The role of the head of department is changing. Until recently, a head teacher’s job involved what the title suggests: leading and motivating a team of teachers; overseeing the curriculum and discipline and representing the school to the outside world. Moreover, a range of new responsibilities has been added to specifications by time.

The HoD is a pivotal figure in the success of a school. She/he is the chief professional in the subject area and is expected to set a positive, enthusiastic lead and to be an example of good practice, to be followed by the department. Heads of Department are directly responsible for the standard of teaching and the quality of learning that takes place in their subject.

HoDs play a crucial role in the main activity of the School.  Their task is to inspire and motivate pupils and colleagues.

 Specific responsibilities and central tasks:

  1. To link between the administration board and the staff members and between both and the ELT supervision.
  2. To cooperate with the ELT supervision in suggesting plans and carrying them out.
  3. To keep abreast of new curriculum thinking, teaching methods, examination syllabuses, textbooks and other resources and to ensure that relevant information is communicated to members of the department and acted upon.
  4. To observe each member of department teaching.
  5. To establish and revise regularly aims, objectives, syllabuses and schemes of work for the department. Schemes of work should include guidelines on teaching method, as well as content.
  6. To lead the development of appropriate syllabuses, resources, schemes of work, marking policies, assessment and teaching and learning strategies within the department.
  7. To set high standards of work in his/her subject area and to ensure that the department is working to those standards.
  8. To review examination results in the light of prior attainment to identify strengths and areas of weaknesses.
  9. To promote enthusiasm, openness to new ideas, commitment and a happy and homogenous departmental team.
  10. To identify strengths and area of development with colleagues, providing outlets for strengths and offer guidance and training for developmental areas so that teachers within the department continue to improve their professional skills.
  11. To develop and enhance the teaching practice of others within the department.
  12. To establish, in consultation with the school administration, timetables for teachers.
  13. To assist student teachers, if he/she got any, in their professional development.
  14. To hold weekly briefing meetings with the department and formal meetings with agendas and action minutes according to the calendar. Members of departments should be encouraged to table agenda items so that matters of concern to them can be discussed and action taken.
  15. To arrange for such tests, assessments and examinations as required.
  16. To keep others fully informed of departmental developments, projects for the future and revise, monitor and evaluate departmental development plans annually.
  17. To raise standards of student attainment and achievement within a subject area, to monitor and support student progress.
  18. To be accountable for student progress and development within the subject area.
  19. To contribute to the formulation and to co-operate in the implementation of school policies.
  20. To help implement school policies and procedures.
  21. To make use of analysis and evaluate performance data provided.
  22. To produce reports on examination performance.
  23. To work with colleagues to formulate aims, objectives and strategic plans for the department which have coherence and relevance to the needs of students and to the aims, objectives and strategic plans of the school.
  24. To ensure that all members of the department are familiar with its aims and objectives.
  25. To establish a high quality teaching and learning environment in his/her subject area and to support staff to ensure that there is a high standard of behaviour and discipline in the teaching area.
  26. To be responsible for quality control within the department.
  27. To manage the financial planning of the department, i.e., budget planning.
  28. To manage cover work for absent members of the department and to oversee that the pupils continue to achieve during periods of short, medium or long term absence of department members.
  29. To check the coverage of syllabus and the progress sheets filled in by teachers.
  30. To promote teamwork and to motivate staff to ensure effective working relations.
  31.  To ensure that the department’s teaching commitments are effectively and efficiently time-tabled and roomed.
  32. To monitor and evaluate the curriculum area.
  33. To represent the department’s views and interests to the outside world.
  34. To provide others with relevant information relating to the department’s performance and development when required.
  35. To monitor the quality of teaching and learning in the department and to provide advice and support to departmental members.
  36. To be familiar with the work being done by members of the department, to visit classrooms and to look at students’ work.
  37. Consult with teachers about the work and progress of their students.
  38. To suggest extra-curricular activities and distribute them among the staff members, according to their abilities and interests.
  39. To plan remedial work for weak pupils and supervise their progress.
  40. To keep neat well-organised registers that could be referred to by people concerned.


