COM 508

Nonverbal Communication
Fall, 2017


COM 508

Nonverbal Communication



Office hours: W 4:00 - 5:30 and by appointment;

Need an appointment?

Office: KT 176 Office Phone: 481-6558



PDF version of syllabus

Text: Guerrero, L.K. & Hecht, M.L. (2008). Nonverbal Communication Reader: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Third Edition. Waveland Press. ISBN: 1-57766-544-9

Teaching Philosophy:

My job here is to facilitate your learning: to provide you with a variety of opportunities to learn the content of this course. This means I do my best to structure a course that makes sense to you and gives you opportunities to learn, apply, analyze and evaluate the concepts. I do not tell you what or how to think, just to stimulate and stretch your abilities to do that thinking. To that end, I am generally willing to work with any student who is willing to work as well. But, I expect you to work. If you do your part; i.e., read and consider the material, participate in discussions, and complete assignments thoroughly and on time, I absolutely enjoy doing my part. If you have questions or concerns about the class, assignments or content, you should consult with me about those either in person or via email. If you have technical problems with the webpage, you should contact me or the help desk (x16030) immediately. My services as a facilitator and guide (and occasional technical consultant) come with the tuition you paid for the course, do not be shy about using them!

Class policies:

Late work: While I do accept late work, each day (including weekends) late is subject to up to 20% reduction in points (which means after five days, you have pretty much earned a 0). If you are having a technical problem, have questions about the assignment, or are having other issues which make it difficult for you to complete the assignment on time, always let me know before the assignment is due. Plan for technological obstacles, i.e, if your computer or internet at home goes down, what can you do (get to campus, go to a library etc.). Waiting until the last minute, almost assures you will have technical problems!

My availability: I check my email multiple times a day during the week. I check it once or twice on Saturday. I do not do email on Sunday as that is reserved for family, puppies, football and, having some down time. So, you can expect me to get back to you fairly quickly, but not necessarily within a half hour or so. Remember, you can also call me in the office during office hours.

Civility expectations: While you are not required to agree with everyone's opinions, you are required to respect them in class. However, because you have an opinion, does not mean it is a valid opinion! Back up your statements with facts, direct experiences, concepts from the text, etc.

Academic Misconduct : Academic Misconduct, including plagiarism (using other people's ideas/words and not giving them credit thus implying the work is your own original work), is taken very seriously at any learning institution. It is taken very seriously in this class. Please be aware of what academic misconduct is and the potential consequences (including dismissal from the university) of such behavior.

Helpful places on campus:

Services for Students with a Disability: If you have a disability or acquire one and want to find out about what special services and accommodations are available, you may contact Services for Students with Disabilities in WALB 113.
Writing Center: Can help you with general writing problems or specific assignments (including APA research papers) at Learning Commons (Helmke Library, second floor).
CASA (Center for Academic Support and Advancement): Offers many kinds of services to students including tutoring in KT G23.
Helmke Library offers research librarians who can help you find what you need. Make an appointment with one early in your research process and your life will be much easier in November :).

Course requirements and grade breakdown:

Webpages or other format for public presentation of findings
In-class participation/homework
Research workshop preparedness/helpfulness
Mini-observation papers (do 4)
Article critique
Research project/presentation
Final test

Grading Breakdown:

90 - 93% A-
94 - 100% A
80 - 82% B-
83 - 86% B
87 - 89% B+
70 - 72% C-
73 - 76% C
77 - 79% C+
60 - 62% D-
63 - 66%; D
67 - 69% D+
0 - 59% F


Major Assignments

Webpage: Each student is required to have a webpage, or other public way to share findings, up by September 6 (send URL to me please) with an introduction to you and what you hope to learn from this course. Eventually, your webpage should contain an introduction, a brief summary of each mini-observation paper, the basic ideas from your article critique and the main points from your research paper. Each entry should be uploaded within 24 hours of presenting those materials. You are welcome to use or something similar. The goals of this page are: 1) give us the main points for each of your papers in an easily navigated format; 2) use nonverbal (and verbal) communication to be as engaging as possible.

Other resources:

Some tips for creating good webpages

Some more tips about layout

Grading Guidelines

In-class participation: A good deal of what you will learn in this class will be from scholarly discussion with your peers. Therefore, attendance is important to your learning. Be here, be prepared, contribute! Each week there will be questions assigned for the readings (linked from that date on the agenda below). Be prepared to answer those individually, in small groups or as a whole class since we will do some small group exercises as well as whole class discussions critiquing the readings or particular applications of the concepts from the readings. Points for these are generally awarded based on completion. It is very difficult to obtain group points by yourself, making class attendance and preparation important to your grade as well.

