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02/08/2012

Management and Interpersonal Competence in Education


Management and Interpersonal Competence in Education

 

 

To be able to communicate well is one of the key factors in building a successful career. Communication has long been regarded as a valuable tool in career development and without it, society wouldn’t have existed. In addition, to have an astounding skill in communication often leads to success whether in career or in personal life. Researchers and practitioners have long recognized communication skills are critical to job performance, career advancement, and organizational success (Aranoff, 1989; Eckert and Allen, 1986; Harper, 1987; Joyce, 1991). Cassidy and Wayne (1993) states that their study found 10,000 job positions requesting communication skills. Curtis, Winsor, and Stephens (1989) found communication competencies to be significant factors in entry-level business jobs and subsequent success on the job. Chief executive officers, middle managers, first-level managers, and business school deans have consistently identified written and oral communication skills as important for business success and professional advancement (Andrews and Baird, 1986; Bennett and Olney, 1986; Harper, 1987; Porter and McKibbin, 1988).

Communication, particularly interpersonal communication, is not only beneficial to the growth of one’s career but also in building a relationship with one’s co-workers. Peer relationships can provide a source of intrinsic reward for the employee, can buffer job-related stress, and can reduce job dissatisfaction and turnover.  Manning (1992) states that “communication - ambiguous, paradoxical, and equivocal - should be seen as a defining feature of human beings, and an appreciation of its vagaries is a valuable step toward sensitivity to the diversity and sensibilities of people.” Organizations, which attempt above all else to manage and routinise uncertainty, are constrained by a scarcity of time and resources, memory and concentration, narrow and limited roles, and organizationally sustained conflicts (Feldman 1988). Therefore, a strong relationship at work, organizational or personal, would be of vast help in both the success of the company and personal fulfillment. This could be achieved through interpersonal competence.  

Burgoon, et al (2000) stressed that many social problems can be traced to interpersonal communication difficulties; just as many proposed interventions to solve social ills also depend on effective interpersonal communication. As individuals engage in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication channels afford them a wealth of potential information. The content, structure, and sequencing of verbal messages, as well as the paralinguistic cues, gestures, facial expressions, body movements and cues provided by the physical environment that accompany verbal messages, all afford considerable grist for social actors' comprehension and interpretative mills. It is within this highly complex interpersonal communication matrix, one in which streams of social action and individual cognitive processes intertwine and run off rapidly, that we examine mindfulness-mindlessness. Burgoon, et al (2000) explains that it is within this highly complex interpersonal communication matrix, “one in which streams of social action and individual cognitive processes intertwine and run off rapidly, that we examine mindfulness-mindlessness.”

With these facts at hand, it is safe to say that competence in interpersonal communication is an individual’s display of mindfulness. Using the education industry as the setting, interpersonal skills can prevent conflicts among faculty members and can be outlet to eliminate stress that have resulted from the pressures at work. Effective communicators are able to demonstrate flexibility and appropriateness in adapting to a variety of types of communication situations. Research about communication competence has assessed the knowledge and skills needed to be a competent communicator. Interpersonal competence will be like a personal magnet because most people prefer to talk with an interesting communicator.

Doyle (2002) states that those types of interpersonal relationships is defined in terms of relational contexts of interaction and the types of expectations that communicators have of one another. The types of interpersonal relationships are: friendship; family; romantic; and professional relationship. Among these, professional relationship is obviously the most applicable at work, specifically in an education environment. Doyle (2002) further states that we spend a large portion of our day at work. In today's information and service centered.  economies, success in your career will be greatly affected by your abilities to relate to others interpersonally. The lack of such skills leads to unpleasant repercussions like job dissatisfaction as this would increase the stress being brought by the nature of the work.

