Building trusting relationships for school improvement

by Cori Brewster and Jennifer Railsback


This report reviews key research on the importance of building trusting relationships. Building trust between educators in a school is an important factor in developing effective schools and improving outcomes for students.

The report includes strong recommendations for principals and other school leaders on how to build trusting and effective relationships. These recommendations provide challenges for leadership teams to reflect on, as well as suggestions about ways forward.

Even when a past lack of trust is negatively affecting people in the school community, it is possible to turn things around by identifying the specific causes of the mistrust and making a sincere commitment to address them. Openness, engaging everyone in discussion, and valuing what people do are all important elements in building trusting and successful relationships.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • What evidence do you have that relationships in your school are built on trust? Are there any areas where levels of trust are negatively impacting on teacher effectiveness or student outcomes?
  • The key to building trusting relationships is a school culture that values the voice of staff. What opportunities do your staff have to share their professional knowledge and success? How can you provide more opportunities for teachers to participate in decision making and in sharing their expertise?


Brewster, C. & Railsback, J. (2003). Building trusting relationships for school improvement: Implications for principals and teachers. Oregon, USA: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.

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