4C/ID: A Design Model for Library Instruction

What is 4C/ID? The 4C/ID Model is a four-component system for the instructional design of complex skills. It was developed by van Merrienboer, et al., and can easily be plugged into the ADDIE model (which serves as the basis for many ISD models). Because information literacy is a complex skill, 4C/ID is an ideal model for it.

The four components of 4C/ID are learning tasks, part-task practice, supportive information, and just-in-time (JIT) information. See below:

Image taken from van Merrienboer, Clark, & de Croock, 2002.

Based on the model, task analysis for library instruction might look something like this:


Adapted from van Merrienboer, Clark, & de Croock, 2002

As you can see, the learning tasks above are hierarchical, going from simple to complex (right to left).

The tasks that appear in italics are recurrent skills that need to be practiced to the point of automation. Recurrent elements of learning tasks require JIT information. For example, learning how to use Boolean operators is a skill that should be given support only as needed. Once learned and practiced, it becomes an automated task.

The non-italic tasks are non-recurrent tasks. These are learning tasks that rely on mental models or schema. For example, knowing how to identify key terms in a research question is schema-based. That is, as a student develops that skill, s/he also develops a mental model for that skill that can be applied to similar learning tasks in the future. For non-recurrent tasks, support information is required. This might come in the form of case studies or worked examples.

For information literacy. the 4C/ID Model can be used for classroom instruction or for technology-based instruction. For classroom instruction, you might use case studies as a part of problem-based or inquiry-based learning. But more importantly, I think 4C/ID is a robust model for developing online library instruction. I can envision an entire distance education course (or embedded course component) being developed out of this. 4C/ID is also ideal for developing simulated learning environments (e.g. Second Life).

Instructional design is not an easy skill to learn. It takes a formal knowledge base, and many hours of practice to become an expert (some say 10,000 hours). But, it’s worth the effort to be able to develop highly effective instruction that improves students’ learning.

For more information on 4C/ID, take a look at the following article. And if you are interested in developing library instruction around the 4C/ID model, I highly recommend working with an instructional design team to do so!


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