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Non Verbal Communication: Bangladesh And Panama

This study was conducted to gain a better understanding of students in Second/Foreign language classrooms in Bangladesh and Panama, and their consciousness about Teacher-Student Interaction through Non-Verbal Communication in Bangladesh and Panama and focusing on the importance and the role in building student motivation in Second/Foreign language classrooms. Since English is a second language in Bangladesh and Panama, the result will suggest how important it is for teachers to be aware of their nonverbal communication in classrooms to interact with the students in triggering their motivation.

Chapter I


English is a global language and is recognized the key means of international communication. Crystal (1997) and Nunan (2003) suggest that as a general consensus, English has become an international language, one that is widely used in higher education, business, technology, science and the internet.

In Bangladesh and Panama, English is a second language for the majority of people, and therefore it is important to consider both the teaching and learning of English in both nations; hence the conduct of this study. In Panama, Spanish is the official language, spoken by over 90% of Panamanians, but English is recognized as the official second language. Bengali is spoken by majority of the people in Bangladesh and English is the official second language. Since I had access to both countries during the writing of this Thesis, it was possible to conduct a comparative study of the teaching and learning of English in both, despite the many cultural and linguistic differences, not to mention the vast geographic distance between the two. It is hoped that the findings of this study will contribute to illustrate the importance of nonverbal communication in the teaching of English as a second language despite the differences between the peoples of the two nations. Rather than the differences, it is in fact the similarities that we share as humans which enable more effective means of teaching and learning a foreign language.

In many countries around the world, the Communicative Language Teaching (CTL) method has taken prominence for the pedagogy of learners of English as a second language. In Bangladesh, CTL has been emphasized since 1998 (Billah 2012), and since then, the teaching of English has continued to follow this method to the extent possible. CTL emphasizes the importance of interaction as the means and the ultimate goal of teaching a foreign language; this is in stark contrast to the more “bookish” methods of the past where printed literature and non-interactive classroom instruction were exclusively utilized to teach English. With the emphasis now given to CTL as an efficient means of language teaching, a more interactive approach to the teaching of English as a second language has taken center stage globally.

In second language classrooms, the teacher plays an important role in the achievement of successful learning. One of the most important features of a language classroom is that the lesson is an arena of human interaction with different personalities, motives, and expectations at play. The learning atmosphere, emotional climate, group cohesion, and enjoyment of being in the group are fundamental issues for motivation. In order to achieve an interactive atmosphere, “we need an ambiance and relations among individuals that promotes a desire for interaction” (Rivers 1987). Further, Rivers (1987) notes that “[Interaction is] an affective, temperamental matter, not merely a question of someone saying something to someone,” stressing the importance of converting the classroom into real-life contexts where the class experience mimics reality.

Communication can be defined as the sharing of one’s thoughts and emotions with others, either verbally or nonverbally. Verbal communication includes spoken words and sounds, and the volume and tone used to express them. In contrast, nonverbal communication is unspoken, and includes facial expressions, body movements, gestures, observance of personal space, and eye contact (Wiki). “In an era of communicative language teaching, interaction is, in fact, at the heart of communication; it is what communication is all about” (Brown, H.D. 1994). The question is how should one interact in the classroom as a teacher? What forms or means of interaction should one use to keep students motivated to continue the learning process? Verbal communications are obviously utilized, with words carefully chosen by teachers so that students can better understand English. But non-verbal communication is equally important and in classrooms we tend to ignore this factor.

Non-verbal communications play an important role in interaction between a teacher and a student. In the classroom, a teacher and student, both consciously and subconsciously send and receive nonverbal cues several hundred times a day (Billah). Teachers should be aware of nonverbal communication in the classroom for two basic reasons: 1) to become better receivers of students’ messages and, 2) to gain the ability to send positive signals that reinforce students’ learning. In the process, teachers simultaneously become more skilled at avoiding negative signals that stifle a student’s learning.

This study investigates and compares the consciousness of students of two countries, on two different continents, to a teacher’s interaction through nonverbal communication during the learning of English as a second language. The goal is to highlight the importance of nonverbal communication and the critical role it plays to motivate students as they pursue the learning of a second language, in this case, English.

Research Questions and Methods

The main basis of this study started with class observation. After assessment of the observations made, an appropriate questionnaire was designed to verify my implication on the topic ending with teacher’s view on my topic.

The aim of this study is to find out how conscious students are about teachers’ interaction through nonverbal communication in second language classrooms at universities in Dhaka, Bangladesh versus Panama City, Panama, to identify the teachers’ most frequently used nonverbal behaviors, and to find out its role in motivating students.

