Trustful Relationships and School Development

Sammanfattning: Methods other than averages from national tests, grades and levels of eligibility for higher education to evaluate the quality of education and school development are called for. In this dissertation is examined how a conscious effort to develop trustful relationships and mutual interaction among all actors in schools may contribute to increased well-being, community and strengthened learning processes for both students and teachers. ‘Relational school development’ is seen as particularly important for the large group of students who struggle hard in school every day to achieve the educational goals, and who are thus most dependent on a supportive environment to cope with learning. Trustful relationships and developed interaction and cooperation in schools are in the long run also assumed to have the potential to contribute positively to attainment. The overall aim of the thesis is to study the significance of relational aspects in school development.In order to meet the thesis’ aim, a relational school development initiative grounded in school development research and theories of relational pedagogy was shaped, which was implemented in five schools during five school semesters. The relational processes that the initiative generated in the five schools respectively were longitudinally studied, out from specified research issues. Parallel qualitative and quantitative data were collected from school leaders, teachers and students. Thematic analysis was used to develop a deeper understanding of conditions for and experiences of relational school development processes. Statistical analyses were performed to infer from the longitudinal student data collected with the ‘Swedish TSR-SSE’-survey, which has been developed as a part of the studies.The main results of the thesis reveal: i) organisational and relational preconditions at the system-, school- and teacher group level define which relational school development efforts can be carried out. Teachers need to feel trust in school development processes in order to become involved and be open with own challenges and to try out real changes in practice together with colleagues and students. As conceptualised here, ‘Teacher trust’ in relational school development encompasses three mutually interacting levels: collegial trust, collective trust in the teacher team and overall process trust in the school development process; ii) students’ perceptions of teacher-student relationship quality (TSR) and students’ self-efficacy within different domains of schooling (SSE) are confirmed as inter-correlated relational school factors and seem to be appropriate for use in longitudinal follow-up of teachers’ relational school development efforts; iii) collective relational competence of teachers may develop through an increased joint awareness of how both implicit and explicit aspects of communication affect the teacher-student relationship continuously, and iv) students whose teachers appreciated a more successful collective learning process reported improved quality in the teacher-student relationship, and also expressed a raised sense of self-efficacy regarding own opportunities to succeed in school.