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«Investigating Teacher Trust towards Principal in High Performing Schools: Comparisons on Teacher Demographic Profiles Lokman Mohd Tahir1, Mohammed ...»

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Asian Social Science; Vol. 11, No. 5; 2015

ISSN 1911-2017 E-ISSN 1911-2025

Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education

Investigating Teacher Trust towards Principal in High Performing

Schools: Comparisons on Teacher Demographic Profiles

Lokman Mohd Tahir1, Mohammed Borhandden Musah1, Shafeeq Hussain Vazhathodi Al-Hudawi1, Sanitah

Mohd Yusof1 & Mohd Hanafi Mohd Yasin2

Department of Educational Foundation and Social Science, Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi

Malaysia, Skudia, Malaysia Faculty of Education, National University of Malaysia, Bangi, Malaysia Correspondence: Lokman Mohd Tahir, Department of Educational Foundation and Social Science, Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia. E-mail: p-lokman@utm.my Received: October 8, 2014 Accepted: October 29, 2014 Online Published: February 12, 2015 doi:10.5539/ass.v11n5p169 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ass.v11n5p169 Abstract This study examines whether teachers in the high performing schools have high levels of trust towards their principal. The study also compares differences in teacher demographic profiles based on their teaching experiences, academic qualifications, age, types of schools and gender. A total of 250 teachers from five selected high performing schools were randomly selected based on teacher trust levels. The study used Tschannen-Moran’s (2004) model of trust as instrument, which included benevolence, reliability, competence, honesty and openness as facets of trust. The findings reveal that generally teachers in high performing schools agree to their principals showing these five facets of trust at a high level. Openness facet places the highest level of trust, followed by reliability. On the other hand, facets of benevolence exhibit the lowest level of teacher trust onto principal. Furthermore, the findings unveil significant difference between the premier types within the sub-urban school in the sampled schools. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are also addressed.

Keywords: trust, high performing schools, teacher demographic profile, principal, ANOVA

1. Introduction Recognizing the needs for quality schooling system, the Prime Minister of Malaysia had outlined improving students’ outcomes as one among six initial National Key Result Areas (NKRA) in 2010. In attempt to support this objective, the Ministry of Education (MoE) Malaysia introduced the “New Deal” Initiatives (bai’ah) for principals and teachers and as an incentive for schools with achievements exceeding given quality targets. This allows schools autonomy and accountability to innovate their management system and to realign their strategies to ensure student success, thereby producing quality and effective schools (MoE, 2012). This indeed entails on school principals and head teachers as they are crucial in enhancing the professional development of teachers in schools. School leadership must play their significant role in achieving the educational goals and objectives (Brundrett, 2013; West Burnham, 2013). Evidently, teachers’ role in attaining the national objectives is pivotal.

Teachers are key in determining the direction of schools, solving problems, overcoming challenges in the face of fulfilling the demands of National Education Blueprint (Education Policy, Research and Development Unit [EPRDU], 2006). Teachers are the implementers of educational policies in classroom settings. Therefore, collaboration and trust between teachers with school leaders are seen as an essential ‘lubricant’ for interaction (Fukuyama, 1995) in the school context (West Brunham, 2013).

With the existence of trust among the two key personnel in schools, educational goals can be achieved. In schooling context trust is able to glue both parties for collaborative efforts and creation of pro-active work culture (Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 2003). Tschannen-Moran (2004) and Leithwood et al., (2010) believe that element of trust is an essential element that is capable of linking teachers with principals. The existence of trust enables group improvement cohesiveness, and consequently enhancing student achievement (Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 2001; Tschannen-Moran, 2004). Byrk and Schneider (2002) and Byrk et al., (2010) define trust as a ‘moral’ resource’ able to bond teachers and school leaders. The amount of trust principal put on teachers and vice versa is central in creating a conducive, supportive and positive work environment (Hoy, Hoy, www.ccsenet.org/ass Asian Social Science Vol. 11, No. 5; 2015 & Kurz, 2008; Davies & Davies, 2013). The assumption is that, if the teachers felt that they are being trusted by the principal, they would be inspired to do their best in relevant tasks towards students’ academic achievement (Hoy, Gage, & Tarter, 2006; Hargreaves & Fink, 2006).

Even though trust is categorized as an essential element in creating harmonious learning environment, previous studies report cases of breach of trust occurring in school settings. For instance, a study by Abdul Ghani et al.

(2008) indicated lack of trust and neglecting teacher needs, feelings and suggestions as mistakes among principals. Negatively, these behaviours exhibit impact on teachers’ emotions and physical behaviours. These are consequences of low level of trust between two parties. Emergence of positive bond within the organizational context typically depends on the level of trust existed (McShane &Von Glinow, 2010). Without trust, it is difficult for any party to adhere and commit to common goals, establish mutual accountability, and learn to unite.

Trust is a positive expectation that others will not act opportunistically either verbally or through actions or decisions (Robbins & Judge, 2007). In the context of schools, trust between principals as school leaders and between teachers as implementers of school curriculum is sine qua non to producing quality and effective schools and improving student outcome. Existence of trust within the school not only influences teacher behaviour, but also boosts their morale so that they are engaged in attaining school objectives, work for enhancing effectiveness and improvement of schools (O’Brien, 2011). Accordingly, Daly (2009) posited that schools with high trust culture are likely to accept any new ideas from teachers since teachers are committed to accomplish school goals and objectives.

