4 Levels of Collaboration for Teachers and Librarians

As school librarians, we know that collaboration is a large part of our role.  In the AASL National School Library Standards to collaborate is to “work effectively with others to broaden perspectives and work toward common goals.”  We also understand that collaboration can take many forms.  

This year I have been really looking at my lessons to determine their purpose and relevance.  My focus has been on asking myself questions, “Is this the best way to teach this lesson?” or “Does this project truly teach the objective?”  In doing so, I have been reflecting on how I work with other teachers in my school.  What I have discovered is what I felt was really effective collaboration may still need more time to develop.

Recently, I joined the Educational Technology Task Force for my school.  This is a group of educators from preschool through twelfth grade that are working with the Edtech Coordinator to help determine the direction of technology integration across grade levels.  This committee started by looking at the PIC-RAT model.  This model allows educators to see how their teaching practices and student use of technology are connected.  It also shows how lessons or projects can show different levels of technology use. 

A Model

This model got me thinking that collaboration could be put into these boxes as well.  I began searching for models like this related to collaboration in education.  In my basic research, what I discovered is that there are many different examples, however, most of them relate to other fields.  The ones that I did find related to education were more about developing skills between students and teachers or between the students themselves.  Thinking about collaboration between teachers was a bit more difficult to find. To me, this was a sign.  It shows why collaboration can sometimes be a challenge.  What seems like collaboration to one person may not be what the other had in mind.  

In most of the models, there were elements that could be used in education and what I was hoping to create for my own practice.  Although the PIC-RAT model was my original inspiration for diving into this, I decided a continuum seemed to make more sense when thinking about collaboration in a linear way.  Using the models found in the resources as my guide, I determined what levels are on my continuum of collaboration.  


Sharing is the level that which collaboration begins.  This involves me sharing resources with my colleagues.  It also includes when teachers request books or research materials for lessons or projects.  Sharing is the level that school librarians can control.  You cannot make someone work with you, but you can be open and willing to share whenever the opportunity arises.  


At this level, the classroom teacher and I do not plan together, but we do talk about what we are each teaching so that lessons can coordinate.  We also share teaching methods and strategies so that students can have a consistent form of instruction. 


This form of collaboration includes lessons or projects that we schedule and discuss together but are taught by one teacher or the other.  At times, both the teacher and school librarian are present, but the lessons are not truly co-taught as one teacher is truly the lead and doing the majority of the preparation. 


This is when our curriculum objectives are truly aligned.  We have planned together and developed a lesson or project that meets the goals of the subject area as well as the information needs of students through the library.  We co-teach the lesson or project together.  This level requires trust by both people and includes shared ideas and decision-making. 

I think it was stated best by The Minnesota Prevention Resource Center “…no single type of collaboration is “better” than another.  The best type is the one that is the best fit, given what you and your partner hope to achieve.”  I plan to continue to look at lessons and projects through this lens for the remainder of the school year. 



American Association of School Librarians. AASL framework for learners. Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://standards.aasl.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/180206-AASL-framework-for-learners-2.pdf 

Model #1: 

Levels of collaboration. Minnesota Prevention Resource Center. (2018, December 27). Retrieved March 27, 2022, from https://mnprc.org/2018/12/27/levels-of-collaboration/ 

Model #2: 

Tools for measuring collaboration. Broadleaf Consulting. Retrieved March 28, 2022, from https://broadleafconsulting.ca/uploads/3/4/0/8/3408103/tools_for_measuring_collaboration.pdf 

Model #3: 

A collaboration framework for use in extension. Mississippi State University Extension Service. Retrieved March 27, 2022, from http://extension.msstate.edu/publications/collaboration-framework-for-use-extension 

PIC-RAT Model:

Kimmons, R., Graham, C. R., & West, R. E. (2020). The PICRAT model for technology integration in teacher preparation. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 20(1). https://citejournal.org/volume-20/issue-1-20/general/the-picrat-model-for-technology-integration-in-teacher-preparation


Author: Kelly Hincks

I am the librarian at Detroit Country Day Lower School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. I have worked as a school librarian for the past eleven years. I was a classroom teacher for four years prior to that. I have worked in charter, public, and private schools. My favorite thing about being a school librarian is the opportunities I have to work both with students and teachers. I love the co-teaching opportunities and connections I have been able to make! I have served on AASL committees as a member and chair. I currently serve as secretary of my state association, Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL).

Categories: Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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7 replies

  1. Dear Kelly,
    The article is very interesting and thought provoking. Would it be possible for you to share one example in each of the 4 levels that you have mentioned.

  2. Sure!

    Sharing – A preschool teacher came to me today looking for books about teeth, the dentist, and/or losing your teeth. Several of her students had lost a tooth in the past week and it was all they could talk about. She wanted some books to go along with their discussion. I was able to pull three or four nonfiction books and a few fiction books too. This is where our collaboration will stop. I pulled the books, brought them to her, and she will share them as she sees fit.

    Cooperation – In Junior Kindergarten, they do a unit about fairytales where they put on a play in their classroom. I know when this unit is happening and what fairytales they are reading in their classroom. Then I can supplement what they are doing in the library by reviewing the elements of fairytales and reading stories they do not read in their classroom. We do not really work together on any lessons or projects for this unit but our lessons complement each other. Another example here is the specials area teachers and I use similar ways of getting students’ attention and providing feedback so that it is consistent between our classes. We have talked about this at the start of the school year and check-in on occasion, but do not connect regularly about this.

    Coordination – Here is a post that shows this kind – https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/my-favorite-collaborative-lesson-flags-in-first-grade/.

    Integration – The 3rd-grade teachers and I are currently working on a website project with their students. This project will involve all sorts of information literacy skills (the library curriculum) and will tie in reading, writing, and social studies concepts (3rd-grade curriculum). We are planning and organizing the unit together, teaching the unit together, and assessing the unit together.

    Let me know if you have more questions or need other examples!

  3. Thank you Kelly so much. This is indeed very valuable information. I am looking forward to implement many of your suggestions. Once again a BIG thank you.

  4. I’ve been learning a lot about web search and site evaluation, and one thing I’ve realized through doing that is how much librarians know about finding and evaluating useful information, and how it would be useful for them and teachers to work more closely together, especially for making students (and others) more information literate.

    As well, I’ve been working to tell others whom I know to talk to librarians, if they need help finding information.

    Regardless, thanks for the work you do, and keep up the good work!

  5. Dear Kelly,
    I’m Raquel Ramos and work as a school librarian for the Portuguese Ministry of Education. We would like to translate this article and publish it in Portuguese. Can we do it?
    Thanks a lot.

  6. Hello Maria,

    I am glad you liked the article. I would have to check with the editor of Knowledge Quest to see what is allowed and get back to you?


  7. Hello, Kelly!

    Thank you very much. I will wait for your answer.

    Best regards.

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