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Reading your students’ body language Pedagogy Circle Nov. 20, 2009 Joanne Chesley, Ed. D. CETL
Why does this matter? Teaching is largely about communicating. information and skills (in addition to changing behaviors) Communication is largely non-verbal. Understanding the non-verbal communication we give and receive from students improves teaching and learning.
A tiny piece of the research…… “There are two aspects to effective use of body language. The firstinvolves the speaker’s choice and use of gesture, intonation, facial expression and visual features(clothing, make-up, grooming etc.). The second aspect has to do with accurate perception and interpretation of others’ nonverbal messages (Goldin-Meadow, 2004; Goldin-Meadow & Sandhofer, 1999).
Thus, each party’s effective use of nonverbal behaviors (gesture,facial expression, intonation, appearance etc.) can play a significant role in the effectiveness of discussions” (Rüştü Yeşil, 2008, p.895). Rüştü Yeşil (2008). Evaluation of body language behavior in a class debate. Social Behavior and Personality, 36 (7), 893-902.
These two aspects are not always complementary. Sometimes verbal and nonverbal messages can contradict one another (Alibali et al., 1997; Goldin-Meadow & Sandhofer,1999). Sometimes the receivers of these messages can interpret the speaker’s nonverbal messages inaccurately (Goldin-Meadow, 2004; Goldin-Meadow & Wagner, 2005).
So, to what body language should we pay attention?
Aggressive Body Language signals thoughts of or intent to use force or other form of aggression can be shown in the face, from disapproving frowns and pursed lips to sneers and full snarls. clenching of fists , spreading of the body for stability removing clothing or jewelry in an angry manner moving into the other person’s space
Attentive Body Language signals interest in the other person and the message; is usually reciprocated ignoring distractions (phone, talking, other) stillness leaning forward tilting the head gazing furrowed brow Interest noises Open body (= open mind)
Bored Body Language signals that we would rather not be there, or that the material is uninteresting or irrelevant looking anywhere but at the presenter doodling talking to others staring tapping toes watching the clock yawning, looking sleepy, slouching in seat face is blank
Closed Body Language signals that we are feeling threatened, so we place a barrier there for protection that we need to be nurtured (arms wrapped together) that we need to hide something that we are cold that we are relaxed Arms folded or crossed (one or both) Legs crossed Head is down and away
Dominant Body Language signals need to feel big and powerful Making the whole body seem bigger by placing hands on hips to be wider, standing very erect to be taller, chin up and chest out to feel powerful, legs apart shrug shoulders, smirk break rules invade belittle frown, sneer, snarl phallic display holding a gaze monopolizing and manipulating conversation often does not give eye contact (feels others don’t deserve it)
Open Body Language signals change in feeling or thinking; when we are ready to accept something, when we are being attacked, when we are supplicating and when we are resting. seen in arms and legs relaxed, not crossed hands are open (not hiding anything) face is directed at the person of interest eyes contact is good, moves away at times (so not perceived as a stare)
Submissive Body Language signals fear and readiness to submit hunching inwards; making the body smaller, arms held in (I don’t want to be seen) motionlessness (I won’t fight back) head down to protect neck and to avoid eye contact which is seen as aggressive hands out, palms up widening the eyes (like a baby) eyes are attentive, hanging on to every word
Readiness Body Language signals readiness to do something some body part (head, hand, arm, foot, or eyes) will point in the direction of the activity body is tensed, either holding arm rests of chair, or things in hand are gripped tightly thumbs in pocket (“I’m ready to …”) fingers hook clothing continuing conversation
Evaluative Body Language signals thinking, judging, and making decisions hands are closed and touching (praying position) or clasped with fingers down except for pointer fingers which are straight up these pointer fingers might touch the nose, lips, or chin pursed lips peering over top of glasses chin may rest on one or both palms or on closed hands body may be open or closed (depending on level of relaxation, or type decision making)
Now let’s discuss this information within the context of your students and your teaching.