Albeit, trust is considered as significant element that link the school leaders with their teachers, however, not many studies have been carried out in Malaysian school context in general and in the context of high performing schools in particular (Wolfe, 2010; Forsyth, Adams, & Hoy, 2011). Hence, this study is drawn to address the teachers’ level of trust towards their principal.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Trust Research in School Setting Historically, the study of trust is a sub-element of sociology, and related to the societal concern (Letki, 2006;

Sztompka, 2006). According to Dirks and Ferrin (2002) respected leaders besides having outstanding character and personality as the best role model for their followers, also give importance to trust as well. To Scarbrough (2006) along with instilling respectful relationship among his associates, leaders who aim to accomplish leadership capacity entrusted to them should also be able to spark confidence and trustworthiness among them. It takes time to form trust and it may be built incrementally. Open communication, integrity, mutual respect and support, justice and equality, competence and cooperation are essential ingredients of trust (O’Brien, 2011). It is very unlikely for associates to accept leaders whom they perceive as untruthful, and it is very likely when associates feel that their rights is not being abused that they put trust on their leaders.

As school leaders, competent principals would cherish high expectations on teacher performance. Through distinctive and efficient means of showing trust and respect, they would recognize teachers; would be concerned of and considerate to them; would encourage their participation; would consult them and would provide information as necessary (Davies & Davies, 2013). School climate thereby would be symbolized by the essential elements of trust, i.e., openness, which is closely related to the higher level of trust in the school context (Forsyth et al., 2011).

To Bryk and Scneider (2002), trust is related to individual obligations. They name two kinds of trusts, organic trust and contractual trust. Organic trust is about members of a social group trusting each other unconditionally whereas contractual trust is based the contractual agreements between parties in social groups. Usually in contractual trust, teachers should keep them away from any misconduct of the contract. However, as Bryk and Schneider (2002) explained contractual trust was ineffective in the educational context since most educational institutions have multilevel goals, which they are expected to achieve. They thus identified a third form of trust, the relational trust which relies on the each party’s specific expectations.

Then, Tschannen–Moran (2003; 2004) proposed five facets of trust, namely: benevolence, reliability, competence, honesty and openness. Benevolence is about leaders taking care of the welfare of teachers, that teachers feel being protected by their leaders. Reliability is about teachers depending on the leadership of a principal for example to protect them in the event of any problem. Competence is the belief of teachers that the principal is a good leader and is able to perform tasks as required based on required standards. Honesty includes character, integrity and authenticity of leaders’ behaviour, which is instrumental to teachers’ trust on principal.

www.ccsenet.org/ass Asian Social Science Vol. 11, No. 5; 2015 This also refers to how far teachers can trust principal to fairly protecting them during stressful times. The last facet is openness, which describes how leaders can be open and able to share information with teachers. Trust works both ways. For effective communication to occur there must be mutual trust between the principal and the teachers.

Many educationists believe that school culture impacts significantly on teachers’ approach to and their nature of work (Harris, Caldwell & Longmuir, 2013; Rhodes, Stevens & Hemmings, 2011; Tarter et al., 1989). School climate, would imply upon on all the three forms of teacher trust within the school context, as Hoy and Tschannen-Moran (1999) posited, namely trust in principal, trust in colleagues and faculty trust in school. These forms of trust, as Robinson, Hohepa and Lloyd (2009) point out would be influenced by the school size as well.

According to them school size has much influence on the culture of trust. They believe that the smaller size of the school, teachers will have higher level of trust compared to school having large number of students.

Conversely, in this context, differences therein would render on their behaviour as well. Therefore, as Brewster and Railsback (2003) emphasized school leaders are responsible to developing and creating a climate of trust in schools.

2.2 Related Studies Trust has been extensively studied by educational researchers. They studied the subject of trust from various perspectives and mostly it has been a part of their interest in measuring leadership and teacher satisfaction (Lee, 2007; Kim & Taylor, 2008) and educational systems. Handford (2010) for example mentions few solid reasons to suggest to the substantial importance of existence of trust in school climate and its significance to school achievement. Firstly, schools with high trust were able to increase the student test scores. This was also proven by Bryk and Schneider (2002) who studies significance of trust to improving student reading scores. Secondly, trust is significant associated to teachers’ high level of confidence, enthusiasm and to friendly practices among colleagues and their principal, consequently leading to higher student achievement (Handford & Leithwood, 2013).

Significantly, trust research has drawn educational researcher attention not just from the western perspectives but also other various schools of thought. For instance, in Turkish schools, a study conducted by Kursunoglu (2009) which investigated teacher organizational trust based on the demographic variables such as teacher gender, experience, and teaching subject revealed that there were not significant differences in terms of teacher gender in measuring trust, while differences in the perception of trust typically based on teacher experiences in teaching and subject that they teach in the classroom context were found. The finding was consistent with another relevant findings by Ozdil (2005) and Bokeoglu and Yılmaz (2008) who also found that there was no difference related to trust in principal based on teacher gender. In another study, Sonmez (2005) also indicates that teacher perception of trust was also exhibited least differences in terms of teacher seniority. Furthermore, Erden and Erden’s (2009) study also reported that there is an association between Ankara’s elementary school principals towards the inclination-to-trust, values and attitudes, demographic variables gender and school size. The study indicates that 48 per cent of the variance in trust was accounted for managers and teachers at Ankara schools in relationship with teacher perception of trust.

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