Teacher Education Goes Global
Jeannie Ducher Module
Course Name: ESOL Education
Module Title: Are gestures universally understood?
Module Description: One way to understand that culture is learned and that misunderstandings may stem from not being aware of one's culturally-motivated behaviors is to look at gestures and facial expressions. Do all “speakers” of a culture understand some gestures/facial expressions the same way, and use them in the same contexts? Do these gestures/facial expressions have the same meanings and uses among all peoples who speak the same language but live in different countries (i.e. English in Australia, England, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, the U.S., etc.)? Do these same gestures/facial expressions have the same or different meanings, or any meaning at all, in other cultures? This module aims at helping participants reevaluate some of their assumptions related to the universality of non-verbal communication, and in particular of gestures and facial expressions.
Global Learning Outcomes Addressed: Knowledge: Understands his/her culture in global and comparative context (recognizes that his/her culture is one of many diverse cultures & that alternative perceptions & behaviors may be based in cultural differences)||Knowledge: Demonstrates knowledge of other cultures (beliefs, values, perspectives, practices, and products).
Time Required: Between 10 to 20 hours, depending on technology savvyness and access to representatives of other cultures
Resources: Axtell, E.R. (1998). Gestures: The DO's and TABOOs of body language around the world. Wiley: New York and other articles online (see module write up)
Module: View Module


I agree that this is a great module for all of us to integrate into our curriculum. In teacher education, we address, or at least hope we all attempt to address, the hidden curriculum and discuss about non-verbals, but don't actually have them research and analyze their non-verbals. In physical education, our students videotape their performance in content courses and in all of their field experiences, yet we never have them assess their gestures. I think this will be something I can implement when I am teaching content and methods this spring.

Thanks! Jen Fisette

This module gives me some valuable ideas for incorporating gestures and body language into the study of children's literature. Since picture storybooks are a combination of text and illustration, much of the story is communicated in the illustrations. Examining gestures as portrayed by the illustrator can be a vital component of the understanding of the total story. This may be even more important when incorporating international literature into the curriculum. Thank you for this awareness. -Brenda Dales

Jeannie, I think everyone needs to have some knowledge about the meaning of gestures around the world. It is a good module for everyone. I have my students communicate with other educators and students who live in other nations. It would be great to include your module into their communications. (Chia-Ling Kuo)