Thoughts on Student Collaboration

As the semester comes to an end and I reflect on my own courses of the past year, several themes emerged. One being student collaboration and if I as an instructor am incorporating enough student collaboration into my courses. Because how better to teach future school librarians to work with others, which is a vital part of our job, than integrating group work into their preparation.

I strongly believe that learning is social and is “enhanced by opportunities to share and learn with others” (AASL, 2007) and I am always encouraging my students to share in class. While they are often reluctant, because it is a risk to put yourself out there, I always hear at the end of the semester what a valuable learning experience it was to hear people share their various viewpoints and experiences.

This led me to thinking about student collaboration in the school library and how are school librarians fostering learning in a social context. Student collaboration is an important part of inquiry-based teaching. Through working together students develop verbal communication skills, compromising skills, team work skills, and benefit from each others strengths (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2012).

In relation to instruction, “inquiry occurs within a social context” (Kuhlthau, Maniotes, & Caspari, 2012, p. 38) and students collaborating throughout the inquiry process allows students to hear about and learn from a variety of viewpoints. This post from last week What Happens When 5th Graders Run the Classroom: A SOLE in Action provided a great example and one student comments “I like how we get to be independent and collaborate with our friends and talk it out instead of the teacher teaching us” (para. 6). Another example that I saw this past week was from The Unquiet Librarian blog where students collaborated to create poems as an end of the year reflective response. Students were so engaged they even created a hashtag #rollingandwriting – check out the pictures and videos to see this great project in action!

This posting also brings to mind another important factor in encouraging student collaboration in the school library – the facilities. Just having the space setup in a way that is conducive to student collaboration plays an important part in encouraging working together and social interaction. Note the mention of the new furniture and rolling easels and the students’ excitement over it and they way it facilitated collaborating. And another aspect is technology and we are lucky enough to have a variety of tools that even make working together easier and more convenient for our students.

The AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner (2007) promote teaching students to share their knowledge, to “collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners,” and “demonstrate teamwork by working productively with others” (p. 5). As school librarians we are always very concerned about collaborating with teachers, but we must also remember the social aspect of learning and to facilitate this for our students.


American Association of School Librarians. (2007). AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner. Chicago, IL: ALA.

Hamilton. B. (2014). Rolling and writing: Collaborative poetry with whiteboards. Retrieved from

Kuhlthau, C. C., Maniotes, L. K., & Caspari, A. K. (2012). Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in you school. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CIO LLC.

Scripture, N. (2014). What Happens When 5th Graders Run the Classroom: A SOLE in Action. Retrieved from

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