Communication in general is process of sending and receiving messages that enables humans to share knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Although we usually identify communication with speech, communication is composed of two dimensions - verbal and nonverbal.


Nonverbal communication has been defined as communication without words. It includes apparent behaviors such as facial expressions, eyes, touching, and tone of voice, as well as less obvious messages such as dress, posture and spatial distance between two or more people.


“Everything communicates,” including material objects, physical space, and time systems. Although verbal output can be turned off, nonverbal cannot.  Even silence speaks.


No matter how one can try, one cannot not communicate. Activity or inactivity, words or silence all have message value: they influence others and these others, in turn, cannot not respond to these communications and are thus themselves communicating.


He who has eye to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore.


Commonly, nonverbal communication is learned shortly after birth and practiced and refined throughout a person’s lifetime. Children first learn nonverbal expressions by watching and imitating, much as they learn verbal skills.

Young children know far more than they can verbalize and are generally more adept at reading nonverbal cues than adults are because of their limited verbal skills and their recent reliance on the nonverbal to communicate. As children develop verbal skills, nonverbal channels of communication do not cease to exist although become entwined in the total communication process.

Humans use nonverbal communication because:


  1. Words have limitations: There are numerous areas where nonverbal communication is more effective than verbal (when explain the shape, directions, personalities are expressed nonverbally)
  2. Nonverbal signal are powerful: Nonverbal cues primary express inner feelings (verbal messages deal basically with outside world).
  3. Nonverbal message are likely to be more genuine: because nonverbal behaviors cannot be controlled as easily as spoken words.
  4. Nonverbal signals can express feelings inappropriate to state: Social etiquette limits what can be said, but nonverbal cues can communicate thoughts.
  5. A separate communication channel is necessary to help send complex messages: A speaker can add enormously to the complexity of the verbal message through simple nonverbal signals.





Researches in communication suggest that many more feelings and intentions are sent and received nonverbally than verbally. Mehrabian and Wienerfollowing suggested that only 7% of message is sent through words, with remaining 93% sent nonverbal expressions (depending on author, verbal part goes up to 35%).






Nonverbal communication in classroom


Nonverbal communication is also a critical aspect of interpersonal communication in the classroom. The most credible messages teachers generate, as communication sources are nonverbal.


Galloway views educators as “multi-sensory organisms who only occasionally talk.”

Balzer  reported that approximately 75% of classroom management behavior was nonverbal.

Smith noted that teachers’ nonverbal behaviors are for students signs of the psychological state of the teacher.

Rosenthal and Jacobson’s “Teacher Expectations for the Disadvantaged” suggested that, through nonverbal behavior, teachers’ expectations for the progress of their students become self-fulfilling prophecies.


Many of the cues students use to make judgments about teacher’s competence or characters are obtained by observing the teacher’s nonverbal behavior.


From my own experience, as a student and as a teacher, I know that there is variety of nonverbal signals emitted from teacher in classroom which to deepest levels influence classroom atmosphere, students moods, perception, learning and eventually attitudes towards knowledge and school generally.

On the other hand teacher has powerful tool to identify what is actually going on with his class in general and each individual per se, without any word being said.

This is extremely important in lecture like classes when teacher is primarily supposed to talk.

Verbal signals (in direct communication) are never so powerful.

Yet, nonverbal signals are much more difficult to capture, describe and rationally explain because we necessarily have to use words to do that and words are not enough fine and precise tool for this (similar as they are not for describing pictures).

So one who wants to learn how to control nonverbal signals and behavior in order to teach more effectively finds many difficulties on this way.

Besides problem with describing those behaviors, there is cultural problem with interpreting them, can be amazingly quick and subtle, most often are unconscious, but most importantly - they are valid only if genuine.

Here we have blessing and curse of nonverbal signalization. We cannot pretend it but we can really change our attitudes and feelings in the way we would like them to be. This is real developing challenge.


But certainly there are things, which can be described and analyzed in this sense, and which can greatly add to our understanding of NVS.


Nonverbal communication in the classroom occurs with distance, physical environment, facial expression, vocal cues, body movements and gestures, touch, time, physical attractiveness, and dress. Each will be separately discussed.






Movements and gestures by the hands, arms, legs, and other parts of the body and face are the most pervasive types of nonverbal messages and the most difficult to control. It is estimated that there are over 200.000 physical signs capable of stimulating meaning in another person (some social scientists state even 700.000). For example, there are 23 distinct eyebrow movements, each capable of stimulating a different meaning.


Humans express attitudes toward themselves and vividly through body motions and posture. Bodies movements elucidate true messages about feeling that cannot be masked. Because such avenues of communication are visual, they travel much farther than spoken words and are unaffected by the presence of noise that interrupt, or cancels out speech. 


People communicate by the way they walk, stand, and sit. We tend to be more relaxed with friends or when addressing those of lower status.

Body orientation also indicates status or liking of the other individual. More direct orientation is related to a more positive attitude.


