Collaboration To Support the Effective Use of Reference Resources


Change is often very difficult, but a necessary part of life and growth.  In education, we are continually faced with reflecting on our teaching philosophy, re-envisioning our practice, and revising our goals.  In our profession today, change is constant and inevitable.  Technology rapidly changes and we must keep up.  As teacher-librarians, we strive to find ways to support and mentor our colleagues to anticipate and adapt to change, and to equip our students with the skills they need to navigate their learning in an effort to be independent, lifelong learners.  These are no small tasks for anyone, but collaboration is a key component of how everyone in the learning community can work together to promote, create, and embrace a growth mindset.


Brain Pickings – Growth Mindset

This is where collaboration and the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) come together to effectively and supportively work with and guide our colleagues through implementing an innovation into their practice.  With a focus on reference services and resources, we can use the CBAM model to determine what colleagues are thinking and feeling about the implementation of something new and making changes to their current practice.  In assessing concerns related to change in the context of professional development, the stages of the model “…point out the importance of attending to where people are and addressing the questions they are asking when they are asking them” (National Academy of Science, 2005).  Indeed “the strength of the concerns model is in its reminder to pay attention to individuals and their various needs for information, assistance, and moral support” (National Academy of Science, 2005).  Recognizing the feelings, needs, and perspectives of others is inherent to collaboration.

As teacher-librarians, a collaborative approach to learning leads to positive outcomes for students, staff, and the learning community as a whole as noted by Ken Haycock:

“Collaboration between teacher and teacher-librarian not only has a

positive effect on student achievement, but also leads to growth of

relationships, growth of the environment, and growth of persons, all

conducive to improved experiences for all members of the school

community” (p.32).

Foundational to collaboration between teachers and teacher-librarians is the need for a “…trusting, working relationship…” in which “through a shared vision and shared objectives, student learning opportunities are created that integrate subject content and information literacy”two-heads-are-better-than-one (Haycock, p.26).  Certainly I believe that a new curriculum in British Columbia and the changing needs of the 21st century learner mean that collaboration is even more necessary and essential for the growth of all involved.  The expression, “two heads are better than one” has never been more fitting.  There is so much to be gained from fostering close partnerships with staff in an effort to maximize learning and resources as we focus on the learning needs of our students.  With the redesigned curriculum, inquiry-based learning comes to the fore and Haycock notes that collaboration can result in “…improved confidence in inquiry and the use of learning resources” (p.28).  Teacher-librarians, through collaborative efforts, can support their colleagues to explore different approaches to learning and resource use.

The idea of mentorship is a significant piece of the process, and of teacher-librarianship as a whole.  As collaborators with our colleagues, one of our roles is to model and demonstrate the effective use of resources, as well as new approaches to learning, as outlined in the Leading Learning document.  Collaboration is an essential underlying theme in Leading Learning to support learners in the 21st century and to achieve standards of practice.


For the purpose of this project, I am fortunate to work with a colleague with whom I already have a close working relationship.  Katherine (name changed) is a primary teacher with 16 years of experience in the classroom.  She has predominantly taught at the early primary level in Kindergarten and Grades One and Two, but has a few years’ experience teaching Grade 2/3.  We have been at the same school for eight years and often have had the same grade level classes in the past.  This year we are both teaching Grade 3/4, and it is our first experience teaching at the Intermediate level.  From conversations we have had, I know that Katherine (name changed) had been apprehensive about teaching this grade as she prefers and feels most comfortable with Grade 1, 1/2, or even 2/3.  Additionally, the need to implement the revised curriculum was an added challenge to that of becoming an Intermediate teacher.  When I consider her comments about teaching a new grade in light of the CBAM stages of concern, I know that she is very much at the Personal level where she queries how to manage the challenges of a new grade and comments that “I find this really difficult” and “I prefer the younger grades”.  Katherine has also commented that she struggles with adopting an inquiry-based approach to teaching, and I believe this to be compounding difficulties in relation to the revised curriculum.  While she is open to new approaches or resources in some areas, she largely maintains an overall structure to her teaching that remains constant from year to year, for example daily routines, structured lessons and activities, and pencil/paper tasks.  Print-based materials make up the totality of the resources she uses, though she began to use the school iPads last year.  She indicated to me that she used them about 3 or 4 times last year.  There is evidence of potential to adopt new digital practices or tools here.

