Stanford-California State Library Institute on 21st Century Librarianship
Institute 21 Navigation
Summer 2001
Institute 21 Home Page Summer Home Page Programs About the Institute Request Info. Logistics News Participants Schedule Speakers

"Integrated Instruction"

Daniel Callison. School Library Media Activities Monthly 17, no. 5 (January 2001): 33-39.

When teachers of library media and information literacy speak of "course integrated library instruction," they usually are describing library use or information seeking instruction given as a part of a course in a subject area. Certain information skills have been identified to help the student complete a multiple resource task that has been assigned by his or her classroom teacher.

Integrated activities involve a systematic organization of units or lessons presented in a meaningful pattern. That pattern may represent a scaffold or progression of building from less difficult tasks to more complex ideas and applications. That pattern may be shown in parallel to the progression of skills outlined for other subjects across the curriculum. While science, math, social studies, and language arts curricula often are mapped across the grades or in relation to the normal expected intellectual development of most students, so too are information skills. An integrated curiculum will show these progressive patterns together on the same pages and clearly linked to specific skills. For example, if students are expected to demonstrate their abilities in knowing the difference between fact and fiction, this information skill shows in areas of language arts curicula where it will be introduced, reinforced, and mastered. Sample lessons that depend on multiple resources for the skills are also suggested.

Integrated instruction, however, is only one aspect of teaching library and information use at the "point of need." Often identified as an essential element of the collaborative teaching process, integrated instruction is accepted as a powerful technique to show immediate and meaningful application of information skills to students as they will find the application of such skills necessary to meet the subject-based assignment. Understanding integrated instruction becomes more clear if one also understands the aspects of isolated instruction and independent instruction in relation to the teaching role of the library media specialist.

History fo Course-Related Integrated Instruction

Patricia Knapp was an academic librarian and educator who focused on two major topics: the fusion of academic librarianship with academic instruction and the role of the undergraduate library within universities. Her work, conducted mostly at Wayne State and Monteith College in the 1960s, has a great deal of importance in the concept of integrated instruction for not only the college setting, but also elementary and secondary schools. Knapp's experimental library-centered learning efforts promoted the view that a college education should consist of a series of exercises in independent discoveries of the systems of ways and patterns in which knowledge is organized. This is the more meaningful path to preparation for lifelong learning, rather than the usual accumulation of facts through lectures, assigned readings, and tests.

Knapp argued that competence in library use, like comeptence in reading, is clearly not a skill to be acquired once and for all at any one given level in any one given course, but it is a complex knowledge set composed of skills and attitudes that must be developed over a period of time through repeated and varied experiences in the use of library resources. The same principles apply to education experiences prior to college.

Knapp maintained that course-relatedness in library instruction is not enough. The faculty member must communicate, and even model for students, the value of library competence. Library instruction must be an integral part of the curriculum so that such instruction secures a place in the academic setting regardless of the preferences or assignments that might vary among instructors. The intent was that as new instructors came into the college, they were expected to come on board accepting the broader resource-based curriculum. The curriculum, thus, would change not only students, but also faculty. Her experiment was not widely adopted nor did it continue even within her own institution for more than a few years. However, her efforts and documentation of her program changed the way many lbirarians viewed library instruction programs and gave birth to much of what we refer to today as course-related instruction.

Implementing a similar mode more than anyone else in the decades following Knapp, Evan Farber, at Earlham college, insisted that the college library existed to support the learning and teaching process. Library or bibliographic instruction has only one main purpose, to prepare the student to be scucessful in completion of academic assignments. This was based on the understanding, however, that librarian and professor work together to establish meaningful assignments and that the librarian has not only the responbility to meet the objetives of the isntructor, but also to introduce and promote library and information use as primary learning goals as well.

Ideally, according to Farber, both the teacher's objectives and the librarian's objectives are not only achieved, but are mutually reinforced -- the teacher's objetives being those that help students attain a better understanding of the course's subject amtter, and the librarians' objectives being those that enhance the students' ability to find and evaluate information.

