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The I-LEARN Model: Introduction

Guide which describes and provides example of a learning model to support student critical thinking and research skills

Introduction to the I-LEARN Model


This website has been designed to provide you with an introduction to I-LEARN (Neuman, 2011), a learning model to support students in the research and critical thinking process.  The model provides a framework to help students learn through using information.

This website tab, INTRO, provides information to you as a faculty member, researcher, or librarian interested in using the I-LEARN model, including:

  • Brief overview of theory behind the model
  • Description of the iterative stages of the model
  • Summary of previous use of the model
  • Questions and ideas for future use of the model

The remaining tabs of this guide serve as an example for how the model has been put into practice previously. These tabs correspond to each element of the I-LEARN model, pictured on the right [image credit below]:

Neuman, D. (2011). Learning in information-rich environments: I-LEARN and the construction of knowledge in the 21st century.  New York: Springer.

Watch for a revised edition of Learning in Information-Rich Environments coming in Fall 2019 from Springer with co-authors Mary Jean Teece DeCarlo, Vera J. Lee, Stacey Greenwell, and Allen Grant.

For questions or comments about this site, contact Stacey Greenwell at the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Theory Behind I-LEARN

After years of collaboration between the fields of instructional design and library and information science, the I-LEARN model is built upon information science and instructional design theory and practice. The model is a learning model which could be applied in a variety of situations focused in nearly any subject.

In addition to its strong theoretical foundation from the fields of instructional design and library and information science, what also sets the I-LEARN model apart is that its core is information, the building block of all learning, and the model is focused primarily on information use.

Constructing Knowledge in the 21st  Century: I-LEARN and Using Information as a Tool for Learning, provides a brief overview of the theory behind the model.

Description of I-LEARN

Recursive and flexible, the I-LEARN model can be used in any information setting.  The model includes six elements:

  • Identify an information problem by activating an interest, scanning the environment, and focusing on a question

  • Locate the needed information through searching and extracting the relevant information

  • Evaluating that information through questioning its authority, relevance, and timeliness

  • Applying that information to the question thorough organizing and communicating

  • Reflecting on what is found and revising as needed

  • kNowing through personalizing and internalizing the information (Neuman, 2011)

Summary of Greenwell's Previous Research Using I-LEARN

An initial experimental study (Greenwell, 2013) examined whether information literacy skills instruction designed using the I-LEARN model increased student understanding and application of information literacy concepts as compared to how librarians currently provide information literacy skills instruction. While I-LEARN was developed with K-12 in mind, the initial study of implementing the model was conducted in a required composition course for first year undergraduate students at a mid-sized public university. The experimental group received an instruction session and an online library research guide designed using the I-LEARN model, and the control group received an instruction session and an online library guide designed using a systems model.

Participants in the study who completed a survey found the instruction to be valuable and a good use of class time. Participants reported that they found the library research guide to be useful, and based upon hits to the guide and self reporting of usage, it appears that most participants used the guide for their assignment. While the analysis of the results of pre- and post-test scores and scores on a citation analysis showed that there was no significant difference between the two groups, it appears that those who received the I-LEARN instruction performed at least as well on their assignments. Additionally, students who received the I-LEARN instruction used their research guide more often than students who received the standard instruction.

Greenwell, S. (2016). Using the I-LEARN Model for Information Literacy Instruction. Journal of Information Literacy10(1), 67-85.

Greenwell, S. (2014).  Using the I-LEARN Model to design information literacy Instruction (pp. 400-407). In S. Kurbonaglu, S. Spiranek, E. Grassian, D. Mizrachi, & R. Catts (Eds.). Information Literacy: Lifelong Learning and Digital Citizenship in the 21st Century. New York: Springer.

