The Importance of Body Language in Tutoring

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The Importance of Body Language in Tutoring

“Body language is a very powerful tool. We had body language before we had speech, and apparently, 80% of what you understand in a conversation is read through the body, not the words.” (Deborah Bull)

Body language plays, in my opinion, an important role in tutoring and it is especially important with ESL student who often use observation to understand better and to compensate some deficit in oral communication. According to Wikipedia’s definition Body language is: “a term for communication using body movements or gestures instead of, or in addition to, sounds, verbal language or other communication. It forms part of the category of paralanguage, which describes all forms of human communication that are not verbal language. This includes the most subtle of movements that many people are not aware of, including winking and slight movement of the eyebrows. In addition body language can also incorporate the use of facial expressions.

During a tutoring session, body language can be used as an important tool to achieve a productive tutoring session, or it can as well expose a tutor who is not really interested in the tutee’s issue. Attention and coherence between body language and verbal expression is important in order to build a good relationship of trust with each tutee.

According to Albert Meharabian’s studies, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA, there are three elements in any interpersonal communication: words, tone of voice and body-language. Besides, he stresses that non-verbal expression is peculiar for communicating feelings and attitude, and if words and body language disagree, one tends to believe the body language. Meharabian explains that the “3 Vs” (verbal, vocal & visual) account differently for our liking for the person who delivers [puts forward] the message: words account for 7%, tone of voice accounts for 38%, and body language accounts for 55% of the liking (known as7%-38%-55% Rule). As a consequence, for effective and meaningful communication about emotion (i.e. like, dislike), these three part of a message have to be “congruent”; otherwise the receiver might be disappointed by two messages coming from two different channels, giving signals in two different directions (Meharabian 44).

As an ESL student my self, the body language of some of my tutors was an important ingredient during my sessions in the past. In fact, I was quite disappointed when some tutor showed very little interest for my contingent issue: for example, relaxing on the chair, playing nervously with a pen, or looking into the infinite space! Consequently, I think that body language is a great tool for a successful tutor who wants to be professional and credible. Moreover, I’d like to learn some strategies to control better my own body language myself because it is easy to criticize somebody else, but it is as well easy to follow the same mistakes. In fact, after watching the video tape about my tutoring session, I was very surprised about my body posture and the way I was too close and protective with my tutee. Besides, my hands were really hyper-active.

Jeff Brooks, in “Minimalist tutoring”, suggest four important steps to reinforce the fact that: “the paper belongs to the student and that the tutor is not an editor” (85). Below a summary of these important tips:

1. Sit beside the student- It shows the student that the tutor is not the one “in charge”

of the paper.

2. The student is the one fiscally closer to her paper-The tutor observes the tutee works on her own paper. 3. The tutor should avoid holding a pen in her hands- so that the student herself has the responsibility to correct her paper. 4. Let the student read the paper holding a pencil. In this way the student is immediately active and involved in her writing, and she will be able to discover and correct different kinds of errors.

Therefore, in this...
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