The purpose of this study was to discover and describe influences on trusting teacher relationships with parents. The research questions were: (1) What detracts from trusting teacher relationships with parents? (2) What contributes to trusting teacher relationships with parents? (3) What is the relationship between influences on teacher-parent trust to the theoretical model of trust developed by Hacker and Willard (2002)?
The research approach was a qualitative design employing phenomenological and case study methods. Study data were generated through interviews, surveys, document review, and field observations conducted across three elementary school sites. The theoretical framework for the study included research and theory about social-emotional intelligence, the nature of trust in organizations, the nature of trust in schools, and influences on trust relationships between home and school.
The findings of the study describe conflict as the primary detractor from trusting teacher-parent relationships. Overt conflict, in the form of conflicting perceptions of student needs or lack of personal teacher connection to student or parent, is a prominent barrier to building teacher-parent trust. Deficient communication and too much or too little parent involvement, if unresolved, create the potential for overt conflict. Effective communication that is frequent, personal, honest, and accurate is described as the primary influence on building teacher-parent trust. Subordinate influences that contribute to trusting teacher-parent relationships are teacher openness and welcomed parent involvement.
Study findings further describe effective communication and congruency between actions and words as influences on teacher-parent trust that are most strongly related to Hacker and Willard's trust model (2002). Communication conveys commitment, consistency, and capability while conflict compromises commitment, consistency, and capability.
The recommendations of the study advise that trust is a product of proactive teacher communication that builds relationships and minimizes conflict. Moreover, proactive teacher communication is the product of teacher investment of time, professional disposition, social-emotional intelligence, openness to fallibility, and welcoming of parent involvement. Study findings also encourage the cultivation of trust relationship knowledge and skill in teacher pre-service and in-service development.