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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Why Trust is Essential to the Work of Coaches

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


November 17, 2014

Once coaches are on the job, developing trusting relationships is of the highest priority in determining success.

Finding 4. Trust is the fundamental quality of a successful coaching relationship. A growing body of research has documented the relationship between trusting school cultures and improved organization results. (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Tschannen-Moran, 2004). Bryk and Schneider’s research in Chicago Public Schools suggested a school with low relational trust has a 1 in 7 chance of showing gains in student achievement, compared to a 1 in 2 chance for schools with high relational trust. While the principal is key in trust-building, teacher leaders are also important. A coach is in a position to influence relational trust in all domains including parents, teachers, students and administration. Without trust in his/her relationships with teachers, the instructional coach has little opportunity to impact results. When the person they are coaching feels threatened, stress will result and there cannot be an effective coaching relationship because the brain of the coachee will literally lose cognitive capacity. Coaches should receive training specific to the importance of trust in schools and its relationship to successful coaching.

It is difficult to move from being a teacher in a building to being an instructional coach given past history, roles, and relationships While some have made a successful transition, it is generally recommended, for purposes of trust-building, that coaches not work in the building in which they have history as teachers.

How has your system developed a culture of trust around coaching? What are principals doing to lead that culture? How are coaches informed and held accountable for building trust in their work?


Bryk, A. & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: a core resource for improvement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

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