I think that education is a communicative process and as such teachers and students communicates verbally and non-verbally. But, "very few teachers are trained in understanding the nonverbal cues of their students or, indeed, aware of the nonverbal signs they themselves communicate" (Catt, 3). The aims of this essay is to analyze the importance of nonverbal communication in teaching by analyzing the nonverbal messages conveyed by teachers, students and the classroom.
Firstly, the environment of teaching is analyzed. I consider that the place where teaching takes places affects learning. Although teaching takes place in different parts of the school such as the computer room, gym... , students spent most of the time in the classroom. The organization of the classroom, the colors, the furniture â€¦ are very important and influence students' learning. Normally classrooms are painted in soft colors such as blue or white due to their association with calm and harmony. It is important to have a relaxed atmosphere where students feels comfortable and can develop intellectually and these colors favor this atmosphere. Another important aspect has to do with the organization of the classroom since it affects teaching. According to Neill and Caswell, "seating arrangements such us circle or horseshoes of chairs are often suggested for lesson where everybody in the class is actively involved" (p.26). But, these authors also point out that "Children's application and output of work improves when they are moved from table groups to rows" (p.30).
The nonverbal messages sent by teachers are also very important in teaching and they need to be analyzed. As Kachur says "a classroom teacher is observed closely by students every day, and her/his attitude, feelings, mood or state of mind, communicate non verbally, are interpreted and reacted to by the class" (p.1).Through their clothes, eye-contact, gestures, facial expressions, intonation, posture, position and movement teachers reinforce their verbal explanation increasing an effectively learning.
One of the first things from which students elicits information from their teachers is the clothes and adornments they wear. It influences the vision that students have about their teachers. As I have observed, clothes can show authority, religious customs, social and economic situation. I have also notice that the way students addressed and related with their teachers depends on the clothes they wear. With teachers who wear a jacket and a tie, students maintain a more distant and formal relationship. However, with teachers who wear informal clothes, they normally maintain a closer relationship, as if the teacher is one of their friends.
Eye-contact is also used by teachers. As Neill and Caswell comment, "most classroom communication requires teacher and child to meet each other's eye, at least intermittently" (p.11). I have observed that teachers used it to indicate enthusiasm, warmth and interest. They also use it to control students and maintain order. When they wants an student to make an activity or answer a question they can indicate that through eye-contact instead of using words. Moreover, teachers use eye-contact to maintain the attention of students and to check if students understand the exercises or explanations. As it can be observed eye-contact is a very important part in the development of an effective and supportive environment and favors the communication between teachers and students.
The use of facial expressions are also an important part in the learning process. As I have observed, it indicates teachers' happiness and enthusiasm towards the subject they are imparting by showing a positive facial expression. If the expression is negative, it indicates that teachers dislikes what they are imparting. A positive face expression also serves to motivate students and to show them confidence and friendship by means, for example, of a wink or smile. Moreover, it indicates the moods and feelings of teachers and as a result it influences the behavior of students. If teachers have a good mood and it is reinforced with a happy expression, students will be more relaxed, they will speak more and the interaction between teachers and students will be more friendly and closer. However, if teachers have a sad expression or they are angry or upset, students will speak less and the atmosphere of the classroom will be uncomfortable and tense what is against the effectiveness of teaching. Face expressions are also used to support the explanations of a topic, to make it more interesting and to increase the attention of students by exaggerating facial expressions during the lessons.
Teachers also makes gestures and includes them in their explanation and interaction with students. As I have observed gestures indicate enthusiasm, motivation, superiority and they are also used to get students' attention. Sometimes, teachers use gestures to give instruction or to explain some parts of the lesson such us vocabulary. I have noticed that there are some standard gestures which are used for most teachers as the thumbs up gesture by which teachers indicate that something is good. But I also have noticed that teachers develop their own group of gestures to support their explanations. For example, my English teacher clapped his hands to indicate us that we had pronounced something very well.
