Communication and relational trust

Effective communication and high levels of relational trust create the conditions for successful organisational learning and change.14 Developing relational trust goes hand in hand with collaboration, and both take time. In the early days of a community, leadership should provide formal and informal opportunities at different levels for purposeful, joint work with a shared  focus.

Relational trust is a prerequisite for engaging in challenging conversations15 and for creating an environment where participants are open to their practice and the outcomes they achieve for students being made transparent.16 Where there is relational trust, members feel free to open up and acknowledge what they do not know, take risks, and use their knowledge and expertise to support others in the community. Trust relationships facilitate the sharing of data and information about students and the provision of supported educational pathways.

When parents, families and whānau are actively engaged in the Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako enterprise, the community gains access to community resources, and educational pathways and outcomes are enhanced.

In any Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako the quality of leadership and relationships will be evident in the way in which high-performing schools work with other schools to improve overall performance and  outcomes.17


Examples of effective practice

> Trust-based relationships foster connectedness and collective purpose among the members of the Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako.

> Well-developed communication channels facilitate the exchange of ideas and synthesis and use of new knowledge.

> Transparent sharing of data enables community members to learn from others, improve their practice, and raise student outcomes.

> Community members confidently acknowledge what they don’t know, engage in challenging, open-to-learning conversations, and feel supported to take risks.

> Strong, educationally focused relationships among students, parents and whānau, teachers and leaders, and with other educational and community institutions, increase opportunities for student learning and success.


14        Bryk, A., Sebring, P., Allensworth, E., Luppescu, S., & Easton, J. (2010). Organising schools for improvement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bryk et al. identify a reciprocal dynamic between trust development and school improvement, including teachers’ work orientation, the school’s engagement with parents and the sense of safety and order experienced by students.

15        Timperley, H. (2015). Professional conversations and improvement-focused feedback. A review of the research literature and the impact on practice and student outcomes. Melbourne VIC: Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.

16        Rincon-Gallardo, S., & Fullan, M. (2015). The social physics of educational change: Essential features of collaboration. Draft for comment prepared for the Ministry of  Education.

17        Chapman, C., & Muijs, D. (2014). Does school-to-school collaboration promote school improvement? A study of the impact of school federations on student outcomes. School Effectiveness and Improvement, 25 (3),  351–393.