the underlying learning mechanism and permit an evaluation of its relevance to SLA.

Part Two: Observing and Enhancing Noticing

Chapter 5 

Recasts, Uptake, and Noticing | Rod Ellis & Nadia Mifka-Profozic

A key issue in the debate surrounding the effectiveness of recasts as a corrective feedback strategy concerns the extent to which learners (a) notice them, (b) identify them as corrective, and (c) pay attention to the specific forms that have been corrected. This chapter examines the extent to which uptake following a recast can be taken as evidence of noticing. It reports a study that investigated the effects of two types of implicit corrective feedback (recasts and clarification requests) on both uptake with repair and acquisition of a French verb tense (passé composé). The main findings were (a) 84.5% of the recasts were followed by uptake with repair, (b) there was no evidence that repairing errors was related to acquisition, (c) there was only limited evidence that learners who had the opportunity to repair their errors following recasts benefited more than those who just audited the recasts, and (d) those learners who produced uptake with repair following recasts outperformed those learners who produced uptake with repair following clarification requests. Overall, these findings suggest that it is the noticing of the target feature in the input provided by recasts rather than self-correction that is important for learning. It is suggested that in the instructional context investigated (French as a foreign language in high school) the recasts were highly salient to the learners and that the corrections of their passé composé errors were consistently noticed.

Chapter 6

Is Metalinguistic Stimulated Recall Reactive in Second Language Learning? | Takako Egi, Rebecca J. Adams, & Ana-María Nuevo

While the use of retrospective verbalizations has increased in second language interaction research (e.g., Egi, 2010; Kim & Han, 2007; Mackey, 2006; Tocalli- Beller & Swain, 2007), limited evidence exists about their reactivity (Egi, 2008; Lindgren & Sullivan, 2003) and in particular about metalinguistic verbalizations, which may lead to deeper processing that can enhance learning (Ericsson & Simon, 1993; Schmidt, 1995; Swain, 2005). The current study sought to clarify whether metalinguistic stimulated recall affected learning outcomes. Twenty-seven Japanese learners participated in a pretest/posttest study with three groups: non-metalinguistic stimulated recall, metalinguistic stimulated recall, and control. The results indicated non-significant differences among the groups, suggesting non-reactivity of metalinguistic and non-metalinguistic retrospective verbalizations.

Chapter 7

The Effects of L2 Learner Proficiency on Depth of Processing, Levels of Awareness, and Intake | Anne M. Calderón

Research probing deeper into Schmidt’s (1990) noticing hypothesis has not only empirically supported his postulation of different levels of awareness but also reported that higher levels of awareness appear correlated with higher amounts of intake (e.g., Leow, 1997; Rosa & Leow, 2004; Rosa & O’Neill, 1999). While previous studies have reported positive effects of learner proficiency on intake (Leow, 1993, 1995), only a handful of researchers have reported on the concept of depth of processing (e.g., Gass, Svetics, & Lemelin, 2003; Qi & Lapkin, 2001; Shook, 1994), and there have been no definitive findings. Whether learner proficiency plays a role in depth of processing, level of awareness, and amount of intake clearly warrants further investigation. To this end, the current study investigated the relationships between learner proficiency, depth of processing, levels of awareness, and learners’ intake of linguistic items contained in aural input. Participants were 24 L1 English learners of university-level first- and third-semester Spanish who were exposed to an aural passage in Spanish and then performed off-line concurrent verbal reports during a multiple-choice sentence completion immediate posttest. The verbal reports measured depth of processing and levels of awareness while the multiple-choice sentence completion posttest measured intake. Although results of a repeated measures ANOVA revealed that there were no significant main effects for proficiency, intermediate participants showed more awareness at both levels of awareness than did low proficiency participants, and the intermediate group also had significantly lower depth of processing. Furthermore, there were positive relationships in the low proficiency group between high depth of processing and not only both levels of awareness but also intake. In the intermediate group there were significant positive relationships between high depth of processing and both awareness at the level of noticing and intake. Results of the current study support Schmidt’s postulation regarding the role of awareness and levels of awareness in L2 intake. Findings also suggest that depth of processing is facilitative at the intake stage of L2 Spanish development but that awareness is even more important. The roles that these two variables play seem to depend on learner proficiency.

