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Strategies for Collaborative Teaching

What is collaboration? Friend and Cook explain interpersonal collaboration as “a style for direct interaction between at least two coequal parties voluntarily engaged in shared decision making as they work toward a common goal” (1996, 6). Collaboration describes how people work together rather than what they do. It is a dynamic, interactive process among equal partners who strive together to reach excellence. In the 21st century, educators’ overarching common goal is increasing achievement for all learners.
Reading with MeaningCollaboration can happen in the planning, implementation, and assessment stages of teaching. It begins with planning the partnership itself. In formal collaborations, collaborators must schedule time to meet. Ideally, they preview the lesson ideas to each other in advance of the meeting so that planning can be more focused. Each person can then bring possible goals and objectives to the meeting, along with ideas for curriculum integration, instructional strategies, student grouping arrangements, and potential resources. In the planning process, educators establish shared goals and specific learning outcomes for students as well as assessment tools to evaluate student achievement. They discuss students’ background knowledge, prior learning experiences, and skill development and determine what resources will best meet learners’ needs. Educators decide on one or more coteaching approaches, assign responsibilities for particular aspects of the lesson, and schedule teaching time based on the needs of students and the requirements of the learning tasks. They may set up another meeting before teaching the lesson and schedule a follow-up time to coassess student work and to evaluate the lesson itself.
The goals and objectives are the most important sections on classroom-library collaborative planning forms. While negotiating the best way for the teacher-librarian to coteach curriculum standards and to integrate information literacy skills, the “backward planning” framework (Wiggins and McTighe 1998) charges educators with knowing where they are going before they begin determining instructional strategies and resources. This planning model is centered on student outcomes.
Many teacher-librarian resources provide sample collaborative planning forms. The software program Impact! Documenting the LMC Program for Accountability (Miller 1998) combines both advanced planning and lesson plan support. It also helps teacher-librarians create reports that graphically and statistically document their contributions to the school’s academic goals.
During lesson implementation, collaborators can assume different coteaching roles. In Interactions: Collaboration Skills for School Professionals, Friend and Cook describe various coteaching approaches (1996, 47–50). Figure 1-2 shows possible coteaching configurations. Depending on the lesson, the students’ prior knowledge and skill development, the expertise of the educators, and their level of trust, collaborators can assume one or more of these roles during a lesson or unit of instruction. 
Team teaching requires careful planning, respect for each educator’s style, and ultimately a shared belief in the value that this level of risk taking can offer students and educators themselves. Teacher-librarians, working within a supportive learning community, must develop interpersonal skills as well as teaching expertise that can allow team teaching to flourish.

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