The paper will also investigate teachers’ views on nonverbal communication in the classroom.

The main questions of focus were as follows:

Are teachers in Bangladesh and Panama aware of their nonverbal behavior through interaction in their classrooms?

Are students in Bangladesh and Panama aware of the types of nonverbal communication they receive from their teachers in classrooms?

If yes, what type of nonverbal behaviors they like to see in their teachers? What are the most used ones?

How significant is the role of teachers-student interaction through nonverbal communication? This will determine whether both teachers and students think that nonverbal communication affects interaction. If so, how does nonverbal communication affect student motivation? The opinion of students was assessed through Questionnaire.

Is nonverbal communication playing a significant role in our classrooms as it is claimed internationally? This will determine whether teachers from both countries, Bangladesh and Panama, can identify the importance of nonverbal communication as well as the types of nonverbal behaviors they present in classrooms. It will also verify how the students react to certain types of nonverbal communication.

How conscious should teachers be in their nonverbal behavior in Second/Foreign classroom? This will focus more on how teachers think of their personal performance in the classroom through nonverbal communication, how appropriate is the teacher in using body language, gesture, expressions etc., and how much students are affected by a teacher’s performance in the classroom.

In what ways is Bangladesh and Panama similar and/or different in usage of nonverbal communication in classrooms?

How does nonverbal communication express cultural values?

What suggestions can be provided for Academia?

Chapter II


This chapter will deal with the definition and major components of nonverbal communication. It will also discuss the importance of teacher-student interaction through nonverbal communication which ultimately triggers the motivation to learn.

(2.1) Nonverbal Communication

Educators, psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists define body language or nonverbal communication as communication without words. It includes overt behaviors such as facial expressions, eye contact, touching and tone of voice. It can also be less obvious, however, as through dress, posture and spatial distance. The most effective communication occurs when verbal and nonverbal messages are in sync, creating communication synergy (Wiki). A teacher can bring in positive reinforcement through the usage of body language in second language classrooms. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mae West both understand the importance of body language. “The tell tale body is all tongues,” Emerson once said, while West famously quoted, “I speak two languages, body and English”. It is just as important for teachers to be good nonverbal communication senders as it is for them to be good receivers (students). Teachers express enthusiasm, warmth, assertiveness, confidence and displeasure through facial expressions, vocal intonation, gestures and use of space etc. However, when teachers exhibit verbal messages that conflict with nonverbal messages, students become confused, which in turn can affect their interaction; hence, motivation.

How does a teacher keep students motivated to learn a second language? In an ideal classroom, students pay attention, ask questions and want to learn. They do their assignments without complaint and study without being forced to do so. However, oftentimes this is not the reality. A teacher constantly has to work to motivate or keep students triggered to do their work. One such factor is non-verbal communication, which plays a role in triggering motivation so that students are not forced but rather feel like they want to learn. For instance, Morgan (1997) achieved a high level of motivation in the teaching of intonation by bringing in the learners’ social and cultural attitudes.

The main types of nonverbal communication used by a teacher to interact in classrooms in foreign language are the Kinesics (the study of body language), the Vocalics (the study of the use of tone, pitch and volume of the voice), the Chronemics (the study of the use of time), the Oculesics (the study of the use of eyes), the Proxemics (the study of the use of spatial distance), and the Haptics (the study of the use of touch). YOU NEED TO CITE THE LITERARTURE WHERE YOU GOT THIS INFORMATION—IT IS NOT YOUR ORIGINAL WORK The focus will be on the first five categories of nonverbal communication and lastly discussion on use of Haptics will be mentioned separately.

Emphasis on teacher’s nonverbal responses needs to reinforce in classroom processes for three specific areas. First, nonverbal communication can be used to reinforce cognitive learning. Second, nonverbal communication reinforces emotional connections between the student and the teacher. Finally, nonverbal communication sets an organizational tone for the classroom-i.e. with respect to the management of the classroom. The use of non-verbal communication in the management of the classroom has implications for how conflict can be managed. The focus of this paper will be solely on the observation and surveys of students. It will focus on the types of nonverbal communication that can be used to motivate students in second/foreign language classrooms in Bangladesh and Panama.

My research will concentrate on the use of body language, gestures, use of tone and pitch, use of eye-contact, and use of spatial distance. These are the factors that I observed in both the countries and believe will support my hypothesis.

