TLT17: Session 2

Kev Bartle on the chaos of coalition: trust, vulnerability and interdependence in schools. 

He suggests we pay too much attention to the apps in education, without looking at the operating system. We should look at changing the way we operate – upping the trust – before we look at any extras. 

Trust is rooted in vulnerability: you cannot be vulnerable with someone unless you trust them. While we use the word trust a lot, there is less mention of vulnerability. 

Kev has read Trust in Schools, a study of schools in Chicago in the 90s. They found that trust is important as a tool for school improvement. 

Organic trust is characterised by a sense of family; contractual trust by pieces of paper. Both of these are part of schools in a small way, but the important one is relational trust: it is an organisational property and very specific around the school community. The authors compared feelings of trust with school results and found that there was a correlation. Trust correlated with success – big among teachers and between them and their superiors. The evidence suggests that trust makes an impact to academic achievement in spite of socio-economic or racial background. This therefore might be a good way of diminishing differences in these special interest groups. 

These five ideas are all important when it comes to achieving trust.

Schools see themselves as professional bureaucracies. Teachers can choose what to do in their classroom, but senior leaders require monitoring. Kev fears that we are moving towards machine bureaucracy, with a high level of dictating expectations, when we should be moving towards professional organisation, when trust replaces monitoring. Teachers who are in the job for the right reasons, and want to do well and get better, could have greater autonomy and discretion in the conduct of their work. 

(+ Mediate conflicts and foster strong collegial expectations)

Kev talks us through how he tries to achieve this. He doesn’t look at results from individual classes – just subject areas. He meets with department heads to discuss the performance of the team. There’s no link between student performance and appraisal. There are no top down lesson observations, and no lesson grading. He doesn’t pay people extra, because it creates distrust between colleagues. 

Viviane Robinson: Trust is a result, not a precursor. Leadership and interpersonal competence, getting the work done – these things build trust. 

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