Building Trust in the Classroom: A Conceptual Model for Teachers, Scholars, and Academic Developers in Higher Education




trust, university teaching, conceptual model


The quality of student-teacher classroom interactions is important to learning, belonging, and success, particularly for students from groups that have been historically excluded from or marginalized in higher education. The literature commonly asserts that one necessary part of high-quality educational interactions (whether in person or online) is trust, but several scholars note that trust has not been systematically explored by scholars of higher education teaching and learning. In this paper, we propose a conceptual framework for identifying and describing teacher-initiated “trust moves” in the classroom, based on both the literature and interviews with teaching faculty in varied contexts. In doing this, we hope to provide a practical resource for teachers to reflect on possible approaches for building trust with students in their own classrooms—and for scholars and academic developers who wish to study or support these efforts.

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Author Biographies

Peter Felten, Elon University

Peter Felten is the executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, professor of history, and assistant provost for teaching and learning at Elon University (US).

Rachel Forsyth, Lund University

Rachel Forsyth is a project manager at Lund University (Sweden).

Kathryn A. Sutherland, Victoria University of Wellington

Kathryn A. Sutherland is an academic developer in the Centre for Academic Development at Te Herenga Waka–Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand).


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A circular chart divided into four equal quadrants; the quadrants read "cognition," " affect," "identity," and "values."




How to Cite

Felten, Peter, Rachel Forsyth, and Kathryn A. Sutherland. 2023. “Building Trust in the Classroom: A Conceptual Model for Teachers, Scholars, and Academic Developers in Higher Education”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 11 (July).



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