Chapter 8

The Effects of Aural Input Enhancement on L2 Acquisition | Minyoung Cho & Hayo Reinders

Input enhancement involves attempts to direct the learner’s attention to specific linguistic forms in target language input (Sharwood Smith, 1993). One way to do this is by manipulating the input in order to attract learners’ attention to the target feature, for example, by underlining or bolding it or by artificially increasing its frequency in the input (an input flood). A number of studies have investigated the effects of enriched input (e.g., Jourdenais, Ota, Stauffer, Boyson, & Doughty, 1995; Reinders & Ellis, 2009; Trahey & White, 1993; White, 1998). Although there is some evidence that enriched input can affect L2 acquisition of certain grammatical features, the results are not conclusive. Furthermore, previous studies have been limited to textual input enrichment. In this chapter we investigated the effects of aural input enhancement, a type of input enhancement that to the best of our knowledge has not been reported on before. Participants in the study were given an audiobook to listen to outside of class in which passive structures had been manipulated by 1) artificially increasing the volume slightly of the target items or by 2) slowing down the speed with which the target items were read out. A control group listened to the audiobooks in their original form. The repeated-measures ANOVA analysis showed no significant effect for the manipulated input on acquiring the target form. We discuss some possible reasons for this finding.

Chapter 9

Instruction in Support of Noticing: An Empirical Study of EFL in Brazil | Sylvia Nagem Frota & Joara M. Bergsleithner

Schmidt’s (1990) noticing hypothesis, the claim that learners have to consciously notice instances of the constructions of a second language in input in order to acquire them, was initially based on his personal experiences learning Portuguese as an L2 in Brazil (Schmidt & Frota, 1986). In that study Schmidt and Frota reported several findings concerning the relationships among instruction, noticing, and learning. Although instruction itself did not guarantee acquisition, classroom instruction was nevertheless useful, both directly, in the sense that constructions taught and drilled in the language class sometimes appeared almost immediately in the learner’s output, and indirectly, often serving a priming function so that structures that were taught in class were subsequently noticed when encountered in communicative input. The study reported in this chapter investigates this priming function of instruction, asking whether undergraduate English majors at a Brazilian university are more likely to notice instances of a specific target structure (pre-modified English nouns) in written input after receiving explicit instruction about such structures. After completing a short pretest to determine whether these participants were already sensitive to the occurrence of pre-modified nouns (which are common in English but rare in Portuguese), they received explicit instruction on these English structures. Recognition tests administered immediately after the treatment and again two weeks later were used to assess whether their sensitivity to the occurrence of such structures was enhanced by the treatment. The hypothesis that instruction would lead to enhanced noticing was largely supported, although limitations of the study are acknowledged and some suggestions for future research are proposed.

Chapter 10

Investigating Relationships Among Noticing, Working Memory Capacity, and Accuracy in L2 Oral Performance | Joara M. Bergsleithner & Mailce Borges Mota

This study investigates how noticing of L2 instances in input relates to working memory capacity (WMC) and to grammatical accuracy in L2 oral tasks. Participants were 30 Brazilian adult learners of English who were required to perform several tasks, which aimed at assessing: (a) noticing instances of formal aspects of indirect questions (the target structure), (b) WMC, and (c) grammatical accuracy of the target structure when used in oral performance. The results reveal that there is a statistically significant relationship among the noticing of formal features of the target structure, WMC, and grammatical accuracy in L2 oral performance. Together, the results can be taken as evidence that learners are more prone to noticing L2 formal aspects if they have a larger WMC and, as a consequence, are also able to perform their L2 speech more accurately.

Chapter 11

Nurturing Noticing | Peter Skehan

This chapter1 discusses the relationship between task-based instruction and the concept of noticing. First of all, noticing is related to stages of second language development. A broad distinction is made between stages concerned with development and change in the language system and then growth of control or expertise. In this second area a distinction is made between control over the system (i.e., development of procedural knowledge) and development of nativelikeness. The chapter then discusses task-based approaches and analyses how task choice and also task conditions can be related to noticing and how noticing can be related to the stages of development and control/ nativelikeness. It is argued that attentional capacity and also selective attention within task performance have an important role to play in whether noticing is enhanced and capitalised upon. The final section explores the potential for post-task pedagogic activity to nurture noticing. It is argued that the most significant function of tasks is to make noticing more likely to occur, but that noticing in itself has to be nurtured carefully if it is to be enduring in its impact. A variety of ways in which this nurturing can take place through post-task activity are discussed.

