Instruction which draws learner attention to form in meaning-centred activities is often referred to as
focus onform (FonF) (Long, 1991). It is considered a potentially useful means of helping learners to
acquire L2 forms, since it can promote the noticing oflinguistic gaps between their output and the target
language, which is regarded as a necessary condition for L2 development (Schmidt, 1994a). Among
the most extensively studied L2 features are English interrogatives (Mackey, 1999; Mackey & Oliver,
2002; Mackey & Philp, 1998; McDonougjh, 2005; Silver, 1999, 2000; Spada & Lightbown, 1993).
These studies have shown the benefit of FonF instruction in learners' advancement in developmental
stage, but most research to date has been conducted in experimental conditions and has focused mainly
on the effect of intensive corrective feedback on learners' nontarget-like L2 use by a native speaker in
one-to-one conversations; few attempts have been made to examine effective ways of implementing
FonF instruction in typically large EFL classes, where such feedback is difficult to provide.
This study aims to fill this gap and explores the potential ofteachers' creating opportunities for noticing
tine gap through dialogical interaction between learners. To this end, a pedagogical option, a
noticing-promotion approach, was employed, intended to encourage learners to take an active role both
in noticing gaps and in assisting their partner by scaffolding replies to notice and self-correct mistakes.
The instruction consisted of four sessions, including explicit teaching of one or two pre-selected
structures and noticing tasks (dictogloss and information-gap) with a modelling video performed by a
learner dyad; this approach, therefore, represents a compromise between FonF and traditional
presentation-practice-production instruction, with a strong leaning towards the latter, though not as far as
FonFT as defined by Long (1991). A pretest and two posttests design was used to measure the
sustained effect over 6-7 weeks. Oral performance data collected in two communicative tasks from 48
Japanese students was used to examine individuals' change in developmental stage in relation to their
readiness to learn the target rules; the results were compared with those from a comparison group
(N=12). In addition, the study explored through questionnaires learners' perceptions oftheir gains and
ofthe usefulness ofthis type ofinstruction.
Results indicate that this noticing-promotion approach was effective in helping learners who were ready
to learn the target rule advance in developmental stage and to fill gaps in their L2 development.
Moreover, learners' self-reports showed that the instruction was beneficial, not only in motivating many
ready students to carry on using the target rules beyond the treatment sessions, but also in helping them
become better 'noticers' and users of the target rules both inside and outside the classroom.