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Trust and the capturing of school-based potential

Bishop, P 1998 , 'Trust and the capturing of school-based potential', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The importance of collegial trust to organisations has long been
recognised. In school settings the achievement of trust between principals and
teachers can be a vital ingredient in the development of school culture and
effectiveness. Yet the nature and rapidity of changes being required of schools,
plus the context in which principals and teachers are expected to implement
initiatives, may test collegial trust. Despite the challenges which many
principals face in the course of their work, some are more trusted by teachers
than others.
This study investigated what four principals did or did not do to engender
and maintain trust with teachers. As well, the study considered how externallydriven
initiatives, which principals were required to implement with teachers,
affected mutual trust. An examination of how trustworthy leadership
contributed to school culture was also made.
An interpretive multiple-site case study framed the investigation. The
researcher spent approximately ten weeks in four inner urban Melbourne
secondary schools. During this time, each school's principal was shadowed for
four days and interviewed extensively. The balance of the fieldwork consisted
of observation, document analysis, and interviews with 112 teachers.
A combination of principals' personal and professional characteristics plus work practices engendered and maintained trust with teachers. Trusting
teachers, being knowledgeable, hardworking, caring, confidential, and having
integrity were.commonly favoured characteristics that attracted teacher trust.
Work practices which engendered trust were non-exploitative, de-emphasised
principals' power differentials with teachers, and encouraged controversy and
critical dialogue. Teachers' perceptions of trust in their principals were evident
along four dimensions: absolute, domain-specific, relational, and comparative.
The extent to which teachers thought their key interests were being
advanced or diminished was often the standard which teachers used to
determine trust in their principals. That standard came into play especially when
principals implemented non-negotiable initiatives with teachers. When teachers
consistently perceived trustworthy leadership from the principal which was
congruent with the school's culture, mutual trust was enhanced and a
strengthening of shared expectations occurred.
Results of this study highlighted principals' trust-engendering
characteristics and practices. The study also found that when teachers were
unable to discern the need for an externally-imposed key initiative, they often
questioned the educational competency ofthose associated with its
development. Such questioning frequently extended to principals who were
actively involved in the initiative's implementation even though the rhetoric of
much current educational change emphasises devolution and school-based
management, and teacher participation in deci~ion making. These findings have
implications for the ongoing trust between principals and teachers and the
capturing of school-based potential.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Bishop, P
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