As has become true in public school settings, Farber has concluded that teaching faculty have become increasingly aware of the education challenge posed by the Internet. Teachers also are aware that they do not have the time nor the expertise to keep up with the continual changes and improvements. They know that while they can provide some guidance in helping students find and evaluate information, they will have to depend on library media specialists to really do the job. Modern information technologies, therefore, have ushered in a new era for both course-integrated information instruction and more extended follow-up sessions to meet individual needs.

Thomas Kirk, who has followed Farber as Director of the Earlham Libraries, believes technology has shifted the instructional role, content, and context to the extent that today one of the intruction librarian's most important responsibilties is helping students understand the differences among information resources and how to make judgments about the value and appropriateness fo the information found. The diversity of search engine designs has complicated information instruction as well. Analysis of search results has become an important portion of both formal instructional sessions and individual reference interactions.

Isolated and Individual Instruction

Isolated instruction is currently viewed as not productive and a danger sign that the library media center is not an accepted part of the learning environment. Isolated instruction may take the form of introduction of library skills to elementary school students left at the library media center once a week while the teacher is free to gain some planning time away from the class. The library media specialist may introduce basic organization and search skills, but these are not tied to specific academic assignments and therefore, it is assumed, are lost, not used, and fade in importance once the student is placed back in class. In such situations, everyone seems to lose. The library media specialist is trapped with a class of students who don't really care and communication between the library media specialist and the teacher is lost, perhaps even discouraged from every taking place in the rush from one class to the next. Even when valuable chains of library and information skills have been introduced, they are ignored and treated as time-fillers and not as experiences that merit assessment of student performance nor the attention of the teacher for future lessons.

Isolated instruction also has been used to describe the standard library orientation. In secondary schools and colleges, the one-credit course provided to students to acquaint them with the library and basic resources, also is viewed as somewhat useful, but unless clearly linked to an immediate need, one that fades from the students' mental list of survival skills. Thus, isolated instruction has become synonymous with wasted efforts and indications that library information services are separate from true academic experiences.

Many of the labor intensive efforts to create effective orientations have given way to online tutorials with graphics and situations that tend to maintain attention and teach more than the live one-hour tour of the library. Such tutorials, in addition to providing more interactive learning options, also can be repeated as often as needed. Sophisticated design allows for entry level skills or a profile of the students to be gathered by the computer in order to determine the degree of difficulty or depth of the tutorial. Some programs provide a series of questions during or at the end of the orientation in order to adjust and compile the content of a review tutorial that will address what the student seems not to understand. A growing list of useful interactive tutorials can be located through the Association of College and Research Libraries Instruction Round Table website (

Yet we know there is value in teaching basic information skills even though it requires repetition in different settings and at different times in order for most students to comprehend them and apply them effectively. In some cases, introduction to the library media center and links to its many in-house and electronically-extended resources provides awareness that was not present before.

Isolated instruction has little value when the lesson does not match the task. Individualized instruction, however, implies that the lesson or conversation between library media specialist and student has been refined pruposefully in order to meet a current information need. Individualized instruction also may be framed to address additional needs that are most likely to become a part of what the student will need to address very shortly. Thus the school library media specialist, as readers' advisory and reference librarian, may find that teachable moments occur as they assist the student in the process of identifying information questions, resource options, search processes, and information selection.

Isolation from academic assignments should not mean basic information skills are not introduced and taught when other opportunities present themselves. Personal information needs outside of academic requirements often lead to some of the most powerful teaching opportunities. Conversations concerning more precise search terms or the quality of a located website should not be reserved only for times when the student is beginning work on a term paper or class report. Just as reading advisory leads students to materials for academic and pleasurable purposes, so too does information advisory.

