COM 508

Nonverbal Communication
Spring, 2013


COM 508

Nonverbal Communication



Office hours: MW 2:30 - 4:00 and by appointment;

Need an appointment?

Office: NF 230B 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:

In-class participation/homework
Continuing the conversation (5 forums)
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 up by January 28 (send URL to me please) with an introduction to you and what you hope to learn from this course. Eventually, your webpage should contain a brief summary of each mini-observation paper, the basic ideas from your article critique by March 4 and the main points from your research paper by April 22 - May 1 (depending on your presentation date). For help creating a webpage, click here. You are welcome to use or something similar. Other resources:

Some tips for creating good webpages

Some more tips about layout

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.

Continuing the Conversation: Also included in your participation grade is interaction in weekly discussion forums. The forums will be in Blackboard and offer an opportunity to continue the discussion from the previous class. You need to post in five (5) forums and faciliate one. Please post meaningfully - respond to your peers, don't just post random thoughts :)! Forums will be opened just before classtime and close before class time the following week - they will encompass all the readings on a topic. Two or three facilitators will be assigned to each week's conversation. They will be responsible for checking the forum, responding to posts, and, generally, keeping things running smoothly. You do not need to wait for a facilitator to post to begin the discussion.

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. 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 (1-3 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.

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 March 4. Part of the grade for this assignment is based on your meeting the peer review deadline: April 25.

A paragraph summary of these critiques should be on your class webpage by March 4.

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 April 22 - May 1 (depending on your presentation date) along with webpage 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

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) OR two mini-observations/research papers (not yours) and one discussion forum. Cannot be the same topic as your research paper. No other sources are required. Due May 8 at 4:00 pm.

Click here for classmates webpages

Tentative Agenda


14 Orientation

16 Beginning Perspectives: Readings 1 & 3

21 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - no class

23 Beginning Perspectives: Reading 2: Workshop 1: ideas for research papers due for peer review

28 Theories: Readings 46, 52, 55: Webpages up

30 Theories: Readings 53, When online meets offline: An expectancy violations theory perspective on modality switching (in Blackboard), 54


4 Decoding Nonverbals: Readings 20, 33, 36, (37)

Facilitators: Courtney & Stephanie

6 Decoding Nonverbals: Readings (47), Cues to Deception (in Blackboard), 48

11 Nonverbals and Relationships: Readings 9, 24, 25, (41)

Facilitators: Keysha & Julie

13 Nonverbals and Relationships: Readings 27, 40, Nonverbal Decoding and Relationship Well-being (in Blackboard)

18 Nonverbals on the Job: Readings 7, 10, 16

Facilitators: Adam & Christie

20 Nonverbals on the Job: Readings 26, 30, 49, Nonverbal Immediacy and Patient Satisfaction (in Blackboard)

25 Article Critique due for Peer Review

27 Culture: Readings 12, 29

Facilitators: Elena & Lidia


4 Culture: Readings 35, 45: Article Critiques Due

6 Workshop 2: Literature review outline, references and ideas for methods due for peer review

11 Spring Break - no class

13 Spring Break - no class

18 Kinesics & Compliance: Readings 11, 13, 14

Facilitators: Renee & MaryLou

20 Kinesics & Compliance: Readings 23, 50

25 Catch up day (or research work time, if not needed)

27 Workshop 3: Literature reviews and methods due for peer review


1 Appearance & Time: Readings: 4, 6, 8

Facilitators: Kendra & Ashley

3 Appearance & Time: Readings: 28, 32

8 Students' Choice Readings: 17, 38, 39

Facilitators: Holly & Sasha

10 Students' Choice Readings: 21, 43, 44

15 Writing conferences

17 Writing conferences

22 Research Presentations: Research papers, presentations due (webpages too)

24 Research Presentations: Research papers, presentations due (webpages too)

29 Research Presentations: Research papers, presentations due (webpages too)


1 Research Presentations: Research papers, presentations due (webpages too)

8 Final Due by 4:00 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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