ASSESSMENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE COMMUNICATION SKILLS APPLIED BY PRINCIPALS OF SCHOOLS OF NURSING IN THE SOUTH EAST ZONE OF NIGERIA

ABSTRACT
Principals of schools of nursing are confronted with situations that involve a lot of communication.The aim of the study therefore was to assess the administrative communication skills of principals of schools of nursing in the South East Zone of Nigeria. Five research questions and 10 null hypotheses guided the study. A descriptive survey was adopted for the study and the 16 principals and 166 regular teachers in the 16 Schools of Nursing in the zone were used for the study, hence, no sampling. The instrument for data collection was questionnaire. The instrument was validated and found reliable following the reliability test using Pearson Product Moment Correlation Coefficient. The reliability co-efficient on the principals questionnaire recorded 0.82 showing high internal consistency and that of the teachers recorded 0.94. The instrument was administered to the respondents directly. The data generated from the research questions were analysed using mean, while the null hypotheses were tested using t-test. Major findings include: the rating of the respondents indicated that the principals apply listening communication skills to high extent, except for item five which they apply to very high extent; the respondents believed that the principals apply non-verbal communication skills to high extent; they also indicated that the principals apply oral communication skills to high extent; the respondents accepted that the principals apply written communication skills to high extent; and, equally indicated that the principals apply feedback communication skills to high extent. The principals and teachers did not differ significantly in their assessment of the principals’ application of the listening and non-verbal communication skills while they differed significantly in their application of oral, written and feedback communication skills. There is significant difference in the extent prnicipals in small and large schools apply listening, non-verbal and written communication skills. Based on these findings and implications of the study, recommendations and areas for further studies were highlighted in this study.

CHAPTER ONE 
INTRODUCTION
Background of the Study
Principals of schools of nursing are confronted with situations that involve a lot of communication. How effective they become depends largely on their ability to apply the appropriate communication skills in their daily interaction with people. Coordinating the efforts of people towards the achievement of objectives and goals in any establishment has administrative communication skills as its main trust. Without communication there will be no good organization. According to Adewale (2001), organization requires understanding if it should achieve its goal. The office of the principal as the nerve centre of the establishment deals with communication extensively. The aim of communication is much more than the mere transmission of ideas, it must result in the transmission of meaning that leads to action/s. Communication is a complex process as it involves all the senses, experiences, emotions and intelligence of people ( Beniger & Gusek, 1995). In fact, it is the totality of all the things that one person does to create understanding in the mind of another person.


The primary aim in school administration is the improvement of teaching and learning process. Therefore, all the activities and efforts of the school must be tailored towards employing adequate communication techniques. In order that the school administrator achieves this, he or she must inevitably interact with various groups and individuals within the school, community and with people outside the school utilizing desired communication competence and skills. It is likely that the rampant cases of unrest recorded in many schools of nursing in the South East Zone may be blamed on the principals who may not have addressed adequately, the various cases ranging from increased pressure for candidates seeking for admission, to failure of Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (N&MCN) to index all students presented to them. According to Obi (2003), the principals must communicate effectively with their subbordinates and students as well as the School Board ,and the appropriate State and National Agencies. Chinweuba (2004) also asserts that the school administrator must work with the Parents Teachers Association (P.T.A) and the Alumni so as to make remarkable impact in the running of the school. The administrator’s programmes and policies are often influenced by these people or group with whom he/she is in constant interaction with just as his/her administrative decisions affect them.They therefore need to be carried along.

For effective administration of establishments, communication is central and a sine qua non. Hence, in the absence of effective application of organisational communication, a vagary of individualistic and personal goals may most likely mar the organisational objectives. This will inevitably result to stagnation of activities of the teaching-learning process and reduced school tone with resultant poor academic performance of both the students and the school. Some schools in the South East zone have been sanctioned by placing embago on their students intake because they failed to communicate effectively the accreditation requriements to their respective propriators and concerned bodies.