"Information advisory," in an instructional sense, means not only helping the student determine a good resource, but also reinforcing basic skills (linked to an assignment or not):

  • Read general background materials that will help you identify useful terms and names to use in more specific, advanced information searching.
  • Browsing, either print or electronic sources, wil help you explore options and expand your thoughts.
  • Examine parts of resources by using the table of contents or index, and look to confirm search terms and locate new ones.
  • As key terms become clear, use them to be more precise as you search for very specific information to answer your need.
  • Talk with others -- friends, teachers, parents, and your school library media specialist -- to express your current thoguhts and interests so they may be "on the lookout" for information sources that will help you. Talking about a topic also helps you refine your need and expand the relevant information vocabulary.
  • Question validity and authority. Just because this document is from a source in the library or on the Internet does not mean it is the best item to select for the information need or that it is reliable.

Intergrated More Powerful than Parallel

Carol-Ann Haycock, President of the Human Resources Development Group, has stressed the importance of moving collaborative planning from a parallel model to an integrated effort in order for meaningful planning partnerships to evolve. Her work with the Norman, Oklahoma, Schools in the early 1990s was based on the following interactive planning discussion between school library media specialist and other teachers. In this process, the library media specialist often takes the lead in the interview to pose the questions, and thus define the learning environment to increase the chances of student success.

  • What are the characteristics of the learners? Determine readiness factors such as prior learning experiences, learning styles, reading abilities and interests, information skill levels, knowledge base, and conceptual understandings of the content area prior to the resource-based project.
  • Why are we doing this? What is the tie to the curriculum and what are the goals for the project? Do goals of the library media specialist and other involved teachers interact in some manner to create new goals for all involved?
  • What specifically is the student to learn? What are the objectives for student performance that are observable and measurable? What are the best techniques for instruction to meet these objectives? Can the current teaching team provide those techniques or should additional team members be recruited?
  • How will the student gather the information needed? Have the instructors tested for the potential and problems of the project? Have they examined the information possibilities, pre-selected some key resources, determined strategies for information access both within the current environment and beyond the school, and considered how students can effectively apply information search skills?
  • How will the student extract information? What is necessary to assure that the student will obtain relevant information and apply it to their information needs?
  • How will the student process and organize information? To what extent will the students be able to apply an intellectual process resulting in categorizing, synthesizing, and analyzing information to solve problems? Will there be time, resources, and adequate instructional support to assure these processes are possible?
  • How will the student produce and present findings? Will the student have options to say, draw, write, do, or otherwise present a product that displays their work for others?
  • How will the performance be evaluated? What are the most important elements for formative evaluation of the process, summative evaluation of the product, and self-evaluation by the learner?

This is a complex and invigorating co-planning process. Close interaction is important here, and Haycock warns that such will not take place in a simple parallel process. In parallel planning, the school library media specialist and other teachers agree on a theme, topic, or exercise, but conduct their roles separately. The classroom teacher determines objectives for student tasks in the classroom along with instructional strategies and learning activities there. The library media specialist prepares support materials and engages students who come to the library media center in a manner parallel to the teacher, but never collaborates in specific details for student performance and evaluation.

While there may be some instructional activites for which such parallel actions are adequate, quality and depth in the information inquiry process are not likely to take place without integrated partnerships.

Does it make a difference for information skills instruction to be course-integrated? A few limited studies suggest students improve their information search skills to solve specific problems within the subject context. Ross Todd, of the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, found this to be true among a small number of high school students tested. Others have suggseted that students are more likely to pursue search questions in more depth and to do a better job of assessing and using library resources. The greater benefit may come from increased instructional conversations between teacher and library media specialist. Through course-integrated instruction, both become more aware of the other's instruction intents and come closer to working together as a team of instruction specialists, both ready to teach students how to solve information problems.

While the desirability of integrating information skills instruction with a subject area and specific assignment, there is little documented research to support this view or to support the different approaches offered to effect integrated instruction in elementary and secondary schools. Michael Eisenberg and Michael Brown, in a review conducted at Syracuse University, found this to be true in 1992, and very little has been added to the literature since.

