Further Understanding of Collaboration: A Case Study of How It Works with Teachers and Librarians

By Montiel-Overall, Patricia | School Libraries Worldwide, July 2010 | Go to article overview

Further Understanding of Collaboration: A Case Study of How It Works with Teachers and Librarians


Montiel-Overall, Patricia, School Libraries Worldwide


Collaboration between teachers and librarians is considered an essential element of school librarians' work. This case study examined a collaborative effort between teachers and librarians from diverse areas of expertise who collaborated in designing professional development workshops for a group of elementary school teachers and librarians. The purpose of the study was to further understand the process of teacher and librarian collaboration, and to evaluate the collaborative process using a proposed model of teacher and librarian collaboration. Findings support previous studies that indicate knowledge sharing, relationship building, and environmental factors are essential to successful collaboration. In addition, the study illustrates the close association between deep thinking and high-level collaboration. The process of collaboration appears to involve phases including a beginning phase, relationship-building phase, and productive phase. This study furthers the profession's understanding of how to engage in successful teacher and librarian collaboration to improve education.

Introduction

Collaboration of the type recommended in professional guidelines, Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (American Association for School Librarians [AASL] and Association for Educational Communications and Technology [AECT], 1998), is considered one of the "unifying themes for guiding the effective library media specialist" (p. 47) and an essential element of the work of school librarians. As Doll (2005) explains, "Collaboration, in the fullest sense < means that the school library media specialist and the teachers in the school will work together to plan for, design, teach, and evaluate instructional events for students" (p. 4). New standards for 21st century librarians also indicate that collaboration is an essential role for librarians "to broaden and deepen understanding" (American Association of School Librarians, 2007, Standard 1.1.9), "to provide instruction, learning strategies and practice" (p. 3) and "to exchange ideas, develop new understandings, make decisions, and solve problems" (Standard 2.1.5).

Problem Statement

Considerable anecdotal and empirical information exists about conditions for collaboration (Mattissech & Mosner, 1992), best practices for collaboration (Falwell, 1998), environmental conditions that improve teacher and librarian collaboration such as flexible schedules (Rowe, 2007), characteristics of successful collaboration (Callison, 1997), levels of collaboration (Loertscher, 1988, 2000; Montiel-Overall, 2005, 2008), and innovation and creativity resulting from collaboration (Doll, 2005; Farmer, 2007). However, almost no information is available about educators' awareness of the role of librarians as collaborative partners in developing and implementing curriculum. As an example, in a lengthy report on collaboration in schools (MetLife, 2009a, 2009b, 2010), based on a recent educational survey on the importance of collaboration in education, there is no mention of librarians as collaborators.

Classroom teachers and university faculty (hereafter teachers/educators) do not yet appear to have an understanding of the new role of librarians as partners in education, and continue to perceive librarians in only traditional roles (Montiel-Overall, 2008b; 2009). Furthermore, teachers/educators have little or no experience with the type of librarian collaboration suggested in LIS literature for 21st century librarians: high-level collaboration involving considerable knowledge of curriculum, standards for content across grade levels, and the ability to jointly plan and implement instruction (Montiel-Overall, 2009). A recent study with teachers indicates that few teachers have knowledge of librarians as collaborators, and that few teachers are aware of the potential role of librarians as co-teachers (Montiel-Overall, 2009). In general, teachers do not appear to be aware of how teachers and librarians are expected to work together nor of the underlying reasons for teacher and librarian collaboration (TLC) discussed in the literature (Lance, 1994, 2001, 2002; Lance, Hamilton-Pennell, Rodney, 1999; Lance, Rodney, Hamilton-Pennell, 2000; 2001; Lance & Rodney, 2005; Lance & Russell, 2004; Lance, Welburn, Hamilton-Pennell, 1993; Rodney, Lance, Hamilton-Pennell, 2002, 2003). …

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