Body movements and postures alone have no exact meaning, but they can greatly support or reject the spoken word. It these two means of communication are dichotomized and contradict each other, some result will be a disordered image and most often the nonverbal will dominate.



Body movement and gesture in the classroom


The variety of ways in which teacher and students walk, stand, or sit can all affect interpersonal perception. The teacher who slouches or twitches when talking to students is not likely to be perceived as a composed person. Conversely, the teacher who always appears unruffled regardless of the circumstances is likely to be perceived as cold and withdrawn.


Body postures and movements are frequently indicators of self-confidence, energy, fatigue, or status. In the classroom, students keen to receive body message of enthusiasm or boredom about the subject matter being taught can sense confidence or frustration from the unconscious behaviors of teachers.














Observant teachers can also tell when students understand the content presented or when they have trouble grasping the major concepts. A student who is slouching in his seat sends a very different message than the student who learns forward or sits erect.




Cognitively, gestures operate to clarify, contradict, or replace verbal messages. Gestures also serve an important function with regard to regulating the flow of conversation. For example, if a student is talking in class, single nods of the head from the teacher will likely cause that student to continue and perhaps elaborate.




“I hope he would make

 up something good now”

“What a …!

And I have to stand behind him?!?”



“No, no. You misunderstood.”




Postures as well as gestures are used to indicate attitudes, status, affective moods, approval, deception, warmth, and other variables related to classroom interaction.


Ekman and Friesen (1967) have suggested that posture conveys gross or overall affect (liking), while specific emotions are communicated by more discreet, facial and body movements.








The saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” well describes the meaning of facial expression. Facial appearance - including wrinkles, muscle tone, skin coloration, and eye color-offers enduring cues that reveal information about age, sex, race, ethnic origin, and status.



Varieties of expressions


A less permanent second set of facial cues-including length of hair, hairstyle, cleanliness, and facial hair-relate to an individual’s idea of beauty. 


A third group of facial markers are momentary expressions that signal that cause changes in the forehead, eyebrows, eyelids, cheeks, nose, lips, and chin, such as raising the eyebrows, wrinkling the brow, curling the lip.


Some facial expressions are readily visible, while others are fleeting. Both types can positively or negatively reinforce the spoken word and convey cues concerning emotions and attitude.



Next to words the human face is the primary source of information for determining an individual’s internal feelings.



Face talks


Facial expressions may be unintentional or intentional.


The facial expression for fear is an example of an involuntary gesture - people generally do not think of how to move facial muscles when truly frightened.

Facial expressions can also be voluntary, as when an individual wants deliberately to hide feelings for different reasons


Often people try to hide feelings and emotions behind masks. The frown, jutting chin,  raise eyebrow, open mouth, and sneer are facial expressions that can betray and ultimately broadcast deception. All humans are capable of faking a happy or a sad face, a smile or a frown. I found interesting statement that the timing gives them away. They cannot determine how long to keep it or how quickly to let it go. Makes sense.




How much can we fake?






Facial expression in the classroom


All people and thus certainly teachers and students use facial expressions to form impressions of another. A cold hard stare has long been in the repertoire of teacher’s weapons. Similarly, a smile can be useful tool in reinforcing desired student behaviors (this time in affirmative way).


A teacher can also use student’s facial expressions as valuable sources of feedback.  When, for example, delivering a lecture, a teacher should use student’s expressions to determine whether or not to slow down, speed up, or in some other way modify his presentation.


Facial expression involves some of the smallest body movements, but its impact in the classroom may be greater than any other body language the teacher exhibits. The teacher probably communicates more accidentally by his or her facial expression than by any other means.


Scientists who study facial expression refer to “micro-momentary movements,” changes in expression that constantly occur in all human communicators and are usually so fleeting that it requires highly technical photography to be able to isolate them for study. However, as quickly as they pass across a person’s face, they are picked up by other people and produce responses.


This is the reason why, soon after taking nonverbal communication for final project I realized that I am in trouble J.


When teachers are responding to students, these changes in facial expression can serve as reinforces to the student or as non-reinforcers.  Unfortunately, the teacher normaly has very little control over such micro-momentary movements, but should be able to control more long-lasting expressions, such as smiles or frowns.



“How many birds in seven soft-boiled eggs?”


Smiles and grimace can therefore still be very effectively used in the classroom. But according researches, more commonly, teachers simply respond to the student without thinking what their nonverbal physical response may be communicating.


Often a teacher does not want to communicate what he or she is thinking to the student. While the teacher may not say that, his or her facial expression may communicate it very clearly.





The most dominant and reliable features of the face, the eyes, provide a constant channel of communication. They can be shifty and evasive; convey hate, fear, and guilt; or express confidence, love, and support.




Referred to as “mirrors of the soul,” the eye serve as the major decision factor in interpreting the spoken words.


