INSTRUCTIONAL NONVERBAL COMPETENCE (INC): UNDERSTANDING AND ATTENDING TO “HIDDEN/SILENT” COMMUNICATION DIMENSIONS IN LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
Nonverbal is often referred to as the “hidden dimension” or “silent language” of communication (Hall, 1966; 1973; Matsumoto, Frank & Hwang, 2013; Mehrabian, 2007). Hidden/silent components of communication, however, should not be viewed as negligible or superfluous elements. Rather, nonverbal dimensions are integral to any communicative act: they may carry, replace, extend, modify, or even negate what is communicated verbally. Previous research estimates that as much as sixty to ninety percent of the meaning of our messages (especially affective elements) is conveyed through our nonverbal communication (Birdwhistle, 1970; Mehrabian, 2007). In order to be communicatively competent in instructional contexts, one must attend to and be conversant in the hidden and/or silent (nonverbal) dimensions of communication. Indeed, an instructor’s pedagogical effectiveness may be contingent on her/his nonverbal communication competence.
Nonverbal communication competence is understood as a function of knowledge, skills, and motivation. It assumes cognitive and behavioral abilities for message encoding (creation and transmission) and message decoding (comprehension and interpretation) by enacting behaviors that complement, modify and/or transcend verbal utterances. Nonverbal communication competence requires one to understand the complexities and intersections of the rules and codes of human communication as well possess the skills to receive, produce, and share meaningful messages. Additionally, nonverbal competence assumes a willingness to engage in communication interactions and to do so in ethically appropriate ways (Hinchcliff-Pelias, 2012).
This essay explores modes and functions of primary nonverbal codes and offer approaches for developing and incorporating mindful nonverbal communication into one’s pedagogy. I propose that instructors can and should develop personal as well as disciplinary specific Instructional Nonverbal Communication (INC) competencies. The ideas presented in this paper are applicable to face-to-face as well as distance or mediated classroom communication contexts. The overriding aim for this paper is to explore theoretical and applied dimensions of nonverbal communication competence within and across educational/learning contexts.
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 Matsumoto, D., Frank, M.G. & Hwang, H.S. (2013). Reading people. In D. Matsumoto, M.G. Frank, & H.S. Hwang (Eds.), Nonverbal communication: Science and applications, (p. 5). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
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 Hinchcliff-Pelias, M. (2012). Nonverbal Communication Competence, Visual Literacy, and Intercultural Effectiveness: Finding Paths to Navigate Cultural Landscapes. In L. Gómez Chova, A. López Martínez, & I. Candel Torres (Eds.), ICERI2012 Proceedings (5962–5966). Madrid, Spain: International Association of Technology, Education and Development (IATED).