Mini observation papers (4 of them): Mini observation papers are 1-3 page case studies in which you choose a particular code, function or theory of nonverbal communication and observe or create an interaction from that perspective (do not use interactions you remember). You should briefly describe the interaction and then analyze the role of the code, the effects of the nonverbal communication etc. Evaluate what you gain(ed)/learn(ed) by using this concept/theory within the interaction. Each paper is due when we cover that code, function or theory, so you need to plan ahead.You also need to do a brief informal report (3-5 minutes) on that night. You can only present one paper per night.

A brief paragraph about each of these should appear on your webpage before you present it in class.

Grading Guidelines

Article critique: Each of you is required to find and critique an article about nonverbal communication (this should be one you intend to use in your literature review for your research project). A short (3-5 pp.) paper is required as well as placing the main ideas from your critique on your webpage. Your critique should consider how well the author(s) support their perspective with theory, data or both. How does their perspective fit with other research on the topic? How clear is their particular idea? If the paper is data based, does the methodology fit the hypotheses/research questions? Is the method sound? Are the conclusions drawn from the data valid? Due for peer review October 4th. Due October 11. Part of the grade for this assignment is based on your meeting the peer review deadline: October 4.

A paragraph summary of these critiques should be on your class webpage by October 12.

Article Critique Rubric

Research project/presentation:
Students are required to write a 12-15 page paper including: 1) a literature review (at least 7-10 recent journal sources) addressing a particular question relevant to nonverbal communication; 2) hypotheses or research questions further exploring this question; 3) methods for testing the hypotheses; 4) data generated piloting those methods; 5) results of the pilot test; 6) discussion of the results including limitations and implications sections. If data can be gathered in conjunction with another student’s research project, then such collaborative effort is encouraged. See webpage for specifics regarding how to write a research paper. Due December 6 along with webpage (December 7) and oral presentation. Part of the grade for this project is based on your meeting deadlines for Research Workshops 1, 2 and 3.

All students are expected to complete an oral presentation (10-12 minutes) of their individual paper.

The main points from your research paper should appear on your webpage

Research Paper Rubric

Research workshop preparedness/helpfulness: Beyond having your own work prepared for the research workshops, you should be meaningfully helpful to your peers with their work. This means having a solid understanding of expectations and offering them honest, constructive feedback about whether you believe they are meeting those expectations and, if not, how they might do so.

Final: Write a 3-5 (DS, 1 inch margins, 12 point font) page synthesis paper about something you have learned this semester. The paper should focus on one fairly narrowly defined topic/thesis in nonverbal communication. It must include information from at least three readings from the text and three mini-observations/research papers (not yours). Cannot be the same topic as your research paper. No other sources are required. Due December 13 by 6:30 pm.

Click here for classmates webpages

Tentative Agenda


23 Orientation

30 Beginning Perspectives: Readings 1, 2 & 3; Nonverbal immediacy behaviors and online student engagement: Research Workshop 1: ideas for research papers due for peer review


6 Theories: Readings 46, 52, 53, 54, 55 and When online meets offline: An expectancy violations theory perspective on modality switching (in Blackboard): Webpages up

13 Decoding Nonverbals: Readings 20, 33, 36, 37, 47, 48 and Cues to Deception (in Blackboard)

20 Nonverbals and Relationships: Readings 9, 24, 25, 27, 40, 41 and Nonverbal Decoding and Relationship Well-being (in Blackboard)

27 No class: Work on article critiques and lit review argument outline


4 Culture: Readings 12, 29, 35, 45; Article Critique due for Peer Review

11 Nonverbals on the Job: Readings 7, 10, 16, 26, 30, 49 and Nonverbal Immediacy and Patient Satisfaction (in Blackboard);Article Critiques Due

18 Research Workshop 2: Literature review argument outline w/hypothesis/research question and references due for peer review

25 No class: Work on literature review and methods


1 Research Workshop 3: Literature reviews and methods due for peer review

8 Kinesics & Compliance: Readings 11, 13, 14, 23, 50: Literature reviews and methods due for Dixson review

15 Appearance & Time: Readings: 4, 6, 8, 28, 32

22 Thanksgiving - no class

29 Research Workshop 4: Literature review, methods, and results due for peer review

December 6 Research Presentations: Research papers, presentations due; webpages due 7th

13 Final Due by 6:30 pm


Email Dr. Dixson







Email Dr. Dixson



Words are a wonderful form of communication; but they will never replace kisses and punches! Anonymous







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