What is communication?

Many of the problems that occur in an organization are the direct result of people failing to communicate. Faulty communication causes the most problems. It leads to confusion and can cause a good plan to fail. Communications is “The transfer of information and understanding from one person to another person.” – Keith Davis. It is a social process of “transmitting and receiving verbal and non-verbal messages that produce a response.” – Murphy & Hildebrandt. Effective communication occurs when the message received is as close as possible as the message intended to be sent – mutual understanding.

Benefits of effective communication:

–         Increase productivity                         –  Anticipate problems

–         Make decisions                                 –  Coordinate workflow

–         Supervise others                                –  Develop relationships

–         Better understanding in the workplace in general

The Communication process:

Thought: First, information exists in the mind of the sender. This can be a concept, idea, information, or feelings.

Encoding: Next, a message is sent to a receiver in words or other symbols.

Decoding: lastly, the receiver translates the words or symbols into a concept or information that he or she can understand.

During the transmitting of the message, two elements will be received: content and context.

Content is the actual words or symbols of the message which is known as language – the spoken and written words combined into phrases that make grammatical and semantic sense. We all use and interpret the meanings of words differently, so even simple messages can be misunderstood. And many words have different meanings to confuse the issue even more.

Context is the way the message is delivered and is known as paralanguage – it is the non-verbal elements in speech such as the tone of voice, the look in the sender’s eyes, body language, hand gestures, and state of emotions (anger, fear, uncertainty, confidence, etc.) that can be detected. Although paralanguage or context often cause messages to be misunderstood as we believe what we see more than what we hear; they are powerful communicators that help us to understand each other. Indeed, we often trust the accuracy of non-verbal behaviour more than verbal behaviour.

Some leaders think they have communicated once they told someone to do something, “I don’t know why it wasn’t done. I told Jim to do it.” More than likely, Jim misunderstood the message. A message has NOT been communicated unless it is understood by the receiver (decoded). How do you know it has been properly received? By two-way communication or feedback. This feedback tells the sender that the receiver understood the message, its level of importance, and what must be done with it. Communication is an exchange as all parties must participate to complete the information exchange.

Styles of communication:

1-    Assertive communication:

It’s how we naturally express ourselves. Here we communicate our needs clearly so it is the most effective and healthiest

2-    Aggressive communication

Involves manipulation because we simply want our needs met. We attempt to make people do what we want

3-    Passive communication

We talk less and avoid direct confrontation. Passives find it safer not to react and better to disappear than to stand up and be noticed.

4-    Passive aggressive communication:

A combination of styles; passive-aggressive avoids direct confrontation (passive), but attempts to get even through manipulation (aggressive).

Most of us use a combination of these four styles, depending on the person or situation to get our needs met. Understanding the four basic types of communication will help you learn how to react most effectively when confronted with a difficult person.

Barriers to communication:

Anything that prevents understanding of the message is a barrier to communication. Many physical and psychological barriers exist:

  • Culture, background, and bias: We allow our past experiences to change the meaning of the message. Our culture, background, and bias can be good as they allow us to use our past experiences to understand something new, it is when they change the meaning of the message that they interfere with the communication process.
  • Noise: Equipment or environmental noise impedes clear communication. The sender and the receiver must both be able to concentrate on the messages being sent to each other.
  • Ourselves: Focusing on ourselves, rather than the other person can lead to confusion and conflict. The “Me Generation” is out when it comes to effective communication. Some of the factors that cause this are defensiveness (we feel someone is attacking us), superiority (we feel we know more than the other), and ego (we feel we are the center of the activity).
  • Perception: If we feel the person is talking too fast, not fluently, does not articulate clearly, etc., we may dismiss the person. Also our preconceived attitudes affect our ability to listen. We listen uncritically to persons of high status and dismiss those of low status.
  • Message: Distractions happen when we focus on the facts rather than the idea. Semantic distractions occur when a word is used differently than you prefer. For example, the word chairman instead of chairperson, may cause you to focus on the word and not the message.
  • Environmental: Bright lights, an attractive person, unusual sights, or any other stimulus provides a potential distraction.
  • Smothering: We take it for granted that the impulse to send useful information is automatic. Not true! Too often we believe that certain information has no value to others or they are already aware of the facts.
  • Stress: People do not see things the same way when under stress. What we see and believe at a given moment is influenced by our psychological frames of references – our beliefs, values, knowledge, experiences, and goals.

