Review of two ID models

This paper reviews two articles that illustrate two different types of instructional design models.  The models examined are the 4C/ID model and the Dick and Carey ISD model.  The 4C/ID model is based on a constructivist philosophy while the Dick and Carey reflects an objectivist viewpoint.

I chose these because I wanted to learn more about each of them as I have heard mention of them in my Foundations of Educational Technology class, but was not well versed in their construction. I am new to this field and wanted to choose two models that would clearly illustrate their divergent qualities.

The articles were located through a search of the UF Library electronic database and the use of an internet search engine.

The first article, “Blueprints for Complex Learning: The 4C/ID Model” explains a model which is best suited for complex learning.  The model is comprised of four basic components: Learning tasks, supportive information, procedural information and part-task procedure.

The model proposes that complex learning involves the integration of learning skills and is best done in real-life situations.  The horizontal and vertical relationship between skills must be considered when designing a training program.  The designer must also consider those skills that vary from problem to problem and those that are highly consistent.

For expertise to be developed in the learner, it is important to recognize the need for the schema to transfer the non-recurrent skills and for it to create set rules for the recurrent skills.  The 4C/ID model aims to create conditions where complex cognitive skills can be developed in a variety of real-life situations by employing four components.

The first component requires that learning tasks be performed in a real or simulated environment and where they are put into task classes, organized from simple to complex. This classification determines the learning sequence. Product or process-oriented support is offered in a ‘scaffolding’ fashion, with less support offered as the learner progresses.

Supportive information forms a bridge between what the learner knows and what they are learning for non-recurrent skills and is grouped by task classes.  Mental models and cognitive strategies are employed to help learners’ performance and cognitive feedback promotes schema construction.

Recurrent skills are addressed by providing information precisely when the learners need it. This JIT information is available to the learner through informational displays, demonstrations and instances, and immediate corrective feedback.  This information will help with develop the automaticity of the skill.

Repeated part-task practice provides for subsequent strengthening of skills and is critical if the learner is to move up in skills-hierarchy.  An example would be a child learning their multiplication table, where the whole is broken down and taught before they can practice the whole.  Overtraining may be necessary if the skill is to become automatic.

The second article, “The Dick and Carey Model: Will it Survive the Decade?” addressed an older ISD model and argued for its relevance in today’s academic applications.  The author explores the paradigm shift since the initial development of the model in 1968.

The influence of performance technology, context analysis, Kirkpatrick’s multi-level evaluation and total quality management influenced the modification of the model into its current design (pg. 56).

This model is systematic in nature and is based on the overall learning process. With nine components, plus a cumulative evaluation phase, it is built for a cycle of iteration.

Beginning with a needs analysis to determine instructional goals, the designer then conducts an instructional analysis to understand what the learners are doing when they are performing the goal and to determine what skill and knowledge is required. Then the learner is evaluated to identify their skill level, preferences and environment.

The designer then writes the performance objectives and later develops assessment instruments for criterion-referenced testing. Next, the instructional strategy is developed and instructional materials are created or selected. Formative evaluation is now emphasized in this model to ensure that a transfer of learning to the performance environment has occurred.

The author critiques his model by pointing out the limiting factors of the system. One is that it is not a complete ISD system, as it does not include procedures for total performance systems analysis, nor include procedures for implementing and maintaining instruction. (pg. 58). The greatest critique is that the model is a fixed, linear approach to designing instruction. To this Dick answers that the model is a systems model that encourages novice designers to learn a process in an orderly fashion. Once comfortable with the steps, they can move around in the process, with the output of one step easily flowing into the input of another step, thus allowing for creativity.

The differences in the two models were blatant in that they reflected fundamentally different philosophical theories. The 4C/ID model embraces a constructivist, interpretive approach, while the Dick and Carey (D&C) uses an objectivist approach with cognitive and behavioral prescriptions.

It is noted that both models have worthy attributes. While the 4C/ID model seems to address the educational problems such as compartmentalization and fragmentation, it is a model best suited for complex learning of skills with multiple performance objectives. The D&C can be used for teaching any skill level, and preferably the more simple ones.

Teaching within a real-life environment is key to the 4C/ID where the D&C model relies on transference of the learned skill into the workplace.  D&C values criterion referenced testing and pre-specifies objectives while the 4C/ID model does not require either of these.  The 4C/ID is learner-centered, allowing for self-assessment and review, while the D&C is a teacher-based, externally assessed program.

As I read both articles, I felt that I would be most comfortable employing the Dick and Carey model on the skills that I will be teaching in the class’ project.  The most obvious reason for this is that I am a novice and feel more comfortable with the systems approach. I have already identified a human performance problem and with this model see how I can readily follow the programmed steps to create instructional materials that will be given to the learners.

While I appreciate the 4C/ID’s contribution to teaching complex skills, the skill I will be addressing is not complex and does not requite automaticity. I will be working on helping faculty maneuver through the tenure and promotion process, which in itself is a systematic procedure. This does not require long-term learning or need to be ingrained in to an individual’s schema. It is a skill that will be used infrequently in a faculty member’s career, but it is a skill that needs to be extremely accurate and efficient. Due to the irregularity of this skill’s performance, the process must be outlined clearly and specifically. I do think that steps can be put into place that create guided learning so the learner can progress at their own rate, a feature of the 4C/ID.

In conclusion, I can appreciate an instructional designer’s tendency to blend different models to meet the learner’s performance objectives.


Dick, Walter (1996). The Dick and Carey Model: Will it Survive the Decade?, Educational Technology Research and Development, 44(3),55 – 63.


Van Merrienboer, J, Clark, R, Croeck, M. (2002) Blueprints for Complex Learning: The 4C/ID Model, Educational Technology Research and Development, 50(2),39-64.