The link between job dissatisfaction and the propensity to leave is well established (e.g., Gersten, Keating, Yovanoff, & Harniss, 2001; Shreeve et al., 1988; Singh & Billingsley, 1996). Several studies (e.g., Fimian & Blanton, 1986) have focused on stress and job dissatisfaction as explanatory factors in motivating people to abandon their careers. Among teachers, a strong inverse relationship between levels of stress and job satisfaction has been reported (Sutton & Huberty, 1984). The connection between job stress and satisfaction has particularly been observed within special education (Eichinger, 2000). In a Stress Survey for Special Educators, teachers reported feeling unable to cope with the stresses ensuing from dealing with students in special education (Crane & Iwanicki, 1986). Miller et al. (1999) reported that special education teachers who left the profession were significantly higher in perceived stress than those who stayed in the field. Weiskopf (1980) cited several stressors specifically among teachers. These included the heavy workload and the pressure to complete tasks in a timely manner. Weiskopf further observed that education teachers commonly perceived a lack of success on their part due to the child's actual problems or the teacher's simply having unrealistic goals. The resultant stress lowered the teacher's self-confidence and, according to Kyriacou and Sutcliffe (1978), frustration ensued. Job dissatisfaction often followed.

Interpersonal competence can prevent such occurrences to take place. Rosenberg et al. (1997) offered a model for providing individualised support for beginning teachers in education. They recommended building a collaborative culture and encouraging a learning community to support the new teacher. Furthermore, schools should provide individualized support designed to meet each teacher’s unique needs. Such support includes providing instructional information, advice on emotional support, mentorship, and demonstration teaching. The literature is replete with suggestions for developing mentor-based induction programs (e.g., Brock & Grady, 2001). Mentors can ease the transition process by offering support and suggestions. They can also serve as role models for finding satisfaction in teaching children who have special challenges.

The importance of interpersonal communication is evident and has long been stressed. It has been depicted by scholars that for most of us, many of the moments of our lives are spent in social interactions through which we learn about ourselves, other people, and the world. Theorists have long considered the origin of the self to be within the context of social interactions, with other people's responses to our actions providing some understanding of who we are. As well, the social contexts of our interactions can influence our dealings with other people. Many social interactions, especially those that occur between strangers, are ritualized and formal. At other times, in less formal interactions, the qualities of those with whom we interact (such as gender, age, race) may determine how we act; as social interaction becomes habitualized, many of these factors may affect us so automatically that we may not recognize their influence

To further assess, the combination of interaction rules, the personalities of the people who are interacting, and the settings and the purpose of their interactions affects not only each person's perception of the other and of self but also the outcomes of the interaction, including the likelihood of future interactions. Given the importance of these outcomes, people have learned to make use of cues that may signal the likely course of interaction. Among these cues are the expectations with which people begin their interactions with others, expectations about what will be required of them and expectations about how their interaction partners will act. Indeed, these preconceived expectations, and those formed immediately on beginning interaction, can channel our thought and behavior toward others before they have a chance to provide any behavioral basis for our impressions.

Wong (1996) states in his study that teacher competence is classified into two main categories: “Interpersonal Skills” and “Classroom Procedures “.The importance of these two categories of teacher competence can be justified by the fact that a number of previous studies on the assessment of teacher competence also included these two aspects of teacher competence. Basically, there are ways in which this competence can be acquired. But perhaps the most modern method is through the use of a computer sim9ulation exercise. The central issue in acquiring and dealing with interpersonal competence is to have ample opportunity to understand and practice new modes of behavior. Since one cannot deal effectively with the issues of interpersonal competence alone, one needs to find another individual with whom to practice. To this end, computer simulation exercises have been developed, which allows individuals the opportunity to be interpersonally competent (Solomon,2003). The simulation exercise contains twenty­two situations/dilemmas which are displayed sequentially. After a particular situation/dilemma is displayed, the individual is required to generate a response to that particular dilemma. The exercise is an attempt to give participants the opportunity to learn new behaviors and attitudes and to support movement toward being interpersonally competent. The exercise allows individuals an opportunity to experiment and develop new models of behavior to become confident in their ability to use them. Also, the computer will be constantly offering feedbacks which can help the individual understand which behaviors manifested in the communication link are competent or incompetent. The use of the computer allows individuals an opportunity to engage in an interaction with a non­biased member. Also, most communications from the computer will be minimally distorted, evaluative, attributive or contradictory. Constant reinforcement of valid feedback may support movement toward being interpersonally competent. As such it will be supporting individuals to become more open to new ideas and feelings. It also will support individuals' rights to own up to their feelings and ideas without fear of punishment. Overall, the computer simulation exercise serves to create an environment supportive of the individuals)' desire to experiment with new and relatively untested behaviors.

