Questions about trust between tutors in tertiary education and their students have not received much treatment in comparison to those of institutional trustworthiness or trust in the public education system. This reflective paper reviews and critically evaluates existing literature from the fields of SoTL, education and other relevant research domains in order to understand the nature of trust in higher education teaching; for, an understanding of the nature of trust allows tertiary educators and administrators to foster such trust, which has been shown to be a crucial ingredient for teaching effectiveness. The second half of this paper raises a set of sceptical challenges to the dominant understanding of trust in SoTL and in education (i.e. the ‘service-management’ conception of trust). It will be argued that the service-management conception of trust may not be practically helpful, contains vague prescriptions, is explanatorily deficient, amongst other worries. This paper then proceeds to recommend not so much a jettisoning of the service-management conception as the need to complement it with an alternative model of trust for higher education teaching. On the supplementary conception of trust (i.e. the ‘network model’), the potential for trust is to be found in common social environments, institutions or spaces where individuals form the expectation that others may be relied on to behave in acceptable ways. Trust is not so much a relation between two individuals (who already know each other) but exists as a potentiality between individuals insofar as they share and interact in a common social environment, institution or space. What the network model of trust implies, then, is that trust between students and their teachers can be strengthened when they participate in co-engagement activities that aim at meaningful pedagogical ends. Our findings will have implications for the measurement of trust in future scholarship as well as, and more importantly, how it is that tutors in university and colleges and seek to foster trusting relationships between themselves and their students.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

ref_ijsotl_2023_17_02_02.pdf (190 kB)
Supplemental Reference List