The eyes of the man converse as much as their tongues, with the advantage that the ocular dialect needs no dictionary, but is understood, all the world over. When the eye say one thing, and the tongue another, a practiced man relies on eye.


Except for extremely shy individuals, most people look for social acceptance by studying the eyes of others.

Eyes also can accurately indicate a positive or a negative relationship. People tend to look longer and more often at those, whom they trust, respect and care about than at those whom they doubt or dislike.


Researches show that a speaker who looks at an audience is perceived as

Much more

And less

than the same person delivering the identical message while avoiding eye contact.


Normal eye dilation is not under control of the individual. But when looking at something pleasing, an individual’s pupil will measurably dilate; when viewing something displeasing, the pupils will constrict.

Personally characteristics such as introversion and extroversion also influence eye behavior.

Eye behavior in the classroom


Eye behavior seems to be particular importance and is generally used to indicate whether one is open to communication. This can be observed when a teacher asks the class a question: students who think they know the answer will generally look the teacher, while students who do not will usually try to avoid eye contact.


Visual contact with the instructor appears related to student’s comprehension. Jecker, Maccoby, and Breitrose isolated visual cues given by students which seemed associated with comprehension of lecture content and reported that teachers trained to recognize such cues became more accurate in their judgment of student comprehension that did untrained teachers.


The results of a study by Breed, Christiansen, and Larson suggest that visual contact with the instructor increases attentiveness, which in turn makes for better grades. Students in group who were looked at almost continuously by lecturer received higher quiz scores.


Exline (1971) reports that, in responses to a questionnaire, college students said they thought that they would be more comfortable with another who, when speaking, listening, and sharing mutual silence, looked at them 50% of time as opposed to 100% of the time or not at all.

I believe that only very self-confident, knowledgeable and attentive students will prefer 100% of eye contact time. Nobody is in this mood all the time and many are never. On the other hand 0% of time of eye contact would mean that speaker has great deal of trouble with self-confidence, knowledge or care for students.

This explains this result of 50% and it is the valuable information for teacher.


Eye contact is often used to control an interpersonal interaction. When people do not wish to be interrupted, they will often glance away and continue talking.

When they wish the other person to speak, they will pause, making direct eye contact.


Teachers often use eye contact in the classroom to decide who is prepared to answer a question, or who was completed a homework assignment.


One interesting information to be aware of.

Eye contact is often used as an indicant of whether or not a person is laying. The stereotype is that a dishonest person will not look you in the eye.

Many teachers who suspect a student is cheating on a test may, in the absence of other evidence, decide a student is lying because the student fails to look them in the eye when answering a direct question about the test. Unfortunately, there seems to be little validity to this theory. Research has actually found the reverse to be true-people who are lying are more likely to look the other person directly the eye, probably as a conscious response to the stereotype.


Teachers can have individual eye contact with every student in the classroom through eye contact. Attitudes of intimacy, aloofness, concern, or indifference can be inferred by the way a teacher looks or avoids looking at a student.


Most experienced teachers are aware when students are bored with the subject matter being presented. Students’ eyes often signal listening and nonlistening behaviors, thus transmitting subtle messages about their lack of attentiveness.


Students’ who are constantly looking at the wall clock rather than watching and listening to the teacher may be indicating the need for a break, the dullness of the content, or a lack of teacher motivation and preparation.


In any case, observation of eye behavior can be used in evaluating teacher and student performance.




Horizontal distance

Schwebal and Cherlin found that elementary school children seated in the front row were attentive and were evaluated more positively by their teachers than were students who sat in the middle and back rows.

Edward T. Hall’s categories can lend insight. Hall (1966) specifies four distance zones which are commonly observed by North Americans.


1.      Intimate distance - from actual touching to eighteen inches. This zone is reserved for those with whom one is intimate. At this distance the physical presence of another is overwhelming. Teachers who violate students’ intimate space are likely to be perceived as intruders.


2.      Personal distance from eighteen inches to four feet. This is the distance of interaction of good friends. This would also seem to be most appropriate distance for teacher and student to discuss personal affairs such as grades, conduct, private problems, etc.



Appropriate distance depends on many factors


3.      Social distance exists from four to twelve feet. It seems to be an appropriate distance for casual friends and acquaintances to interact.


4.      Public distance outward from twelve feet a speaker becomes formal. Classes of teachers who maintain this distance between themselves and their students are generally formal, and some students may feel that the teacher is cold and distant.


Hall’s system for the categorization of distance can constructively be used to lend insight into the nature of various student-teacher interactions. It should be noted, however, that appropriate distance is determined by a myriad of variables including the situation, the nature of the relationship, the topic of conversation, and the physical constraints which are present.


Vertical distance

The vertical distance between communicators is often indicative of the degree of dominance a sub ordinance in the relationship. People are affected by literally looking up at or looking down on another person.


