Trust and shared governance: A qualitative approach at the middle school level

Stephen Douglas King, Marquette University


Trust is critical to consensus building in shared decision making. This study examined how trust is manifested among principals and staff. This study of middle school teacher-principal relationships adds to the research that Evans (1992) did at the elementary level. The research design was a multi-site, qualitative case study involving three middle schools. The Kupersmith (1983) Trust Scales instrument was used to quantify the level of trust in each of 10 middle schools. The three schools with the highest mean score of teacher-principal trust were selected for the qualitative phase of the study using focus group interview techniques. Evans identified ten themes of teacher-principal relationships that emerged from the focus group interviews using the Glaser and Strauss (1967) constant comparative method of coding responses. The data in this study found that there was a close match in 8 of 10 themes identified by Evans. Matching occurred in trust and: personal trustworthiness, personal support, collaboration, professional support, communication, shared decision making, organizational change, humor and playfulness. Differences at the middle school level were found in faculty-principal authority relationships and shared values. Authority and shared value relationships at the middle school level were found to be institutionalized within the school organization. Familial values were less personalized at the middle school level than Evans found in her elementary study. Authority relationships were found to be more horizontally related at the middle school than Evans' vertically related description in her elementary study. It is recommended that further research be done to quantify the trusting relationships between teachers and principals, from the perspective of a secondary teacher/subject specialist. The data should be compared to similar data collected from the perspective of an elementary/child centered generalist within the same school building. This research should target the themes of teacher-principal authority relationships and shared values. Further recommendations include replication of this study at the high school level, and adding a fourth dimension to the Kupersmith study; that of determining teacher-community trust.

Recommended Citation

King, Stephen Douglas, "Trust and shared governance: A qualitative approach at the middle school level" (1996). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9717061.