Written By:

                        1. Ayesha Saif Ur Rehman

2. Uzma Asif


Investigating The Application Of Non-verbal Communication In ESL At Primary Level

1.    Introduction:

Good communication is of utmost importance in building relations and productive conversation. Besides this professionally and personally communication skills have equal importance in their domain. Our communication is mostly consisting of our expression rather than words. These expressions are nonverbal communication or body language which includes our facial expression, eye contact, posture, gestures and other body movements.

In English language classroom (body language) nonverbal communication has positive impact in the interaction between teachers and students. NVBC communicate speaker’s objective, idea and aim accurately and efficiently. In conventional ESL classroom initially teachers are supposed to teach English without students’ first language expression in the classroom

Teachers are supposed to make lesson attractive and understandable to build students’ interest in learning. Like teachers must find ways to teach students language functions and other aspect of it, to encourage them body language with all its components provide a great help

Nonverbal communication in ESL classroom through reading is chosen as the main objective of this research for various purposes. Firstly the nonverbal communication of teacher has influence on student.  The nonverbal communication offers an extensive diversity of functions in human interaction.

By employing nonverbal communication, teachers can make student focus to understand and encourage the students by bringing excitement in the instructions. Secondly, investigate the use of non-verbal communication in student learning outcomes and how it gives opportunities to the teachers to polish their teaching methods and know more about teaching.

In Pakistan, the average of proficient English language students is very low. Many researchers belonging to this field opine that by employing nonverbal communication in to ESL classroom it will enhance their memory.

                  Non-verbal communication can be employ to strengthen cognitive learning. Secondly nonverbal communication helps in strengthening emotional relationships between the student and the teacher. Finally, non-verbal communication sets an organizational tone for the classroom—i.e. with respect to the management of the classroom. Many researchers consider that the effect of nonverbal gestures in the ESL classroom have different impression.

2.    Objectives:

The objectives of this research are to know:  

To discover the importance of nonverbal communication for both teachers and students.  

To pinpoint the various means of non-verbal communication employed by teachers to make their teaching style more effective and to augment metacognitive capability. 

To examine the way non-verbal communication enhances students' learning in ESL classroom.

3.    Research Questions: 

How teachers can encourage their students by employing non-verbal communication at primary level and temper their teaching tactics based on its result? 

How and to what extent nonverbal communication is accommodating in teaching ESL classroom?

What steps can be taken to ensure effective application of nonverbal communication?

What are the deficiencies in teaching system in terms of nonverbal communication?

4.    Literature review:

       Communication is the way by which human build relations. Communication is the method of generating ideas and sharing ideas with others. There are various elements constituting communication process and they are named as source, message, encoding, channel, decoding, receiver, feedback, context, and noise (Fujishin, 2009) 

Types of Communication

(i). Verbal communication:

    The Verbal Communication is an oral communication in which the message is transmitted by the spoken words. 

 (ii). Interpersonal communication:

In this way of communication two people share association. The most significant feature of interpersonal communications is the transmitting and receiving of messages in a way that the messages are successfully coded and interpreted. 

 (iii). Nonverbal behavior communication:

non-verbal communication is the basic form of communication. 

Various Functions of Nonverbal Communication:

Hybels&Weaver (2004) have expounded four purposes of nonverbal communication. These are regulating, substitute, complement and accent. 

(i)  The Regulating Relationship:

    Nonverbal Communication can also be employed to regulate and administer the course of conversation between interactions. 

(ii) The Substituting Relationship:

    In Substitution relationship one can use nonverbal communication instead of verbal communication. It can also be used to carry emphasis. 

(iii) The Accenting Relationship:

   Accents mean exclamation italic, mark, or ALL CAPS nonverbal cue that drives with the words. It is different from completing accent that is all about stresses on a verbal message, rather than aiding the whole message. 

(iv) The Complementing Relationship:

   In this communication the nonverbal indicators and words supplement a message by the additional information to what is said. 

(v)  The Conflicting Relationship:

    As the word Conflicting depicts that the when words and nonverbal actions relationship are in conflict with verbal messages and suggest  a meaning opposite to what is being said. 

