The Power of Noticing
Observation is important when thinking about learning in any context - watching how understanding, epiphanies and other learning experiences take place, where and when. Observation in itself, is part of learning.
We under-estimate the power of noticing. Noticing is part of investigating or observing. It can either happen when we aren't expecting it or while we consciously look for something. We see, hear, touch, taste or smell something and "take note". We file a new piece of information away, or we put another piece of a jigsaw puzzle in place. It's happening constantly, all day, every day (we hope). When we stop mindfully registering the world around us, either we know everything, or we have grown so tired and weary, beaten down or oppressed that we look but don't see.
A personal observation of noticing I can talk about is how my daughter has taken to reading in English having learnt to read in Spanish first. Without much direction, I leave her to read when she wants. When she stumbles over words it's my natural inclination to jump in and correct. If I hold back, I have noticed how her young brain is making learning happen all by itself, uninterrupted. I see her eye dart around and make sense of new words in context: deducing what she sees in a picture and adding the strange looking word in front of her to the English word in her head she has auditory experience of it. It's fascinating to watch unfold.
"Noticing" forms part of teaching approaches and materials driven by discovery learning and is talked about by Scott Thornbury in his book "Teaching Unplugged". Giving room for noticing to happen means giving learners space to think. This is tricky in today's world. The mantra of marketers, visual and information designers is "Don't make me think". We're all getting lazy. In fact if you made it this far into the article, you're doing well. ;P
Jumping in and giving our learners the answers instead of letting learning breath and grow in the silent spaces, cuts into an organic learning process that is deeper and more solid than spoon feeding.
If noticing as a learning approach is new to you, we look at the idea of noticing in Module One of the TEFL Preparation Course in the context of learner centredness.