The implications are that vertical distance can be used by teachers both as a tool and as a weapon. Teachers, and especially those who work with small children, should realize that students will interact more comfortably with a teacher when they are in same vertical plane. Used in this way, an understanding of vertical distance can become a tool for improved teacher-student communication. On the other hand, the disciplinarian can put this information to use in order to gain psychological advantage over an unruly student. 






Even a handshake tells much about an individual’s character. The human skin has hundreds of thousands of submicroscopic nerve endings, serving as tactual receptors and detecting pressure, temperature, texture, pain, stroking, tickling.


Parents transmit feelings to an infant physically, not verbally.

In most human relationships, touching cab give encouragement, express tenderness, and show emotional support.

In general, the meaning of touching depends of the situation, culture, sex, and age.

Workers in hospitals and nursing homes have long been aware of the therapeutic value of a sympathetic touch. There are empirical supports for this.


Tactile communication can serve useful function in the classroom situation but it also becomes a delicate matter.


Since teachers are considered superiors in the classroom, they often initiate touching behaviors. Teacher judgment is the best indicator. A teacher who grabs the arm or shoulder of an unruly student enters the student’s space uninvited.

Aside from embarrassment, the student may develop other negative feelings toward the teacher.

More positively, however, touching can also be used as a reinforcer.

At times, a teacher can develop a close relationship with students by invading their space. A simple pat on the back for a job well done is a much used and usually accepted from praise.


There is also some limited evidence that touching behaviors can actually increase learning. One recent investigation (Kleinfeld) has shown that teachers employed such behaviors as smiling, touching, and close body distance, small children “tended to learn significantly more.” 

As children grow older, however, these touching behaviors become less appropriate.


Touch has different impacts in the classroom depending on the age and sex of the students.

Still, with older students, hand shaking and an occasional pat on the back could prove effective.

Four younger children in the lower primary grades, touch plays an important development role. It can communicate a sense of belonging, security, and understanding to the child. Conversely, when a teacher withholds touch, a child may feel isolated and rejected, which can lead to the acquisition of negative attitudes toward school.

Children in the lower elementary grades also have a strong need to touch things around them. They learn this way about environment. It is not uncommon for small children to wish to touch the teacher’s clothing or hair. They will also touch one another a lot. The teacher must be very careful to interpret children’s touching behavior on the basis of adult touching norms.


While certain general norms govern touching behavior in the North American culture, considerable differences exist among ethnic groups.  The teacher must recognize that these are set cultural variations and should be viewed in that light.


Although the use of touch as a reward is appropriate in the elementary school as children move into junior and senior high school, changes occur that require an alteration of teacher behavior. Awakening sexual interest in adolescents results in adaptation to adult to touch terms.

The use of the touch as a reward at this stage may be greatly misinterpreted, particularly by other people who observe the touch. Most male teachers of junior and high school students soon recognize that it is highly inappropriate to touch female students under almost any circumstance.





The proverb “It is not what we say that counts, but how we say it” reflect the meaning of vocal intonation.


An unconscious bias of the listening public is a widespread positive prejudice in favor of man with low, deep voices with resonant tones, such as those qualities possessed by most male newscasters. Studies have also reported the use of vocal cues as accurate indicators of overall appearance, body type, height, and race, education, and dialect region.


Paralinguistic cues often reveal emotional conditions. Difference in loudness, pitch, timbre, rate, inflection, rhythm, and enunciation all relate to the expression of various emotions.


Experimental findings suggest that active feelings, such as rage, are exemplified vocally by high pitch, fast pace, and blaring sound. The more passive feelings, such as despair, ate portrayed by low pitch, retarded pace, and resonant sound. In addition, stress is often vocalized by higher pitch and words uttered at a greater rate than normal. The reverse (lower pitch, slower word pace) is likely during depression.


We are generally aware of some of the common uses of vocal cues. People indicate the ends of declarative sentences by lowering voice pitch and the ends of questions by raising it. The vocal message can contradict the verbal one and, when done consciously, is considered an indication of sarcasm. Vocal cues play a prominent part in people’s determination of whether or not someone is laying to them.


Mehrabian in his research concluded that listeners’ perception of the attitude of a speaker were influenced 7% by the verbal message and 38% by the vocal tones which were used.


Same words or phases can have many different meanings, depending on how they are said. For example, analyze the phrase “Thank you.” If uttered sincerely, it generally means an expression of gratitude; if intoned sarcastically, it can insinuate an entirely opposite intention.



Vocal cues in classroom


This powerful nonverbal tool can readily affect student participation. Generally, to correct answers the teacher respond with positive verbal reinforcement enhanced by vocal pitch or tone, expressing the acceptance and liking of the students’ answer (often accompanied by a smile or other forms of nonverbal approval).

Opposite is the case when teacher do not like the response (or behavior in the same way).


Some early studies, found that large variations of rate, force, pitch, and quality produced higher levels of retention than did messages delivered without these variations.


For example “mono-pitch” reduces comprehension for both prose and poetry when compared with “good intonation”.


