“You don’t need me shouting here”: When instructors observe learners in silence

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The instruction of embodied skills often involves pair-like sequences consisting of an instructor’s directive to perform an embodied action and a learner’s (attempted) bodily performance of that action. This study explores the organization of such sequences in horse-riding lessons. Whereas in most of the studied data, learners’ performances of instructed actions are accompanied by continuing instructor talk, this study focuses on those rarer occasions when instructors observe learners in silence. The data show that silent observation often occurs at the beginning of an instructional sequence and also during instructed activities that are preparatory, operational, or otherwise not under evaluation. Instructors can abandon their initial silence when local events call for verbal support, showing that learners’ embodied actions are continuously susceptible to verbal commentary. In addition to silence, instructors also use embodied conduct to demarcate instruction and compliance and to position themselves as scrutinizing observers. The data are in British English.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-192
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2024


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