Moris (1984) sees the principal as one occupying a very important position in the school and who most of the time, has his/her mind brimming over with ideas, questions, solutions, directives and plans. For the principal to be able to communicate these ideas, directives and solutions, she/he must be familiar with the basic communication skills so as to interact meaningfuly with every body. Strother (1983) and Walker (1990) maintain that communication skills of principals have been well documented as key to their success as administrators.


It is disheartening that some principals lack the most essential skills that would make them effective communicators. Such principals in the South East zone , hardly pay attention when someone is speaking and are often impatient with people that have difficulty expressing themselves. Hence, this category of principals draw conclusion before thier interactant/s could land.This attitude is simply unacceptable and is detastable to many people. The principals need to be aware of how they are perceived by others. It is very necessary that the principals become aware of their verbal and non-verbal communication and realize that their approach towards communication should be situational holding others in contemplation each time.

Adequate application of communication skills are imperative for decision-making. The administrator that worth his salt should be able to define problems, generate and evaluate alternative courses of action, implement decisions, control and evaluate results formatively and summatively using the right communication skills. The principal is the Chief Executive of the nursing school and according to Ezeocha (1990) the principal is defined as the man in the middle because she/he has to interact with all and sundry on a daily basis-the staff, students, parents, benefactors, community and the state, national and international officers of the system in question. The principal also interacts with public and private organizations as well as law enforcement agencies. In all these interactions, the principal has to establish rapport with all to promote conducive atmospher necessary for effective communication.

The principal is expected to maintain a school climate conducive to students’ achievement and learning, school growth, in addition to overseeing the enforcement of school rules and regulations, as well as the meting out of disciplinary measures when indicated (Ukeje, Nwagbara & Okorie,1992). Ani (1999) maintains that students these days demand more careful handling while Akubue (1997) aptly remarks that a good administrator should be able to communicate with the students in any of their swinging moods. Each of the situations, he argues, will necessitate the use of effective communication skills like selection of adequate verbal or documented responses that can help defuse a tense interaction or situation. The tone of voice set in each communication situation goes a long way to establish the feeling for the entire institution and its environment (Kelley, 1980). Some principals do not seem to realize that a frustrated teacher who is having difficulty controlling his/her class will need a different approach from an irate parent who storms the office demanding an explanation why his/her son/daughter has been suspended or expelled.

The principal should always bear in mind that the school is part and parcel of the community where it is located and so should endeavour to engender an amicable rapport between the school and the community. The ugly incidence that took place in one of the schools in Imo state betrays the principal’s poor rapport with the locality. Communication with the Board of Governors, Academic Advisory Board, P.T.A., Alumni and community leaders should be open and cordial if an administrator wishes to make a significant impact in the school as a whole. The activities of the indigens of one of the schools in Anambra state during the accreditation exercise by N&MCN is rather commendable. The community came to the assistance of the school because they are often carried along in most of the happenings of the school.

Therefore, the principal’s manner of transmitting information is of paramount importance. It matters a lot not only what a principal says but how he/she says it (Akubue, 1997). In the school, information transmission has been hampered by prejudice and bias emanating from the manner of transmission. If a school administrator fails to control his/her emotions, language becomes a vehicle of aggression and vindictiveness leading to a highly charged atmosphere, which affects adversely the teaching and learning process. Dimbleby and Burton, (1992) assert that the need to control ones’ networks in school cannot be over emphasized. The principal does not necessarily have to follow the bureaucratic chain of command but can make use of the more effective methods or channels of communication for a particular situation. Ikediugwu (2001) observes that the delay resulting from towing the long line of bureaucratic chain leads to backdating of documents, which unfortunately is prevalent in the educational system, and nursing education cannot be an exception. In like manner, deadline is a common reference and the existence of so many of them to be met by administrators, teachers, and others create time pressures and constraints that affect communication negatively (Middlemist & Hitt, 1981).