There is distinction between a child’s and adult’s response to nonverbal behavior, particularly in terms of nonverbal vocal behavior. While the adult will almost universally accept the nonverbal vocal behavior as the correct cue when vocal behavior and verbal behavior are in conflict, young children often operate in the reverse manner.


Therefore for the small child, conflicting verbal and nonverbal messages will cause considerable trouble. One of the best examples of this is the use of satire, which is for this reason generally inappropriate means of communication with small children.


Vocal behavior is also capable of arousing stereotypes about either a teacher or a student. For example, a teacher who has a very nasal speaking voice is often perceived as having a variety of undesirable personal and physical characteristics. Female teachers with very tense voices are often perceived as being younger, feminine, more emotional, easily upset, and less intelligent. Male teachers with the same vocal characteristics are often perceived as being older, more unyielding, and cantankerous.


Of course vocal characteristics affect teachers’ perception of students as well, and the stereotypes noted above can be applied again. Fortunately, as students and teachers get to know each other better, they are able to overcome some of these stereotypes.


However, in the upper grades and secondary schools, students and teachers my never interact frequently enough to overcome stereotypic responses based on vocal behavior. Many teachers would be shocked at students’ imitations of them, often imitation mimicking the teacher’s vocal pattern. While teachers may be somewhat not always that different.


When teacher does not speak the same accent or dialect as children in his or her classroom, a conscious or unconscious prejudice may develop from both sides.


While it is certainly true that children who leave their ethnic or regional background in order to gain employment and acceptance in other areas of the community will have difficulty because of their accent or dialect, it is also true that most importantly, a child’s speech pattern is an intrinsic part of the child’s personality and self-image.


Children learn their spec from their parents and the other people in their environment. Their assumption is that the accent or dialect they have learned is the “correct” one. To fin that accent or dialect rejected by a teacher and/or the school is usually interpreted by the child as a personal rejection. Frequently this leads to rejection of self and a lowered self-image and/or a rejection to teacher and school. 



Research in the area of proxemics, the study of the ways how people use space while communicating, indicates that the use of space in the classroom can have a major impact on communication. To understand the impact of space on classroom communication we need to distinguish between territoriality and personal space.


Territoriality, a trait shared by human beings and lower forms of animal life, is the instinct to secure space for oneself and to defend that space against potential intruders.

Violations of territory, depending how serious are, will produce different reactions on the part of the person invaded. From tension and nervousness to, (especially if the situation persists), verbal or physical aggressive response.


Personal space, unlike territory, has no fixed or semi-fixed geographical position. Personal space has been likened to an invisible bubble that moves with the individual and may expand in size or become smaller depending on the given situation. 

As human being grow and mature, they increasingly learn to control their responses to invasion of their personal space. However, small children have not yet learned to do so. They may respond very negatively to one another, with both verbal and physical aggression, without being aware of what exactly has produced their behavior.

Teachers must be particularly conscious of this phenomenon, both in the classroom and in other school environments.


The classroom itself has limited amount of space and the way that space is employed will certainly affect the kind of communication. We will here see some advantages and disadvantages of most usual classroom arrangements.


Traditional classroom arrangement


Circles represent students’ seats. People occupying the dark seats will account for a very large proportion of the total interaction between teacher and the students in this type of arrangement.  People seating in the gray seats interact some, but much less frequently than those in the darkened areas and people in the white seats will participate very infrequently, if at all.


Most common explanations for this variance in participation are that students sitting in the dark seats have the best visual contact with the teacher and they are in comparatively closer proximity to the teacher.


But is seems that this is not all. Some students are quite anxious about communicating with other people, particularly teachers, while other students look forward to such experiences and seek them.


Shy students generally attempt to avoid interaction in the classroom and thus will gravitate to the seats depicted in above picture as white areas. Outgoing students, on the other hand, will tend to take dark seats.  Students with moderate communication apprehension are likely to select gray seats.


Each of these different types of students, therefore, employs space in the classroom differently if they are given free choice. The question thus arises as to whether the teacher should permit the students to have free choice.

Research shows that rearranging students (alphabetically or by some other arbitrary method) does not change anything in terms of participation of particular students

Verbal, low communication - apprehensive students will continue to participate, no matter where they are seated in such a system and vice versa. This suggests free choice as better solution.

If the teacher wishes to dominate the interaction in the classroom, the traditional arrangement is probably the best because students are seated side by side and the primary focal point is the teacher; thus, most interaction will go from teacher to student and form student to teacher.





Variations of traditional arrangement



Horseshoe classroom arrangement


(Different colors of seats have same meaning as above)


Classes with fairly small enrollments are often arranged in this fashion. When students are given free choice of arranging the classroom, this is one of the most popular option. Such an arrangement provides for each student equivalent visual access to most other students and the teacher.

Some research suggests that there is more participation in classes arranged in this way. Students who are at the opposite end of the horseshoe from the teacher, however, are those most likely to interact, while those at the right and left hand of the teacher are those least likely to interact.


