Sunday, 15 May 2011

Collaborative Practice

Joyce Valenza blew me away with her powerful delivery at a School Library Association of Victoria conference on 30 July, 2010. The topic of her presentation was entitled, Make, Share, Do: Active Online Learning. Her passion and enthusiasm have enthralled me again with the video that has been included this topic’s module. In it, Valenza states the following:
1.      All children deserve strong school libraries with a professional teacher librarian.
2.      She is there to introduce young people to a rich world of books and literature.
3.      Her collection includes everything the modern literate kid needs.
4.      She is there to help learners ask important questions and to provide a rich search tool kit.
5.      Her students use information to solve problems and make decisions.
6.      They know how and when to quote.
7.      The library is a libratory.
8.      The library is the centre of her school and is often noisy.
9.      It is not merely a place to get stuff, it is a place to invent, to create, to make stuff, to collaborate stuff, to share stuff.
10.  It is more kitchen than grocery store, more transformational than transactional.
11.  Her classroom is the largest classroom in the school.
12.  Her library is everywhere, her virtual library is ubiquitous and it is open day and night.
13.  She ensures that her kids become information and media literate citizens – to be transliterate.
14.  Her library is an element of her school’s learning culture.
15.  She makes a difference.
16.  She doesn’t need to be anything more, she is already enough.
To see her vodcast, go to:
<iframe src=";byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="400" height="300" frameborder="0"></iframe><p><a href=" librarians make.  Or Why Should I be More than a Librarian?</a> from <a href=" Valenza</a> on <a href=">
In her Untitled video, which I have embedded in this post, Joyce Valenza states :
1.      Leaders use passion and ideas.
2.      Leaders have followers – managers have employees.
3.      We are stronger when we share.
Fullan (1999) emphasized that “collaborative schools… are essential for success” (p. 31). Interesting points were raised in regard to conflict. I have reflected on the notion that “effective collaborative structures are not based on like-minded consensus” (p. 36). Thinking of my team of five, we are all very different in our professional backgrounds and work philosophies. I understand that we are a diverse group working together and that we may encounter conflict. Fullan’s article is available at:
Senge (2007) reminded me that we are all life-long learners. With that in mind, we can participate in, and contribute to, a learning organization. “Through learning we re-create ourselves” (p. 13). The article is available at:
Collaborative Practice and Teaching (CPT) enables teacher librarians to shine. CPT enables teachers to enhance their teaching, and their students learning, by sharing their expertise in their faculty, with the expertise of the information specialist. Two heads are better than one! Students benefit by observing their teacher and teacher librarian reinforcing the same learning strategies, such as, “when two teachers bring the same message to the students” (Todd, 2008 p. 23).
The 300 studies of schools as learning organizations by Cibulka et al (2003) concludes with seven key findings. I liked the comment that, “Transformational leaders… stimulate leadership in others” (p. 5). The article is available at:
Joyce Valenza’s (2010) Manifesto comprehensively covers 12 areas that teacher librarians facilitate. This very inspiring article can be found at: It is worth revisiting every now and again, as a stimulator and a reminder of the broad range of learning activities that occur in school libraries. Joyce Valenza gives me the courage to be adventurous in my thinking and teaching practice.
Dr. Ross Todd (2008) presented a detailed appraisal of the link between “the collaborative activities of school libraries and classroom teachers to student achievement” (p. 19). From this article, I was able to respond to the six questions in the module. The article can be found at:;dn=168373;res=AEIPT
1.      What are the challenges posed by CPT?
·         Time and scheduling clashes between teachers and teacher librarians.
·         Lack of principal support.
·         Teacher librarian’s “baggage of insecurities” (p. 27), resulting in teacher librarian’s fear of lack of acceptance by teachers.
·         Teacher’s lack of confidence in teacher librarian.
·         Differing personalities, teaching styles and work philosophies.
·         Technical difficulties in the preparation or execution of lessons.
·         Teacher librarians need to concentrate on student learning outcomes rather than on marketing the library and promoting their own status in the school.

