Communicative feedback and its influence on leadership in a rural school setting

Debora Buchaim Regos Zamorano, University of Texas at El Paso


Bulach, Boothe, and Pickett (1998), identified that most of the shortcomings educational administrators make fall into the category of poor human relations, and one of the categories of mistakes identified by the researchers is poor-interpersonal communication skills. Bulack and colleagues found that ineffective principals had interpersonal communication problems in the areas of providing and receiving feedback. Cannon and Witherspoon (2005) point out that providing feedback involves describing observed behaviors, as well as the reactions created. Reeves (2004) also suggests that poor communication and ineffective feedback is relatively constant within the realm of educational leadership. Reeves notes that in terms of feedback, communicative leadership can be messy. He states that the expectations for effective communicative leadership are often ambiguous. This occurs because the primary problems, as related to school administration, are often associated with poorly defined standards of leadership and undefined standards of leadership performance and communication. The purpose of this study is to identify and describe the subjective experience of a rural school principal relative to the manner in which the principal utilizes communication skills, including feedback, to ensure organizational improvement and student success. Furthermore, this study also aims at investigating the current views of the rural school principal relative to leadership styles and effective communication techniques, including feedback. The investigative process will determine how patterns of communication with different publics are established and how these patterns of communication flow in the school and thus impact the climate and culture of the school. Moreover, the investigative process will also determine how patterns of communication can improve the school organization and increase student achievement. The focus of this study is related to one rural school principal. This principal was chosen because during the two year period she has been principal in a rural West Texas school, the campus has achieved tremendous success relative to campus climate and student achievement. In addition, three teachers, three parents, a custodian, a secretary, the cafeteria manager, librarian, and the assistant principal were interviewed. A qualitative research method known as case study was used for the study. The experience analyzed the manner in which a school principal handles communication and utilizes effective feedback. Data were gathered through a series of semi-structured, open-ended interviews with each research participant. The questions utilized in the interview process were designed to understand how a principal handles communication, as well as the process of providing and receiving feedback from differing publics. The questions were also designed to understand the influence of the manner in which participants handle feedback relative to the principal leadership role. The results of the study found that when developing and establishing communication strategies with publics, the principal enhances interpersonal relationships through vision, humor, accessibility, team-building skills, and genuine praise, all of which help create a positive school climate and open organizational culture. Results also indicated that the principal removes communication barriers through being accessible and scheduling regular meetings with teachers, and by ensuring a constant, yet informal, exchange of feedback. A sense of team-work is nurtured through efforts by the principal to assist each staff member achieve his or her potential. When creating opportunities for informal relationships, such as having lunch with the teachers of the school, the principal utilizes a sense of humor when interacting with her publics. This study also revealed several communication strategies utilized by the principal. Furthermore, the study revealed that the principal develops trust and motivation, which resulted in a positive school climate and open culture, where effective feedback and increased student achievement are the norm. Finally, this study highlights possible differences and similarities concerning communication strategies and their influence on leadership roles in both rural and urban schools.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Zamorano, Debora Buchaim Regos, "Communicative feedback and its influence on leadership in a rural school setting" (2008). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3341659.