If the teacher desires that the full-class interaction occur, the horseshoe arrangement may be the most desirable. This will encourage interaction both among the students and between students and teacher.


According some research, this arrangement results not only in greater participation, but also in wider participation than the traditional arrangement.

It also seems safe to say that a teacher is perceived as less intimidating when he is seated in a circle with the students rather than behind the formal and imposing symbol of his large desk.


Modular classroom arrangement



This arrangement is particularly desirable for classes requiring interaction among smaller groups of students. Modular arrangements such as this one tend to increase the amount of student interaction, but at the same time make interaction with the teacher more difficult.


If very important part of the learning in the class is dependent on student interaction with other students, the modular arrangement may be preferable. This arrangement permits many students to be interacting at the same time without interrupting on one another.






Preparing for future



While many other elements will determine the nature of communication in a given teacher’s classroom, the arrangements of classroom space may have the largest impact.


How can this information be of use to a teacher? A teacher may assume that a student who sits himself in dark areas wants to be involved.

Teachers should be careful, however, not to play to these students at the expense of the rest of the class. Students who seat themselves at the back of the room want to maintain maximum distance between themselves and the teacher. The extent to which a teacher will seek to involve these students is likely to be the result of an individual’s own pedagogical decision.


Some teachers will be content with minimal disruption from the rear, while others will assume that these are the students who need the most help.

Some teachers may want to arrange student’s desks in a circle or open square configuration.







Environmental research has clearly indicated that communication differs greatly from one physical environment to another.


The physical environment of the classroom is determined in the large measure by the objects in that classroom. Some of them are intrinsic for the classroom itself, while others are objects that the inhabitants bring with them. Such objects may have a significant (either negative or positive) effect on classroom communication.





Certainly, there is difference


In an interesting study of the impact of environment on communication, students were randomly assigned to one of two different rooms. One room, known as the “beautiful room,” was well decorated, and had sufficient but subdued lighting. The room was clean and attractive. The other room, known as “ugly room,” was devoid of carpeting, was painted in a drab color, and had brilliant lighting. The room was dirty and cobwebs were noticeable in the corners. The students were engaged in an interaction task for about a half hour. Subsequently, they were removed to a third room that was moderately attractive. They than competed questionnaires indicating how pleasant they found their interaction to have been, whether they would like to continue interaction with the same people with whom they had been interacting, and whether they would like to return to the same room for future discussions.


The difference between the two groups were dramatic.

The people in the “beautiful room,” enjoyed their experience, liked the people with they interacted with, and looked forward to interacting in that environment further. The students who had been in the “ugly room,” however, did not like the people with whom they interacted, did not enjoy the task, and did not want to return to that place for future discussions.


We can walk through almost any school at random and find some classrooms that appear much more conductive to learning and positive communication between teachers and students than to other classrooms.


Unfortunately, many of the classroom with which teachers must cope more closely fit the description of the “ugly room.” And to change this we do not have to build a new school!



“Would anybody mind if I add one picture on the wall?”


The teacher can do a great deal to overcome the negative elements of the environment, which can adversely affect communication. However, many teachers seem to be totally unaware of the problem, or have simply given up to it.


If the room have movable chairs, it is easy to arrange them so that students do not have to cope with excessive glare from outside windows.

It is often possible to adjust the lighting in the room. Brilliant lightning may make it easier to the children to see the paper on their desks, but over a period of time it tends to increase the irritability of both the teacher and the student.


It every classroom, it is possible for the teacher to add decorations (general or even better – educational) to make the room more pleasant environment. Many teachers employ bulletin boards for this purpose and display students’ work around the room.


Besides inexpensive photographs, paintings can also greatly alter the appearance of the room.


In addition to characteristic objects of the classroom, both - students and teacher may wish to bring it more personal objects to enhance their classroom. All too often, teachers discourage such contributions. In doing so, they limit the students’ attempts to express their individuality.

When possible, teacher should allow students to alter and decorate the small part of the room, which is theirs, whether that to be their desks or whatever. Usually this is not a problem. Some teachers even allow students to alter areas outside of their own small desk area. Some encourage the children to bring their favorite poster, photograph, or painting to be displayed in the room. This created a more intimate atmosphere for young people and made school seem more a part of them rather then something imposed on them.


Regarding students’ individual wearing apparel and adornment the best policy for the individual teacher is to not interfere with individuality of the student in this area unless forced to by the administration or because an individual’s extreme behavior is proving to be a disturbance to the other students. Limiting a young person freedom of expression almost ensures rebelliousness on his or hers part, and consequently interferes in the communication between teacher and student, but, if sufficient tolerance for this devotion is permitted, there is usually movement toward more restraint fairly soon.





Notice me!






Although most people are only superficially aware of the wear of others, clothing does communicate. Often dictated by societal norms, clothing indicates a great amount of information about self.

It identifies sex, age, socioeconomic class, status, role, group membership, personality or mood, physical climate, and time in history.