The number of people to communicate with at a time will most likely determine the extent or degree of use of the various communication skills. For instance, Meier (1996), as if in favour of small group says that small school size encourages teacher innovation and student participation, resulting in greater commitment for both groups. However, some principals do not believe that number of students has anything to do with effectiveness in application of communication skills. The alarming rate with which they overshoot the approved quota per session betrays their belief.

However, the increasing number of students seeking enrolment into schools of nursing presently, compels some erring principals in the South East zone to admit as many as 500 to 700 students in a class despite the N&MCN’s (N&MCN, 2004) stipulation of 50 students per session. Most of these students end up spending six to seven years in the school because the Nursing Council indexes only 50 students per school per session. The above situations obviously breed discontent and could make it difficult for the principals to reach every section of the school and interact on one to one basis with all. The principals in such a situation find it difficult to pay attention when subbordinates or visitors are speaking, respond in a more cautious ways to issues and give feedbacks based on content and context of the subject under discussion. This is compounded by the general observation that some principals in the schools of nursing in the South East zone lack the competence to organize their thoughts accurately and succinctly and to select appropriate alternative courses of action, implement decisions, control and evaluate results formatively and summatively.


There is also the problem of students’ poor acquisition of the expected skills when the number of students is such that supervision and control at clinical demonstration is difficult owing to inadequate space to accommodate the alarming number. A reasonable school size would make that application easier. This goes to agree with the opinion of Bedeian (1980) and Betts (1981) that the larger the organization, the less the likelihood of effective application of communication skills owing to large number of teachers, students and others to be reached. The problem with the above situation is that with utter disregard to the policy on students’ intake, inexperienced principals may be so deluged with pressure being mounted on them for admissions, mis-information and data that they can neither absorb, reason nor respond to all objectively, and so they simply screen out majority of the messages and consequently attend to them half-harzardly. Nevertheless, some of the experienced schools of nursing administrators in the zone have developed over the years good and stable communication skills, thereby being able to confront difficult people and problem situations in a more positive and constructive manner (Hendricks, 1989).


The administrator should be able to define feelings of happiness, anger, displeasure, confidence and fear (Moorhead & Griff, 2001). This is only possible where the principals are able to apply communication skills appropriately and as situation demands. A Problem ensues if the school head fails to know that she is communicating principally for information sharing through which the institutional goals are defined and members given sense of purpose and direction (Dostal, 2007).

Adequate assessment of the principals’ application of communicative behaviours is imperative in this study. Assessment according to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is an opinion or a judgement about something that has been thought about very carefully. According to Dossey, Guzzette and Kenner (1992), assessment is a logical, systematic and ordered collection of data used to evaluate a given phenomenon. Watson (2005) asserts that assessment underpins the traditional careful planning approach of any process. All good implementation starts with assessment which is a continuous process of collection of data about peoples’ responses and concerns. In assessing, the ACSP of nursing schools in the South East zone, the researcher was very objective, noting things the way they are and checking their relevance to the entire study aimed at fulfilling the vital need of the study.

Statement of the Problem
In any organization, like educational institution, where poor communication exists, a lot of problems are generated for the administrator and the entire system as a whole (Betts, 1981 & Obi, 1997). The principal, to reach his/her audience, is ideally expected to be competent and skilful in communication as he/she relates with all levels of groups and individuals. Unfortunately, some principals exercise authoritarian type of leadership more often, such principals tend to engage only in downward process of communication; taking decisions alone, disregarding subordinates’ viewpoints and scaring people away by their aloofness and superior airs which militates against effective application of communication skills. When effective communication is absent, the institutional goals and objectives would be reduced to individualistic and personal goals governed by undue sentiments and individual whims and caprices, characterized by poor feedback mechanism which makes coordination of peoples’ efforts towards achieving organizational goal and objectives, an uphill task.