Part Three: Keeping a Close Eye on Noticing

Chapter 12 

What Do Eye Movements Tell Us About Awareness? A Triangulation of Eye-Movement Data, Verbal Reports, and Vocabulary Learning Scores | Aline Godfroid & Jens Schmidtke

Common wisdom suggests that paying attention is an effective way to acquire new information. In the area of second language acquisition (SLA), Schmidt argued that attention facilitates learning because it leads to noticing, which he defined as the conscious registration of some surface element of language (Schmidt, 1995, 2012). This study triangulates distinct measures of attention and awareness—namely, eyemovement recordings and verbal reports—to elucidate the differential contributions of these two mechanisms to receptive vocabulary learning. Advanced EFL learners read 20 English paragraphs embedded with 12 novel pseudowords for meaning, while an eye-tracker recorded their eye movements. Participants’ ability to recognize the pseudowords in context was tested on a surprise posttest. After that, each participant took part in a post-task interview that measured her conscious recollection of reading each of the 12 target words. Results showed that both a participant’s total fixation time on the pseudoword and her recollection of reading the word predicted word recognition. Furthermore, words for which participants reported autonoetic awareness (i.e., retrieval of an episodic memory) were fixated significantly longer than words with reported noetic awareness (i.e., a sense of familiarity) or no awareness. When both fixation times and awareness levels were entered into a single regression model, the awareness codings sufficed to predict word recognition scores. These findings suggest that attention (looking at a word) induced awareness (encoding the what, where, or when of a processing episode), which was itself a strong predictor of vocabulary learning.

Chapter 13

Observing Noticing While Reading in L2 | Daphnée Simard & Denis Foucambert

In the present study,1 the effect of textual enhancement (TE) on noticing was investigated taking into account three individual differences, i.e., attentional capacity, reading skills in L1 and in L2, and individual sensitivity to TE. Noticing was measured through eye movements and answers to a retrospective questionnaire. Results showed that TE induced more noticing as measured by eye movements than the unenhanced control condition. Results also showed that only attentional capacity was significantly linked to noticing and that attentional capacity was in interaction with the language in which TE was presented to the participants (L1 or L2). More specifically, participants with a lower attentional capacity fixated longer on the enhanced condition presented in their L2. Finally, the off-line measure of noticing was not in interaction with any of the online measures of noticing or individual differences.

Chapter 14

Coming Eye-to-Eye with Noticing | Patti Spinner, Susan Gass, & Jennifer Behney

An important issue in the SLA literature is the role of attention and noticing in learning. This study investigates noticing of morphophonology and syntax in an attempt to understand what precisely learners attend to as they sort out issues of gender agreement. This study uses eye-tracking methodology to investigate the extent to which 20 second-semester English-speaking learners of Italian notice syntactic and/ or morphophonological information when determining appropriate gender marking on adjectives. Learners completed a forced-choice task in which they selected the appropriate form of predicate adjectives. We measured eye fixations on the article and on the noun ending as learners made decisions about gender marking. Results showed that there was equal attention paid to nouns and articles: learners looked equally at nouns and articles, which suggests that they are able to use both kinds of cues to determine noun gender. This was the case even in those instances in which noun endings did not provide needed information or with unfamiliar (pseudo) nouns which lack any gender specification in the learners’ lexicons. This finding supports the notion that learners actively look for relevant information regarding gender wherever they can find it.

Part Four: Beyond Noticing

Chapter 15 

Implicit and Explicit Knowledge of Form-Meaning Connections: Evidence From Subjective Measures of Awareness | Patrick Rebuschat, Phillip Hamrick, Rebecca Sachs, Kate Riestenberg, & Nicole Ziegler

Two recent studies on the possibility of learning form-meaning connections without awareness (Hama & Leow, 2010; Williams, 2005) reached contradictory conclusions. This conceptual replication and extension clarifies the differences in their results by adding subjective measures of awareness, namely confidence ratings and source attributions (Rebuschat, 2008). Experimental participants were exposed to sentences of a semi-artificial language consisting of English words and four artificial determiners (gi, ro, ul, ne). Participants were told the determiners encoded distance (near/far) but were not told about a hidden regularity involving animacy. Trained control subjects were exposed to the same sentences and instructions, but determiner animacy was randomized. On a posttest with new sentences, participants had to choose determiners from two options differing only in animacy. In addition, they also had to indicate the basis of each test response (guess, intuition, memory, rule) and their confidence (on a 4-point scale), allowing us to assess the conscious or unconscious status of their structural knowledge (of content) and judgment knowledge (knowing that they knew). Our results showed that the experimental group significantly outperformed the trained controls in terms of overall accuracy. The analysis of the subjective measures of awareness further showed that, while participants were aware of having acquired knowledge, they were at least partially unaware of what knowledge they had acquired. In other words, incidental exposure had resulted in the acquisition of both conscious (explicit) and unconscious (implicit) knowledge. These results are consistent with previous studies using subjective measures to investigate the implicit and explicit learning of novel words (e.g., Hamrick & Rebuschat, 2012, in press) and L2 syntax (e.g., Rebuschat, 2008; Rebuschat & Williams, 2012). The results also demonstrate the benefit of employing subjective measures of awareness and of utilizing trained control groups.

