Co-evolution between trust in teachers and higher education toward digitally-rich learning environments

  • a Faculty of Information Technology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland
  • b International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria


Co-evolution between trust in teachers, higher education and ICT advance was elucidated.

New approach for constructing the above co-evolution in a systematic way was explored.

Institutional sources of education productivity paradox were identified.

Institutional enablers enhancing pedagogical love were identified.

Innovation transforming learning environments into digitally-rich new environments was stressed.


Based on a powerful notion that the quality of higher education is crucial for innovation in digital economy and that such quality is subject to a conception of trust in teachers to deliver good education and advancement of information and communication technology (ICT), the dynamism of co-evolution between them was analyzed.

Using a unique dataset representing the above system consisting of the rate of trust in teachers providing good education in the context of quality of education and their social status, of the level of higher education and the state of ICT advancement toward digitally-rich learning environments, an empirical numerical analysis of 20 countries was attempted. These countries were classified as advanced, semi-advanced and growing.

It was found that while ICT advanced countries have embarked on co-evolution of ICT, higher education and trust, ICT growing countries have not been successful in this due to a vicious cycle between ICT and trust. Finland's educational success can be attributed to co-evolution which corresponds to the emergence of un-captured GDP similarly to the leading edge of an ICT-driven disruptive business model. The paradox of education productivity in ICT growing countries can be attributed to disengagement.

It is suggested that steady ICT advancement fully utilizing external resources in digitally-rich learning environments may be essential to ICT growing countries in achieving higher education. On the other hand, continuing transcending innovation to transform learning environments into new digitally-rich learning environments should be maintained in ICT advanced countries.

A new approach for constructing the above-described co-evolution in a systematic way was thus explored.


  • Trust in teachers;
  • Pedagogical love;
  • Education productivity paradox;
  • Digitally-rich learning environments;
  • Blended learning;
  • Un-captured GDP

1. Introduction

Good quality of higher education is crucial for economies that want to move up the value chain beyond simple production processes and products [36]. Since such quality is subject to trust in teachers for delivering good education [18], [21], [24] and [28] and advancement of information and communication technology (ICT) leading to digitally-rich learning environments [27], co-evolution between higher education, trust in teachers and advancement of ICT has been gaining increasing significance.

This paper aims to explore a new approach for constructing the above-mentioned co-evolution in a systematic way by using a unique dataset representing the above system consisting of the rate of trust in teachers to provide good education in the Global Teacher Status Index [28] that analyzes teacher's impact on educational performance 1, together with statistics on higher education level 2[36] and ICT advancement 3[38], undertook an empirical numerical analysis of 20 countries in relation to this co-evolution dynamism.

While the rate of trust in teachers was focused on younger students corresponding to PISA assessors, given that the result of the assessment represents institutional states of teachers as well as educational system of the nation 4 (VGE, 2013) [24] and [25], analysis using the above data can be considered to provide reasonable insight corresponding to the primary objective.

The 20 countries examined were classified into 3 groups: ICT advanced countries (IAC: Finland, Singapore, Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, USA, Korea, Germany, Israel, Japan), ICT semi-advanced countries (ISC: Portugal, Spain), and ICT growing countries (IGC: Czech Republic, Turkey, Italy, China, Brazil, Greece).

Given the significant shift from traditional teaching practice to blended learning 5 toward digitally-rich innovative learning environments (DILE) and also the significant effect of the learners ability of “overdrawing” past information on trust [13], the state of the country in this shift has become crucial for its performance.

IAC have shifted to DILE and constructed a co-evolutionary dynamism between ICT, higher education and trust. This corresponds to emerging un-captured GDP as observed in the ICT-driven disruptive business model [33] and [35].

ISC are in transition from traditional teaching and learning environments to DILE and experiencing unsuccessful co-evolution due to a vicious cycle between ICT advancement and higher educational level enhancement.

IGC remain in traditional learning environments and suffer disengagement due to a mismatch between ICT advancement and trust in teachers.

These findings give rise to insightful suggestions to the respective countries concerning their successful co-evolution that depends on the state of their ICT advancement.

The paper is organized as follows: Section 2 reviews the significance of higher education in the progress towards digitally-rich learning environments. Section 3 analyzes co-evolutionary dynamism in those 20 countries. The structural source of the contrast of co-evolution and disengagement in the 20 countries is analyzed in Section 4. Section 5 briefly summarizes some noteworthy findings, implications, and suggestions for future works.

2. Trust-based higher education towards digitally-rich learning environments

While better educational outcomes are a strong predictor of economic growth, wealth and spending on education alone are not [17]. Finland demonstrates the world's most outstanding educational performance (e.g., [22] and [36]), but no single factor can explain that. Teachers' capacity to teach in classrooms and work collaboratively in professional communities has been systematically built through academic teacher education [21]. It has been pointed out that “pedagogical love,” the relationship between students, teachers, parents and even educational administrators based on trust, may be the secret to Finland's educational success [24].

The importance of the concept of trust in the educational context has been increasingly recognized, and a growing body of literature supports the idea that trusting relationships between teachers and students are fundamentally important, both for the students' ability to learn and for effective teaching. With a trustful relationship, teachers can anticipate students' behavior and feel encouraged to actively participate in lessons without the fear of being compromised by the teacher [23]. Trust in the education environment provides students an opportunity to take initiative in their learning [3].

Contrary to these expectations, Varkey Gems Foundation (VGF) who conducted an international comparative survey on the Global Teacher Status Index claimed that “there is no correlation between trusting teachers and educational outcomes. For example, Brazil places the most trust in their teachers, yet has one of the lowest learning outcomes in the 21 countries surveyed” [24].

These contradictory attitudes can largely be attributed to the dramatic advancement of ICT that has significant impact on education environment [12], [16] and [27] but also encounters some resistance [19].

[13] defined trust in education as consisting of trust in personality and in the system as well. He postulated that trust is a consequence of “overdrawing” of past information, not only utilizing own previous experiences but also inference thereon, allowing the learners to minimize risk and uncertainty. This postulate suggests that while advancement of ICT may enhance higher education and trust in teachers by accelerating “overdrawing” of past information by means of ICT advancement, which leads to co-evolution between them, it may lessen the correlation between higher education and trust in teachers in case of a digital divide in the learning environment.

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