Thumbnail Image

The role of trust in an effective school culture

Much work and research has been carried out on effective school cultures, accountability and relationships. Underlying all that happens in schools, is the notion of trust. But what do we understand about trust? Is the definition of trust consistent amongst everyone? How is trust defined? Is trust a valued or even an identified component of successful leadership? Does trust underpin all that we do and what, if any, are the commonalities of trust? Central to this thesis is the notion that trust and trusting relationships play a pivotal role in the culture of a school and that without trust a school ceases to be as effective as it has the potential to be. The purpose of this study was to consider existing research and information and to attempt to establish a definition of trust, while identifying the place that trust is perceived to have in an effective school culture. While seeking to establish a baseline understanding of trust and peoples' perceptions of trust, it was also the purpose of this study to examine the dichotomy of trust and accountability. This looked at the challenge of building and maintaining trust while meeting individual and school accountability tasks. Consideration was also given to high-trust/low-trust situations and to whether they are actually the same situation, just seen through different eyes. The literature review examined what an effective school culture might look like and how trust impacts on this culture and, ultimately, on student learning. The literature review also defined trust and the skills, actions or emotions which contribute to trust and for whom these aspects of trust are a reality. The understanding that trust in the school situation is based on having common values and goals was evident in the literature. Trust was defined as being critical in the role of leadership and it is inherent in the way that principals act and lead and that it impacts greatly on the effectiveness of the relationships within a school and on student learning. Eight principals from a range of school sizes, with a gender balance of participants, took part in this research. All were involved in separate, semi-structured interviews, which provided the data for grounded theory analysis. Three distinct findings emerged from this process. These were the notion of what it means to be trustworthy, the role of the principal in extending trust and the dichotomy of trust. The results of this qualitative study suggested that the modelling of trust through daily actions and the empowering of staff were found to be important aspects in developing and maintaining trust within schools as was the competence, experience and knowledge of the principal. Walking the talk and valuing staff as individuals as well as professional members of the school organisation, were critical aspects to effective leadership. Prior experiences in which low trust was evident, informed the practice of these principals to develop philosophies of high trust. Within the final chapter in the Recommendations for Further Study which could add to current research by considering in more depth, specific relationships involving high trust. Six recommendations for further study were discussed in this final section. This study concludes that trust is significant in effective school cultures. It is a fragile emotion and action that can quickly be undermined and decimated and conversely, needs to be actively worked on to be maintained and developed to a high trust model. Being aware of and considering trust will assist principals and their colleagues to enhance effective school cultures, which will impact positively on student learning outcomes.
Type of thesis
Colville, K. A. (2007). The role of trust in an effective school culture (Thesis, Master of Educational Leadership (MEdLeadership)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2405
The University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.