Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction

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This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, June 2017


See also Robert Mills Gagné | Instructional design models | Research Portal for Academic Librarians | Teaching library users

Robert Mills Gagné (1916 – 2002) was an American educational psychologist best known for his 1965 monograph "Conditions of Learning". Much of Gagné's research is focussed on issues related to the sequencing of learning and instructional events in the classroom, and how learning objectives might be better connected to appropriate instructional designs and strategies.

Gagné suggests that learning tasks for intellectual skills can be organized in a hierarchy of learning events according to complexity: stimulus recognition, response generation, procedure following, use of terminology, discriminations, concept formation, rule application, and problem solving. The primary significance of the hierarchy is to identify prerequisites that should be completed to facilitate learning at each level. Prerequisites are identified by doing a task analysis of a learning/training task. Learning hierarchies provide a basis for the sequencing of instruction. According to Good & Brophy (1990), Gagne's nine events are meant to be "... taken into account when designing instruction. Although some steps might need to be rearranged (or might be unnecessary) for certain types of lessons, the general set of considerations provide a good checklist of key design steps."

Intellectual framework

While Gagné's theoretical framework covers many aspects of learning, the focus is on the development of intellectual skills. The theory can be applied to the design of instruction in many subject areas and domains (Gagner & Driscoll, 1988). In its original form (Gagne, 1962), there was considerable attention given to using the framework in military training. By 1987, Gagné had moved firmly into addressing the multifaceted role of using instructional technologies and their role in learning. Some of Gagné's work is based on cognitive modelling where learning occurs sequentially in the framework. Here, instructors and designers can see for themselves how adult learners are led through stimulating content and presented with opportunities to engage in the classroom. Gagné nine instructional events suggests that there are contiguous levels (or events) and that specific instructional approaches are needed to enact them. The cognitive processes in the nine events serve as a foundation for instructional design, even today. Some critics, however, contend that Gagné's models are out of date, and no longer speak to the demands of 21st century learners; still others suggest that the nine events of instructional design are timeless and form a foundation for all instructors.

Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction

Gagné created a nine-step process called the events of instruction, which address various conditions of learning. These nine steps can be very useful for academic librarians in their design of instructional workshops, seminars and classrooms to support their work in information literacy: In addition, the theory outlines each contiguous instructional event and corresponding cognitive processes:

  1. Gain attention of learners (reception)
  2. Inform learners of learning objectives (expectancy)
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning (retrieval)
  4. Present the content (stimulus), and break it down into components to avoid information overload (selective perception)
  5. Provide "learning guidance" (semantic encoding)
  6. Elicit performance (practice/ responding)
  7. Provide feedback to learners (reinforcement)
  8. Assess their performance (retrieval of information)
  9. Enhance knowledge retention and transfer to real-life, authentic work (generalization)

Strengths & weaknesses

Strengths Weaknesses
~ Gagne's conditions of learning are similar to guidelines; more heuristic than prescriptive ~ The systematic approach is comprehensive but Gagne does not allow step for planning
~ The nine events form the background structure to build lessons on; students master one step before moving on to the next; retention and transfer leads to durable learning ~ With nine steps, the model can feel long & arduous
~ Gagne explains lessons should follow instructional events but sequence can be changed ~ Some goals are easy to classify as learning outcomes but many are not
~ Gagne's events is a process-oriented model; you won't miss any major parts of the process ~ Repetition may not be well received by learners; may feel inhibited by it

'Applying' Gagne in the classroom

The following table suggests how the nine events can be applied to designing different technology-supported learning platforms:

Gagne's Nine (9) Events Online gaming Learning modules Course Management System| CMS/LMS
#1 – Gain attention
  • use quality video clips & audio
  • use animation, video, audio
  • tell a story, pose a question
  • send an email or social media invitation
  • provide a space for introductions for learners
  • use graphics
#2 – Inform learner of objective(s)
  • discuss how to 'win'
  • give overview, rules & tasks/quests
  • give overview of goals
#3 – Stimulate recall
  • draw on learners' background
  • incorporate pre-tests
  • draw on information from previous module(s)
  • relate past module content to new material
  • provide module reviews
  • use pre-tests
#4 – Present material
  • use ideas that encourage yet challenge
  • use clear, current & accurate material
  • put user-controlled, easy to navigate content & information front & centre
  • provide animation and 3D models
  • present material that is clear, up-to-date & accurate
  • provide paper-based support & link to online articles, videos, audio etc.
  • consider information literacy & media literacy skills
#5 – Provide guidance
  • offer hints, pop-ups, alternates, suggestions
  • provide "help" guides and tutorials
  • provide email contacts
  • set-up chat-rooms and threaded discussions
  • offer answers to FAQ
  • include links to supporting references/glossaries
#6 – Elicit performance
  • assign tasks/quests/challenges/problems
  • assign meaningful tasks & activities
  • give clear & concise instructions
  • incorporate group and 'buddy' work
  • try social media, Facebook, Twitter
  • provide a means for posting
  • include element of individual responsibility
#7 – Provide feedback
  • add up scores
  • provide reward for achieving level
  • plan for written and/or audio feedback
  • add up scores
  • give written and verbal feedback
  • use animated rewards for correct answers
  • provide corrective feedback
  • include "you've now completed..." messages, encouragement
  • encourage instructor use of discussion threads
  • incorporate assignment drop-off box/feedback tools
#8 – Assess performance
  • ensure achievement is assessed
  • track scores/best scores
  • incorporate score reporting (via email)
  • incorporate EPortfolio into process
  • monitor & track student participation
#9 – Enhance retention & transfer
  • ensure skills are transferable between levels
  • ensure knowledge is transferable across genres
  • note transferable information in feedback
  • suggest websites for further information
  • provide material sequentially
  • suggest further readings
  • provide real-world examples, optional tasks
  • make connections with other courses & networks


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