Bennet (1995) suggests that not only are primary school middle managers doing different kinds of jobs from their secondary school colleagues, but that there are many different kinds of secondary school “middle managers”. He states that middle managers and teachers should take a reflective and critical look at what influences their individual practice, providing reflective activities to assist in this. The book concludes by outlining an approach to developing a personal development plan for improving individual performance. In performing their duties efficiently and completely, teachers have a particular responsibility to assess and enhance their own performance. It is also imperative to seek assistance from colleagues, including executive staffs if they are experiencing difficulties. To be able to do this, a teacher must have extensive interpersonal skills and one of the means to achieve this is to participate in an improvement program, which happens to be another responsibility that a teacher must undertake. These programs should be designed to assist them to improve and overcome any difficulties in their teaching performance. It is also a teacher’s responsibility provide assistance to colleagues experiencing difficulties, in the context of a negotiated improvement program (Bennet,1995).

            Teacher efficiency is basically linked to his or her communication skills. Teacher efficiency is defined as a level of performance that is required for the position held. Teachers who fail to meet the required level of performance disadvantage the education and welfare of students and can impact on the work load and morale of colleagues. Action to improve efficiency is essential. This is a shared responsibility of the teacher, executive staff and the principal. If a teacher fails to respond adequately to a structured improvement program the employment of that teacher may be terminated. The factors that might affect the efficiency of teachers are: professional problems including classroom management, teacher student relationships, planning, communicating; school management, organisation and system shortcomings; personal difficulties being experienced both within and outside the school. Principals should be both sympathetic and take care to understand the reasons for personal difficulties experienced by members of their staff; and health problems. On the contrary, just by the mere fact that difficulty in communicating has been mentioned does not conclude that it is the only factor that the quality of work relationship depends with. There are also other causes that should be considered (Bush and Middlewoord, 1997).

            Management is one of the key in developing interpersonal skills among teachers. Bush and Middlewoord (1997) states that the management of people is an established element in the curriculum of most advanced courses in educational management, as it is in general management programmes. The introduction of Local Management of Schools (LMS), grant-maintained status (GMS) and incorporation of colleges, and their international equivalents, locates the responsibility for staff management firmly with the principal, senior staff and governors. The editors believe that people are at the centre of quality schools and colleges. The fashionable term ‘human resource management’ depersonalizes teachers and associate staff, appearing to regard them as inputs little different from material resources. Sensitive management of people as individuals with different personalities, backgrounds and personal and professional needs is a vital dimension in the development of successful organizations. They stressed that the implications of educational change for the management of all the people who work in schools and colleges should be examined, similarly to what they have conducted. In addition, teachers have traditionally been regarded as the key resource in education but the role of associate staff has become increasingly important in the 1990s. It is basically their role to motivate and to come in the aid of those teachers who has difficulty in performing assertively.

            Information systems in managing education have a significant importance. Gottelmann-Duret (2000) explains that information system for teacher’s management is overlooked. He states that decisions relating to teacher management, like those in other management areas, can hardly be effective and implemented efficiently if they are not based in a system of information that is reliable, responding to the objectives and constraints of the management system to be served, and of easy use for managers. In the countries analyzed in Gottelmann-Duret’s (2000) study, a certain number of governmental and non-governmental initiatives have actually been taken in this direction over the recent years. Lack of information system in education management can cause semantic noises which might cause confusion. This might affect the interpersonal competence of the whole faculty. However, at the intermediate and local levels of educational administration, where many teacher management tasks are increasingly being tackled, adequate and well functioning information tools for monitoring and management purposes are still largely missing; the design and establishment of such simple and functional management information systems for the intermediate and micro-levels is considered to be another major imperative for the future.