Greenwell, S. (2013). Using the I-LEARN Model for Information Literacy Instruction: An Experimental Study (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from

Additional I-LEARN Research

Neuman, D., Talafian, H., Grant, A., Lee, V.J., and Tecce DeCarlo, M.J. (2017).The Pedagogy of Information Literacy: Using I-LEARN to Teach. Paper presented at the European Conference on Information Literacy, St. Malo, France.

Tecce DeCarlo, M.J., Grant, A., Lee, V. J., & Neuman, D.  (2017).  Information literacy in the kindergarten classroom:  An I-LEARN case study. Early childhood education journal.

Lee, V. J., Grant, A. G., Neuman, D., & Tecce DeCarlo, M. J. (2016).  A collaborative I-LEARN project with kindergarten and second-grade teachers and students at a university-assisted school. Urban Education.

Neuman, D., Lee, V. J., Tecce DeCarlo, M. J., & Grant, A.  (2016).  Implementing I-LEARN in a high-poverty urban school.  In Hughes-Hassell, S., Bracy, P., & Rawson, C.  Libraries, literacy, and African-American youth:  Research & Practice.  Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Lee, V. J., Grant, A. G., Neuman, D., & Tecce DeCarlo, M. J.  (2016).  Using I-LEARN to foster the information and digital literacies of middle school students. Paper presented at the European Conference on Information Literacy, Prague, Czech Republic.

Neuman, D.  (2016).  Toward a theory of information literacy: Information studies meets instructional design.   Paper to be presented at the European Conference on Information Literacy, Prague, Czech Republic.

Neuman, D., Grant, A., Lee, V., & Tecce DeCarlo, M. J.  (2015).  Information literacy in a high-poverty urban school:  An I-LEARN project.  School Libraries Worldwide, 21(1), 38-53. 

Tecce DeCarlo, M.J., Grant, A., Lee, V. J., & Neuman, D.  (2014).  Information literacy in the kindergarten classroom:  An I-LEARN case study (pp.  243-252).  In Kurbanoglu, S., Spiranec, S., Grassian, E., Mizrachi, D., & Catts, R. (Eds.).  Information Literacy:  Lifelong Learning and Digital Literacy in the 21st Century.  New York:  Springer.

Neuman, D.  (2013).  I-LEARN:  Information literacy for learners (pp. 111-117).  In Kurbanoglu, S., Grassian, E., Mizrachi, D., Catts, R., & Spiranec, S.  (Eds.).  Worldwide Commonalities and Challenges in Information Literacy Research and Practice.  New York:  Springer.

Neuman, D.  (2011).  Constructing knowledge in the 21st Century:  I-LEARN and using information as a tool for learning.  School Library Media Research, 14.

Neuman, D. (2011).  Learning in Information-Rich Environments: I-LEARN and the Construction of Knowledge in the 21st Century.   New York:  Springer.

Course and Research Guides Designed Using I-LEARN

Future study of the use of the I-LEARN model is needed. For example, the model can be used as a framework for developing course guides and research guides:

Legal and Ethical Issues for Professional Communicators

Introduction to Speech Communication

Workplace Writing

Introduction to Psychology

Introduction to Speech Communication [currently inactive]

Introduction to Speech Communication [currently inactive]

Plagiarism [currently inactive]

Research Writing [currently inactive]

Elements of Mineralology [currently inactive]

Abnormal Psychology [currently inactive]

COM 104 [currently inactive]

COM 125 [currently inactive]

COM 400 [currently inactive]

Exploration of Chemical Principles [currently inactive]

Introduction to Methods in Psychology Research [currently inactive]

Introduction to Psychology [currently inactive]

Abnornal Psychology [currently inactive]

Earth Systems Science [currently inactive]

Research Writing [currently inactive]

Expository Writing [currently inactive]

Tradition, Discovery, and the Evolution of Great Ideas [currently inactive]

The remaining tabs on this guide provide an example of using the model as course guide framework as well.


Assignment Guides Designed Using I-LEARN

The model could potentially work well in structuring a course management learning module or video tutorial to help students understand how to work through the critical thinking process and conduct research.