An exception to this is the documentation recently released concerning the lessons form the national Library Power Project sponsored by the DeWitt Wallace and the Reader's Digest Fund. Prior to the implementation of the project, library media specialists collaborated with under one-fourth of their fellow teachers. Teacher involvement in developing collections and selection of resources to support information instruction was unehard of in nearly three-fourths of the schools involved. Funding to support flexible scheduling and full-time library media specialists at each building, and to update aging collections reversed these findings of isolated actions and resulted in broad changes to integrate school library media programs as an essential ingredient for quality education.

Adam Stoll, the Evaluation Officer for Library Power, concluded:

    This vision of integrated practice changes the expectations for practice. As we can see in the years since the vision was articulated through its implementation in Library Power, it is no longer acceptable to think of a school library program as a stand-alone entity that supplements classroom teaching and learning. Under the integrated practice envisioned in Information Power, high performing school library programs are fully integrated into the school's instruction and curricular activities.

Marilyn Miller and Marilyn Shontz have found that an important characteristic of high-performance school library media progarms is the amount of co-planning with teachers for integrated instruction. In high-service school library media programs in the 1990s, at nearly twice the frequence over lesser-service programs, the library media specialist:

  • offers cirruculum-integrated skills instruction;
  • conducts workshops for teachers;
  • assists curriculum committees with recommendations;
  • helps teachers develop, implement, and evaluate learning;
  • coordinates in-school production activities;
  • coordinates computer networks and cable television access;
  • communicates proactively and frequently with the principal; and
  • gives substantial time to co-planning with other teachers.

The recent study concerning the impact of school library programs and information literacy in Pennsylvania schools released in February 2000 concludes:

    Higher and lower scoring elementary schools are distinguished by the amount of time school library staff spend in teaching students and teachers how to access and use print and electronic information resources. At higher achieving schools, library staff spend three days on such activities for every two by lower achieving schools. [Even small additional] investments of time in key activities pay off. At higher achieving schools at all grade levels, library staff are involved in committees to provide in-service training to teachers. Library staff at lower achieving schools usually do not engage in these activities at all.

Independent Inquiry

The information literacy standards for student learning contained in the 1998 Library Power guidelines includes standards for independent learning. Indicators for student performance usually relate to personal information needs rather than to academic activities as in the other standards. Such is probably understandable as the independent performance of information literacy is most likely to indicate that the student is maturing as a "lifelong learner."

The independent learning standards include:

  • The student pursues information related to personal interests -- career interests, personal well-being, community involvement, health matters, recreational pursuits, etc.
  • The student appreciates literature and other creative expressions of information -- a self-motivated reader derives useful personal information from a variety of formats and can communicate through a variety of formats.
  • The student strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation -- can assess independently the value of information processes and products, and can devise and implement strategies for revising and updating self-generated knowledge.
These are extremely high-level skills. While they may be developed through integrated instructional activities and refined through guidance of the library media specialist and other teachers, independent information literacy moves beyond the typical course-integrated approach. Opportunities for the independent learner are needed at all age levels, K-college, even though the more mature actions we often associate with such independence may not be found except in a few of the more talented students during their late years of secondary school.

It also should be clear that "teaching how to use the library" as an isolated set of skills or as a fill-in subject weakens the potential for full instructional applications, except in cases of personal information advisory where point of need is identified and the lbirary media specialist provides such instruction. It also should be assumed that inquiry as an instructional method is best explored and refined through exercises that are interesting, challenging, and academically relevant for the student. There is, however, a level of independent inquiry beyond the course-integrated approach.

This level requires independent performance on the part of the instructional library media specialist and other teachers. It moves beyond the norm and into analysis of personal need and motivation of student performance that may come to the attention of teachers of information literacy only a few times each year. Sensitivity to and understanding of this level, however, will result in creating a learning environment that will increase the nubmer of independent learners as they becme aware that such behavior is acceptable and valued.

