Exploring Factors of Trust between Instructors and Students in Undergraduate Classrooms

Steven Kao, University of Connecticut
Xinnian Chen, University Of Connecticut



Trust has been found to play a significant role in the development and success of functioning relationships. In K-12 settings, students who perceive their instructors to be trustworthy are more receptive to teaching methods and better performers by the end of the course. There is currently little research understanding predictors of trust between students and instructors. This thesis seeks to understand from the perspective of students how instructors can establish trust with their students. Interviews were conducted among a sample of students across public and private undergraduate universities in Connecticut asking them to recall and describe their most trusted instructor. Responses were compiled to measure reoccurring traits and practices and how students value them. Instructors perceived to be understanding, caring, and passionate were found to be most trusted by students. Underrepresented minority students (URM) were found to value leadership, student advocacy, and patience in instructors. Findings from this study can be incorporated in educational reforms to mitigate current issues in academics such as attrition in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors which disproportionately affect URM students.