The above inevitably results to stagnation of activities of the teaching-learning process with reduced school tone as the principals become too authoritarian. They utilize classical mode of administration and so arrange schedules that mandate who is supposed to be where and doing what. They ensure tight control over financial supply and dictate the curricula, goals and means (Barth, 1991). According to Okeke (2004), most principals fall short of the desired competence and skills and so communication gap of one form or the other is created. In a situation where neither the teachers nor the students are carried along, there is bound to be disorder and chaos. The principals stay in their offices flouting the super-ordinates directives, for instance, some principals exceed the admission quota by having as many as 500-700 students per session thereby neglecting organisational regulations. It becomes impossible for such principals to interact with the students effectively. Such principals are rather said to be scaring people with their superior airs, dictating and circulating programme of events and even the time table without involving those earlier assigned with those responsibilities. The above action/s would invariably result to negative attitudinal changes of many of the staff which quickly spreads over to the students.

In such a scenario, some staff members may decide to sabotage the efforts of the principal. Supervision and control of staff and students would be in jeopardy and there would be gross ineffectiveness, reduced school tone with resultant lawlessness and poor school performance. This kind of situation easily creates gullible gap and gives room to click formation by the staff members leading to unwholesome behaviour of one form or the other as have been recorded in some schools of nursing within the South East zone. This could have been the reason for the numerous cases of quarels, petitions and counter pertitions between the tutors, students, parents, communities , and their principals.

Hence, the problem of this study is, to what extent do principals of nursing schools apply the various communication skills in thier schools? Therefore, the need to assess the application of the administrative communication skills of principals of schools of nursing became imperative so as to find out the real situation in the communication skills applied by the principals by ascertaining their level of listening skills, if they are able to resist dominating discussion with others, pay attention when someone is speaking, centre attention on the content of speech, exercise patience and give fair hearing to all parties. Again, whether they observe non-verbal cues of others, give non-verbal messages/ signs that can be easily understood. To determine if they are able to choose suitable environment when addressing subordinates with well articulated ideas and feelings, concisely and briefly, choosing words naturally followed with a summary. In addition, to ascertain whether they apply adequate writing skills-by collecting needed information, reviewing draft for style, purpose and audience before writing, organize routine for working on incoming correspondence, prepare agenda and circulate minutes of meeting to paticipants with well outlined ideas. Lastly, to observe their feedback skills, such as insisting on feedback on circulated memos, working with deadlines, assuring others that their inputs are valued and so encourage participants through questioning without responding untactfully to emotion ladden situations but acknowledges and respond to feedbacks positively, giving corrections to others constructively before drawing conclusion/s, write reports to parents about their wards for necessary recommendations and for improved communication by the school principals.


Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study was to assess the administrative communication skills applied by the principals of nursing schools in the South East zone of Nigeria. Specifically, the study was designed to achieve the understated objectives:

1.                  ascertain the extent of the application of listening communication skills by principals of Nursing Schools in the South East Zone of Nigeria;
2.                  determine the extent of application of non-verbal communication skills by principals of Nursing Schools;

3.                  ascertain the extent to which principals of Nursing Schools in the South East zone apply oral communication skills;

4.                  determine the extent to which principals of Nursing Schools apply written communication skills;
5.                  determine the extent of application of feedback communication skills by principals of Nursing Schools;

6.                  ascertain whether principals’application of administrative communication skills differ due to the status of the respondents; and


7.                  ascertain whether application of administrative communication skills by the principals differ due to the school size.

Significance of the Study
The study on the assessment of the administrative communication skills of principals will generally benefit many persons and groups of people. These include principals of schools, supervisors, Management Boards, N&MCN, other health institutions, staff and student nurses at large.

The result of this study will help generate valid data for adequate assessment of the principals. The feedback value of the administrative communication skills for principals will help them in making modifications where they are deficient for improved performance via quality interaction with all and sundry. The implications of the study will serve as a guide for self-monitoring of both the principals and prospective administrators of nursing schools in the South East zone and those in Nigeria as a whole.