In the early 1970s, Frank Ryan, of the University of California, and Arthur Ellis, of the University of Minnesota, saw the independence in inquiry as a behavior that evolves through the degree of teacher direction. Ryan and Ellis expect a progression from teacher-directed to teacher-independent implementation as students undertake succeeding inquiry experiences. They have diagramed this process as shown:

Nature of Inquiry Model Implentations Teacher-directed Teacher-guided Teacher-independent
Approximate Grade Levels K - 4 3 - 7 6 - 12

The main point of the diagram is that a continuum of strategies may be used for each grade level (indeed, even for each leson), with an overall progression from teacher-directed to teacher-independent implemetnation. The specific grade-level designations should be viewed as examples, not as prescriptions.

Independent inquiry projects involve the same basic tasks as course-integrated resource-based projects:

  • stating the problem;
  • selecting data sources;
  • gathering data;
  • processing data; and
  • making inferences.

What will change from course-integrated instruction will be:

  • time periods for investigations are more likely to be extended and re-occurring over sevearl years if the student has persistent interest in the topic;
  • greater self-motivation as the student is engaged in the inquiry to meet clear personal needs, and no letter grade will be involved unless the project becomes an academic independent study;
  • a desire to either keep the investigation private and personal or other students may seek the opportunity to share discoveries and need assistance in displaying results and finding an audience
  • instead of one product, a series of products with each representing a progression in understanding of the issues and problems; and
  • a greater degree of exploring the subject through reading widely, although the library media specialist still may need to place before even the most independent inquirer materials that broaden his or her perspectives.
Inquiry and the Learning Academy

While "learning about the library" is not a context for a "stand-alone couse," the inquiry process is. This is not to imply that a course for secondary school students, college-bound or not, would be isolated from other areas of the curriculum. The process and practice of inquiry, including the information search process and elements of information literacy, are so critical to the development of mature learners that such experiences should not stop at just course-integrated programming.

In true collaboration, teacher teams composed of subject area specialists can become even more effective as teams of information specialists, each versed in the master level teaching techniques for information inquiry. Courses that are centered on the information use processes and then extend into investigation areas of imporatance and interest to the learning agenda of students can result in new course offerings. These experiences are not tagged just as elective credits or alternative projects. They are formal courses and successful completion of such should be required for graduation.

Components of such courses may include the following, in addition to the now traditional information literacy skills:

  • understanding of discourse in a variety of subject areas -- science, history, literature, journalism;
  • knowledge and practice of critical literacy to effect change -- debate, community service, local legislation;
  • use of primary resources not normally available because of limitations of time and typical school resource projects;
  • gathering and sharing of original data through electronic communication -- a true community of student scientists who share and critique arguments and evidence, and help each other gain insights and inferences; and
  • presentation of investigations that have matured over time, multiple products developed with several student teams -- a portfolio of academic achievement based on application of progressive and advanced inquiry experiences.

This author made such proposals in the late 1980s. Many in the school library media field rejected such as an isolated curriculum. Many in the composition, social studies, and science edcuation fields accepted such as movement toward development of an essential curricular component, expansion to a social curriculum to engage in the human conversation. Perhaps the discussions and models for information literacy have expanded and refined enough over this past decade to now fully embrace inquiry and we will see signs of new experimentation based on the philosophy we have inherited from Patricia Knapp. Can we immerse ourselves, our teachers, and our students in a new "learning academy"?


Johanna Olson Alexander, of California State University, Bakersfield, recently took integrated planning to the level of full immersion. The context for her study was greater use of information technology (IT) systems. Integrated information technology immersion allows students to learn and master a wide variety of information technologies as computer tools and resources are used, that is, as students are immersed in information technology through exploratory learning.