Principles of Non-verbal Communication:

       A non-verbal behavior is very critical, significant and common i.e. people from various cultures have a collective concentration of non-verbal indicators; but the discourse total meaning can be conventionally definite and varies in different countries. For example   a researcher, Davis (1990) says Asian associate student’s avoidance as a sign of respect whereas Caucasian schoolteachers associate students escaping of eye contact with deception. 

Nonverbal communication is of many types which includes; Eye contact: Gestures: Facial expressions, Posture, Paralanguage, Prevocalic, Pitch, Inflection Articulation and Stress.    

Importance of Nonverbal Communication 

      NVC performs an important function in human communication. According several communication experts high percentage of all meaning is begun from NVC.  Bird whist ell (1970),Lavan(2002),) revealed that around 55% to 70% of our daily social communication is nonverbal. It is very essential and “an intrinsic and important part of message creation" (Burgoon, 1994, p.239). 

  Teacher can produce more effect with the help of NVC in the classroom than the subject related information and verbal aid. The body language, expression and clue play key role in the language classroom.

    Nonverbal is as much essential as verbal in the classroom situations. Teacher can be better with NVC in the classroom than the experience of subject substance and verbal fluency.  Miller (1988) suggests that teachers’ positive reception about their own nonverbal behaviors allows them to deliver the lectures more expertly and efficiently. There are several studies which are done in the classroom environment specifying that nonverbal indicators guide very clear and different messages. Besides this non-verbal messages can be deliver crystal clear way than only the spoken word alone. (Rosa, 2000, p. 1)                                                  

       Information in its entirety about Non-verbal communication plays a essential role in every day’s life and it is equally significant in the educational context. The non verbal communication of teachers to their students is an important factor which defines efficient teaching and how this is perceived by students and shapes their cognitive learning. 

5.    Research Methodology:

Research methodology describes a general perspective in carrying out educational research. It provides principles for framing, drafting and conducting research. This study is conducted using an explanatory and analytical approach. Descriptive research focuses to unfold unknown aspects of the subject by providing sufficient knowledge about the subject while analytical research examines the basis of information on the subject under discussion.

Mixed method approach is employed to collect and examine the data. Qualitative and quantitative both methods are combined to present broader aspect of the study.  The quantitative approach is more specific, objective and consistent. The aim of the quantitative approach is to prevent subjectivity by means of collecting and exploring information which illustrate the experience being studied. This approach is consisting of closed ended information and statistical data is easy to elucidate the findings.  On the other hand, qualitative approach gives better elucidation of individual’s point of view in the study. Combination of both methods provides thoroughly interpretation of the problem. Using mixed method offers comprehensive understanding about the topic. Comprehensive data is obtained by using mixed method approach by utilizing the available tools of quantitative and qualitative methods. For better explanation of respondent’s views words and numbers are used. By employing mixed method approach weaknesses of both methods are curtailed to some extent. Likewise, mixed method approach aided effectively to gather the more detailed results of the research as compared to the quantitative or qualitative method alone.

Research tools

Three research tools are used which includes; teachers interviews, classroom observation and close ended questionnaire.

(i). Questionnaires for ESL students

Close ended questionnaire is used in the data collection from students. Questions based on Likert scale are easy to comprehend and it is easy to examine the data and deduct conclusion from questionnaire once the data is collected. A questionnaire consists of twenty was devised for the student. Every question has five options to answer accordingly. Furthermore, a well-designed questionnaire that was used efficiently could help to obtain in general view of a situation and individual perception.

(ii). Interview for the ESL teachers

           Interview technique was used as a research tool when researchers needed to collect the data from in person dialogue with the teachers. The researcher took interviews from the English teachers separately. The researcher made a note of the answers given by the respondents and recorded to examine the data. 

(iii). Observation:

The researcher made classroom observation checklist. Four schools were observed by the researcher for three weeks to observe the utilization of non verbal communication in ESL classrooms. In order to see how teachers apply non verbal communication in their teaching methods and how it is beneficial for students in their learning process. 


The researcher picked students and teacher of private schools in Lahore. Forty five students from grade four and fifty five students from grade five filled the questionnaires and six English teachers at primary level were interviewed.

