Communication between principals and teachers in successful schools
Abstract: This thesis examines the interplay between organizational structure and culture and principals’ communication with their teachers in a Swedish school setting. Especially communication about issues connected to teaching and learning, student outcomes and school improvement are in focus. These issues are examples of what principals work with as pedagogical leaders. The thesis consists of four published articles on principals’ communication in relation to organizational prerequisites and aims. The four separate articles are all connected to three overall questions. How do organizational factors relate to the communication process? How does the communication between principals and teachers affect and reflect principals’ and teachers’ work towards the national objectives in the Swedish curriculum? What, if any, differences are there in the communication process between successful and less successful schools? The research undertaken in this thesis is a part of a larger project called ‘Structure, Culture, Leadership – prerequisites for Successful Schools?’ The empirical data used consists of interviews and questionnaires with teachers and principals in twenty-four Swedish schools as well as one school outside the projects study population. The twenty-four schools within the project have been divided into four groups depending on how they have succeeded in reaching academic and social objectives in the curriculum. The overall result shows that most communication in schools is related to everyday activities and individual students. Teachers claim that their communication with their principals is uncomplicated and straightforward. Viewing communication as a multidimensional process including information, affirmation/feedback and interpretation reveals that many principals overestimate their ability to communicate as pedagogical leaders. The difference in the communication process between the schools was more due to organizational factors like structure and culture than the principal’s individual communication abilities. In the successful schools, principals and teachers communicated more frequently about issues related to teaching and learning. These principals made more classroom visits and provided more frequently feedback on teachers’ professional role. In many of the other schools, there were signs of a communicative and organizational blindness. There is a potential in many schools to improve principals' and teachers' daily conversations so the communication process to a higher extent support long-term work towards positive school outcomes.
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