26 SES 16 A, Trusting, Distributing and Delegating and Promoting Collaboration
The influence of school leadership on academic achievement has in Sweden and internationally begun to receive more attention by educational researchers and in school politics. More effort is now being placed on understanding the role of trust in the relationships between a principal and his or her teachers and how this can affect students’ learning in the long term. However, what situations and actions are perceived by principals and teacher as contributing to the building and fostering of this trust remain unclear.
In this presentation, I would like to discuss the combination of two variants of trust in regard to principals’ and teachers’ perceptions of factors that contribute to a trusting relationship: an ontological view of trust and a more pragmatic view of trust.
A number of studies have contributed to the current belief that school leaders influence student learning and development, although generally in an indirect manner (Heck & Hallinger, 2014; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004; Louis, Murphy, & Smylie, 2016; Sun & Leithwood, 2015).
However, in my forthcoming study, the focus is not only on leadership and the actions of school leaders, but also on how these actions are interpreted by employees (i.e., teachers)(Sveningsson & Alvesson, 2010).
Results from the studies to date indicate that interactions between a principal and his or her teachers and the teachers’ trust in their principal are closely connected to the school climate, which is well-known to have a direct impact on student learning and development (Price, 2015; Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2015a). Trust in particular has been shown to not only be a factor associated with leadership that positively influences student learning, but also as a mediating variable for other factors associated with student learning, such as academic press, collective teacher efficacy, and teacher professionalism (Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2015b). These findings point to the importance of a principal’s values and his or her ability to foster trust within his or her school (Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2015a, s. 85). Trust in this pragmatic perspective is based on the confidence that the other individual is benevolent, honest, open, reliable and competent (Tschannen-Moran, 2014).
According to Løgstrup’s (1956/1994) ontological perspective on trust, we normally give each other trust automatically on a daily basis. Trust doesn´t depend on what we do; rather, trust is freely given, which means that trust is the foundation of human life and that we regularly place our lives in the hands of others. According to Løgstrup (1956/1994), this mutual dependence on each other is an unspoken ethical demand.
Bauman (1998)describes Løgstrup’s unspoken ethical demand as serving as a foundation for moral actions between two individuals. Bauman claims that Løgstrup’s perspective can be applied to modern society, which could mean that both a more pragmatic perspective on trust like Tschannen-Moran’s and Løgstrup’s more ontological perspective are not opposites, but rather are two variants of trust that complement each other.
A limitation in the trust research to date is that it has mainly been based on questionnaires. The study of interhuman relationships helps us understand how principals and teachers interpret the concept of trust, what situations in the everyday life of a school principal feel important in relation to interhuman relationships and trust, and what aspects of these situations are perceived as creating or cultivating trust.
Therefore, the aim of this proposed study is to determine what principals and teachers perceive as contributing to trust, specifically in the Swedish school context.
Methodology The approach in this study will be inductive and explorative. Critical Incident Technique The critical incident technique (CIT) focuses on actions in a specific context. CIT was first introduced by Flanagan (1954) in 1954 and since then has been used and further developed by a variety of researchers within a number of disciplines. CIT has been found to be an especially suitable method for gathering data and detailed descriptions of real-life situations, particularly in relation to behavior that promotes and strengthens trust or that destroys trust (Münscher & Kühlman, 2012). To understand leadership, leaders’ actions in the context of social interactions among individuals serve as an important source of data. In addition, as it is important to focus on both the leader and those who are allowing themselves to be led, their relationships and interactions must be analyzed (Alvesson, 2015). CIT is helpful for analyzing situated actions (incidents), but the focus is not on the individual who is executing the actions; rather, the emphasis is placed on who perceives the actions and how. Therefore, individuals (school principals and teachers in this study) are asked to describe events or situations that they perceive as critical in relation to experiences of trust or distrust. There are several methods for gathering these data. The most common is the interview (Gremler, 2004). In an interview situation, it is possible to ask deepening and clarifying questions, and, compared to questionnaires, interviews are helpful for building trusting relationships with respondents and for clearly communicating the methods and aims of a study. Choice of participants For this study, 6 principals and 13 teachers agreed to participate and have been interviewed. The inclusion criteria for the principals are as follows: (1) Being principal of a school that includes Grades 6-9, (2) having 2 or more years of experience as a principal, and (3) having completed the National School Leadership Development Program at least 1 year prior to the interview. The teachers’ participation is based on the situations that the principals describe. Analysis The forthcoming analysis will be performed using a qualitative content analysis approach.
All interviews with the study participants have been conducted and transcribed. A first glimpse of some of the transcripts shows that an ontological perspective of trust is present in the situations described, but also a more pragmatic perspective on trust can be seen when the principals describe their actions in these situations. At the conference, I will have more preliminary results to discuss. I am also open to discussing other issues concerning the research design and theory.
Alvesson, M. (2015). Organisationskultur och ledning: Malmö : Liber, 2015 : 3., [omarb.] uppl. Bauman, Z. (1998). What prospects of morality in times of uncertainty? Theory, Culture & Society, 15(1), 11-22. Flanagan, J. C. (1954). The critical incident technique. Psychological Bulletin, 51(4), 327-358. doi:doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0061470 Gremler, D. D. (2004). The Critical Incident Technique in Service Research. Journal of Service Research, 7(1), 65-89. doi:10.1177/1094670504266138 Heck, R., & Hallinger, P. (2014). Modeling the longitudinal effects of school leadership on teaching and learning. Journal of Educational Administration, 52(5), 653-681. doi:10.1108/jea-08-2013-0097 Leithwood, K., Louis, K. S., Anderson, S., & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). How Leadership Influences Student Learning. Review of Research. Retrieved from www.wallacefoundation.org Louis, K. S., Murphy, J., & Smylie, M. (2016). Caring Leadership in Schools: Findings From Exploratory Analyses. Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(2), 310-348. doi:10.1177/0013161x15627678 Løgstrup, K. E. (1956/1994). Det etiska kravet. Göteborg: Daidalos. Münscher, R., & Kühlman, T. M. (2012). Using critical incident technique in trust research. I F. Lyon, G. Möllering, & M. N. K. Saunders (Red.), Handbook of research methods on trust (ss. 161-172). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. Price, H. E. (2015). Principals’ social interactions with teachers. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(1), 116-139. doi:10.1108/jea-02-2014-0023 Sun, J., & Leithwood, K. (2015). Leadership Effects on Student Learning Mediated by Teacher Emotions. Societies, 5(3), 566-582. doi:10.3390/soc5030566 Sveningsson, S., & Alvesson, M. (2010). Ledarskap. Malmö: Liber. Tschannen-Moran, M. (2014). Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools, 2nd Edition (2 uppl.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Tschannen-Moran, M., & Gareis, C. (2015a). Faculty trust in the principal: an essential ingredient in high-performing schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(1), 66-92. doi:doi:10.1108/JEA-02-2014-0024 Tschannen-Moran, M., & Gareis, C. (2015b). Principals, Trust, and Cultivating Vibrant Schools. Societies, 5(2), 256-276. doi:10.3390/soc5020256
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