My first step in our collaboration was to interview Katherine to ascertain her feelings, experience, and needs in relation to digital resources, in an effort to assess her stages of concern and to determine her current level of use in regards to digital resources.  I created the following questionnaire to guide our discussion and discover the stages and levels:


After speaking with Katherine and completing the questionnaire, it was readily apparent that her experience with and use of resources is limited to non-fiction print books from the school library or materials she finds from internet searches.  Though she is aware of the print encyclopedias in the library, she shared with me that she does not use them with her learners, and she has no knowledge of and consequently no practical experience with using the school’s digital databases.  In considering how reference resources could be used with her students, she identified Science and Social Studies as the main curricular areas that she would focus on, and Science in particular as she plans on covering ecosystems and biomes.

In summary, Katherine’s responses to the questionnaire would indicate that she is at Stage 1 (Informational) for concern and Level 0 (Non-use) in relation to online databases, having used the article “A Measure of Concern” (Halloway, 2003) and the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (Huang, n.d.) Google site as reference.  I identified Katherine as being at the Informational stage of concern because she indicated that she is interested in finding out about digital databases that are currently available at our school.  As previously mentioned, she is not currently accessing reference resources and since there is “no involvement” (Huang, n.d.), she is therefore at the Non-use Level.

In light of the fact that Katherine shows some past interest in incorporating technology into her practice, and because she would benefit from an increase in and expansion of the types of materials she uses with her students, and to develop their information literacy skills, I have created a plan for her to work towards incorporating an online database into her regular instruction.  I have chosen to focus on the use of the World Book Science Power and EBSCO Explora databases in particular because they support and complement many of the learning outcomes associated with the Grade 3/4 Science curriculum.  Additionally, they are user-friendly databases.  Based on this, I believe these databases are excellent starting points for Katherine, and growth in her confidence and usage can be realized quickly.  Furthermore, she had indicated she wants to access resources that she can be sure are reliable.  Considering the databases I will introduce to her are provided through the ERAC bundle, Katherine can have confidence that her reference resources are vetted. As well, be using a database, she can target the specific information she is looking for to support her students’ learning, and does not have to rely on random internet searches. Through various strategies/ interventions, the goals of the plan are to move Katherine from an Informational stage to a Management stage, and from Non-use to Preparation in terms of her level of use of digital databases.

Collaborative Plan for the Effective Use of Reference Resources

Steps in the Plan Strategies/Interventions Intended Outcome
Step 1 As outlined above, complete concerns/use questionnaire To assess and determine stages of concerns and levels of use.
Step 2 Discuss reference resource examples, including both print and digital formats, specifically EBSCO Explora and World Book Science Power databases; discuss the benefits and need for reference resources, breadth of resources, and the use of digital resources To develop awareness of what constitutes reference resources and the various types currently available in the library; provide background information and overview of the Explora and WB Science Power databases; to develop awareness of how reference resources, and specifically digital resources, support the development of information and digital literacy skills
Step 3 Meet to explore databases together; provide walk-through to learn how teacher and students can access databases through school website both at school and from home (username and password required) Collaborative exploration and T-L modelling/ demonstration establish a supportive environment to discuss the databases, their formats, and potential uses/application (e.g. research, building background knowledge)
Step 4 Provide Katherine with time (one week) to explore the databases at her own pace; ensure she knows that in the week we can meet or talk about any concerns or questions that arise. Teacher becomes familiar with the databases, has time to freely use and explore; provide support in the form of being available to help when needed
Step 5 Follow up meeting Share and discuss observations, questions, concerns, issues, potential of databases to support learning; evaluate collaborative process (e.g. enough support?)
Step 6 Look through Grade 3/4 Science curriculum together

