December 10, 2006

Teacher and Teacher-Librarian Collaboration: Moving Toward Integration

By Montiel-Overall, Patricia


This is particularly true in light of changing roles, demands on time, and reallocation of resources within educational institutions. Over the past tew decades, collaborative relationships among educators have been emphasized as a way of dealing with increased demands and diminished resources that have forced educators to do more with less (Noam, 2001). Collaboration has been promoted in education as a way of preparing students for 21st-century workplace environments where teamwork and problem solvers are in demand (Donon a Davies, 1998). A considerable body of information from management (Drucker, 1999), nonprofit sectors (Gray, 1989; Gray & Wood, 1991), and education (Pugach & Johnson, 1995) informs us about how to engage in effective collaboration.

The importance of collaboration for educators and teacher- librarians is in its potential to positively affect student learning by working together (Acheson & Gall, 1992). A common understanding across multiple domains, such as technology (Roberts, 2004), special education (Fishbaugh, 1997), and library science (Callison, 1997, 1999; Haycock, 1998, 2003; Loertscher, 1982, 1988, 2000), is that collaboration is a process that improves the way that we develop curriculum and, thus, teaching and teaming (American Association of School Librarians Et Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1998). This article focuses on race-to-face collaborative efforts involving classroom teachers and teacher- librarians, as a starting point in the discussion of collaboration. It proposes core elements of collaboration that appear to be present across various formats of instruction (face-to-face, computer mediated, and the like), across different domains (education, management, library and information science), and among diverse age groups. The core elements may be applicable to teacher-teacher or student-student collaboration.


The ubiquitous use of the term collaboration has led to its multiple interpretations and definitions. Outside of education, collaboration has been defined as thinking together and sharing expertise, resources, and authority (Minnis, John-Steiner, & Weber, 1994, as cited in John-Steiner, 1998). A definition of collaboration provided by Gray (1989) for corporate and nonprofit sectors suggests that collaboration is "a process through which parties who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible" (p. 5). In education, collaboration is seen as a way of promoting "the most effective teaching possible for the greatest number of students" (Pugach & Johnson, 1995, p. 178). A similar understanding about collaboration exists in library and information science. Callison (1997) proposed that collaboration for teacherlibrarians means "coplanning, coimplementation, and coevaluation" (p. 37). Donham (1999) explained that collaboration involves joint efforts by classroom teachers and teacher-librarians to identify student needs and jointly plan instruction and assessment. More recently, Buzzeo (2002a, 2002b) defined collaboration as equal partners who team design, team teach, and team evaluate. Building on these ideas, 1 propose a definition of a particular type of collaborative effort for 21st-century classroom teachers and teacher-librarians. This definition of highend collaboration states that collaboration is a trusting working relationship between two or more equal participants involved in shared thinking, shared planning, and shared creation of something new. Through a shared vision and shared objectives, student learning opportunities are created that integrate subject content and information literacy though jointly planning, implementing, and evaluating student progress throughout the instructional process in order to improve teaching and learning in all areas of the curriculum.


At the heart of the definition of classroom teacher and teacher- librarian collaboration ate several core elements: interest, innovation, intensity, integration, and implementation (see Montiel- Overall, 2005a). These five elements can be represented on a continuum from low to high. At the high end of the continuum, core ingredients for successful collaboration endeavors are evident and may be the catalyst that results in improved student academic gains. These five elements are further explained as follows.

Interest. High-end collaboration involves a high degree of involvement among participants. The collaborators recognize the joint effort as being mutually beneficial and beneficial to students. Classroom teachers and teacher-librarians realize that time spent collaborating is more interesting than time spent planning alone. They may be more interested in teaching, and they may see greater interest in students during collaborattvely planned units.

Innovation. Jointly planned instruction is innovative. The combined ideas from instructors from two backgrounds infuse newness and creativity into the instruction, giving inspiration to those teaching and those learning.

Intensity. Intensity involves commitment by classroom teachers and teacher-librarians to work diligently on jointly planned instruction. In successful teacher and teacher-librarian collaboration, individual ideas develop over time through patience and perseverance to improve instructional units; teacher and teacher- librarian demonstrate a passion for enhancing student learning. Barriers become insignificant in light of the positive student achievement that results from collaborative planning.