Another overlooked factor in managing education is the devolution of responsibilities. Gottelmann-Duret (2000) states that many factors – in particular the geographical remoteness of certain areas, the ethnic, social and cultural diversity of population, and the necessity to mobilize the contribution of local communities to educational financing, teacher recruitment and employment – have led certain governments, such as that of India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri-Lanka, to take steps towards the devolution of at least some teacher management responsibilities to the local or intermediate levels of administration. Although some significant positive effects of increased community involvement and district-and sub-district-centred management on the retention and commitment of teachers in the rural areas are being reported, phenomena of continued political interference from the top or of local politicisation of staff management decisions have been observed. This was found partly through inconsistent devolution of powers. Gottelmann-Duret (2000) further explains that there is an obvious need for more systematic organizational analysis and consultation before taking major decisions on the reform or reorganisation  of teacher management, or more generally, human resource management in the education sector.

Training and incentives in management staffs should also be the focus of improvement in the human resource management in education. Gottelmann-Duret (2000) depicts that besides politicisation, another major reason in which the impact of decentralisation on actual teacher management has not been as significant as it was hoped initially, relates to the fact that education officials, to whom new management tasks have been devolved to have not the necessary training nor any special incentive to do their job properly and would have the initiative to improve their interpersonal competence. The study of Gottelmann-Duret (2000) clearly pointed out the need for massive and appropriate management training of education officials at the district and sub-district levels, particularly in the areas of monitoring staff, assessment and management information systems.

Education is a continuous process, and even professional teachers have the need to be continuously educated. Teacher education is the knowledge and skills which are relevant to the life of a teacher, as a teacher. A course in teacher education should make an attempt to re-shape the attitudes, re-model the habits, and in a way, reconstitute the personality of a teacher (Gottelmann-Duret, 2000). It is an attempt to convert a teacher into an intellectually committed person to the profession, whose ethics he or she must learn to perfect and pursue with dedication. Any teacher education programme must remain close to the society.

In India, the teacher education system suffers from three types of isolation: isolation from university life; isolation from schools; and isolation from one another. It is obvious here that interpersonal competence is vital. Being isolated from one another doesn’t promote communication skills as it develops individualism and communication gap among teachers. Gottelmann-Duret, (2000) also states that in this country, an average teacher seeks immediate and short-term benefit from a job and employment, but does not think of his or her real professional career and contribution to the community. These teachers tend to play the role of a classroom hero but do not aspire to be a community hero.

            Another example of a situation where a character of a teacher depends on the socioeconomic background of the school is the poverty schools in New Mexico. Kitchen (2002) states that there are some preliminary research findings have been described that recognize some of the barriers faced by teachers to implement innovations in their classrooms.  A chief sociopolitical obstruction to reorganization described by the teachers included an overpowering workload.  New Mexico compares with Louisiana and Mississippi as among the states with the uppermost poverty rates.  For teachers to employ reforms in mathematics education in New Mexico, support must come from school boards, administrators, politicians and others to improve teachers’ working conditions.  The lack of support for and resistance to reform as demonstrated by administrators, other teachers, parents and students as described by the participants only magnifies the complex work that needs to be accomplished.

 

            Providing professional growth opportunities for teachers in New Mexico presents distinctive challenges.  Given the uniquely defining characteristics of this state, sociopolitical considerations take on greater import in the professional development of mathematics teachers.  The results of Kitchen’s (2002) study highlight the many alarming challenges that the Academy participants face to implement progressive reforms in their classrooms.  These findings also directly challenge policy-makers and reform advocates to pay more attention to the real barriers to reform as identified by teachers, particularly in schools serving diverse, high-poverty communities.

