School context factor: Communication systems
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
Communication systems exist between principals and teachers, and within teacher communities. For both networks, effective communication, whether face-to-face, virtual, or in writing, is foundational for successful school operations (Spencer, 2015). One source (New Zealand Ministry of Education, n.d.) describes six elements of good practice for internal school communication:
championing and being a good role model for clear
and consistent communication;
matching your words to your actions–this is part of developing integrity as a leader;
being committed to open, two-way communication;
communicating with empathy–communicating bad news as effectively as good news; and
seeing communication as an essential leadership capability, not as a set of techniques.
Communication that occurs among principals and teachers has a positive and significant relationship with school climate (Horn, 2008). First, we consider the teacher’s role in establishing a positive school climate. The research literature focuses on teacher communication within the context of collaborative activities, especially instructional planning. Teacher collaboration during instructional planning has been shown to be a significant predictor of job satisfaction and retention (Goldstein, 2015; Reeves, Pun, & Chung, 2017). Collaboration reduces feelings of isolation, which is a major factor in low job satisfaction.
New teachers are more likely to stay in schools where they participate in a professional culture with veteran teachers (Ervin, 2011). In addition, teachers who work together are more confident (Wimberly, 2011) and have a more positive view of the school climate (Goldstein, 2015; Vangrieken, Dochy, Raes, & Kyndt, 2014). However, the quality and type of collaboration matter, and there are better results when administrators observe teacher teams and provide guidelines and feedback (Ervin, 2011; Goldstein, 2015; Wimberly, 2011). Several characteristics are hallmarks of successful teacher communities: shared values, reflective dialogue, deprivatization of practice, focus on student learning, and collaboration (Louis & Kruse, 1995). Time also needs to be built into the school day for teachers to work together (Cook & Faulkner, 2010; Goldstein, 2015).