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The medium and frequency with which principals communicate with staff also impacts school climate.  Oswalt (2011) found face-to-face communication, where principals listened to teacher ideas, yielded the highest ratings of an open school climate.  Horn (2008) identified several factors that impact effectiveness of communication including nonverbal cues, message clarity, active listening, and feedback.

Email has been found to be a less effective means of communication between principals and teachers.  Because of the prevalence of email and its heavy impact on school climate, it is essential to consider how it can be used effectively.  Berthiaume (2015) recommended considering the volume of emails, content of the message and tone when determining how to communicate, cautioning that tone can be misread.  The general recommendation is that face-to-face conversations are more likely to build trust and respect.  In addition, Berthiaume (2015) suggested principals consider if the conversation needs to be formally documented as a public record: “If you don’t want this across the front page of the newspaper, then don’t click send” (p. 63).

Some guiding questions for helping principals choose when sending an email is necessary and appropriate:

  • Is the email informative for the teacher?

  • Is the content of a sensitive nature?

  • What is the most efficient way to communicate this particular message?

  • How will the email affect the receiver?

  • Could the message be misinterpreted?

  • Is a documentation trail needed?

Positive reinforcement is another key element of principal communication with teachers that affects school climate. Positive reinforcement needs to be consistent and sincere in order to be effective (Oswalt, 2011).  These messages can be shared in a variety of ways including hand-written notes, email, informal meetings, and staff meetings.

Table 5.6


School Assessment: Communication Systems
Supporting a Collaborative School Climate 


Table 5.7


Teacher Preparation Program Assessment:

Communication Systems Addressed as Part
of Teacher Preparations


Table 5.8


Resources for Principals and Instructional Coaches Communication Systems that Support a Collaborative School Climate


Table 5.9


Resources for Teacher Educators
Communication Systems that Support
a Collaborative School Climate


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