Posture, position and movement constitute an integral part of the learning process. Posture, as I have noticed, is used to control the class and to show superiority, enthusiasm and interest. As an example I will cite the posture in which my teacher of sport seated when we have to remain in the classroom due to the rain. He laid down in the armchair with his feet over the desk and with his arms behind his head. With that posture he indicated that he was the person who dominates the classroom. The position and movement of teachers plays an important role in teaching too. Normally, teachers are in front of the classroom. It allows them to control better the class and to observe that everyone is doing the activities. Moreover, the blackboard is situated in that position and when teachers are explaining something, all students can see all the gestures and tools teachers use in their explanation. But, sometimes, teachers move around the class. As Robertson comments,"a teacher can move around a classroom without restriction but, even so, there are some regions that tend to be used a great deal more than others [â€¦] Teachers should, therefore, be able to be at ease when moving around the classroom. The personal space and territory of pupils should be treated with respect". (p.21-22). As I have noticed, they move to help or to correct students. Teachers also move to observe if all students are doing the exercises and to check if the students have any problems with the activities. For example my teacher of pronunciation approached a particular student when he wanted him/her to read aloud some fragment. But teachers have to know that "personal distance influences the intensity of a relationship or of a communication within a relationship" (Neill and Caswell 10). So, if teachers "approach pupils more closely, they will be more warmed [â€¦] or hurt" by the teacher's appraisal or criticism respectively. (Neill and Caswell, 10).
Intonation is very important in the management of the class and in the effectiveness of teachers. It is used to gain the control of the class when there is a huge stir and it "can convey enthusiasm, authority" (Neill and Caswell, 10). Teachers use intonation to support their explanation. It "plays a major role in stressing the main and subsidiary elements of an explanation or argument"(Neill and Caswell, 10). It is obvious that intonation varies depending on the type of activity. For example, if the activity is for the whole class teachers speak loudly, however, if teachers speak to a particular student or to an small group, teachers speak in a low voice. I think that it is very important that teachers vary their intonation to avoid boredom and monotony and to maintain the attention and interest of students since as Neil and Caswell says "effective teachers have animated intonation" (p.12). For example if the teacher is reading a dialogue, it would be a good idea to change the intonation according to the different characters of the dialogue. It is also a good idea to change from one activity to other by changing the intonation.
As we can see, the nonverbal messages send by the teacher are very important in the learning process. But teachers also have to focus their attention in the nonverbal messages sent by students since they are a helpful tool to improve teachers' effectiveness. The nonverbal messages that teachers can infer from students have a great influence upon their teaching program since they can made teachers to deviate or to change completely the program they had designed previously. For example, when teachers are explaining a topic and they observed in their students' faces that they are confused and lost, teachers have to explain it again or to change their way of explanation although it means, for example, not to explain another exercise. But "there is some evidence that pupils adopt habitual expressions according to their ability, regardless of whether they actually understand what they are being told" (Neill ans Caswell, 56). Because of that teachers have to "bear in mind the manipulative effects, intentional or not, of pupils' signals". (Neill and Caswell, 56).
Teachers can elicit information from students through their gaze and eye contact, their face expressions, posture, gesture and voice. These nonverbal elements indicate enthusiasm, the feeling and state of mind of student, interest and boredom. For example, if one student is lied down over the desk, with his/her head resting on one of his/her hands the teacher can suppose that he/she is bored. These nonverbal elements also indicates if students are nervous or feel comfortable. For example, when a student has to speak in front of the classroom, they normally feel anguish and they are nervous. So, they tend to speak in a very low voice so that nobody hear them. They also speak very fast because they want to finish as soon as possible. By observing these nonverbal elements, teachers can also know if students understand what they are explaining or if they are completely lost. In this case, for example, students will have a confused face expression. Through these nonverbal elements teachers can also know if their students are lying about, for example, the reasons by which they did not do their homework. In this case they avoid eye-contact and they do not maintain a fixed gaze.
Teachers can also elicit information from student by observing the clothes they wear and the seat they occupy in the classroom. The clothes indicates the economic and social background of students. "In schools where children are allowed to come in their choice of clothes this can become an overriding obsession" (Neill and Caswell, 31). As an student I can say that students use clothes to have a higher esteem from their classmates. It is also important that teachers observe the place in which students are seated since they could know which students are friends and are more interested in the subject. As Neill and Caswell says, "children who sit at the front or in frontal positions are more involved than those on the periphery, distant from the teacher. Friends usually sit together if they are allowed to do so". (p.11).
As it can bee seen, nonverbal messages sent by students are very important and because of that, I think that even the first day teachers arrive the classroom, they observe their students at length and make some inferences about them. By observing the behavior of each student in this first day, teachers could know who are going to pay more attention and who are going to be more absentminded. These observations are only indications, later teachers will see if their inferences are correct.
Along this analysis, it can be seen that nonverbal communication plays a very important role in the communication between teacher and students. As Neill and Caswell says, "the success or failure of any lesson will hinge on the effective use of the communication skill" (p.3). Teachers have to be aware of that since by improving their nonverbal abilities of perceiving and sending nonverbal messages, they will improve the communication in the classroom and also the effectiveness and productivity of their lessons.