4 Ways to Use the 4 Levels of Collaboration

Recently, I had the opportunity to present a roundtable session at the Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL) conference.  During this session, I shared information about the 4 Levels of Collaboration for Teachers and Librarians.  Then participants played a game where examples at each level were provided.  They used a card to share what level they felt the lesson fit best.  After talking with other school librarians about this continuum, I realized that there are more ways it could be used than I originally considered.  Here are four ways to use the four Levels of Collaboration. 

Lesson Planning

This is where I have been using this continuum the most.  When planning a lesson or project, reflecting on where it falls has been important.  It allows me to determine if the classroom teacher and I are choosing the best way for that lesson to be presented.   This reflection allows me to see if there are patterns across my collaborative efforts.   If I have a teacher who I am sharing resources with, but we have not gotten any further then maybe it is time for me to ask a few more questions so we can work together in other ways.

I truly believe that no one form of collaboration is better than another.  It is easy to think that sharing is “the worst” and integration is “the best”.  That is not the case!  You cannot possibly have every lesson be an integrated one.  Instead, it is important to determine what is appropriate for that lesson or project.   An example of this is when a kindergartener came in carrying the tooth that she lost on the bus.  As she was showing it to her teacher all the other students were asking a million questions.  I happened to be nearby and offered to provide the teacher with some books about teeth.  I shared these resources with the teacher and everyone moved on.  Sharing was the most appropriate form of collaboration in this situation.  

Talking to Stakeholders

I have found this continuum to be very effective when talking to stakeholders including administrators and parents.  By defining collaboration in a specific way, I am able to give examples that allow them to see what collaboration actually looks like.  Additionally, these levels have become a part of my elevator speech (see Sedley Abercombie’s post about elevator speeches).  It gives me a framework when I share stories about what the school library does and how I work with teachers and students.  This is very useful in my advocacy efforts.


I work at a private independent school therefore the teacher evaluation system does not have the same requirements as public schools in my state.  Something I had not thought about was how this could be used to help communicate successful collaborative effects in a formal way.  After talking to one librarian at the conference, she shared that since she is on a fixed schedule she has found it challenging to explain what collaboration looks like.  She feels that she can now communicate what is working well related to collaboration and where there are areas of growth. 

Working with Teachers

I have not shared this continuum with the teachers I work with, but I probably should!  Again, after talking with other school librarians, I realized there is an incredible opportunity I am missing.  In showing this to teachers it might help us to develop some common goals.  We would also have a common language when it comes to collaborating with each other.  One school librarian said that her plan was to share this with teachers so they could begin to see her vision when it come to collaboration.   She shared that she had been looking for a way to get teachers to understand what they could do together.  She thought this might help!

If I am being honest, I was hesitant to share this in a session at the conference.  It is something I created based on my needs and experience, but have not used beyond my own self-reflection.  Yet, in sharing it with others, I realized there is more potential than I originally thought.  Sometimes collaborating with each other is all we need to see beyond! 


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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1 reply

  1. Thank you for sharing this and for sharing your 4 types of collaboration in an earlier post/article. We’ve started using these to better articulate what librarian collaboration looks like. I agree that this vocabulary helps when talking with different stakeholders including campus & district admin and teachers. I’ve found that the specifics help them better understand what we mean when we talk about librarians collaborating with teachers. We’ve also started collecting data around the four types of collaboration including the number of collaborations and the results from this collaboration. It helps the librarians and their campus administrator see the value in all four, not just in co-taught lessons. It has also helped the librarians in our district better determine the most valuable type of collaboration depending on the need of the teacher & students. This has been such a helpful framework for us!

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