Academic Exchange Quarterly Winter 2004 ISSN 1096-1453 Volume 8, Issue 4
To cite, use print source rather than this on-line version which may not reflect print copy format requirements or text lay-out and pagination.
Angie Gerrard is the Off-Campus Library Services Coordinator at
New librarians are often thrown into library instruction with little or no formal training. Team teaching is one method that can be adopted by new librarians to ease them into their instructional duties while still delivering a quality information literacy program. As new librarians, the authors used a team-teaching mentoring partnership to deliver an instructional program to over 400 students.
In September 2002, the authors team-taught over 400 undergraduate students in pre-service teacher education to locate curriculum resources in the library and on the World Wide Web. As new instructors this was our first experience in organizing and delivering such a large instructional program. While we received many positive comments from students, we were certainly not experienced instructors. As ‘rookies’, we needed an approach that would allow us to put together an intensive library instruction program that would be informative and enjoyable for students. At the same time, we wanted a method that would help us to advance our skills as instructors. This article will discuss how we used the instructional method of team teaching to deliver a high quality program while at the same time developing our instructional skills.
We began our professional careers as librarians in the
As an intern in the 2000-2001 year, Angie had almost two extra years of experience before Jessica’s internship began during the summer of 2002. As an intern, Angie worked with an experienced librarian who was responsible for coordinating the Department of Secondary Education’s (EDSE) undergraduate library instruction program. When this individual left, Angie assumed the role of EDSE program coordinator. Six months later, Jessica began her internship with the Education Library. Angie became the logical choice to help ease Jessica into her teaching responsibilities by enlisting her as a co-teacher in the EDSE program.
Students in the Department of Secondary Education at the
The focus of the sessions was on
the location and use of curriculum resources in print and electronic
formats. Angie began the session with an
overview of resources from Alberta Learning, the government department
responsible for education in the
The process of preparing for the EDSE library program was useful for both librarians. We began by discussing the goals and objectives of the instructional program. We revised the existing program to create a balance between providing students with necessary information literacy skills while showcasing specific curriculum resources. For example, we instructed students on search techniques to use in the library catalogue and also highlighted student textbooks and teacher resources that they would find when using these search techniques. The handout, which was distributed at the beginning of each session, was revised to address specific questions that students would have when looking for information. For example, the handout was structured to help students answer specific questions such as how to find information on what to teach, how to find information on how to teach, and how to find learning resources online. We also changed its appearance to make it more visually appealing. Angie, who had assisted with this program in previous semesters, acted as a liaison with the faculty, while Jessica provided a fresh view of the instructional content and style. Angie was able to revisit the content and style of the instruction and handout, while Jessica was able to become more comfortable with the instructional resources by revising the handout. Finally, the preparation process allowed us to get a better sense of each other’s work styles and personalities. This made the transition into the classroom easier for both of us.
In the classroom the team teaching approach helped to build our teaching skills. During the sessions we would often interject during each other’s instruction to help clarify a point or to provide additional information. Angie was able to assist Jessica with questions she may not have been comfortable answering, while Jessica was able to provide new approaches to the material of which Angie was not yet aware. For example, Angie was able to assist Jessica with questions regarding policies specific to the library, while Jessica was able to demonstrate new strategies for searching the library catalogue and the World Wide Web. These informal exchanges of information helped us both to increase our awareness and knowledge of the content. An added benefit to these discussions went to the students, who were able to gain new information and insight from our in-class knowledge exchange.
The team teaching environment proved to be less stressful for both of us as new librarians. As other librarians have found (Jurena & Daniels, 1997; Oka, LaGuardia & Griego, 1994), having another individual in the classroom relieved some of the tension that may have existed had we been teaching alone. Moreover, as LaGuardia et al. (1993) point out “our egos have toughened up” (p. 59), and we found that the benefits of having a teaching partner outweighed the nervousness that came with having one instructor observe the other. As a result of this less stressful introduction to teaching, we felt we were able to provide a more relaxed learning environment for the students.
Another advantage to our team teaching approach was that it allowed us to gain confidence in our teaching style by providing for each other new models of instructional techniques. By observing each other interacting with the students and discussing ideas in the classroom, we were able to see how another individual would approach the teaching material. LaGuardia et al. (1993) define this kind of observation as “demystifying the process” (p. 61), helping new librarians build teaching confidence by observing how other librarians present information to a class. Indeed, we found that the collaborative approach gave us new ways to tackle the same material, thus increasing our success in delivering information to students.
