Collaboration and cooperation

I have had stages in my career as a teacher where I have worked cooperatively and collaboratively with other teachers and collaboratively is definitely better.

Cooperation may be defined as an individual contributing their knowledge in a group to achieve a common goal, whereas collaboration is the sharing of knowledge, ideas and resources to build upon each other’s contributions to solve a problem and individual contributions matter to the outcome of the group (Nussbaum-Beach & Ritter, 2011).

During my work as a high school teacher I was fortunate enough to be able to work collaboratively within the faculty to create new units of work. Working collaboratively sparks creativity and gives a sense of ownership to everybody. You end up creating something wonderful that you wouldn’t have been able to achieve on your own.

On the other hand, I have also worked cooperatively, providing just materials, finding books on the subject or asked to incorporate something on a unit they are doing into library lessons. Sometimes I was not asked at all.

The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) outline that as a curriculum leader one of the key roles of the TL is to collaborate with other teachers to integrate ‘information resources and technologies into student learning’ (ASLA, n.d).

However, the level of collaboration is influenced by the school culture (Haycock, 2007, p.27) of which the principal is intregral in supporting collaboration between teachers and the TL (Haycock, 2002 cited in Haycock, 2007, p.31) and it may take years to establish the level of trust required to work collaboratively. This was definitely the case in the last school I worked in where the culture was one that the TL had little to do with collaborating with others and mostly borrowed books or provided resources (which was not often sought). Using Montiel-Overall’s model of teacher librarian collaboration (TLC) (2005, p.35) I tended to work at a model A level of coordination (low levels of teacher and TL involvement with a minimal amount of communication) or model B level of cooperation (teacher and TL cooperate but teach areas of speciality separately) with both teacher’s taxonomy of resource-based teaching and school library media specialist taxonomy ranging from levels 1-5 (Montiel-Overall, 2005, p.33-34). During my time there I tried to foster a sense of collaboration by being cooperative and suggesting resources (print and web based) that could be used in units of work. I also tried to get to know other teachers personally (which was easier with some teachers than others) through lunch conversations and extracurricular activities such as Breakfast Club. It was only towards the end the year, once relationships had started to be established that teachers started actively asking me about resources available in the library for their units of work.


Australian School Library Association. (n.d). What is a Teacher Librarian? Retrieved from

Haycock, K. (2007). Collaboration: critical success factors for student learning. School Libraries Worldwide; 13(1), 25-35. Retrieved from

Montiel-Overall, P. (2005). A theoretical understanding of teacher and librarian collaborationSchool Libraries Worldwide11(2), 24-48. Retrieved from

Nussbaum-Beach, S., & Ritter, L.R.  (2011). Defining the connected educator. In The connected educator: Learning and leading in a digital age (pp. 9-24). Retrieved from

2 Replies to “Collaboration and cooperation”

  1. I absolutely agree that collaborating with colleagues is much more fulfilling than merely cooperating. While cooperating is often an effective method of working on a project, as you say, contributors are missing out on the joy of shared ownership, the creative differences and resolutions (I’m thinking of Queen in particular here!), and the satisfaction of sharing and using the group’s collective skills and knowledge. I am interested in the responses to your attempts to bring a collaborative culture to the school and to the library team: what were the barriers and how did you surmount them?

    1. Hi Karen,
      I think the barriers were preconceived ideas about the value of the role of the librarian based on past experiences. Also collaboration with the librarian wasn’t actively suggested from the top. I don’t really feel I did surmount the barriers, although I did feel towards the end of my year that teachers were actively starting to ask about resources (if not ideas) and starting the process of collaboration. I think getting to know people personally helps but I tend to be on the shy side so this takes me a while, also just being approachable and suggesting resources helped. I think collaboration is something that takes a long time to establish if there is not already a culture of it at the establishment unless you are lucky enough to just ‘gel’ with some people.

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