Teacher librarian leadership and collaboration

A great challenge faced by teacher librarians is the promotion of collaboration with teachers in order to improve teaching and learning practice, particularly as far as enquiry learning and information literacy are concerned.   I have written about this in an earlier post and noted the importance of the support of a principal in promoting a culture of collaboration.   Recently in my reading on educational leadership I have come across more ideas in connection with the facilitation of collaboration between teachers and TLs.

One of the most useful and interesting perceptions of leadership in education that I have read about  is that leadership is a function that is performed and not necessarily a role that is undertaken (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2012).   This perception opens the doors for teachers to be viewed and accredited as leaders not only by their students but also by their colleagues and middle and senior leadership in schools.  Activities performed by teachers in collaboration with others, that are instructional by nature and that lead to the improvement of teaching and learning, can be deemed leadership activities.   This has important implications for TLs.  Whilst TLs may want to be recognised for the value they bring to collaboration, for example knowledge and skills in information literacy, TLs also want to work with teachers in parallel partnerships, as equals in recognition of the different roles they play.   One of the perceived barriers to collaboration between teachers and TLs is the cost to self-esteem, where a teacher’s reluctance to working with a TL has been attributed to the fact that the TL is often perceived to be the expert and the teacher is deemed lacking in skills (Oberg, 2009).  If TL’s are to initiate collaboration on projects they need to address this issue and one way to do this would be to recognise and openly acknowledge the unique leadership value and skills that teachers bring to a collaborative effort.  The chances of success for a collaborative project are greater if the value that is brought by each of the contributors is recognised (Sampson, n.d.).

Furthermore more attention needs to be paid to the collaborative process to make it a success.  Whilst teachers and TLs may not need to be given traditional leadership roles to be recognised as leaders they still need to learn leadership skills (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2012).  In particular teachers and TLs need to learn how to resolve conflict, to meet the differing needs of teachers within a collaborative group and to understand group dynamics (Oberg, 2009).  Another key strategy for the success of a collaborative project is a willingness to cooperate (Coatney, 2005).   The greater the success of collaborative projects the more likely teachers will be prepared to invest valuable time and effort in further projects with TLs in the future.  The servant leadership style, where there is a shared sense of moral vision and purpose and where follower and leader are valued and empowered, is suited to successful collaboration.

Thus whilst the support of the principal as leader is needed in order to promote collaboration between the teacher and the TL, more thought must be given to the roles of teachers and TLs as leaders and to the process of collaboration.

Coatney, S. (2005). Testing, testing, testing. Teacher Librarian 32(4) p59

Fairman, J. C. & Mackenzie, S. V. (2012). Spheres of teacher leadership action for learning. Professional development in action 38(2) 229-246

Oberg, D. (2009). Libraries in schools: essential contexts for studying organisational change and culture. Library Trends 58(1) 9-25

Sampson, M. (n.d.). The Practise of Collaboration – Resource Center – Michael Sampson on Making Collaboration Work. Making Collaboration Work?Culture, Governance, Adoption – Michael Sampson on Making Collaboration Work. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://www.michaelsampson.net/practiceofcollaboration.html


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