(2.2) Significance of Nonverbal Communication

The classroom is a setting where a great deal of nonverbal communication (ex: through behavior) takes place (Galloway, 1979; Smith, 1979; Thompson, 1973; Woolfolk & Brooks, 1985). Acceptance and understanding of ideas and feelings by teacher and student, encouraging and criticizing, silence and questioning are all manifested through communication of nonverbal behaviors. What does classroom teaching have to do with communication in general and nonverbal communication in particular? Most educators would probably have an immediate response to only the first part of the question. From his anthropological perspective, Montagu (1967) stated that the main purpose of education is to teach the art of communication since the child learns to become human through communication. Most of us would agree that the nonverbal is an essential part of their communicative act. Victoria (1970) commented further: “The process of education essentially is a communication process, not only in that sense of transmitting knowledge, but more particularly as it relates to interpersonal communication behaviors.” Accordingly, the teaching process may be described as an interactive flow of information or communications which results consecutively in the processing of the information, decision-making, and learning which may be cognitive, affective, or psychomotor in nature. Because of the central role played by communication in educational practice, several writers have suggested that communication skills be taught to students or teachers and that nonverbal training be an essential part of this instruction (e.g., Gray, 1973; Hennings, 1975; Rezmierski, 1974). Similarly, Victoria (1971) proposed that teachers should study qualitative aspects of the affective domain so as to better understand students. The latter suggestion seems most appropriate in view of Davitz’s (1964) pioneering work which demonstrated that emotional meanings could be communicated accurately in a variety of nonverbal media and that “nonverbal emotional communication is a stable, measurable phenomenon”. AGAIN, I DON’T THIS SECTION IS YOUR ORIGINAL WORK … CITE YOUR SOURCES … THE FLOW OF THE WRITING DOES NOT SEEM IT IS YOUR OWN.

The need to make teachers explicitly aware of nonverbal facets of communication has been stressed by a number of researchers (e.g, Galloway, Koch, Montag; Ostler & Kranz). In part, these declarations seem to be reactions against the usual emphasis on verbal classroom processes and the almost total neglect of ever-present nonverbal behaviors. It has been reported often that “teachers talk too much” and that classroom teaching conforms to the “rule of two-thirds” (i.e., someone is talking for two-thirds of the total class time and two-thirds of that talking is done by the teacher). However, whether teachers are talking or not, they are always communicating. Their movements, gestures, tones of voice, dress and other artifacts, and even their ages and physiques are continuously communicating something to the students. In like manner, students are continuously communicating with their teachers, a point too often missed by teachers relying solely on the verbal message for informational purposes.

Hopkins (1974) found that teachers with a more positive view of humanity used nonverbal communicative acts which encouraged student involvement in classroom interaction, while teachers with a negative view of humanity tended to use nonverbal communicative acts which discouraged student involvement. In summary, the significant role played by nonverbal communication in classroom processes has been emphasized. The argument has been made that interaction (communication) underlies teaching, that the nonverbal domain is an essential part of communication, and that many teachers display too little awareness of nonverbal behavior in their teaching practice.

(2.3) Importance of Teacher-Student Interaction

In order to succeed, the teacher has to adopt a more interactive approach in the classroom. For instance, according to Prodromou (1991), a good teacher, among other qualities, is someone who is friendly, ‘one’ of the students, and genuine in dialogues. She/he tries to communicate, believes in students, makes students believe in themselves, asks for student opinions, does the lesson together, and talks about his/her life. One such factor is the level of course interaction. Laurillard, a theorist (1997) suggested that student-teacher interaction is a key component in academic learning.

The study of nonverbal communication indicates that the teacher brings more to the classroom than knowledge of subject matter and verbal fluency. Birdwhistell has tried to codify the “language of body expression.” In his famous work on body language he stated, “There is a language of body expression and motion which is as ordered and structured as the language we speak. Like the language we speak it is made up in pieces of structure which can be assembled to form orderly sequences of message material which others trained in the same code can translate and respond to in kind.” Like Birdwhistell, almost all eminent linguists believe that the success of both the student and the teacher depend upon the effective communication between them in the class. That is through interaction. Stevick (1982) points out that the body language of the teacher is the most important thing in the class. Addressing the teacher community he wrote, “it is the way you use your eyes, the distance you stand from your students, the way you touch or refrain from touching them-all of these unnoticeable things in the class carry important signals which create a profound effect on your students’ feelings of welcome and comfort with you”. Balzer, in his research on classroom communication, reported that approximately 75% of classroom management behavior was nonverbal. Similarly, Smith noted that teachers’ nonverbal behaviors are for students the signs of the psychological state of the teacher and so should not be taken lightly. Galloway (1980) believed that the use of paralanguage in the classroom encourages the speakers and consequently the people in the classroom will show increased desire to transmit a message and will thereby hold the listeners’ attention better.

