Examining Instructional Strategies for Teaching Interpersonal Communication
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The call for public education reform has drawn national attention for several decades and has resulted in a current context of accountability, thus making education leadership a high-stakes environment (Cibulka, 2009; Scribner, Crow, Lopez, & Murtadha, 2011; Sterrett, 2011). Two decades of research demonstrate that great schools have great leaders, and great leaders are critical to reduce student achievement gaps (Bradshaw & Buckner, 1994; Lindsay, 2009; Young, O'Doherty, Gooden, & Goodnow, 2011). Specific domain skills have been identified as essential to leadership preparation programs, and many researchers agree that future education programs must offer strategies to augment leaders’ interpersonal skills (Behar-Horenstein, 1995), including communication skills (Worner, 1994), skills that build working relationships, and skills in expressing personal warmth (Glasman & Glasman, 1997). However, the best strategies for teaching interpersonal communication skills have yet to be determined. The purpose of the study was to examine the perspectives of the student and the instructor on a courses instructional effectiveness and its impact on learning through a course in interpersonal communication for educational leaders. The study examined eight sections of an interpersonal communication course taught at the University of Houston from 2003 to 2009 as part of a master’s program in educational administration and supervision. The current investigation provided an in-depth examination of the instructor’s and the students’ perspectives regarding the instructional strategies used and the competencies taught in the course. These research questions guided the study: (1) Why did the instructor chose and use certain instructional strategies (e.g. lecture, small group, and case studies), and which instructional strategies did the instructor perceive to be effective? (2) What were the students’ perspectives of the effectiveness of the instructional strategies used in the course? (3) Which interpersonal communication competencies (e.g. advising, persuading, and negotiating) did the instructor choose to teach and why and what were instructor’s perspectives on the interpersonal competencies taught? (4) What interpersonal communication competencies do students use in their current career roles? This qualitative inquiry employed interviews with the instructor and the students who had been enrolled in the course during the six years it was taught. The study used a generic qualitative study as the method of inquiry. The generic qualitative method sought “to discover and understand a phenomenon, a process, or the perspectives and worldviews of the people involved” (Merriam, 1998, p.11). The student participants in the study were selected by using the purposive sampling of the 81 students who met the following criteria: (1) had taken the course; (2) had or have had the role of an educational leader; (3) and were able and willing to participate. The researcher attempted to interview at least one student from each of the course sections for a total of eight (Onwuegbuzie & Leech, 2007). The study examined the best strategies to teach interpersonal communication to educational leaders.