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The Effect of Non-Verbal Communication on Students’ Academic Performance in the Teaching and Learning Process in the BUEA Municipality

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This work was aimed to investigate the effect of nonverbal communication and its effects on student’s academic performance in some secondary schools in the Buea Municipality, this being the general objective. This work was also to investigate the effects of body language, facial expressions and space and motion on student’s academic performance as its specific objectives. The study made use of a survey research design with a sample population of 60 students from two government schools. Questionnaires were used for the collection of data and the descriptive statistical method was used in analyzing the data. The findings revealed that generally, non-verbal communication affects student’s academic performance. Based on the specific objectives it was realised that, facial expressions do have an effect on student’s academic performance, body movement or language do affects student’s academic performance and that space and motion do have a tremendous effect on student’s academic performance. With regards on the findings, it was recommended that, schools should adopt programmes that will educate teachers on when and how to use nonverbal communication during their lessons. Teachers should be aware of the fact that body movements are used where and when required because excess of body movement can spoil the purpose of its utilisation. Proper distance between the teacher and his or her students should be maintained throughout the lesson. Curriculum planners and policy makers should also recognise the importance of non-verbal communication and make it part of their program.



1.0 Introduction

Nonverbal communication has been defined by the Business Dictionary as behaviours and elements of speech aside from words. A research was carried out by Mehrabian (1972) which proves that 55 percent of communication is through nonverbal means (body language, facial expression, posture etc). 38 percent relates to the tone of voice and only 7 percent is verbal (actual words). Education is a very important unit of life and has an effect on all sphere of life. Education is the transmission of knowledge from one person to another. Transmission of knowledge cannot be done without both parties communicating. This communication can either be verbal or nonverbal. Since nonverbal has a larger role than verbal, this shows why it is very important to study the effect of non-verbal communication during the teaching and learning process because it is after this process that one can testify that he or she is educated. The next paragraph will say how this chapter has been examined.

In this chapter we would be examining the following: Background to the Study, Statement of the Problem, Objective of the study, Research questions, Delimitation of the Study and the Operational Definition of Terms.

1.1 Background of the Study

Scientific research on non-verbal communication started in 1872 with the publication of Charles Darwin’s book,‘‘The Expression of the Emotion in Man and Animals”. To Charles, humans continue to make facial expressions because they have acquired communicative value throughout the evolutionary period. To add, according to Bambaeeroo and Nasrin (1974), there is a strong relationship among the quality, amount and the method of using nonverbal communication by teachers while teaching.

The amount of communication in the classroom that can be classified as non-verbal has been found to rather be substantial. Evans (1969), using high school biology teachers, found out that approximately 39 percent of the teachers behaviours were exclusively nonverbal, 35 percent were exclusively verbal and 26 percent were a combination of both. This shows that nonverbal communication has a higher usage rate than its counterpart verbal communication.

Balzar (1969) found that 65 percent of all the messages encoded by teachers in his study were nonverbal in terms of their effects on the teaching-learning environment. This shows how important it is for teachers to understand nonverbal communication seeing that it has significant impact during the teaching and learning process.

Raymond (1973) found that nonverbal communication accounted for 44 percent of the teachers’ time in an experimental group (subject had been trained in the area of nonverbal cues) while 34 percent was observed from teachers in the control group. This study underscores the inadequacy of using only teacher verbal behaviour to study dimensions of the teaching-learning process.

The findings cited above are even more significant in light of evidence that when students have difficulty with meaning or when words are unclear, students usually search for what is communicated nonverbally. This is why teachers should try to communicate their verbal the same with their nonverbal. This means that when a teacher smiles at a student (as nonverbal) he or she (the teacher) should say very good (as verbal) to the student. It will be very confusing for a teacher to smile at a student and say, “That is very bad”.

Studies by Torrance (1960) and Keith, Tornatzky and Pettigrew (1974) found that when the verbal and non-verbal channel of communication were in conflict, students were influence more by teachers’ nonverbal cues. According Galloway (1970) nonverbal messages are much stronger than their verbal counterpart and when incongruity exists, the nonverbal is believed. This explains that when a teacher says something and non-verbally display a different thing, the student will believe the teacher on the non-verbal side rather than on the verbal side of their interaction or discussion. If a teacher frowns at a student and says excellent, the student will believe that the teacher is angry with him or her.

The nonverbal behaviour students observed in their teachers and the influences these messages had upon academics and affective learning were the focus of a large number of investigations. Rosenthal and Jacobsen (1968) and other studies reported by Braun (1976) showed that student academic performance is significantly affected by teacher expectancies. However, definitive studies on how such expectations are communicated non-verbally have been somewhat limited. The amount of eye contact from an instructor was confirmed by Cooper (1971) to be one determinate of expectancy transmission. He learned that students (university males) who received consistent and frequent eye contact from their instructor felt more positively about themselves than those who did not.