(2.4) Teacher-Student Interaction through Nonverbal Communication to Trigger Motivation

The study of the nonverbal communication of the teacher is to be more important (in the classroom) due to three reasons according to Kristin Hammond. First, the teacher acts as an artist whose performance in the classroom is usually observed minutely by his/her audience (the students). If his/her body language is positive the students enjoy the lecture and consequently retain and remember most part of it. On the other hand, if the body language of the teacher is negative the students do not enjoy the classroom experience and feel discomfort & uneasiness and lose most of the lecture taught. Secondly, the function of nonverbal communication is to supplement the verbal messages (of the speaker) by repetition, substitution, complementation and regulation. If the nonverbal signals of the resource person (the Teacher) are appropriate the student gets maximum benefit from the lecture but if the nonverbal cues are contradictory the students usually get confused and in some situations are completely lost. Thirdly, a teacher is a role model (of the target language) for many students and they try to copy his/her body language, as there is no native speaker model available in many Bangladesh and Panama universities. It is motivation that produces effective second language communicators by planting in them the seeds of self-confidence. Therefore, the nonverbal communication of the teacher in these universities is more important for motivating the second language learners.

Chapter III


(3.1) Bangladesh Perspective

In Bangladesh, the importance of English language is growing day by day. Students who spend four years in university need to learn English to enhance their career for the future. With the growing population, English is becoming more demanding than ever. We can see, in businesses, hospitals, buying house, corporate world and in education, English is needed. We see many institutions where classes are provided for those who are working to enhance their English; coaching center to learn English is growing by the number and we see training seminars for teachers to become better in their teaching. The growing number of private universities is making it necessary to learn English.

But, the question remains, “How do we motivate students to learn English? What elements enhance students’ performance? By keeping these questions in mind, teachers’ nonverbal communication during interaction with students plays an important role in second/foreign language classrooms. The lack of nonverbal communication is making interaction between teacher and student difficult. Students tend to take the classes lightly and later in the long run have to take more classes for their careers to learn English properly; hence their communication lacks the necessary expression or voice in them.

(3.2) Panama Perspective

Panama is a country where 95% of the population speaks Spanish. Like Bangladesh, English is a second language here as well. The university has extended English classes for the students where most of the teachers are natives.

In Panama, teachers reflect on verbal communication more than nonverbal as well. But students are affected by the paralanguage in the classroom, hence resulting in lack of interest in the classes which affects them later on. As a teacher, the need of the understanding and usage of nonverbal is vital in keeping students motivated in the classroom because majority of the students in Panama come from a Spanish background. Their language has very few words which are interchanged with English words. In contrast, in Bangladesh, English words in Bangladesh, words like ‘card’, ‘office’, ‘school’, ‘class’, and many more are used by almost 98% of the population. So English words are perhaps “more foreign” to native Spanish speakers than they may be to native Bengali speakers. The need to understand student’s perception of teacher’s nonverbal communication in classroom in this instance is even more paramount.

Chapter IV


(4.1) Universities in Bangladesh

Class Observation: Two classes were observed before conveying the survey to the students. Based on my observations, I decided to concentrate on the nonverbal communication used by teachers. The major goal of this survey is to determine how conscious students are about the interaction between teacher and student through nonverbal communication in the classroom.

The Survey: The questionnaire composed of two parts where both parts involve about nonverbal

communication of the teachers but there were two main differences.

First, in the first option there were four choices; (a) Totally Agree, (b) True up to some extent, (c) Totally Disagree and (d) I don’t know. The students have to select one of them and this way we will understand how conscious students are about their teacher’s nonverbal interaction. Secondly, the first portion generally asked about the liking of the students which was directly linked to students’ motivation and involvement in the class. In the second part of the questionnaire the queries were directly related to the retention of the lectures with the nonverbal communication of their teachers. The second survey provides only two options of “Yes” and “No” and in this way the assessment will be definite.

Later, both of them were combined to provide a coherent result of the findings. The results are as follows:

Bangladesh Participants: The questionnaires were distributed among American International University students and Stamford University students, 15 students from each university participated in filling out the questionnaires. The entire 30 participant’s native language is Bengali and it consisted of 19 males and 11 females. The response of students to a teacher’s use of body language and gestures is summarized in Table 1.

