Best Practice

Behaviour: Verbal and non-verbal communication

There are many children who expend much of their time and energy trying to decipher adult communications and masking their responses with ‘poor behaviour’ when they feel that they have misunderstood. Sara Alston looks at verbal and non-verbal communication

All teachers know that effective understanding of language and communication are vital for successful teaching and learning. The majority know that more than 90 per cent of communication is non-verbal (Mehrabian, 1972).

However, there is often a disconnect between this knowledge and classroom practice. This is often rooted in a lack of focus on communication as a two-way process: with both the teacher (and other adults) understanding the child and the child being able to understand the adults. Non-verbal communication is a key, yet frequently ignored, component of this process.

Behaviour as communication is understood at some level by most teachers, even those who profess a “zero-tolerance” approach (Lightfoot, 2020). But this is not always embedded in an understanding of non-verbal communication as a two-way process.

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