These barriers can be thought of as filters, that is, the message leaves the sender, goes through the above filters, and is then heard by the receiver. These filters muffle the message. And the way to overcome filters is through active listening and feedback.

Active Listening:

Listening is divided into two main categories: passive and active. Passive listening occurs when the receiver of the message has little motivation to listen carefully, such as when listening to music, storytelling, television, or when being polite. Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into mind drift – thinking about other things while listening to someone. The cure for this is active listening – which involves listening with a purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, see how another person feels, show support, etc. It requires that the listener attends to the words and the feelings of the sender for understanding. It takes the same amount or more energy than speaking. It requires the receiver to hear the various messages, understand the meaning, and then verify the meaning by offering feedback. The following are a few traits of active listeners:

  • Spend more time listening than talking.
  • Do not finish the sentences of others.
  • Do not answer questions with questions.
  • Are aware of biases. We all have them. We need to control them.
  • Never daydream or become preoccupied with their own thoughts when others talk.
  • Let the other speakers talk. Do not dominate the conversations.
  • Plan responses after the others have finished speaking, NOT while they are speaking.
  • Provide feedback, but do not interrupt continuously.
  • Analyze by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended questions.
  • Walk others through by summarizing.
  • Keep conversations on what others say, NOT on what interests them.
  • Take brief notes. This forces them to concentrate on what is being said.


The purpose of feedback is to alter messages so the intention of the original communicator is understood by the second communicator. Providing feedback is accomplished by paraphrasing the words of the sender. Restate the sender’s feelings or ideas in your own words, rather than repeating their words. It not only includes verbal responses, but also nonverbal ones such as nodding head to show agreement.

Carl Rogeers listed five main categories of feedback. They are listed in the order in which they occur most frequently in daily conversations. Notice that we make judgments more often than we try to understand:

  • Evaluative: Making a judgment about the other person’s statement.
  • Interpretive: Paraphrasing – trying to explain what the other person’s statement means.
  • Supportive: Attempting to assist or bolster the other communicator.
  • Probing: trying to gain more information, continue the discussion, or clarify a point.
  • Understanding: trying to discover completely what the other communicator means.

Nonverbal behaviour of communication:

To deliver the full impact of a message, use nonverbal behaviour to raise the channel of interpersonal communication. It takes these forms:

–  Eye contact                    – Facial Expressions

–  Gestures                         – Posture and body orientation

–  Proximity                      – Vocal elements as tone, pitch and rhythm.


-English Language Teaching Guidelines. Kuwait: Ministry of Education, 1994

-Black, D.A. The Functions and Characteristics of the Role of the Department Head in the Secondary School. Simon Fraser University, 1973

-Baker, Alan. Improve Your Communication Skills. Kogan Page, 2011.

-MTD Training. Effective Communication Skills. MTD Training and Ventus Publishing ApS, 2010.

-Hargie, O. and Dickson, D. Skilled Interpersonal Communication. Routledge, 2004


Compiled by :

ELT Supervisor

Redha Sheha

About Hawalli ELT Supervision Website

By: Redha Sheha ELT Supervisor, MOE, Kuwait

2 responses »

  1. Linh Ciampi says:

    Definitely, what a great blog and enlightening posts, I will bookmark your blog.All the Best!


  2. I do consider all of the ideas you’ve introduced for your post. They’re very convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for beginners. May just you please lengthen them a bit from next time? Thank you for the post.


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