Trust in education

Trust in the school context, especially around the use of technology.

Archive for the tag “BYOT”

Trusting technology to build relationships

Thanks to George Couros for this infographic.This infographic comes from George Couros, thePrincipal of Change.


Autonomy equals trust

Management isn’t about walking around and seeing if people are in their offices…It’s about creating conditions for people to do their best work.

I’ve just read management “expert” Dan Pinks book Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  I also heard him speak at the EduTech Conference in June and found his ideas and insights inspiring.

Dan Pink offers insights into rewards and motivation.

Dan Pink offers insights into rewards and motivation.

Pink has investigated research around motivation and rewards and come up with some conclusions which apply equally well to schools as they do to businesses.

Schools often operate on the system Pink calls Motivation 2.0, the traditional “sticks and carrots” approach where good results and behaviour are rewarded and bad results and behaviour are punished.  (Motivation 1.0 was the system our earliest ancestors operated under – otherwise known as survival.)


Pink asserts that Motivation 2.0 doesn’t usually work and that what works better is Motivation 3.0 which is framed around the principles of autonomy, mastery and purpose.

He believes that we do our best work when:

  • we have autonomy to work the way that suits us best,
  • a sense that we are striving to master the skills involved in our work and
  • we understand and believe in the purpose for what we are doing.

Have a look at this RSA Animate about Drive.

It seems to me that autonomy is much the same thing as trust.

If your boss, your principal, your teacher are giving you the freedom to choose your task, your time, your team and your technique, then they are placing trust in you.

Sometimes the structures of school make it hard to implement systems based on trust and autonomy.

For example, how can we give students autonomy over their tasks when assessment has to have some sort of standardisation?  How can we give them autonomy over their time when the school day operates on a timetable?

Pink has some suggestions, and the advent of MOOCs and BYOT seems to offer other opportunities to tinker with the system a bit.

What about systems that let teachers do their best work?

Do inspections and carrot rewards for high student achievement lead to teachers feeling motivated and trusted?

Photo credits:

Trust at the EduTECH Conference

Trust was a buzzword at the EduTECH conference in Brisbane last week.  In fact here’s the Buzzword Bingo card I was handed before one presentation.



Trust was up there with student voice, multiple intelligences, MOOCs and Sir Ken Robinson!

Martin Levins spoke about the research he has conducted along with Mal Lee into schools who have made a successful transition to a BYOT model.  The factor that guaranteed success, he said, was the presence of a culture of respect and trust.

That doesn’t mean that students won’t ever do the wrong thing, Levins said, because after all, they’re kids.  Teachers can demonstrate trust and respect, however, by assuming that kids will generally do the right thing.

Teachers can also show themselves to be worthy of respect by being co-learners and co-sharers in knowledge and technology use, unlike the teacher in the following internet meme, which Levins shared with the audience.

Unhelpful teacher 


Stephen Heppell also talked about trust, graphing the exponential growth of technology use between 1985 and 2012 along with the change from a staircase model of policy making which piloted, iterated, tested and controlled before legislating, to a model where the pace of change means there is not time to go through that process.

Instead we rely on a model of trust, said Heppell, and a need to be able to work out who we can trust and who we can share with.  Above all, he said, we must trust our students.  The video of Heppell’s presentation at EduTECH is not readily available but a clip which covers some of the same content can be found here.

A lot of other speakers touched on the concept of trust and one issue which came up a few times was relevant for schools with a “good reputation” in the community.  Sometimes the decision-makers in these schools are hesitant to embrace change or take risks with new forms of pedagogy for fear of ruining something which is perceived to be working well.  Martin Levins called it the problem of “changing and staying the same”.

I have taught in schools and been a parent at schools with a “good reputation”.  The reputation comes from some combination of impressive academic results, sporting and musical achievements and high standards of behaviour.  These schools are mostly happy communities where children are learning but the dominant model of pedagogy is teacher-centred.  That nagging little voice in my head says that in these schools we are, in the words of another EduTECH speaker, Suan Yeo, educating our students for our past rather than their future.

BYOT – the missing ingredient

When a school has decided to introduce 1:1 technology or BYOT, the checklist goes something like this:

  •   curriculum implications considered
  •   budgeting done
  •   timeline planned
  •   infrastructure in place (server or cloud adequate for needs, wireless coverage, internet bandwidth)
  •   security policy thought out (passwords, registering devices)
  •   device chosen (if 1:1)
  •   teachers given professional development
  •   parents and students notified and ready…
  •   culture of trust established???

All of the items above require thought, research and action and all are necessary steps for schools about to embark on major change, technical or otherwise.  Establishing a culture of trust is a process that takes a lot of time – longer even than the time to develop a budget and have it approved, believe it or not.


Trust has the potential to exist on many levels in a school community – between

  • teachers and students,
  • teachers and parents,
  • teachers and teachers,
  • teachers and administrative staff (i.e. principals and deputy principals),
  • teachers and their employing body,
  • students and parents,
  • parents and administrative staff,
  • parents and parents,
  • students and administrative staff.

Its presence or absence can make a world of difference.

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