In addition, attitudes most often associated with clothing relate to

1)      A desire to conform

2)      A desire for self-expression

3)      A desire for aesthetic satisfaction

4)      Prestige values

5)      The desire for social participation

6)      Physical comfort, and

7)      Economy


Much empirical evidence supports the view that one who is well dressed is likely to be much better accepted by not known people than if not well dressed thus increasing interpersonal effectiveness.

Some research suggests also that a relationship exists between success of student and the acceptability of their dress.


Clothing also affects self-confidence. In one early investigation (Hurlock, 1929) all of the men studied believed that their estimate of a person was affected by his clothing, and 97% of all subjects reported feelings of increased self-confidence when they were well dressed.

I believe that this is the case also today but definition of being “well dressed” is surely somewhat changed.


But some authors contradict the opinion that a person should always strive to be “well-dressed.” Gandhi is offered as an example of a leader who understands this point and who would successfully “dress down” in order to better, relate to the masses he sought to influence.


Clothing and classroom


Because clothing affects others’ perception, people often dress to “fit the part.” These clothing cues, however have little effect on those with whom one is familiar. But opposite is true when regarding students’ impression of teacher especially first one.


In order to establish credibility, the teacher should strive to appear comfortable and at ease in the role, thus removing some of the typical teacher/student barriers. Although outward appearance does not, of course, indicate a person’s knowledge, values, or philosophy, dress can communicate; but, in most cases, it is only a outward show.

Students see instructors based on their motivation, sincerity, and fairness; they will be fooled only momentarily by clothing. A Savile Row suit or a Givenchy dress cannot turn a grouch into a lively, dynamic teacher. A smile is worth many times whatever the teacher might pay for clothes.


Another aspect of this situation is that it seems that students form some lasting impressions of their instructors during the first few moments (around 30 seconds) of their contact.

Gordon Allport has written: With briefest visual perception, a complex mental process is aroused, resulting within a very short time in judgment of the sex, age, size, nationality, profession and social caste of the stranger, together with some estimate with his temperament, his ascendance, friendliness, neatness, and even his trustworthiness and integrity.



Your first estimation. How much can you say?


Personal artifacts


The personal artifacts (makeup, jewelry, glasses) with which people choose to adorn themselves also communicate a message to others.


Horn also argues that the process of inferring characteristics based on personal appearance, is based on a sort of “logic” although often erroneous.

For example, she writes, a person who wears glasses probably suffered from eye strain; eye strain is often caused from too much reading; a person who reads a lot is apt to be very intelligent; consequently, it is “logical” to assume that people who wear glasses are intelligent.


It is interesting to note that some older research found that college students rated people who wore glasses higher in intelligence and industriousness. Today glasses are more often connected with closed nature, clumsiness and religiousness.

What will prevail in teachers’ cases depends on others (again nonverbal) clues we emit.




Body type communicates a variety of meanings, particularly as it relates to physical attractiveness. Three general types, each capable of arousing several stereotypes about personality, can be identified.

The first of these is the ectomorph. Ectomorphs are tall, thin, and fragile looking and are thought of as being tense, anxious, reticent, and self-conscious.

Mesomorphs are bony, muscular, and athletic and are thought es being dominant, energetic, and talkative.

Endomorphs are described as soft, round, and fat and are thought of as complacent, warm, and sociable.

Whether these adjectives are accurate is irrelevant; they represent and arouse the real stereotypes.




In our world attractiveness plays a role


The reason we stress various body types is that teachers, like other people, tend to stereotype students based on their physical characteristics. The body type considered most physically attractive to most people in this culture is mesomorph. Mesomorphs tend to get higher grades, not because they are more intelligent, but because they are more attractive and are likely to be targets of interaction. They are more popular with other students and teachers and often are the opinion leaders among their peers.


Various studies have explored the effects of personal attractiveness and showed positive relationship between physical attractiveness and:



The physical attractiveness of students and teachers does serve to influence classroom interaction. This variable, however, is probably less deserving of attention than some others, since communicators do not easily manipulate it.


Teachers must be very careful about the stereotypes. Intelligent students don’t all look alike, they don’t all wear glasses, and they are not all thin. 

Plump children are not all happy and contented and easy-going. Athletically built young people are not all “jocks.”


Perhaps the most practical use of this research for educators lies in the admonition that they need to be aware of these tendencies and should strive to avoid favoring attractive students.





Though this has not been adequately studied, per se, it seems safe to say that teacher’s use of time has nonverbal communicative value. Consider an elementary teacher who tells his students that math is as important as history, yet devote much more classroom time to history. His students can probably tell which subject he really thinks is more important.


A college teacher may tell his students that he wants to get to know then better, but if he schedules only one office hour per week, they likely to be more influenced by latter message.

A teacher also communicate by the extent to which he is punctual for class and by formality or informality of the way in which he schedules appointments.