2.      Does the teacher librarian have a positive role to play in the curriculum, or should CPT be abandoned?
·         Fullan (1999) claimed that, “Collaborative organizations and societies will eventually carry the day” (p. 41).
·         Senge (2007) stated that, “To the Greeks, dia-logos meant a free-flowing of meaning through a group, allowing the group to discover insights not attainable individually” (p. 9).
·         Todd (2008) reported statistical evidence that two heads are better than one, concluding that CPT should not be abandoned.

3.      Where does the truth lie?
Todd (2008) expresses the fear that whilst research proves that collaborative activities enhance student achievement, the reality is that not much collaboration occurs. At my school, there are waves of opportunities for teacher librarians to collaborate with teachers. When teachers ask for information literacy lessons, they are very impressed by the wealth of research strategies that are available via the library website. The print resources are also well resourced and promoted to classes. I’d like to be involved in much more information skills lessons. In the latest monthly e-Newsletter for May, I suggested that all assignments include the address of the library’s website.

4.      Do CPT models pick up on the factors given by Senge, and Watkins and Marsick?
Senge (2007) stated that, “Team learning develops the skills of groups of people to look for the larger picture that lies beyond individual perspectives… developing their own capacities” (ps. 11 and 15). Watkins and Marsick (1993) summarise individual, team, organization and societal learning, leading to the “seven Cs” (shown in Table 2 of the module notes) in a way that guarantees independent life-long learning. The saying, “There’s strength in numbers” comes to my mind!

1.      If teachers saw working with other teachers as a major challenge, what would an appropriate response from the teacher librarian be?
I would suggest that baby steps are taken to establish collaborative practice. Showing a teacher the contents of our library website would break the ice. Matching the print and digital resources to the learning task would allow the teacher to see what the library collection can offer the class. The next attempt at collaboration could attempt an involvement in teaching the class information instruction. This could be then followed by an attempt to create a learning task together. As Joyce Valenza stated in her “Untitled” video, which I have embedded in this blog entry, “We are stronger when we share”.
2.      A convincing argument for collaboration between the teacher librarian, principal and teachers.
Teacher librarians possess a dual qualification – teaching and school librarianship. This makes them experts in matching the resources that are required by a teacher to engage and inspire students to make and share their work. Their teaching experience enables them to collaborate with teachers to integrate information instruction into assignments.
Teacher librarians have a knowledge of, and access to what Joyce Valenza calls in her video What librarians make. Or Why should I be more than a librarian? “a rich tool kit”. When teachers and teacher librarians engage in Collaborative Planning and Teaching (CPT), the quality of assignments improves from the combined knowledge of teachers, with their knowledge of curriculum, along with the learning tools of the 21st century information landscape.
To persuade a principal, I would show her Joyce Valenza’s video, which I mentioned in the previous paragraph. It provides an impressive snapshot of the opportunities that teacher librarians provide for efficient and effective searching, whilst ensuring deep learning through the engagement of Higher Order Thinking Skills. Using the comment that is often made by the Head of Curriculum, that “the school library is like the kitchen of a house”, Joyce Valenza takes the image further by explaining that the school library is “not merely a place to get stuff. It is a place to invent, to create, to make stuff, to collaborate on stuff, to share stuff, it is more kitchen than grocery store, more transformational than transactional”. Valenza’s comment, “We are stronger when we share” is one that I often use to reinforce positive results.
The Montiel-Overall (2005) article presented four models of teacher and librarian collaboration (TLC), which is promoted to improve teaching and learning in order to improve students’ academic achievement. Collaboration jointly creates “something that is greater than what either could create alone” (p. 29). The author defines collaboration as “a trusting, working relationship between two or more equal participants involved in shared thinking, shared planning, and shared creation of innovative, integrated instruction” (p. 32).
The four models: Coordination, Cooperation, Integrated Instruction and Integrated Curriculum are clearly explained.
This topic has encouraged me to approach collaboration more energetically. The benefits to teachers, teacher librarians and students are plentiful.

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