Information technology literacy is best achieved when information skills are taught as an integral part of the curriculum. IT immersion proides for individual student needs and knowledge levels by offering instruction and consultation as needed, with a variety of tools, in a distributed learning environment. Much of the success in this approach is dependent on application of constructivist theory and asynchronous communication so that there is room for attention to individual entry skills and experiences and the student can become immersed in application of the technologies to meet problems relevant to his or her needs.

Challenges for Change

Donna Peterson, Director of Library Media services at the award-winning Library Power Lincoln Public School District, Nebraska, reminds us that the challenges that face library media specialists who wish to improve student learning through collaboration and integration are signficant because they involve change. The essence of change is that deeply-ingrained behaviors must be altered. Change automatically means resistance, especially in the field, where the basic behaviors of teaching have not changed much in 100 years.

Peterson draws form previous educators to summarize the barriers:

  • Changes in methods of instruction are more difficult than changes in curriuculum or administration. It is easier to use a new text than to teach in a different way.
  • If a change requires teachers to abandon an existing instructional practice, it is in danger of defeat. Teachers don't want to give up what is comfortable and known.
  • If retraining is required, success is threatened unless strong incentives are provided. Training is hard work and failure is always a possibility. Motivation is important to any change in behavior.
  • Efforts to change curriculum by integrating or correlating the content are resisted and are especially at risk. Big changes require big efforts, and it is just easier not to do it unless it is required.
  • The cost of the change is a significant factor in determining the permanence of the change. If the change puts a strain on school personnel, or if it requires a substantial investment in learning new facts and procedures, it is not likely to persist. Hard work in this circumstance means that the sooner it can be discarded, the easier life will be.

For Additional Reading and Viewing

American Association of School Librarians and the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning. Chicago: American Library Association, 1998.

Alexander, Johanna Olson. "Collaborative Design, Constructivist Learning, Information Technology Immersion and Electronic Communities." Interpersonal Computing and Technology 7, nos. 1-2 (october 1999).!ipct-j/1999/n1-2/alexander.html.

Eisenberg, Michael B., and Michael K. Brown. "Current Themes Regarding Library and Information Skills Instruction." School Library Media Quarterly 20, no. 2 (1992).

Farber, Evan. "Faculty Librarian Cooperation." Reference Services Review 27, no. 3 (1999): 229-234.

Kirk, Thomas G., Jr. "Course-related Bibliographic Instruction in the 1990s." Reference Services Review 27, no. 3 (1999): 235-241.

Lance, Keith Curry, Marcia J. Rodney, and Christine Hamilton-Pennell. Measuring Up to Standards: The Impact of School Library Programs and Information Literacy in Pennsylvania Schools. Pennsylvania Department of Education, Office of Commonwealth Libraries, February 2000.

Miller, Marilyn L., and Marilyn L. Shontz. "More Services, More Staff, More Money: A Portait of High-Service Library Media Centers." School Library Journal (May 1998).

Orlosky, Donald E., and B. Othanel Smith. "Educational Change: Its Origins and Characteristics." Phi Delta Kappan 53, no. 7 (1972): 413-14.

Partners for Quality Education with Carol-Ann Haycock. A video series in three parts. Vancouver, BC: Vision Resources, 1991.

Peterson, Donna L. "Collaboration in Teaching and Learning." In Learning and Libraries in an Information Age, edited by Barbara K. Stripling. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999.

Ryan, Frank L., and Arthur K. Ellis. Instructional Implications of Inquiry. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1974.

Todd, Ross J. "Integrated Information Skills Instruction: Does It Make a Difference?" School Library Media Quarterly 23, no. 2 (1995).

Worrell, Diane. "The Work of Patricia Knapp: Relevance for the Electronic Age." The Katharine Sharp Reiview, no. 3 (Summer 1996).

Zweizig, Douglas L. and Diane McAfee Hopkins. Lessons from Library Power: Enriching Teaching and Learning. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999.

Daniel Callison is Director of Library Science and School Media Education at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. E-mail: He is also Editor of School Library Media Research

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

Back to top or Study Groups home