Chapter 16

Implicit Second Language Learning and Individual Differences | Daniel O. Jackson

The purpose of this chapter is twofold. It reviews the literature on learning second languages in the absence of awareness, and it explores evidence concerning the potential roles of cognitive, experiential, and other differences in such learning. The first section presents a narrative review of 19 empirical reports on implicit second language learning, focusing on the linguistic features claimed to be learnable without awareness. In the second section, theoretical links between implicit learning and attention are outlined, and individual difference variables, including general intelligence, language experience, working memory, and personality, among others, are considered in terms of their possible roles in implicit learning. The conclusion draws the above strands together, based on Schmidt’s recent commentary on noticing, awareness, and individual differences.

Chapter 17

A Cognitive Neuroscientific Approach to Studying the Role of Awareness in L2 Learning | Lester C. Loschk & Michael Harrington

Schmidt (1990, 1995) proposed a seminal theory of the role of awareness in second language (L2) learning, distinguishing two levels of awareness, noticing, argued to be necessary for L2 learning, and understanding, which was not. This theory has framed subsequent debate on the role of awareness in L2 learning, and the phrase noticing the gap has entered the common lexicon of L2 researchers. However, while Schmidt’s distinction suggests hypotheses that are in principle testable, in practice, thorny difficulties have impeded progress. Theoretical difficulties arise in drawing the line between noticing and understanding, and methodological problems relate to the use of verbal protocols as the measure of understanding. Verbal protocols have created difficulties because measuring understanding depends on both how articulate the learner is and what the rater’s definition of understanding is. We concur with Truscott and Sharwood Smith (2011) that one cannot non-arbitrarily distinguish between noticing and understanding and suggest that progress can be made by combining both under the heading of awareness. We also suggest that a better approach to measuring awareness is to use the cognitive neurophysiological approach of measuring event-related potentials (ERPs) while learners perform grammaticality judgment tasks (GJTs), together with behavioral measures of GJT sensitivity. If that approach is combined with provision of explicit or implicit feedback on each trial, one can observe differential awareness and differential learning within a single experiment. We briefly review recent studies that have investigated online L2 processing of grammatical violations using ERPs and shown evidence for both conscious and unconscious processing of such violations, as well as ERP studies of learners’ online conscious and unconscious processing of their own response errors. By using the above methods, we believe it is possible to trace the trajectory of both implicit and explicit learning, to determine the role of awareness in L2 learning. However, based on the available evidence, we conclude that awareness is not necessary but is clearly facilitative of L2 learning.

Chapter 18

The Task at Hand: Noticing as a Mind–Body–World Phenomenon | Christine M. Jacknick & Scott Thornbury

As originally conceptualised, noticing in SLA is essentially a cognitive process, implicating the learner’s conscious and limited attentional resources. On the other hand, a sociocognitive perspective recognises that language use and learning “have both a social and cognitive dimension which interact” (Batstone, 2010). This relationship is a dynamic one, as learners continuously adapt to and align themselves with the (socio–cultural–linguistic) environment. Hence, noticing is not simply the unidirectional focusing of cognitive faculties on external phenomena; rather, it is adaptive, reciprocal, and motivated. The present study aims to locate and describe noticing as an externalized and collaborative focusing of attention, mediated through speech, gesture, and proxemics and argues for a more situationally-embedded and socially-constructed conceptualization of cognitive processes like noticing.

Chapter 19

Noticing and Mediation: A Sociocultural Perspective | Riikka Alanen

The role of consciousness in human activity has preoccupied a great number of scholars in philosophy, psychology and education, including the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky. In cognitively oriented applied linguistics, the role of consciousness in second language learning has likewise been hotly debated. Schmidt’s proposal in 1990 that some form of conscious noticing is necessary for second language acquisition to take place offered researchers a new way of approaching the issue. It also created a great deal of controversy and scrutiny of the key construct: what exactly is noticing? Does it have a role at all in implicit second language learning or is it mainly relevant for metalinguistic knowledge as Truscott (1998) claimed? In this article I will approach the notion of noticing from a neo-Vygotskian sociocultural perspective, focusing on what noticing might be and how it is linked to the powerful, all-pervasive mechanism of mediation in Vygotskian tradition. Finally, I will critically examine the current state of research, which is dominated by the need to separate the implicit from the explicit, the unconscious and the conscious in the study of second language acquisition processes. On the one hand, scientific rigor demands such a division. On the other hand, it may result in a skewed view of the processes of language use and learning: language users / learners are fundamentally conscious, intentional agents in whose actions, including the use and learning of other languages, the conscious and the unconscious are always intertwined.

Tagged as 2010-2014 research