Relational trust: Its influence in developing collaborative working relationships in a school organization

Date of Completion

January 2005


Education, Administration|Education, Elementary|Psychology, Industrial




This dissertation drew upon personal experiences in attempting to develop collaborative working relationships. Through social exchanges I realized there were members of the faculty that did not perceive trust to exist in the school community. This disclosure initiated my reflection and determination to explore the very basic question: What is trust? This research study focused on relational trust and its influence in developing collaborative working relationships in a school organization. I examined relational trust in the lived experiences of five professionals: the Principal, Assistant Principal, reading specialists and two classroom teachers. ^ The interviews were framed within a phenomenological paradigm to understand the role of relational trust from the participants' point of view as they shared, unfolded and defined the meaning of their life experiences. The data was organized as themes and patterns emerged. The model of relational trust conceived by Bryk and Schneider (2002) was used to provide an initial structure and focus for the collected data. The theory conceived shaping forces and core elements that influenced social exchanges in a school organization (Bryk and Schneider, 2002, p. 124). Embedded within these categories were additional patterns and themes that brought further meaning to the participants' experiences. Personal tapestries were crafted with thick description to connect the participants lived experiences to the phenomenon of relational trust. A cross case analysis unfolded the connective themes in the tapestries that brought cohesiveness and therefore meaning to this study. ^ The findings indicated scheduled time to nurture relationships is a unique issue for members of a school organization. All collaborative working relationships are formed and strengthened when there is an awareness and acceptance of individuals' foibles and assets; a social network is established based on their acknowledged strengths and challenges. Time is an integral part of fostering relational trust within role relationships and serves as a catalyst in developing this social exchange. ^ Relational trust is a living mechanism that must be modeled, fostered, and nurtured in social exchanges and interactions within the role relationships of members in a school community. Once compromised in any way, shape, or form it takes a long time to heal, if the possibility even exists. ^