The study will inform in-service training of principals at state, zonal and national levels of the N&MCN so that the incumbent and prospective principals can learn and imbibe the skills even before assuming office. From the result of this study, the Council’s officials will be able to see how far the Council’s directive on adequate communication competence has been adhered to by principals of nursing schools. Based on the findings, they may deem it necessary to put more machinery in motion to ensure that principals exhibit the desired communicative behaviour patterns. Hence, the effect of job experience and population of students on the principals’ responses on the items of the administrative communication skills (ACS) will guide the N&MCN on how to develop, structure and organize administrative communication skills workshop programs in order to derive maximum benefit for the various categories of school principals in Nigeria. More importantly, given the findings of the study, the N&MCN will be compelled to increase students’ intake per school per session by 50%/1oo%.

The result of the study on administrative communication skills will be used by Board of Management during recruitment and selection of potential principals. The Board of Governors and all relevant authorities in the institutions could use the reliable information resulting from the study in taking decision about principals who will be promoted or need in-service training to update their communicative and professional skills.


The result of the study could serve as a dependable and valid yard-stick for assessing principals of nursing schools by supervisors and also form a measuring guide for assessing the principals’ credibility and ability to exhibit the necessary communication competence expected of their cadre.

The result of this study will also sensitize the teachers and students of Educational Management and Policy who are prospective education managers on the need to ensure adequate communication competence in their day to day running of schools for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

The result of this study will be useful to other health institutions such as schools of midwifery, psychiatric nursing and all post-basic nursing schools/colleges. The prospective and current students will benefit immensely from the findings of the study in the sense that all educational endeavours are aimed at enhancing meaningful learning among the students. The improved manner of passing and obtaining information from the students will surely affect them positively. They will improve in their manner of interaction with colleagues, clients/patients subsequently thereby improving the image of the profession.


Consequently, the respective parents/guardians of these students will benefit when their wards are given quality communicative treatment. Invariably,there will be satisfactory academic standard in the schools with consequent elevation of professional and academic competence of the products of the schools. This situation will obviously go a long way in improving on the services rendered tohealthcare consumers and the general public as improved communication seriously promotes the ability to establish rapport with clients and patients, and enhances professional image of the nurses to a greater extent.

Scope of the Study
The study focused on the assessment of administrative communication skills of principals of schools of nursing in the South East zone of Nigeria. The study is delimited to five aspects of communication skills, namely: oral communication skills; non-verbal communication skills; written communication skills; listening communication skills, and, feedback communication skills. Hughes and Ubben (1994) opine that effective communication embraces all the above aspects. The scope of the study also covers the school size.

Research Questions
The following research questions guided the study:


1)            To what extent do principals of nursing schools apply listening communication skills?
2)           To what extent do the principals apply non-verbal communication skills in nursing schools?
3)            What is the extent of the application of oral communication skills by principals of nursing schools?
4)            To what extent do principals apply written communication skills in nursing schools?
5)            To what extent do principals of nursing schools apply feedback skills in their communication?

Hypotheses
The following hypotheses were formulated and tested at 0.05 level of significance:

1.            There is no significant difference in the mean scores of principals and teachers on the extent nursing school principals apply listening communication skills.


2.            The mean scores of principals and teachers do not differ significantly on the extent nursing school principals apply non-verbal communication skills.
3.            There is no significant difference in the mean scores of principals and teachers on the extent nursing school principals apply oral communication skills.

4.            There is no significant difference in the mean scores of principals and teachers on the extent nursing school principals apply written communication skills.

5.            The mean scores of principals and teachers on the extent nursing school principals apply feedback communication skills do not differ significantly.

6.            The mean scores of the respondents on the extent nursing school principals apply listening communication skills do not differ significantly based on school size.

7.            The mean scores of the respondents from small and large schools do not differ significantly on the extent principals apply non-verbal communication skills.


8.            There is no significant difference in the mean scores of the respondents on the extent nursing school principals apply oral communication skills based on school size.

9.            The mean scores of the respondents from small and large nursing schools do not differ significantly on the extent principals apply written communication skills.

10.        There is no significant difference in the mean scores of the respondents from small and large nursing schools on the extent principals apply feedback communication skills.

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