(Archived May 22, 1997)
Marie Wallace made the transition from an academic to a private law librarian in 1971 and continued in the private sector until her retirement in 1995. She continues to be active in continuing education for private law librarians, and has been a moving force behind the creation and maturation of three programs:
|When you are at the design phase of instruction, struggling to combine information content, learning outcomes, instructional techniques and choice of media, you may find Ruth Colvin Clark’s five pieces of content very useful. In her architecture, instructional content is structured using facts, concepts, procedures, processes, and principles. These pieces can be used as a checklist (so you won’t forget an important aspect) or as flexible threads (to be woven into a tapestry of your design). |
For a full exploration, refer to Ruth Colvin Clark’s Developing Technical Training: A Structured Approach for the Development of Classroom and Computer-Based Instructional Materials published by Buzzard’s Bay Press, 1989, also Corporate & Professional Publishing Group, Addison-Wesley, 1992. The book is small, inexpensive and loaded with graphics enabling readers to grasp the ideas quickly.
Although Ms. Clark writes in the training context, I find her five pieces adaptable for use in presentations, other forms of teaching, and multimedia design. Just by switching the component to be emphasized, the design can be adapted to other modes.
In the training model of instruction, the sequence of phases (needs assessment, determining learning objectives, design, delivery and evaluation) is linear but in the Clark content structure, the order of components is your call. The order of the pieces will be a function of what the learners already know, the learning objectives and the media used.
To illustrate the structure for designing instruction using the five easy pieces, here are a few examples from hypothetical instruction on How to Shepardize. This illustration is not meant to be a complete lesson plan.
Facts (Arbitrary, difficult to remember items of information)
Concepts (Classes of things or ideas learners need to be able to apply)
- Case history
- Case treatment
- Stare decisis
Processes (How things work)
- Shepard’s citators are published for jurisdictions and topics.
- Shepard’s citators are published in print, CD-ROM and online formats.
- The online format is no more current than the print version.
- Coverage dates for volumes are indicated on the spines.
- Libraries usually shelve Shepard’s citators together by jurisdiction.
- A case may be published in more than one Shepard’s citator.
- Shepard’s citators cover both the history and treatment of cases.
- Headnote numbers follow the abbreviation of the reporter in small script.
- Divisions are indicated by running title at the top of the page.
- Each soft back supplement contains a “What Your Library Should Contain” box on the outside cover.
- Competitor citator products are marketed to the legal community.
Procedures (How to perform a specific task)
Task is to find more relevant cases like the good one you have.
- If there are no cost constraints, Shepard’s online is easier to use and automatically retrieves all relevant Shepard’s citators.
- If there are cost constraints and you are using books, select the citator for the jurisdiction and consider additional citators by topic.
- If you need to find cases from other states, use a regional citator.
- If you need to Shepardize a landmark case, use the negative treatment feature online.
- When using the book format, collect everything the library should contain before you start and check your citation in all the parts.
- When you have only the case name, use Shepard’s Case Names citators to complete the information.
Principles (General guidelines)
- Select the correct citator service for your purpose.
- Know the strengths and weaknesses of all the citator products.
- Learn how to use citator products to complement each other.
- After you identify important cases, read them.
- Pay attention to the headnotes notations.
- When cite checking, use the most current service.
- If you can’t find your case, you may have a bum cite.
- Cite checking software may save time but may add hard costs.
To illustrate the flexibility and order of the components, let’s continue with How to Shepardize. If you are teaching library/information school students, concepts will occupy a much larger part of the instruction because most of the concepts will be new to the learners. By contrast, if you are training first year associates, the concepts will be familiar and the associates only need to review them. What will be more important will be procedures (how to perform specific tasks in this organization). Yet again, if you are making a presentation to law office administrators on how to contain the costs of citator services, you might want to concentrate more on the principles. Perhaps you could even incorporate a principle in your title: Pick and Save–Cost Saving Tips on Citator Services.
In my experience, the most common mistake novice instructors make is to cover the process but omit the procedure. When I was trained on Dialog years ago, I learned everything except the procedure for getting into the system via Lexis. Using the five easy pieces will save you and your learners from such an omission.
There are best instructional techniques for each of the five pieces. With facts, you determine whether the facts need to be memorized. If not, make the facts accessible on a reference basis. If yes, provide interactive drill until the facts are mastered. Analogies are good techniques for imparting concepts. Concepts can also be illustrated with examples/non-examples and reinforced with exercises.
Ms. Clark’s book covers instructional techniques in detail. Since many LLRX readers are experienced teachers and trainers, I have summarized the best technique for each component in an applications chart which follows. The techniques vary according to your role and the media available. Are you a presenter, teacher, trainer, or designer? Presenters might want to emphasize principles (because presenting is about persuading and informing), teachers might want to highlight processes (because teaching is about how a subject works), trainers might stress procedures (because training is about job tasks) and designers might want to merge all five together in a seamless performance support system capable of branching to any of the five as needed by the user.
Five easy pieces are like the fingers on your hand. They are there for you, there order never changes but you can do many things with them, especially when it comes to designing instruction.
Personality on the Stage
Sage on the Stage
Guide on the Side
Hide the Guide
|Online help |
|Job aid |
|Embedded information |
Context sensitive help
|Procedures||Decision tree |
Translate to procedure
Select one or more of the instructional techniques below for each of the five easy pieces: facts, concepts, procedures, processes, and principles. Feel free to add some techniques of your own or disagree with my Applications Chart. Check your answers with Ms. Clark’s book.
|action table |
context sensitive help
q & a session
tours of facilities
tips embedded in tools