Teacher self-talk: Interactional resource for managing instruction and eliciting empathy

Joan Kelly Hall, Tetyana Smotrova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


This study reveals the significant role of teacher self-talk in managing classroom interaction during unplanned moments of instruction and in building affective teacher-student relationships. We examined 24. hours of video-recordings collected from nine university level courses: three upper level ESL courses; one undergraduate linguistics course; a split-level undergraduate/graduate course and four graduate courses, all broadly related to the topic of applied linguistics. Drawing on conversation analytic methods, we present a detailed analysis of five examples of teacher self-talk. Findings suggest that the practice of teacher self-talk, accomplished via specific prosodic cues, eye gaze direction, and body positioning, plays a significant role in managing the moments when aspects of the pedagogical task need to be monitored or adjusted. By making the students aware of the teacher's predicament, self-talk helps to maintain the instructional space while trouble is being resolved by keeping students' focus on the instructional task. Moreover, teacher self-talk acts as an affordance for eliciting self-initiated empathetic responses from students. The findings confirm the importance of examining how unplanned classroom moments are accomplished in talk-in-interaction, and reveal how practices like self-talk, which may appear on the surface be slight or unimportant, in fact make significant contributions to teaching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-92
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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