Integration. Seamlessly bringing together subject content (math, science, language arts, social studies) with library instruction (reference, research, information literacy) builds a bridge to comprehension. The end product is students' greater understanding of the material being taught.

Implementation. High-end collaboration involves completion of instruction by both collaborators. Joint implementation demonstrates a commitment by the classroom teacher and the teacher-librarian to jointly planned instruction. The transition between content and library curriculum seems effortless, although conscientious planning occurred. Students develop a holistic perspective on subject content and libraty information when implementation of instruction incorporates the expertise of classroom teacher and teacher- librarian.


TWo phenomena associated with collaboration are coordination and cooperation. They are often used interchangeably (Fradd, 1992; Roberts, 2004; Roschelle & Teasley, 1995); however, they do not have the same desired , effect as high-level collaboration (Table 1). Key elements, such as shared thinking, shared planning, and shared creation of something new from the proposed definition are lacking. For example, coordinated efforts tend to be primarily functional, involving management of time, events, and resources. Cooperation may involve some aspects of high-end collaboration; however, a common practice of cooperation is to divide assigned tasks among participants so that "each person is responsible for a portion of the problem-solving" (Roschelle Et Teasley, 1995, p. 70). Participants in cooperative efforts may share responsibilities but do not necessarily share in the creation of something new (Montiel- Overall, 2005b). Program models that were originally identified as cooperative and evolved into more collaborative endeavors or included involvement of the sort described earlier have been renamed as collaborative (Haycock, 1995).


Loertscher (1988, 2000) developed two taxonomies as examples of various ways that classroom teachers and teacher-librarians work together: the library media specialist taxonomy, which identifies various types of involvement between teacher-librarian and teacher, and the teacher's taxonomy of resource-based teaching and learning, which describes teachers' involvement with teacher-librarians. These taxonomies have come to be known as Loertscher's taxonomy. Each taxonomy describes distinct levels of involvement between classroom teacher and teacher-librarian. These range from lowlevel efforts, such as scheduling visits to the library for individuals or small groups of students, to high-end collaborative efforts involving curriculum development. As an example of high-level collaboration, the teacher-librarian and the classroom teacher both contribute to planning and implementing curriculum. This type of involvement sharply contrasts to activities in which the teacher-librarian solely supports teacher-designed instruction.


Collaboration is what Barbara Gray (1989) referred to as an "emergent process" (p. 15) and John-Steiner (1998) described as "shared knowledge of an emergent form" (p. 774). Influenced by these experts on collaboration and using Loertscher's taxonomy, 1 now describe four different types of collaborative relationships.

At the low end is Model A, coordination, followed byModel B, cooperation. Model C, integrated instruction, and Model D, integrated curriculum, represent high-end collaborative endeavors (Montiel-Overall, 2005a, 2005b). Model A (Text Box 1) requires the least amount of involvement between classroom teacher and teacherlibrarian. This type of collaboration occurs in many schools where teachers work autonomously and there is little or no contact between teacher and teacher-librarian for instructional purposes (Figure 1 ).1

In Model B (Text Box 2), classroom teachers and teacher- librarians combine efforts for instruction, but formal planning of lessons is carried out separately. Model C reflects a high level of involvement by classroom teacher and teacher-librarian, who share their expertise to jointly generate new ideas for classroom instruction. This model is an example of highend collaboration because shared thinking, shared planning, and shared creation of something new occur as classroom teacher and teacher-librarian come together to plan lessons and units of instruction. Model D incorporates the characteristics of Model C; however, it takes place across the curriculum at all grade levels. High-end collaboration involves joint planning as well as evaluation and assessment. In Model C (Text Box 3) and Model D (Text Box 4), each member's contribution is unique and adds to the process. The combined energy creates something that could not be created individually (Friend & Cook, 2000), and it adds value to the end product.


The collaborative effort reflected in high-end collaboration (Models C and D) involves certain attributes, such as dedication, respect, and trust The participants must be good listeners and open to new ideas, which often emerge from discussions generated from diverse perspectives (OTVIalley, 1989). Collaboration also involves equal participation and shared responsibilities. In high-end collaboration, there is no leader. Teachers are more receptive and inclined to partidpate in partnerships where their expertise is valued and where the mission inspires working together. In this type of environment, teaching and learning are enhanced. When teacherlibrarians make themselves available to collaborate with classroom teachers as colleagues and equals, they find more partners than they are able to accommodate in the school day.


