Date of Award

January 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Gail Ingwalson


The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe elementary teachers’ nonverbal immediacy behaviors during math instruction. The instructional and non-instructional nonverbal behaviors of six female third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers were studied. Methods used included video recording math lessons, conducting one-on-one interviews, and reviewing relevant literature. Data analyses were completed through documenting major nonverbal behaviors displayed and identifying codes, categories, themes, and assertions (utilizing Excel spreadsheet software).

The conceptual framework underlying this study has its foundation in phenomenology. As a research methodology, phenomenology investigates how an experience is lived by its participants. Immediacy was the construct used to describe teachers’ nonverbal behaviors during mathematics instruction. This overall framework supported the findings that arose from the data as it came forth from the six teacher participants.

The following four themes emerged from the data analysis, including Classroom Environment and Instructional Elements; Math Nonverbal Immediacy Behaviors, Math Concepts, and Real-life Examples; Student Engagement; and Teachers' Reflections and Realizations. These four themes led to two assertions. The first assertion was: “Student engagement during math lessons is interdependent with teachers’ nonverbal behaviors.” The second assertion was: “Teachers’ perceptions of their nonverbal behaviors are essential to the lesson content and instruction as well as intent to form immediacy with students.”

Recommendations for teachers include the addition of nonverbal immediacy behavior training through professional development workshops or integration into preservice teacher courses, as well as the pairing of preservice teachers with in-service teachers who employ nonverbal immediacy behaviors. The impact of teachers’ heightened awareness of their nonverbal behaviors might impact current and future lessons and thus, student engagement.