Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Collaboration and the need for trust.

Tschannen-Moran, Megan. “Collaboration and the need for trust.” Journal of Educational Administration (39, 4) 308-331. 2001.


At the start of this essay, the author recognizes the trend toward collaborative teaching in schools. She asserts, however, that while it is fun to applaud collaboration, we do not always create environments with the necessary attitudes for authentic collaboration. She argues, "For teachers to break down norms of isolation and to sacrifice some of the autonomy they value so highly in order to reap the potential benefits of greater collaboration they must trust their colleagues." In an impressive review of the literature, she discusses the pitfalls of collaboration and then puts forward three collaboration categories: principal-teacher collaboration, teacher-teacher collaboration and school-parent collaboration.

She also elaborates on the meaning of trust itself, especially as applied to organizations. As she defines it through the literature, trust involves five facets: benevolence, reliability, competence, honesty and openness.


The project itself is on the relationship between trust and collaboration. She conducts quantitative research with 898 surveys. Her methodology focuses on school as the unit of analysis, and three constituent groups with 2 levels of decision making. The study involves approximately 45 elementary schools in one large urban district in an attempt to hold constant issues of district-level management practices and minimize the differential effects of context.

The researchers first conduct a pilot study in order to refine the questionnaires, then they do factor analysis as well as a collaboration survey. In discussing the official survey, the author also breaks down key factors like ethnicity and socioeconomic levels. The data analysis of the 898 surveys involves factor analysis, descriptive statistics, interrelationships and correlations, and canonical correlation. They found positive correlations between trust and collaboration, as anticipated.


This study is intimidating. While I had a difficult time processing the statistical nature of the quantitative results, I found the literature review extremely helpful, and also feel that the study is an important addition to the literature the exists on collaboration in schools. Often it is a foregone conclusion that collaboration is important, and therefore should be done. This study takes this thinking deeper to assert that collaboration cannot happen with trust. So perhaps we must first place our focus on how to develop trust in organizations, and collaboration will follow as a natural consequence.


"Although teachers may be allowed greater participation in decision-making processes within schools, they complain that they have not had a real voice in the decisions that affected them, that they have invested time and energy in participatory decision-making processes only to have the decisions made by principals or other organization participants at higher levels in the hierarchy." 317

"Collaboration was defined as the extent to which teachers perceived themselves and parents to be not only involved but to exercise influence over school and classroom-level decisions."

"People with a high degree of trust are likely to disclose more accurate, relevant, and complete data about problems, as well as their thoughts, feelings or ideas."

“Trust in colleagues has been found to have a significant impact on student achievement in elementary schools. The climate of the school can be one that cultivates trust or that makes trust difficult to foster. Openness in the climate of a school and healthy interpersonal relationships tend to foster a climate of trust. Healthy interpersonal relationships have been related to decision participation in schools.” 314

"Schools where there was a high level of trust could be predicted to be schools where there would be a high level of collaboration."

“Building trust requires attention to the five facets of trust. A person who desires to be regarded as trustworthy will need to demonstrate benevolence, reliability, competence, honesty and openness. The nature of the interdependence between principals, teachers, students, and parents is such that each of these facets has been shown to make a significant contribution to judgments of trust.”

On prescription for trustworthiness suggests a person should be "as predictable as possible, speak carefully, especially when making commitments, treat promises seriously, and never be deceptive
trust in organizations." (Govier, 1992)

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