Integration is the core element of collaboration that may ultimately prove to be a major factor in improved student academic achievement. Although the other core elements (interest, innovation, intensity, and implementation) strengthen collaboration, integration of library instruction-particularry, information literacy across content areas-is key to helping students make connections among different content areas. The holistic view of learning developed by students may result in their cognitive development and enhanced understanding. Seymour Papert (1980) noted 25 years ago that information that was not connected was "dissociated" (p. 65). Through interdisciplinary connections, a deep understanding of information emerges, which may be the most important factor in improved student academic achievement. Collaboration between classroom teachers and teacher-librarians to integrate library curriculum across the curriculum helps students make meaning of a broad range of subjects (math, sdence, language arts, social studies) while simultaneously developing information literacy and knowledge of other research abilities.

The work by Carol Kuhlthau (1985) has contributed to our understanding of the research process that students engage in when they are confronted with finding information for classroom projects. The process involves cognitive and affective stages that students go through in finding, using, and evaluating information. Through collaboration, students can learn to do library research, not as an end, but as a means to discovering more about subjects they are studying in the classroom. When this process occurs across the curriculum, it becomes a powerful teaching and learning device that taps into students' experiences and schemata (Bruner, 1968; Piaget, 1972) and improves student learning and recall (Howard, 1987).

Finally, integration of content and information literacy through collaboration between classroom teachers and teacherlibrarians "is central to the learning process . . . [and] is critical in students' intellectual development" (American Association of School Library Media Specialists Et Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 1998, p. 15).

Twenty-first century education is a complex endeavor for educators and students alike. Collaboration between classroom teacher and teacher-librarian is one way to improve education, particularly when it involves a high level of interest, innovation, intensity, integration, and joint implementation. An educational environment that is shaped by teacher and teacher-librarian makes teaching and learning more meaningful, and it is an environment where students reach their potential and achieve great success.


An example of model A occurs in a large urban elementary school where one teacher-librarian serves a population of 500 students. The teacher-librarian is on a fixed schedule, and students come into the school library weekly to check out books. There are no computers in the library. The primary role of the teacher-librarian is to help students find literature that is of interest to them and materials for classroom projects. The teacher-librarian is also scheduled for booktalks with primary students once a week. Classsroom teachers and teacher-librarian rarely have time to discuss specific curiculum needs.

Model A: Coordination


When asked if they collaborate, classroom teachers and teacher- librarian at a middle school in the Southwest answer yes. They explain that they are involved in many units, lessons, activities, and events. They share a recent example involving sixth-grade science teachers and the teacher-librarian who worked on a science fair for the district. The teacher-librarian helped students research science topics, format brochures, and create PowerPoint presentations to accompany their projects. Teacher and teacher- librarian met to discuss the types of skills that students would need to complete their projects. They agreed that the teacher- librarian was the most qualified to teach these skills to students.

Model B: Cooperation


Classroom teachers and teacher-librarian schedule four units a year to work on together. After several years of trying different types of meeting arrangements, they have concluded that the best system is to block out the time together at the beginning of the year before school begins. During their designated time together, each teacher meets with the teacher-librarian to talk about the unit and brainstorm ideas about how the teacher-librarian will be able to assist students. One year, the teacher-librarian helped a classroom teacher with a writing project involving the Civil War. She helped teach six traits in the classroom and then worked with small groups of students as they selected their topic on the Civil War, did their research, and completed their report. Outstanding projects were presented in the library at a grade-level poster presentation.

Model C: Integrated Instruction


At a district-level meeting with the curriculum specialist, representatives from several schools discuss completed projects that integrated content and library curriculum. Final evaluation sheets from students indicate a high level of enthusiasm for projects that involve units of instruction created by the classroom teacher and teacher-librarian.

Model D: Integrated Curriculum

Feature articles in TL are blind-refereed by members of the advisory board. This article was submitted March 2006 and accepted June 2006.


1. In previous writing on collaboration, cooperation is identified as requiring the least involvement, followed by coordination (Buzzeo, 2004; Grover, 1996; Mattessich & Monsey, 1992). The models proposed reverse this mental model. For further discussion on the reversed order, see Montiel-Overall (2005a).


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Patricia Montiel-Overall is assistant professor at the University of Arizona, College of Social and Behavioral Science, School of Information Resources and Library Science, Tucson. Her e-mail address is [email protected]

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