B.C. Curriculum

Points of Inquiry


Discuss curricular connections and ways in which databases support learning and inquiry around Science big ideas; isolate “ecosystems” and “biomes” as foci
Step 7 Co-teach in the computer lab Team teach to introduce students to databases, how to access through school site and remotely from home, and provide free exploration time
Step 8 Meet to plan how to use databases to build background knowledge; I model use Kidspiration as a tool to record information and assess learning Use of databases to support Connect phase of Points of Inquiry model (background knowledge of ecosystems and biomes); teacher learns to use Kidspiration as a digital tool for her students to demonstrate learning and for assessment purposes
Step 9 Co-teach in the computer lab Guide students to use databases to gather information, build on background knowledge of ecosystems and biomes; increase students proficiency in using a digital tool to record information and demonstrate learning
Step 10 In-service for other staff members at a staff meeting or during a lunchtime meeting To foster a collaborative learning community; informs staff of and promotes use of digital reference resources; to connect teacher with other colleagues who can offer support
Step 11 Meet to evaluate process Evaluate how current collaborative process has supported teacher with using digital databases and how Connect phase went; discuss where to go from here
Ongoing Regular check-ins, monitoring, reflection To offer encouragement, support, discuss a plan for further use/implementation of databases, evaluate collaborative process



By creating a structured, supportive framework that has collaboration at the heart of it, the goal is to acknowledge and make accommodations for Katherine’s concerns, while moving her along a continuum of use so that ultimately she is “…learning the processes and skills needed for successful implementation” (Huang, n.d) of digital databases by reaching the Preparation level.  This plan is strongly centred around moving a colleague from non-use to the beginning stages of use, hence why this plan primarily focuses on the Connect stage of inquiry.  For a teacher who is not using digital databases at all, going from that to the totality of a plan for inquiry is much too overwhelming.  A benefit of my collaborative plan is that I am nudging Katherine towards inquiry as she has expressed that she is unsure about the process; here is where I can be of further help and support.  However, if her concerns are high and intense about how she is going to manage, she is not going to experience success.  Hence, my plan reflects the need to move her along steadily, but in a reasonable and manageable way that keeps her concerns in mind at each step.

Through this collaborative plan, I also hope to realize and achieve two key standards in the Leading Learning document which are collaborating to “empower a community of learners” (p.11) and “cultivating effective instructional design” (p.15).  By supporting Katherine in her efforts to expand her knowledge and use of various reference resources and engage in the practical use of databases, the goal is to empower her as a learner herself.  We speak of the importance of instilling lifelong learning in our students, and there is no better way to do this than to model it ourselves.  In turn, her students will be empowered as their diverse learning needs are supported through the use of an alternative to print materials and broader access to information.  Leading Learning asserts that  “…innovation, and honing information management and literacy skills are key goals of the learning commons” (p.15), and that …opportunities to utilize a variety of resources, technologies and spaces to support learning require collaboration and planning and thoughtful instructional design…” (p.15).  This is exactly what I hope to achieve through the plan I have outlined for Katherine.  I aim to move her forward in her skill set and use of reference resources and the inquiry model so that richer learning opportunities are created for her students.  Thoughtful, targeted interventions embedded in a collaborative partnership will help bridge the gap between her current practice and concerns, and the goals of use we hope to achieve.



 British Columbia Teacher-Librarians’ Association. (2011). The Points of Inquiry: A Framework for Information Literacy and the 21st Century Learner. Retrieved from

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). EBSCO Explora. Retrieved from

Burnaby School District 41. (2017). World Book Science Power. Retrieved from

Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading Learning. Retrieved from

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

Holloway, K. (2003). “A measure of concern”. Tools For Schools. Retrieved from

Huang, P. (n.d.) “Levels of use”. Concerns-Based Adoption Model. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (2015). B.C.’s New Curriculum. Retrieved from

My eCoach. (2004). “Stages of concern about technology use”.

National Academy of Sciences. (2005). “The concerns-based adoption model (CBAM): a model for change in individuals”. Retrieved from

Popova, M. (n.d.). “Fixed vs. growth: the two basic mindsets that shape our lives”. Retrieved from


Bridge graphic. Retrieved from

Change meme. Retrieved from

Growth/fixed mindset graphic. Retrieved from

Leading Learning cover. Retrieved from

Two heads graphic. Retrieved from


One thought on “Collaboration To Support the Effective Use of Reference Resources

  1. Duncan Gibson says:

    I find your attention to detail in creating this plan for your teacher to be quite inspiring. It’s clear you have taken a lot of time to identify her very specific needs. After completing your collaborative plan, would you say that doing something like this for each teacher in your school would be a realistic goal, or might it take too much time?


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