Climate is a multifaceted concept where defining it is becoming an exciting and a hot topic for researchers (Vasquez, 2011). In a normal and literal context, climate is more familiar in the sense of weather or atmosphere. Whenever the weather changes to warm or normal temperature, most of the people feel good and usually comfortable having a normal dressing. If the weather gets very cold, hot, cloudy, rainy, chilly or sunny, they need to regulate and use mechanisms that can help them adjust or adapt to the existing climate like a change in dressing, staying in rooms, use of air conditioning, umbrella, bathing, etc.
Similarly, school climate influences how the school community senses and feels, willingness to get involved, excitement to contribute and their sense of self, trying to control the climate, avoiding or adapting oneself to the existing climate. Like personality of an individual, climate is for the organization that refers to the social, academic and emotional contexts of a school, the “personality” of the learning context (Forsyth et al., 2011; Blum, 2007). Hence, school climate is a psychological threshold on how the school community perceives it. According to Doctor (1997), “a positive school climate exists when the school community feels comfortable, wanted, valued, accepted, and secured in an environment where they can interact with caring people they trust” (p.
3.3). It is quality and character of school life (Smith et al., 2014). A healthy climate is the result of collaborative effort of the school community where everyone is expected to contribute its share positively.
It depends on the physical environment that is welcoming and conducive to learning, a social environment with smooth communication and interaction, an affective environment that promotes a sense of belonging and self-esteem and an academic environment that promotes learning and self-fulfilment (Marshall, 2004; Gonder & Hymes, 1994). For Doctor (1997), a positive school climate is an equitable, safe, friendly, caring, supportive, nurturing, empowering, and mutually respectful setting. These, of course, are emerging qualities of positive school climate.
In a similar fashion, Loukas (2007) perceived school climate as “the feelings and attitudes that are elicited by a school’s environment” (p.1). 1.3.1. School Community TrustA school community functions as a group sharing common values about the education of children with its constituents of students, parents, teachers, principals and other support staff (Redding, 1991). The school community in this study is confined to faculty (principals and teachers) and clients (parents and students) (Forsyth et al., 2011; Tschannen-Moran, 2014).
Thus, it encompasses a two-way trust between teachers-principal; teachers -teachers; teachers –students; teachers –parents and principals trust in students and parents. It is at collective level (Forsyth et al., 2011) as it addresses the workgroup in which they have expectancy and reliance on the words, promises and actions of members and act in the best interest of the members.
According to Robbins et al. (2009), trust is “a positive expectation that others will not act either through words, actions, or decisions opportunistically” (p.464). On the other hand, Brown (2014) viewed trust as safety, comfort and feeling that someone has on your back and an environment where individuals can be their best selves.
For Mineo (2014), “trust is the glue that binds the leader to her/his followers and provides the capacity for organizational and leadership success” (p.1). Ezekiel (2005) explained trust as a psychological threshold within an individual of being willing to engage in co-operative behaviour entailing risk and uncertainty. Likewise, “trust is a person’s willingness to accept and/or increase their vulnerability by relying on the implicit or explicit information.” (Todd, 2007, p.9). On the other hand, as stated by Hoy and Tschannen-Moran (2003) “trust involves taking a risk and making oneself vulnerable to another with the confidence that the other will act in ways that aren’t detrimental to the trusting party” (p.
183). Many researchers and educators (Robbins et al., 2009; Brown, 2014; Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 2003; Goddard et al., 2001; Forsyth et al., 2007; Savolainen, 2008) and others have come with different phrases in defining trust.
They viewed trust as safety, comfort and feeling that someone has on your back, an environment where individuals can be their best selves, teachers talking to their colleagues, discuss how to improve and learn from what is working and observe other classes, embedded in relationships, multifaceted construct, a lubricant for cooperative activity, free information and knowledge sharing, precondition for innovation, etc. Likewise, “Trust is a subjective condition that allows an entity (a person) to take a consequential action as a result of accepting some (subjective) level of uncertainty” (Todd, 2007, p.11). For all these, the principal is the key team player in building trust at a school level. The Cambridge Encyclopaedia (1990) viewed trust as an “arrangement that a person (the trustee) holds property for the benefit of another (the beneficiary)”.
The trustee in violation of trust is liable for the damage experienced. Oxford English Dictionary (1989) has also defined trust as the “quality of being trustworthy, fidelity, reliability, loyalty and trustiness”. The new Oxford Thesaurus of English dictionary (2000) described trust as “a relationship built on mutual trust and respect, confidence, belief, faith, freedom from suspicion/doubt, sureness, certainty, certitude, assurance, conviction, credence, and reliance”. It is viewed as the opposite of distrust, mistrust, or scepticism. Overall, it is viewed as a relationship or confidence in someone or something as a result of the qualities observed in it or her/ him. Trust is perceived by different fields and experts in different ways based on their philosophical underpinnings.
