Self-directed okay in mathematics lectures

Stephen Daniel Looney*, Dingding Jia, Daisuke Kimura

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This article investigates the inter-personal and intra-personal functions of the discourse marker (DM) okay in sequences of self-directed talk during university Mathematics lectures. This article takes a conversation analytic approach to the use of okay in the self-directed talk of three graduate students giving Mathematics lectures at a U.S university. While research focuses on okay almost exclusively as a transition, our microanalysis reveals that self-directed okay appears in three general locations and functions intra-personally to direct the teachers’ attention and inter-personally to mark transitions, to open self-repair sequences, and to verbalize thought processes in sections of discourse in which the lecturer is using non-verbal resources to emphasize information or demonstrating how to do math, which we call pedagogically-directed talk. By using self-directed okay, the three instructors focus their own attention while giving their students insight to their cognitive processes, emphasizing key information, and maintaining joint attention to the interactive practice of the university lecture at a point when student attention could become diverted from the task at hand. Findings suggest that self-directed okay is not merely a transition but concurrently serves critical intra- and inter-personal functions and that resources like self-directed okay should be taught as instructional practices for novice teachers in teacher preparation programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-59
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jan 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Classroom discourse
  • Conversation analysis
  • Discourse markers
  • Self-directed talk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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