Sampling technique

Every research follows a appropriate sampling technique to pick the participants for the research. Researcher ought to be very cautious while selection in sampling technique as he has to select targeted   participants for study. As convenient sampling technique was speedy, economical, easy and the respondents were readily available; so researcher employed this technique. It is a basic type of sampling technique. It was applied in a suitable and effective manner to gather the data from participants.

Data collection procedure

Four schools selected in Lahore region. Hundred students and six teachers were involved in this process. Questionnaire, classrooms observation and detail interviews were conducted to know the effect of nonverbal communication and viewpoints of teacher and students. The questionnaire was used as the main data gathering instrument for this study. It was handed over to the students.

6.    Findings:

The questionnaire was filled by hundred students. Their reactions are cited below on Likert scale. On the basis of their responses their numbers are mentioned in the box accordingly.

The information provided by teachers and students through detailed interviews, classroom observation and questionnaire is significant to recognize the use of non-verbal communication in ESL classroom. 

Findings of the results depict very encouraging signs. If teachers employ all the question related strategy they will bring unremarkable improvement in education. From the result we say only a smile on teacher’s face involve maximum students in learning as from the chart we can see sixty students always take interest in the lesson when their teacher is smiling. Twenty students often take interest. Only two students didn’t show any concern with teacher’s smile.  Smile of teacher is regarded as the direct indicator of teacher’s mood. Teacher’s smile is very essential in involving the learner in learning process. 

According to above results thirty-seven students rarely understand the concept with the help of various type of teacher’s appearances. And twenty-two students always get help from various face expressions to comprehend the concept of teacher which she was teaching. And ten students said that most of the time they comprehend the concept with the help of various type of facial expression. 

Gestures are also one of the best ways to build confidence. Gestures show a very important role in the classroom

Lack of expressions is not very helpful in instructions. Forty-three percent of students said they often lose their focus when teacher is giving information lacking expressions. 

From the results it came to know   that students not always feel encouraged when teacher giving them feedback through nonverbal cues. They want their teacher to use combination of verbal and non verbal to appreciate them. 

Teacher’s eye contact play vital role in classroom management. Eye contact is very important in making the classroom environment attentive and controlled. Results of research indicate that fifty percent of students most of the time agreed, the teacher’s positive feedback through eye contact motivates students to improve their learning progress. 

Involvement of the students in class is very essential for this teacher first have to make students involve what they are learning. Stories narrated by the teacher through body movements are more interesting and understandable. 55 students agreed with this statement 

Analysis of interview questions from teachers:

Interviews were taken from English language teachers of primary classes of private school.

Many of the teachers were unaware of the term non verbal communication. On explaining this term they got the idea of what is being said. Some of teachers said that non verbal communication means to different of methods that produce without uttering words, teachers employ as a aiding tool to conduct or examine their students for academic reason. According to some  teachers own point of view was that non verbal communication is unconscious behavior which help the teacher to analyze the child’s knowledge through their emotions just as face expressions, raising eyebrows, smile, nervousness etc. 

Teachers utilize various strategies of non verbal communication in the classrooms.  One of teachers said that they used various strategies and techniques while teaching but they focus on eye contact mostly because they think it is very appropriate technique in making an interactive relationship between teacher and students

Teachers come across various challenges in class during performing various activities. E According to some teachers in classrooms people came from different background and have mixed abilities and different level of understanding. Students belong to different background and they have different level of capabilities’ in understanding. They respond differently on different gestures so sometime they have to explain.

7.     Conclusion:

      After analyzing the result it came to know if this ability is experienced by teachers. It will have a productive and deep impact on the students’ attitude. Non-verbal communication is particularly reliable in the communication process. On the basis of the result obtained during this study, it is highly recommended that consideration to non-verbal communication skills can create a positive change in the future of a student’s life. It appears very important for the teachers to exercise and learn actual communication skills, especially for those who always correlate with a large group of students. One of the essential elements contributing to the achievement or disaster of students is the excellence of the relationship and how the teacher explores this relationship with students. Especially, it is more efficient for students who are more open to human relations and communication skills. Finally, it is recommended that the teachers should develop their communication skills so that they communicate efficiently to their students. The establishments are suggested to improve the teachers’ level of communication skills through holding various training courses.

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