Building Relationships in the School Social Network: Science Teachers and School Library Media Specialists Report Key Dimensions

Article excerpt

This paper reports research results from a 2008 study of the social networks of school library media specialists (SLMS) in north Texas and a 2007/2008 survey of science teacher attitudes towards SLMS in north Texas. Analytic methodologies included: social network analysis, statistical analysis, and qualitative content analysis of interviews. Analyses of the results suggest that two key dimensions may provide a foundation for building relationships in the school social network: credibility and visibility. These dimensions may provide opportunities to strengthen the collaboration efforts between SLMS and science teachers. Future research will include proposals to develop collaboration skills and measure the impact of these efforts on student science achievement. With a national emphasis in the United States on requisite science literacy skills, efforts to strengthen cross disciplinary collaboration skills and opportunities should yield positive results.

Introduction

School library media specialists (SLMS) and science teachers are responsible for positively affecting the development of student science literacy skills. Both positions have complementary standards related to affecting student achievement. Research studies situated in numerous states in the United States (Lance, Hamilton-Pennell, Rodney, Peterson, & Sitter, 2000; Lance, Rodney & Hamilton-Pennell, 2000a, 2000b, 2001, 2002; Lance, Welborn & Hamilton-Pennell, 1997; Smith, 2001) have demonstrated the impact of strong school library media programs on student achievement in reading. A study based on student evaluation of school library media centers (Todd & Kuhlthau, 2004) further supports the positive role of library media centers in affecting overall student achievement.

However, despite substantial efforts to document the positive relationship between school library media specialists (SLMSs) and student achievement, Mardis (2007) contends examine why and how specific types of interactions between school library media specialists and teachers occur in an educational ecosystem. (Correlation Puts Causation in Reach).

One arena that sets the stage for interactions between these potential education partners is their preservice experience. For both teachers and school library media specialists, preservice education continues to be shaped in response to the changing educational landscape. The challenge for SLMSs continues to be establishing and maintaining themselves as integral partners within the movement to advance the educational enterprise.

The role of the school library media specialist evolved with the introduction of learning and resource technologies. The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) state: "the school library media specialist's opportunities for cultivating authentic, information-based learning have never been greater, and the responsibilities are also more crucial than ever before. (1998, p. 47). This responsibility extends to collaborating with others as a key theme for building relationships that enable the delivery of information literacy skills to students. In many cases, the skills must also be delivered to the teachers and administrators within the school's learning environment. As we move forward with the AASL (2007) Standards for the 21st Century Learner, collaboration will continue to be a prominent theme for advancing student learning and achievement.

The national emphasis on requisite science literacy skills and the opportunity to examine collaboration efforts in this underserved area inspired two pilot studies for research into perceptions that enable a collaborative orientation in the school learning environment. As educators of school library media specialists and science teachers, we were interested in the orientation towards collaboration in both areas. The purpose of our enquiry was to:

1) identify the extent to which science teachers knew and cared about school librarian credentials;

2) examine the extent to which science teachers and librarians collaborate; and

3) identify the extent to which science teachers and school library media specialists consider each other helpful in teaching students. …