            It has been stressed that employee satisfaction contributes in terms of performance. According to Koys (2001), Human Resource outcomes influence organizational effectiveness, rather than the other way around. Specifically, they imply that organizational citizenship behaviour influences profitability and employee satisfaction influences customer satisfaction. On the other hand, satisfaction is influenced by the communication motive. Since relationships at work influence both affective and behavioral outcomes, employees' communication motives relate to satisfaction with their superiors, jobs, and organizations (Anderson and Martin, 1995). In addition, a growing body of research finds that people's communication motives explain satisfaction interpersonally.

            Anderson and Martin (1995) concluded that employees who communicate with their superiors for pleasure and not just to bide time or in other words – to escape - report high satisfaction with those superiors. Moreover, the relationship between motives with superior contentment shows the value of communication in satisfying needs in this superior/subordinate dyad. Infante and Gorden, (1991), and others who report that skillful communication climates lead to satisfaction, and subordinates like superiors who are not verbally aggressive towards them or use threatening compliance-gaining tactics. It does not necessarily mean that superiors and subordinates have to be good friends or intimates, but that communication between them cannot be totally irrelevant or totally informative/task focused. Employees in Anderson and Martin’s (1995) study say they communicate with their bosses to fulfill needs associated with a satisfactory relationship (inclusion) and closeness (affection). Although researchers continue studying superior/subordinate power and status differences, in this study, employees appear "cognitively and behaviorally" a part of their organizations. Their motives for communicating extend further than the relationship to influence satisfaction with their jobs and a commitment to their companies. Anderson and Martin (1995) were fascinated, because most of the participants in the study worked for their organizations and their bosses for two years or more. Conceivably, coworkers meeting each other's interpersonal needs may explain retention beyond first-year socialization tactics.

            In terms of the motives for communicating with coworkers, employees' needs vary (Anderson and Martin, 1995). Employees communicate for closeness and intimacy (affection), which motives link to job happiness, commitment, and satisfaction with bosses. Findings support Anderson and Martin's (1995) study reporting a direct relationship between warmth and group members' perceptions of solidity and accord, as well as communication satisfaction. Consequential factors to investigate might be the other organizational outcomes besides commitment and satisfaction with work and superiors, which are affected by motives for communicating with coworkers, as well as its relationship with their productivity and subsequent satisfaction in groups. Anderson and Martin’s (1995) findings provide evidence that non-task oriented communication motives serve a valuable function in organizations. A subsequent step would be to look at how coworkers communicate to fulfill each other's needs for affection. Since Graham et al. (1993) found that a friendly, attentive style is important interpersonally, findings in an organizational context could provide validity.

            One enlightening finding in Anderson and Martin’s (1995) study is that females and males do not fluctuate in communication motives when it comes to comparing which labor relationship type they observe as more likely to satisfy needs. Coworkers serve as targets over superiors, with only females saying the duty motives influences them to speak to superiors over coworkers. Explanations could point to superior/subordinate power/status differences, or simply that employees spend more time communicating with coworkers, which leads to greater intimacy, friendships, etc. Certainly, the findings point out the importance of studying motives along with communication and relational outcomes in coworker relationships. Organizations benefit from this study and others that help them understand how to improve employee relationships. To extend the findings here, researchers could follow Jablin and Krone's (1994) suggestion to consider how technology and the growth of group participation influence communication between co-workers. Anderson and Martin’s study has also determined the importance of interpersonal competence in work relationship.

            The importance of interpersonal competence has been stressed and can be linked with the management of the firm. In education, management plays a vital role in terms of improving the skills of teachers by boosting their interpersonal skills. Without interpersonal relationship, ideas will be lost and misunderstandings would arise. Management should also be the one responsible in improving the socioeconomic status of the school. A poverty-stricken school might add stress to a common instructor which might lead to job dissatisfaction and thus, prevents the development of interpersonal skills. It is up to the management to create a happy environment where employees would be pleased to work at everyday. Teachers communicate for affection and job happiness. A stressful task without proper management would dull the senses of teachers, and employee in general. It is the management’s crucial task to build a collaborative culture and encourage a learning community that would motivate the teachers to support and communicate with each other.

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