This phenomenological study explores the value of trust between teams of special education teachers and paraprofessionals. The study delves into their lived experiences, focusing on characteristics and behaviors that build, sustain, destroy and restore trust between them. There are multiple studies on trust in education, however, there is relatively little literature published on the value of trust among individuals committed to providing support for transition-aged students within various Los Angeles County school districts. Existing theories and models on trust have similar characteristics that span across diverse industries. As a result, clear-cut guidelines have enabled members of a team to be aware of how trust impacts their working environment. Purposive sampling provided teams of special education professionals who possessed a depth of knowledge of the subject matter and experience in the classroom. Individual face-to-face, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 participants focusing on how they make meaning of the role and value of trust with their special education colleagues. As a result, 165 coded passages were grouped into the following nine themes: (a) characteristics of a trustworthy colleague, (b) importance of trust, (c) outcome of trust, (d) outcome of a lack of trust, (e) building trust, (f) sustaining trust, (g) destroying trust and (h) restoring trust. Two study conclusions emerged. Conclusion one, trust increases communication, respect and collaboration between special education colleagues, as well as enhances student success. Conclusion two, a lack of trust negatively impacts the special education environment, as well as relevant stakeholders, which include: students, parents, special education teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators. Recommendations include participation in team development trainings, as well as personal and professional development that focus on acquiring the characteristics of a trustworthy colleague. Additionally, special education professionals benefit from establishing a shared primary focus of student success. Moreover, the onus of setting the tone of trust falls on the special education teacher. Lastly, special education professionals should relinquish the characteristics that diminish trust. This study provides researchers and professionals in the field of special education with insight into the tools needed to have better working relationships so that they can effectively serve special needs students.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Special education educators -- California -- Los Angeles -- Case studies; Special education teachers -- California -- Los Angeles -- Case studies; Trust; Organizational change -- Education

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Davis, Kay D.;