Statement usual in the North American culture, such as, “Time is money” or “We’ve out of time.” Reflects that time is viewed as commodity.

Teachers tell students not to waste time, or to use their time more efficiently. Classes are scheduled to meet at certain times during the day and lateness is punishable offense.



Watch it!


Colleges and universities have carried time considerations to their absurd extreme; undergraduate degrees are awarded partially on the basis of a minimum number of credits which are computed in terms of the number of contact hours a week students spend in classes.  In many states, pay increases for public school teachers are based on a “thirty hours plus,” model.


There are also a non written norms related to how long students are expected to wait for late instructors, and it varies according to rank. 


Since students ate accustomed to classes running for a certain amount of time, they tend to expose nervousness when their expectancies are violated. If reading is scheduled to end at 9:50 A.M.  and arithmetic to begin at 10:00 A.M., students will start to engage in some nonverbal “leave-talking” behaviors around 9:45, such as putting away pens ad pencils, closing notebooks, shuffling feet, and looking at a clock.

Some authors suggests that it is probably not good to introduce new material near the end of a class period, since the time for attentiveness has in all likelihood passed its peak.

On the other hand some research suggests that attention rises before the end of the class. Solution could be to be consistent in ending class at the time so that students know that their time will not be violated and there is no need for nonverbal “warnings”.


One of the more important uses of time on the part of the teacher is the use of the pause. Pausing while presenting information usually emphasizes the content that has just preceded or will immediately follow.


Most classrooms involve interactions between teachers and students, with the teacher asking questions to which the student is expected to respond. One of the hardest things for teachers to learn is to take sufficient time between asking the question and expecting an answer. Very often, the teacher expects an instant response. Frequently, no such response is forthcoming. The teacher may then give the answer, or may call on some poor student who is not ready to answer. Voluntary responses to questions in the classroom almost always occur if the teacher is willing to wait long enough.

It is not suggestion, of course, to wait a 10 min. waiting period, but if we examine teacher behavior, we find that teachers seldom wait as long as 5 seconds!


In addition, children have different response rates. Some children can process question and determine what their answer will be quickly, while other children take two or times time as long to determine their response. This does not indicate a difference in intelligence or preparation on the part of the children, only a difference in response pattern.

Children who respond quickly, of course, tend to become favorites of the teacher. Those who wait a long time probably participate much below average in most teachers’ classrooms.

So advice to teacher is to learn how to wait for a response and do not always call on the first student who is ready to respond.


An interesting thing can be added here. It is well known that most children, as well as most adults, can be placed into one of two categories relating to their bodily time: “sparrows” and “owls”.  Sparrows are early risers and are at their best in the morning. Conversely, owls, like their namesakes, do not function well in the morning, but begin functioning better as the day proceeds and are at their best in the evening.

While the largest percentage of both children and adults fall into the owl category, elementary and secondary schools in the United States almost exclusively follow a sparrow pattern.


This is still strong cultural norm and it is probably not going to be drastically changed in foreseeable future, so that it is valuable for teacher to keep this in mind.




Words are accented and punctuated by body movements and gestures, while the face shows a myriad of expressions. Men are like Geneva watches with crystal faces which express the whole movement.


It is important to be aware of the dominance of the nonverbal message. If there is disagreement between the verbal and nonverbal message, the nonverbal will win. Also, the validity and reliability of verbal messages are checked by nonverbal actions. Again, if discrepancy exists, the nonverbal will dictate.

Therefore students see the teachers’ nonverbal messages as more honest reflections of what he is really thinking or feeling.


Based on this, and all other stated findings, we can reasonably conclude that further serious investigation of the effects of nonverbal signalization in the classroom could result in extremely useful pedagogical information.


Effective teaching depends on successful communication and successful communication - on successful. By definition of NVC (non-verbal communication), without uttering a single word, teachers and students constantly send messages to each other.


In this paper, I highlight certain aspects of nonverbal classroom communication. There is certainly much more to explore in this area, and this discussion encouraged me to pursue the topic further.


In writing this paper my primary interest was to gather useful knowledge for my own later reference. Wonderful books I found on this topic were real discovery because this is the first time I am dealing with this with topic in this way.

Before this, I just knew from experience that there is extremely powerful nonverbal communication going on in every classroom all the time and.


Being aware of this, I thought it could be useful to find out more about it  - and I was right. At first I tried to describe my observations in real classrooms but it was too subtle for describing and without any experimental or other objective evidence (I could not interview students or teacher after class and ask them if they really felt like I thought in some particular moment).

So I took this approach with intention to benefit from already known resources instead of discovering new knowledge.








Communication in the Classroom:                                  Thomas Hurt

                                                                                    Michael Scott

                                                                                    James McCroeskey


Nonverbal Communication in the Classroom:     Allan Rollman


Nonverbal Communication:                                           Patrick Miller


Bodily Communication:                                     Michael Argyle


Nonverbal Communication in human interactions:           Mark Knapp

                                                                                    Judith Hall



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