No More Teachers' Dirty Looks:
Effects of Teacher Nonverbal Behavior
on Student Outcomes
Monica J. Harris
University of Kentucky
University of California, Riverside
Teachers change lives. As the popular bumper sticker attests, the power of teachers to influence the course of a child's life is enormous, rivaling in some cases even that of the child's parents. This influence can be positive or, regrettably, negative. Common lore and our own memories tell us that our images of good and bad teachers are heavily influenced by their nonverbal behaviors. We can all remember our favorite teacher from grade school whose warm smile and kind voice made us feel special. If we were unlucky enough, we might also remember a hated teacher whose sarcasm and obvious hostility undermined our liking for school.
Anecdotally, then, few people would argue against the idea that nonverbal behavior is a critical aspect of teaching effectiveness. Much educational literature makes a similar assertion (Doyle, 1977; Galloway, 1971a, 1971b, 1984; Grant & Hennings, 1971; Grubaugh, 1989; Philippot, Feldman, & McGhee, 1992; Woolfolk & Brooks, 1985; Woolfolk & Galloway, 1984). However, the issue of the impact of teachers' nonverbal behavior on student outcomes is ultimately an empirical one, and thus a logical question is what is the actual empirical evidence regarding the effects of teacher nonverbal communication? The purpose of the current chapter is to begin to address this question