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Do I perceive the role of teaching information literacy skills (ILS) to be part of my job as a school librarian? Absolutely. This is an essential role for which librarians are trained, yet many teachers are unaware of the information literacy expert they have amongst them. The librarian not only provides quality resources, both print and digital, and the research techniques to utilise them, but should also be included in the teaching and learning of the school’s subject programmes. So when Vicki Traas approached me to collaborate together on Year 13 English Literature the answer was an immediate yes.

Our first collaborative lesson was booked in the library. However, we soon discovered that some teachers didn’t hesitate to interrupt the instruction to commission my help in servicing their own class’s needs. Thereafter we met once a week in Vicki’s classroom. Vicki’s job was to teach the content for the assessment. My focus was to teach students fundamental research skills and strategies to enable them to locate and select relevant and quality information, and then how to process and synthesise that information.

We started with search tips within Google and moved on to the value of utilising databases and how to search across the EPIC databases, then how to limit results with the inbuilt filters. We discussed evaluation techniques to determine the quality and credibility of the information found. We looked at different note-making tools, both digital and by hand, as well as skimming and scanning, highlighting and annotating, summarising and paraphrasing. We discussed the importance of citing sources and looked at the different online citation tools that are available – on EPIC, Word and some of the free citation makers on the internet.

We established a team-teaching scenario where we shared the instruction. We felt comfortable working cooperatively, sharing ideas, interjecting with questions or information, contributing to one another’s learning, and assisting students. I felt that by regularly appearing in the classroom, and Vicki’s endorsement of my information literacy expertise, students began to trust me, listened more attentively, responded and gained from the search techniques, the evaluation tools, and the processing and synthesising tips I taught. Team teaching created a respectful classroom community, where the teaching was shared collaboratively and the learning was effective and valuable.

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As we aspire to ensure students become critical thinkers and independent learners, it is imperative for classroom teachers to realise that the school librarian is a valuable resource, well positioned to contribute to improved student learning. Collaborative practice between the librarian and classroom teacher should become common place in secondary schools to enhance all students’ learning experience.

Julia Smith
Librarian, Kerikeri High School