“We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”
In case you missed the results of our recent One-Question Survey on co-teaching and co-planning across the disciplines at SLC’s online home, check out Dr. Maria Cahill’s always incisive analysis below. Our results show both encouraging gains and room for our professional growth as collaborators. (Click here to participate in our latest survey.)
That more than twice as many librarians, 384 total, responded to this month’s question compared to last month’s illustrates the importance of collaboration to school librarians! Responses to the survey demonstrate that many, many school librarians are engaging in co-planning and co-teaching across the curriculum. As expected, collaboration with classroom teachers is most prevalent in English language arts and reading followed by social studies. One librarian explained it well in her comment, “I most frequently integrate English language arts and social studies into my classroom lessons. These subject areas lend themselves well to the library curriculum. Integrating science is a bit more difficult, but I find that it can be done successfully.” Quite a few school librarians across the P-12 spectrum are doing just that—collaborating with science teachers. In fact, nearly 80% of the middle school respondents reported co-planning and co-teaching with colleagues teaching science at least once in the past year, and more than 10% of all of the librarians who participated this month have engaged in collaborations with science teachers many times this school year. Consider that just ten years ago, research pointed to the poor relations between school librarians and science teachers (Mardis & Hoffman, 2007)—we’ve come a long way, baby!
In addition to the many collaborative undertakings reflected in the graphs, school librarians also reported collaborating with teachers in fields we did not include in the survey. “SPED [Special Education] teachers are eager to co-plan in my building.” “I co-plan/co-teach frequently with the ESOL [English for Speakers of Other Languages] teacher.” “I co-plan/co-teach with our IRT [Integrated Resource Teacher].” Others identified theology, business, and technology teachers and guidance counselors as potential collaborators.
Many of the comments school librarians provided also give testimony to the challenges of librarian and teacher collaboration. One barrier identified multiple times, particularly by elementary level librarians, was scheduling. “On a fixed schedule in which library is a ‘prep,’ there is zero to very little time to co-plan/co-teach on a regular basis.” “Because I have no one to help, no media clerk, etc. no student helpers, I can barely keep my head above water.” However, some librarians have devised strategies for overcoming barriers. “I usually work with those teachers who are willing to work outside of the regular school day to plan,” and “Typically, I plan a lot with 2nd grade as that is the grade level that is eating lunch when I am…that’s a great time to plan.”
Other strategies for developing successful collaborations that were identified in the comments include working with new teachers, using the curriculum map as an entry point for approaching teachers, serving on school- and district-level curriculum committees to get an understanding of teachers’ and students’ needs, strengthening personal and professional relationships with teachers to build the trust necessary for co-planning and co-teaching, working with teachers in the 10-15 years of experience band since they are confident teachers but still willing try new things, and starting with one teacher and one unit and really doing a bang-up job that gets other teachers and administrators excited.
Finally, some librarians have used newer teacher evaluation systems to harness administrative support for collaboration. By developing professional growth goals and student learning goals around collaboration, these ingenious librarians are tailoring the system to work in favor of integrated learning which includes librarian and teacher collaboration.
If you need ideas for collaborating across the curriculum, be sure to check out the Curriculum page on the reVIEWS+ site. Each month Liz Deskins features a subject area teacher and models effective co-planning and co-teaching practices.
If you are having difficulty garnering administrative support for collaboration, or if your teachers and administrators are unfamiliar with the concept of librarian-teacher collaboration, consider using the data from this One Question Survey as a source of evidence as you advocate to co-plan and co-teach across the curriculum.
Maria Cahill, MLIS, PhD, is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky in both the School of Information Science and the Department of Education. She received her master’s degree from the University of South Carolina and her doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee. She is author of numerous papers in such journals as Knowledge Quest, School Libraries Worldwide, and School Library Research and has served in numerous professional leadership positions, including on the Educators of School Librarians Section of the American Association of School Librarians and the American Library Association’s Literacy and Outreach Services Committee.
*Note: due to a technical glitch, percentages related to co-planning and co-teaching in Social Studies are based on the responses of only 187 respondents.
Mardis, M., & Hoffman, E. (2007). Collection and collaboration: Science in Michigan middle school media centers. School Library Media Research, 10. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/sites/ala.org.aasl/files/content/aaslpubsandjournals/slr/vol10/SLMR_CollectionandCollaboration_V10.pdf