The above data shows that students at universities in Bangladesh are aware of nonverbal communication in their classrooms. The assessment clearly shows that 18 out of 30 students at the two universities, which results in an average of 60% of the students, feel strongly motivated when teachers nod their head in class. The remaining 12 students, or 40%, responded that it was true to some extent that the teacher’s head nodding results in motivation. This data is represented in Figure 1.

21 out of 30 students agreed that teachers who smile at their students in the classroom encourage them to be confident in their class, averaging at 70%, while the remaining 9 student, or 30%, answered that this was true to a some extent. Figure 2 summarizes this finding.

A teacher’s happy mood creates a good atmosphere in second language classroom with a high percentage from both the universities, where 27 out of 30 students answered ‘Totally Agree” in the survey, averaging at 90%, while the remaining 10% answered “true to some extent.” This proves the point that amongst students at universities in Bangladesh, non-motivation results when a teacher does not enter the classroom with a good mood. See Figure 3 for a graphical representation of this data.

Finally, a teacher’s raised finger embarrasses students in Bangladesh, where 23 out of 30 students, averaging at 78% conveyed that their level of confidence goes down when teachers raise their finger while asking them a question, Figure 4.

The students’ response to the use of various supra segmental features of language such as pitch, tone, rhythm and volume by the teacher is summarized in Table 2.

In both universities in Bangladesh, 27 out of 30 students with an average of 90% survey result shows that monotonous tone creates boredom in classroom and 3 students answered true to some extent with an average of 10%, Figure 5.

20 out of 30 students with an average of 66% totally agreed to the question that variation is tone, pitch and volume is liked, while 10 students, or 34%, answered “true to some extent,” Figure 6. The students’ response about the use of time by their teachers is shown in Figure 7.

The result of this question shows that, 23 out of 30 students averaging at 77% of the students in Bangladesh in University take teachers casually if they are not regular in their classroom. As teachers for second language learner, one must remember that English is a second language for the students and if the teachers are not motivated to be regular in their classes students will not be either. Second, 14 out of 30 students with an average of 47% answered that they look at their wrist watches if a teacher takes over-time in the classroom.

The students’ response about the use of eye contact of their teachers is shown in Figure 8.

The above result shows that, 25 out of 30 students with an average of 83% of the students feel encouraged when teachers use eye-contact. Visual contact with the instructor appears related to student’s comprehension. Furthermore, visual contact with the instructor increases attentiveness, which in turn triggers motivation. Second, 18 out of 30 students said that cold stares embarrass students with an average of 60%.

The students’ response about the movement of their teachers in a classroom is shown in Figure 9.

The result shows that 23 students totally agreed upon with an average of 78% that the students in Bangladesh feel teacher’s movement in the classroom keep them alert, which shows that students are affected by teacher’s use of space. Whereas, around 21 out of 30 students agreed with an average of 70% that teacher standing still creates laziness in students.

Data Analysis: The above findings clearly state that our students in second language classrooms are conscious about teachers nonverbal communication used to interact, which triggers motivation. Smiling and nodding head in a classroom plays a vital role in universities in Bangladesh when interacting with students because the most dominant and reliable features of the face provide a constant channel of communication. They received high percentage of 60% and 90%. That is why when teachers interact there face provides shifty and evasive; convey hate, fear, and guilt; or express confidence, and support.

90% of the student agreed that by using a dull tone in the classrooms, students think that the teacher is tired or boring. But as teachers of second language, one must remember that we are providing a class time of 75 minutes and within that time frame a teacher must provide an interactive speech where students will be encouraged to convey their views and ideas about the topic.

Eye behavior seems to be particular importance which resulted in 83% and it is 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 at the teacher, while students who do not will usually try to avoid eye contact and in these cases cold stares must be avoided. Eye contact give provides a feeling of confidence and assurance from teacher. Therefore, plays an important role in second language classrooms.

In Bangladesh, sometimes classrooms are small. 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 from student to teacher. But in some cases, it is important to move around in the classroom to keep the attention of the students when teacher convey a message. 78% of the students feel that when a teacher moves in the classroom they feel motivated to listen.

Lastly, a regular teacher is seen as a teacher who is passionate (about the course), prepared and is there for the students. 77% of the students agreed upon this factor. On the other hand, students start taking classes casually if the teacher is irregular and hence demotivation factor arises in second language classrooms.

Teachers view on Nonverbal Communication being used as a motivation in Bangladesh: Two teachers from American International University and Stamford University participated in the interview questions.

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