While observing each other certainly increased our teaching confidence, we would argue that team teaching also helped us as new librarians to develop skills outside the realm of library instruction. We took what we learned from each other and used it to provide more successful and consistent service on the reference desk. In addition, this shared knowledge gave us a better foundation on which to build the library’s collection, as we were more aware of the resource needs of the students.
Team teaching also provided us with the opportunity to learn first hand the benefits of teamwork. As new librarians this experience enabled us to learn the importance of working together in a team-based environment. Our other professional responsibilities require us to function in teams, and having this experience of team teaching early in our careers helped immerse us into this culture.
Although the literature suggests possible incompatibility between instructors (Bakken & Clark, 1998; Buckley, 2000; Forcey & Rainforth 1998; Hatcher & Hinton, 1996), we found that was not the case for us. We connected as new librarians who were energetic and enthusiastic about the opportunity to teach together. Angie was happy to have a new librarian to work with, while Jessica was glad to be given such an extensive teaching assignment so early in her career. This teamwork approach further developed into a sense of collegiality. While teams can sometimes be artificially or arbitrarily formed, whether it is by supervisors, as was our case, or by colleagues, we found that over time our sense of team grew into a sense of collegiality and friendship. Team teaching gave us direct experience as to how librarians can work together to gain mutual respect for one another and for the work they do.
The only downside we experienced in team teaching was the time commitment that was required by us both. Jurena & Daniels (1997) and LaGuardia et al.. (1993) address these time constraints and note the problems when two librarians are out of the library during class time. Our teaching sessions were held in September, which is traditionally the busiest time in our library. Our instructional workload was in addition to our regular responsibilities of reference, collection management, and web development. The EDSE program required us to spend half of each day in the classroom for approximately four weeks. As a result of this heavy teaching commitment, we found it necessary to adjust our schedules as it was not uncommon for us to many work extra hours during this period. However, like Jurena & Daniels (1997), we also believe that “team teaching is a choice made because it significantly contributes to the quality of instruction” (p. 8). In our case the team teaching approach helped us to become better instructors.
We found that the team teaching approach was a practical way to deliver a successful library instructional program while providing new librarians with a venue to develop their instructional skills. This instructional approach provided each of us with the opportunity to become more comfortable with the teaching material. This was important, as we use this material not only in the classroom, but also on the reference desk when assisting students and in helping inform our decisions when building the library’s collection. We both experienced an increased level of confidence, as we were able to share the preparation and teaching, which resulted in less stress for us. Finally, we developed a better appreciation for teamwork, which lead to a stronger sense of collegiality.
Looking back, it is possible to see how having two new librarians in the classroom may have been a disadvantage to us and to the students. However, we found the opposite to be true. The completed evaluation forms showed that students were generally very pleased with the instruction they received and they did not appear to notice our inexperience. In fact, one student went so far as to comment: “You’ve done this for a long time, so it’s nice to have experienced librarians guiding us, not rookies.” More than anything, comments like these reinforce our belief that team teaching is an excellent way to introduce new instructors to the art of teaching.
 See for examples: Bakken 1998, Buchanan, Luck & Jones 2002, Chiste, Glover & Westwood 2000, Jurena and Daniels 1997, Ricker 1997, Weiner 1996, Zhang 2001.
 See for
examples: Hulbert &
McBride 2004, Jurena & Daniels
1997, LaGuardia, Griego, Hopper, Melendez & Oka 1993,
 The authors of this article have chosen to use “we” and “us” when referring to actions taken by both, and to first names when referring to actions taken by individual authors.
Bakken, L., & Clark, F. L. (1998). Collaborative teaching: Many joys, some surprises, and a few worms. College Teaching, 46(4), 154-157.
Buchanan, L.E., Luck, D. L., & Jones, T.C. (2002). Integrating information literacy into the virtual university: A course model. Library Trends, 51(2), 144-166
Buckley, Francis J (2000). Team teaching: What, why and how?
Chiste, K. B., Glover, A., & Westwood, G. (2000). Infiltration and entrenchment: Capturing and securing information literacy territory in academe. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 26(3), 202-208.
Forcey, L. R., & Rainforth, B. (1998). Team teaching “Conflict Resolution in Educational and Community Settings”: An experiment in collaboration and conflict resolution. Peace and Change, 29(3), 373-386.
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Jurena, D. P., & Daniels, C. N. (1997). Two heads are better than one: Team teaching in the information age. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Nebraska Library Association. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED410978).
LaGuardia, C., Griego,
A., Hopper, M., Melendez, L., &
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