9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN10 Sociology of Education

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Social Inequalities IV Building I, 2E6

Teacher Trust as an Indicator of Social Inequality in Secondary Education?

Trust relations contribute to a school's level of social capital and enhance the functioning of the school and students' achievement (Goddard, 2003). European research on teacher trust is relatively scarce however. This study, departing from normative role expectations, analyzes how teacher and organizational school characteristics affect teacher trust. Since taking into account school context is crucial regarding a social justice orientation on education (Thrupp, 2006), we analyze if organizational size and organizational composition in terms of the social class background, gender, and ethnicity of students leads to unequal levels of teacher trust in students across secondary schools. We also pay attention to the role of teachers' gender, socioeconomic background, years of experience, teaching hours, nature of the courses teached, and their perception of the students' teachability in explaining trust.
Data were collected within the context of the Flemish Educational Assessment, during the 2004-2005 school year, from 2,104 third- and/or fifth-grade teachers by means of anonymous written questionnaires across a representative sample of 84 secondary schools in Flanders. Moreover, 11,872 third- and fifth-grade students completed questionnaires. The trust variable was derived from the trust scales developed by Hoy and Tschannen-Moran (1999). We measured teacher trust in students with 10 items. Cronbach's alpha for our trust scale is 0.77. Multilevel analysis is used to reveal the assessed relationships.
The unconditional multilevel analysis reveals 23.4% of the variance in teacher trust is situated between schools (p < 0.001). The included school features explain 89% of the variance in trust at the school level. An important proportion of teacher trust is explained by variation in the social class composition of the student body, also explaining the impact of ethnic composition. In low socioeconomic schools with a lot of students, trust is very worrisome. When the proportion of female students is high, teacher trust is also high. The students' study culture could not explain the effects of compositional features. However, composition effects are mediated through teachers' perception of the students' teachability.
These findings may raise staff awareness of trends in their attitudes that demand systematic intervention in view of reducing social inequalities in education.