Trust - The 'real' key to school improvement

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Trust - The 'real' key to school improvement

It was former US President Ronald Regan who made famous the phrase Trust, but verify. Blind trust, unchecked by any kind of verification system, can prove as unproductive for individuals and organisations as can intrusive, coercive, and time-consuming verification strategies. Both sides of this equation are important. These behaviours are the real key to school improvement.

This was a special Agora. The presenters are contemporary researchers and held in high esteem within the wider educative circle in Australia. Their findings are challenging educators in all sectors, not just in Australia but throughout the world.  Some of their findings will shock you. Some of the findings were be tested during this Agora.

This Agora was ‘a must attend’ for principals, deputies, aspiring leaders, heads of teaching and learning and regular teachers or anyone with an interest in 'trust'. On the evening Dr McCulla and Dr Marks unpacked the findings of recent international research, the peculiar findings from Australia and their implication in our varying school contexts. These findings go to the heart of every Anglican and Christian school.



Speaker - Dr Norman McCulla

Dr Norman McCulla joined Macquarie University in 2006 after an extensive career as a teacher and senior educational administrator in the NSW Department of Education and Training. As a teacher, Norman taught in primary, central and secondary schools in rural New South Wales and metropolitan Sydney as well as the RAAF School in Penang, Malaysia. As an educational administrator, he specialised in teacher professional development, curriculum development and educational change.

Norman has worked with all education sectors in NSW and nationally through his involvement with professional associations and national projects. He is a former Chair of the NSW Chapter of the Australian College of Educators and member of the College's National Council. He was made a Fellow of the College for his services to education nationally in the areas of curriculum and teacher professional development. Norman has also held the positions of President of the NSW Institute of Senior Educational Administrators and Vice-president of the Primary English Teaching Association.

Norman chaired the Steering Committee for the NSW Quality Teaching Award, an award for teaching excellence offered by the Australian College of Educators, NSW Branch in association with the NSW Minister for Education. The award encompassed all sectors of education; pre-school to university.

In 2012 Norman was the recipient of the College's Sir Harold Wyndham Medal which recognises "an outstanding contribution by an individual to the education of young people in New South Wales".

Norman is the Co-ordinator of the Postgraduate Educational Leadership Program at Macquarie. He teaches courses in Curriculum Studies, Human Resource Management in Education, and Leading the Development of New Teachers. He also teaches in the undergraduate Teacher Education Program in areas related to education policy and practice and is Chair of the School of Education's Learning and Teaching Committee.

Speaker - Dr Warren Marks

Dr Warren Marks is a former teacher and school principal in New South Wales. He is now director of LEAP (Leading Educators Around the Planet), an international peer-shadowing program for educational leaders. He is a consultant to the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Teacher Education, lecturing in the Master of Instructional Leadership programs.

Video Recording

Presentation Slides

Further Reading for Teacher Identified Professional Development

Below you will find a number of readings connected to the content of this event. This reading can be accredited as Teacher Identified Professional Development. Enter it into your personal log and into your online professional development record with NESA. Don’t forget to write a short explanation of how the activity addressed the standard descriptors you nominated.


1. Bryk, A.S, & Schneider, B. (2003) Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for School Reform. Educational Leadership 60(6), 40-44.

2. Hitt, D.H. & Tucker, P.D. (2016) Systematic Review of Key Leader Practices Found to Influence Student Achievement: A Unified Framework. Review of Educational Research, 86(2) 531-569.

3. Li, L., Hallinger, P. & Walker, A. (2015) Exploring the Mediating Effects of Trust on Principal Leadership and Teacher Professional Learning in Hong Kong Primary Schools.
Educational Management, Administration and Leadership, 44(1) 20-42.

4. Marks, W. & McCulla, N. (2016) Australia: Halfway to Anywhere? In Fink, D. (Ed.) Trust and Verify: The Real Keys to School Improvement. London, UK: London: University College London Institute of Education Press.

5. Wahlstrom, K.L. & Louis, K.S. (2008) How Teachers Experience Principal Leadership: The Roles of Professional Community, Trust, Efficacy, and Shared Responsibility. Educational Administrative Quarterly, 44(4), 458-95.