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  • Writer's pictureNoni Harrison

TLs as leaders through collaboration and professional learning

Updated: May 8, 2023

TLs as leaders initiate change, guide schools through change, and support staff and students through the process. There are several areas by which TLs can empower learners, both staff and students. A collective sense of trust is integral to successful leadership. Collegiality and strong professional relationships are paramount in garnering support in the pursuit of enhanced capacity (American Association of School Librarians (AASL), 2013).

The leadership areas of a TL include leadership of curriculum (knowing content, syllabus requirements, and assessment modes), pedagogy (leading quality teaching and learning processes including professional development and instruction), strategy (leadership that drives the moral purpose, school culture and other ethical considerations including learning needs), and literacy (including leadership for 21st century skills). AASL (2013) suggest these strengths enhance the professional relationships of TLs, as these areas of effective leadership must be visible to the community, require active participation in various committees and networks within and outside the school environment, and ensure the practices of the TL are relevant and reflective of 21st century skills. A middle leader TL with professional autonomy, visibility within the school and respect from peers becomes a useful tool in navigating change necessary to respond to 21st century demands.

Specifically, eLearning ecologies are changing and will continue to change the way teaching and learning occurs in schools. The integration of digital technologies in all facets of teaching and learning have the potential to increase the level of learning and scope and quality of teaching practices. This embedded use of digital technology must be accompanied by a clear vision and goals, high expectations, identified desired outcomes, culture of risk-taking that is encouraged by the leadership team, empowerment of teachers, and collaboration between the whole school community including families (Lee, 2015). School libraries are situated to lead schools in this form of academic and pedagogical risk-taking, to support the school in technology integration, and provide expert modelling of technology in teaching practice. As Carr identifies, collaboration is key to enhancing TL visibility, respect, and trust within a school (2008). Collaboration is not only an important skill for students in the 21st century, it is also integral for teachers to adopt and model. Collaboration helps alleviate professional burden, fosters inclusivity and provides teachers and families with a sense of worth or value during decision-making processes. Collaboration can also increase motivation and job satisfaction.

A summary of Carr’s (2008) six factors of successful collaboration invite us to relfect on:

  • Environment: Does the school now and historically support collaboration? What are the previous experiences and opinions of collaboration?

  • Membership: Who is needed to be part of the collaboration?

  • Process: Do members have roles, understand their positions, and understand the decision-making process?

  • Communication: Is open communication established through formal and informal means or a combination?

  • Purpose: Is there a common purpose and shared objectives?

  • Resources: What resources are required and available?

Similarly, Bell, Van Roekel and Weimar (2013) use the REACH acronym to outline successful collaboration; respect your counterparts, educate yourself regarding the role of the individual with whom you want to build a bridge, assume responsibility as the one to reach out, communicate and collaborate, help one another to provide the very best instruction and experiences for students. Collaboration should be at the core of the TL’s practice and can be done in a myriad of ways. Collaborative learning through professional development initiatives or opportunities is one area whereby TLs can both lead constituents and follow. As with supporting student needs, TLs must provide professional development opportunities just in time rather than just in case. Effective professional development focuses on learning that improves teaching practice by enhancing teachers’ understanding of their subject area and equipping teachers with skills to enhance student learning through strategies that teach and assess deep understanding (Cole, 2012). Ultimately, it must enhance teacher capacity in a way that enhances student achievement through the application of best practice. TLs can help to develop an effective professional learning culture by supporting teachers in delivering professional development through resourcing, organisation and facilitations, and can assist those that have participated in professional learning to transfer that learning to classroom practice through collaborative planning and interpretation of new learnings. TLs can also, themselves, offer and deliver professional development, whether that be through the facilitation of external providers sourced through networking opportunities or through the TL’s delivery of information. Collaboration in professional learning helps to de-privatise teaching practice, which supports the development of collegiality and highlights the importance of a school culture that values life-long learning not only for students but also staff.


American Association of School Librarians (AASL). (2013). Empowering learners: Guidelines for school library programs.

Bell, M. A., Van Roekel, J. L., & Weimar, H. (2013). School librarians and the technology department: A practical guide to successful collaboration  [Linworth version].

Carr, J. (Ed.). (2008). Leadership for excellence: Insights of the national school library media program of the year award winners.

Cole, P. (2012). Linking effective professional learning with effective teaching practice.

Lee, M. (2015). Digital technology and student learning: The impact of the ecology – Part 1.

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