The value of eye contact was also suggested by Breed and Colaiuta (1974) who found that students scored higher in a subsequent quiz when they were in groups where continuous eye contact was maintained by the lecturer. In another study, Johnson (1970) found that predicted expectancy-performance discrepancy was reflected in avoidance of eye contact.

Mehrabian (1972) carried out a research on how status differences are conveyed and the two dimensions of bodily behaviour which he indentified will be referred to in the subsequent discussion. The first dimension, which he termed immediacy, includes those behaviours which increase the mutual sensory stimulation between two persons. To him immediacy behaviours tend to focus or intensify communication between people. Here he include non-verbal aspects such as touch, closer position, forward lean, eye contact and more direct body orientation. The other dimension which Mehrabian came up with is relaxation, this can be shown through body posture. Relaxation can be conveying by an asymmetrical posture such as openness of arm position, a sideways lean, if the speaker is seated, a more reclined position.

Mehrabian also showed that when people of different status meet and talk, the lower status person adopts a more upright posture than the higher status person. Argyle’s (1975) also came up with some non-verbal cues which show dominance relationship such as the tone of the voice and facial expression.

In a book written by John Roberton titled “Effective Classroom Management”, he explained the message people gets from the way people use their space. To Roberton, the way someone enters and uses the space implies ownership and confidence.

Nonverbal communication is use during the teaching and learning process by the teacher as well as students. According to Galloway, 1979 he explained that students hardly use nonverbal skills such as eye contact and gesture (consciously) when discussing with their teachers. According to Galloway, if a student uses nonverbal skill such as eye contact or a bad gesture when interacting with his or her teacher shows a sign of disrespect.

Nowadays, Nonverbal communication can be counted as one influential factor which affects students’ academic performance in the teaching learning process and has received an increasing attention from researchers, as it is a major tool in maintaining classroom management. In the past when learning was not done in a confined area such as the classroom, teaching a subject such as hunting, non-verbal means of communication was the most used type of communication in transferring hunting skills from adults to the young people. Nonverbal communication is not something of today.

Non Verbal Communication is a situation where the teacher controls the class without talking. Here speech of any type is absent. It involves the use of silence in the teaching learning process. Non Verbal Communication takes the forms of body language like gestures, nodding of the head, pointing and through facial expressions like eye contact touch and posture as well as time space and motion. They are used to send messages such as smile indicating pleasure, lifting of the eye brows to reveal wonder of suspense among others. This use of Non Verbal Communication is very crucial as it conveys a message to the students, like teachers using the expression of anger to control misbehaving of students in class and humour to reduce tension or improve student’s attention. From this view, there is a wonder if nonverbal communication may have an impact on student’s academic performance. This study will clarify this doubt.

However, in the yester years, the impact of Non Verbal Communication was not actually a matter of urgent concern in the educational milieu. The growing attention given to Non Verbal Communication resulted from few educational studies in Pakistan revealing that academic performance seems to be the result of effective and conscious use of silence in the teaching learning process.

According to Milner (1981), the face is second to words in communicating internal feelings. Milner further suggested that facial expression can readily be voluntary or involuntary whatever the type. Facial expression can reinforce, modify or even contradict the spoken word in the teaching learning process. According to Sprinthall (1994), the use of Non Verbal communication complements verbal behaviour leading to better understanding and learning of the subject matter. These findings were limited and inconsistent as they failed to appreciate the effect of non-verbal communication in relation to student’s academic performance in the teaching learning process. This research paper will in its investigation clarify this failure. In many indigenous American Communities, for example, there is often an emphasis on non-verbal communication which acts as a valued means by which children learn. Most interest was on non-verbal communication than on verbal even for children to learn cultures and this starts from a very small age.The creation of the department of Special Education in the faculty of Education, which trained teachers or educators on how to use nonverbal skills with disable learners, shows how significant nonverbal communication can be. This department or establishment uses just nonverbal communication during their lessons. For instance, a deaf and dump school around the world uses mainly nonverbal communication during their lessons.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Fast (1991) explained that eye contact, head nodding and gesture are key aspects of non-verbal communication. Zekia (2009) also emphasised on the effect of eye contact on students’ performance. The teachers’ use of eye contact regulated the pupils to be more focused, stop talking and listen to the teacher. It was in this backdrop that the researcher observed that, it appears there is an impact of non-verbal communication on students’ academic performance in the teaching learning process. None-the less, the direct effect of nonverbal communication in the teaching learning process remains worrying and unclear with further longitudinal research needed to assist in the understanding of this effect. The reason for this study and from the results, some recommendations have been proposed.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

1.3.1 General Objective

To find out the effect of non-verbal communication on students’ academic performance in the teaching learning process

1.3.2 Specific Research Objective

The specific objectives include:

1) Find out the effect of facial language on student’s academic performance

2) Find out the effect of body language on student’s academic performance

3) Determine the effect of space and motion on student’s academic performance


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