Synergy for Science: A Collaboration Between Pre-Service School Librarians and Pre-Service Elementary Teachers
In science, the concept of synergy is used to describe a situation in which multiple parts of a system, working together, produce an effect that is greater than the sum of their parts. Multicellular organisms, for example, exhibit a “synergy of scale” – individual cells are capable of only basic biochemical processes, but when they work together, they can produce sight, movement, consciousness, growth, and a host of other complex phenomena. Elementary school teachers and
school librarians are both in need of synergy when it comes to science:
Instructional time for science has been slashed in elementary schools, thanks in part to the emphasis on standardized testing in reading and math (Goldston, 2005; Griffith & Scharmann,2008), and preservice elementary school teachers have consistently reported both negativeattitudes toward science and a lack of confidence in their own ability to teach science(Appleton, 2006; Tosun, 2000).
Despite a heavy emphasis on collaboration as a focal responsibility for school librarians(American Association of School Librarians, 1998, 2009), school librarians have reported thatthey rarely collaborate with science teachers, which is perhaps related to a lack of confidence in their science content knowledge (Hoffman & Mardis, 2008; Mardis, 2005).
These roadblocks along the path to exemplary elementary science education come at a time when science literacy is more important than ever. The authors of the recently-released Next Generation Science Standards, who represent a consortium of 26 states, state this clearly in the front matter to the standards document:
Never before has our world been so complex and science knowledge so critical to making sense of it
all. When comprehending current events, choosing and using technology, or making informed
decisions about one’s healthcare, science understanding is key. Science is also at the heart of the
United States’ ability to continue to innovate, lead, and create the jobs of the future. All
students—whether they become technicians in a hospital, workers in a high tech manufacturing
facility, or Ph.D. researchers—must have a solid K–12 science education. (NGSS Consortium, 2013)
If the vision of all students attaining excellence in science is to be achieved, then educators must incorporate high-quality science teaching into the elementary classroom, where young children can build a strong foundation of science knowledge, motivation, and practices that can be built upon in later grades (Keeley, 2009). Collaborative working relationships between elementary classroom teachers and school librarians, in which both parties work together to plan, implement, and assess
instruction, may be one way to capitalize on the expertise of both sets of educators to create such high-quality science instruction. The project proposed below will attempt to encourage such relationships by providing preservice teachers and preservice school librarians with an opportunity to work together on a collaborative lesson plan design assignment.
Papers and Presentations
Rawson, C., Anderson, J. & Hassell-Hughes, S. (2015). Preparing students for science focused teacher-librarian collaboration: Design and impact of a cross-class assignment for pre-service school librarians and elementary teachers. School Library Research, V. 18.
Rawson, C. & Anderson, J.L. (2014). Synergy for Science: Design and preliminary results of a collaborative lesson plan design project. Poster presented at the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Conference, January 2014.
Anderson, J.L., Rawson, C., & Hassell-Hughes, S. (in preparation). Integrating teacher-librarian collaborations in elementary science classrooms. To be submitted to Journal of Science Teacher Education.