For example, psychologists perceive trust as a belief or feeling, deeply rooted in an individual’s personality and shaped by early life experiences. For this, the developmental stages of Erikson start with basic trust verses mistrust as the first stage of the psychosocial development during the 12 to 18 months of the child age (Dandapani, 2010; Papalia et al., 2004; Baron, 2001).
According to them, this is the stage where babies develop a sense of reliability on people and objects in their world. They need to develop a balance between trust which lets them form intimate relationships and mistrust which again enables them to protect themselves. The researcher has considered the definition of Tschannen-Moran (2014) as a spring board for this study which she has defined trust as “one’s willingness to be vulnerable to another based on the confidence that the other is benevolent, honest, open, reliable, and competent” (pp.19-20). 1.
3.2. Interdependence of School Climate and TrustSchool climate and trust are sometimes overlapping terms where one can affect the other and one may be the cause as well, mutually inclusive. According to Mant (1999), when the relationship or climate of the organization is healthy, its network of relationships within and out of the organization creates a climate of trust. This trust in turn acts as a kind of antibody against environmental turbulence. In this way, trust and climate should be seen as symbiotic because there cannot be healthy climate without trust among the school community and there cannot be trust in an unhealthy climate.
Thus, one buttresses the other and “open school climate and an atmosphere of trust go together” (Forsyth et al., 2011, p.8). School improvement, more specifically the academic success of students is the cumulative result of the school management, parents, environment, students and teachers. In most of the research findings of (Brewster & Railsback, 2003; Tschannen-Moran, 2003), the quality of the relationships within a school community makes a difference in students’ performance and experience greater academic success. There is a strong belief that relationships matter for students where achievement and trust are at the heart of strong relationship (Goddard et al.
, 2001) that helps students learn freely and easily in their schools. The school is the miniature society, an epitome of life outside, lengthened arm of the family, guardian of academic freedom, living examples of freedom of inquiry, experimentation, and democracy (Dewey, cited on Aggarwal, 2013). With these, there shall be a healthy school climate and strong trust especially between teachers, students, parents and the leadership, if not it will affect the overall teaching- learning process and schools will not enjoy the expected participation of stakeholders and success in their plans. There is a need to establish non- toxic school environment and a trustworthy relationship among stakeholders of the schools especially the principals, teachers, students and parents to each other which led to the main concepts of the paper, ‘school climate and school community trust’. 1.3.3. Academic AchievementThough there are many school outcomes that might be used to measure the performance of schools, students’ academic achievement is one of the virtually agreed outcomes used to measures school effectiveness (Forsyth et al.
, 2011). For this, the Ethiopian Ministry of Education, its hierarchical organs and partners are struggling with reforms to improve the academic performance and achievement of students, be it at lower, middle or higher levels. Academic achievement is usually considered as a measurement tool for knowledge gained in formal education. It is based on the achievement versus the reference set by the schools (norm or criterion) that determines the pass rate. It is assessed by exams, tests, quizzes, projects, assignments, etc. which are again expressed in terms of marks, percentages, grades, excellent, very good, good, poor, failed, etc.
Here, the achievement level of the students is judged by the marks they scored in the examinations. School assessment tracks the performance of schools in the achievement of stated goals, mostly the performance of students in terms of promotion rate, repetition, dropout rate and marks on an average which are key indicators of school achievement. The information generated from the assessment process is used to establish baseline data for the next planning, track trends, and make comparisons (Hoffman & Summers, 2000).
Harris and Muijs (2005) clarified that teachers’ effectiveness has been a matter of some debate but effectiveness is measured essentially in terms of students’ academic achievement using either value-added or raw score measures, and a teacher is effective if students test scores rise. Achievement is one of the basic elements in defining the healthy school climate under the academic dimension. The academic achievement is the result of the teaching- learning process.
It is the extent to which students, teachers and institutions have achieved their common educational goal. School climate is a significant element in discussions about improving academic performance and school reform (Michigan State University, 2004) and a healthy climate is an academic environment that promotes learning, emphasis on academics, achievements and performance are rewarded and praised. On the other hand, a relationship among the school community in the school has more impact on the quality and character of the school and the accomplishment of students than any other factor (Barth, 2001 in Redburn, 2009).
The relationship leads again to trust which will have an impact on the performance of students thereby determining their achievements. The Michigan State University (2004, p.5), viewed a caring school climate as a key for: § Higher grades, engagement, attendance, expectations and aspirations, a sense of scholastic competence, fewer school suspensions, and on-time progression through grades, § Higher self-esteem and self-concept,§ Less anxiety, less depression and no loneliness and,§ Less substance abuse. Researchers are worried about the effects of climate and trust on school’s performance. Thus, rigorous researches have been done and going on even today.
This research can be considered as one of the addenda.