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Culture of Growth: Relational Trust

What is relational trust?

Relational trust refers to the interpersonal social exchanges that take place in a group setting. Research has found it to have a particularly strong impact on student achievement in school communities. 

EL Education schools work hard to develop relational trust among the adults and students of the community. Trust is essential if a school is to succeed—both in beliefs and action.

Relational trust is built on movements of the human heart such as empathy, commitment, compassion, patience, and the capacity to forgive. Parker Palmer, author

Learning Targets

  1. I can describe the role of relational trust in a school community.
  2. I can explain why relational trust is critical for promoting a culture of trust and a growth mindset.
  3. I can explain structures and practices that promote a culture of trust and a growth mindset.

Watch: Building a Community

As you watch the video below, consider the following questions: 

  1. Why is building strong relationships among adults in a school community so important? 
  2. How do the adult relationships affect the students?
  3. How does your school intentionally build community among the adults?
  4. How does a strong adult community support the teachers?
  5. What does “leading together” mean to you in the context of your school? What would it look like?

Videos. (2013, April 4). *Leading Together: Building Adult Community in School.* Retrieved October 14, 2015 from

Dig Deeper

Trust in Schools: An EL Education PowerPoint presentation providing an overview of the research and components of relational trust (download provided on this page).
Relational Trust in Schools Overview: A brief overview of the research and components of relational trust.
Omnibus T-Scale:  A short measure of three dimensions of faculty trust from Wayne K. Hoy at Ohio State University.
Strategies for Using these Resources to Build Relational Trust: A suggested set of steps for using these tools to educate staff about relational trust and collect and use data to build trust. 


This series of questions can be used by a leadership team (district leader and principals, or a principal and group of teacher leaders) to create a plan to build higher levels of relational trust in a school. 

  1. As a leadership team, what is your long-term vision for a school with high levels of relational trust? Define it. What do you see?
  2. How will you create that vision? What is the long-term plan?
  3. How will you know when you have achieved success? How will you measure it?
  4. What is the very next step that the leader (district or building level) will take to build relational trust in the school?
  5. What is the very next step that the leadership team will take?
  6. Check—is everyone clear about the plan? Are there clear action steps? Have these steps been delegated with clear timelines and measures of success?

Resource Downloads

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