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Coteaching Reading Comprehension Strategies in Elementary School Libraries: Maximizing Your Impact

Background Information, or Why I Wrote This Book

Job-embedded Professional Development
The zone of proximal development, the "ZPD," as described and studied by Vygotsky (1978) is not only for children. Learning is social for all human beings regardless of age. Engaging in interactions with more knowledgeable peers as we attempt new learning (teaching), we build new understandings. We go farther because we have the support of someone who's been there, who knows more, and who is willing to risk with us. We grow and develop more fully and more quickly in the company of our peers.

My dissertation research was a case study of a faculty development initiative at the University of Arizona (Moreillon 2003). I set out to learn how new and veteran university faculty adopted technology tools and reconsidered their teaching practices after participating in a week-long workshop. Each participant received a laptop computer and a series of mini-lessons on particular pieces of software and on instructional strategies. Most importantly, they had support for developing learning tools for their courses in a ratio of about two participants to every technology/teaching facilitator.

What made these workshops successful? It was the convergence of people, place, and process. The workshop facilitators kept their focus on helping the faculty achieve their own learning goals. The learning environment was non-threatening, learner-centered, collaborative, and respectful. The emphasis was on people. Facilitators were there to support faculty in risk-taking and offered on-going support after the initial week of training. The technology facility where the workshop was held had the necessary tools and offered continuous support. The process was self-paced, hands-on, and active. For me, this research is directly transferable to the school library environment. With a focus on people, place, and process, school librarians can help classroom teacher colleagues reach their goals through collaborative teaching.

Novice Educators
As more and more veteran classroom teachers reach retirement, the number of new classroom teachers will continue to increase. During my tenure as a teacher educator, I learned that beginning classroom teachers need a great deal of help with gathering resources to support their teaching. They need help with curriculum design so they can integrate performance objectives from more than one content area into standards-based lessons. Like all learners, they need explicit modeling and specific feedback about their teaching. School librarians are in a key position to provide support to novice classroom teachers in hopes that they will remain in the classroom and continue to develop as educators.

I conducted a longitudinal study entitled "Two Heads are Better than One: The Factors Influencing the Understanding and Practice of Classroom-Library Collaboration." The study participants were members of an undergraduate teacher education program in which I served as the lead faculty. In all of the courses I taught these preservice teachers, I designed collaborative assignments. Under my supervision, they conducted their classroom practicum teaching experiences with partners. A panel of classroom teachers, school librarians, and principals shared examples of how classroom-library collaboration worked for the benefit of students in their schools. I also shared collaboratively planned and taught lesson plans, and along with the science methods instructor, I modeled both a collaborative planning session and cotaught a science lesson so preservice teachers could experience collaboration in action. The study participants also read a book about the impact of classroom-library collaboration on student achievement.

This is what I learned during the study participants' student teaching and first-year of classroom teaching experience. Little of what we had done in the university classroom made a significant difference on their actual practice of classroom-library collaboration during student teaching or during their first year of practice. If their cooperating teacher had a value for classroom-library collaboration and worked with the school librarian, then the student teacher did so as well. These student and first-year teachers collaborated with the library program if the school librarian reached out to new teachers. If, on the other hand, the school librarian was unfriendly or worked in isolation, or if there was a paraprofessional or an incompetent school librarian serving in the library, then these student and first-year teachers did not collaborate with the library staff (Moreillon 2008).

School Librarians as Teacher Leaders
The bottom line is this: The administrators, classroom teachers, student teachers, students, and families in each school community view their school librarian as the representative of the profession. School librarianship is only as strong as each individual who serves in the role of school librarian. The purpose of this book is to provide background information and offer support to secondary school librarians who want to take a leadership role within their schools. Reading comprehension is one of the core competencies of all students. School librarians who coteach comprehension strategies (aligned with AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner) are contributing to an area of curriculum that is vital to all students, educators, and administrators. With knowledge and with experience, school librarians can take a place as teacher leaders within their schools. I hope this book is one tool that can support school librarians in taking this step.


Moreillon, Judi. 2003. A case study of university faculty development utilizing technology: People, place and process. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Arizona.

____. 2008. Two heads are better than one: The factors influencing the understanding and practice of classroom-library collaboration/ School Library Media Research 11.

Vygotsky, Lev. 1978. Mind in society: The development of psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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Launched: March 2007
Updated: 3 June 2013

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