Robert Gagne is an American psychologist. In 1965, Gagne published a book titled “The Conditions of Learning” where he defined nine events of instructions for training applications. In this book, Gagne explained the relationship between learning objectives and instructional design principles.
According to Gagne’s theory, there are five major levels of learning:
- Verbal Information: Retrieve stored information, like recalling a memorized mathematical equation.
- Intellectual Skills: Perform mental operations, such as; problem-solving.
- Cognitive Strategies: Develop new solutions or adapt existing ones to overcome challenging scenarios.
- Motor Skills: Successfully perform a sequence of physical movements to achieve a certain goal, such as; ice skating.
- Attitude: Present a compelling argument about a certain topic.
Each of the above levels requires a different type of instruction. Gagne developed the nine events of instruction to cover all levels of learning. The nine events of instructions, levels of learning, and learning outcomes form the necessary conditions of learning and play a vital role in developing an instructionally-sound course.
The following nine events of instruction form an excellent framework for any course design.
Event 1: Gain Attention
Give learners a clear and motivating reason to complete your course while sustaining the learning journey’s challenges and difficulties. This gives learners a clear direction, context, and goal that will enable them to organize the knowledge they will be receiving throughout the course. Distance learners have more opportunities to get distracted, more so than regular F2F class learners. It’s therefore, important to ensure that learners are all focused on the learning activities. To achieve that, you must stimulate their attention with compelling introductions and thought-provoking discussions. Use trending phrases or attention-grabbing titles, create an enthralling story to introduce your topic, or use open-ended questions.
Event 2: Inform Learners of Objectives
Learning Objectives should take a prominent place at the beginning of the course, it should clearly state what learners are going to learn and be able to do at the end of the course, and what approaches and tools they will be using to achieve these objectives. Objectives should create expectancy and define the structure of the course and its sub lectures. Course resources and activities should be developed to materialize and support the learning objectives. Some of the ways to notify learners about the expected outcomes and objectives of the course prior to course commencement include: summarizing and highlighting course goals and content; defining minimum standards, such as; grades, marks, and timelines; specifying evaluation methodology and criteria.
Event 3: Simulate Recall of Prior Learning
Instructional Designers should relate the content and activities of the course to situations and scenarios that the learners are familiar with, for example, You can relate to information or knowledge presented in a previous lesson, chapter, or exercise. This information will be used to build a knowledge base to progress in the upcoming lessons or chapters of the course.
Event 4: Present the Content
Instructional Designers should present the key points of the lesson using a variety of techniques. Designers should try to vary the format to sustain the learners’ attention and motivation, subsequently, increase comprehension of the material. The content should be meaningfully segmented with measurable and demonstrable sub-goals following each section of the course. Explore lexicon vocabulary and abbreviation before each segment, provide an intro summary for each segment. Follow demonstrations and simulations with explanations. Use a variety of videos, images, presentation slides, and podcasts for each topic.
Event 5: Provide Guidance
Instructional Designers should present the lesson in phases, progressing from simple to complex. It’s important to start the lesson with easy-to-understand information and add more complex information as the lesson progresses. This gives the students the opportunity to build on their existing knowledge and as a result, they will understand the materials better and retain more content. Support learners with online learning aids to help them understand, relate to, and master the course content. Case studies, cheat sheets, flashcards, checklists, discussion forums, labels, gamification, and role-playing sessions provide excellent guidance and support mediums.
Event 6: Elicit Performance
The Instructional Designer should involve learners in discussion and questioning to confirm that they have learned the material. Learners’ active participation should increase understanding and retention of material.
The following strategies should help learners recall, understand, and reinforce what they have already learned:
- Create pop-up boxes to help learners retain past knowledge
- Provide quick review sections
- Access to online resources to help with recall and recap
- Offer conveniently accessible options for the lessons to be downloaded, repeated, and/or reviewed
- Develop flash quizzes to help students recall prior knowledge
- Integrate real-world examples and scenarios
- Incorporate gamification in your course
Event 7: Providing Feedback
As learners respond to questions, Instructional Designers should provide them with reinforcement and remediation. As the course is planned, you can include automated means to assess their current level of comprehension by providing:
Confirmative Feedback: acknowledging that the learner has completed required tasks, quizzes, assessments, and/or assignments.
- Corrective Feedback: notifying learners where they have went wrong and why.
- Remedial Feedback: offering advice and/or encouragement on how to remediate deficiencies.
- Informative Feedback: sharing useful information about performance improvement
- Analytical Feedback: delivering rule-based and/or fact/figure-based feedback on individual performance
Event 8: Assess Performance
Instructional Designers should incorporate quizzes and other assignments in the lessons. Add milestones tests and assessments at every level. Pretesting could help learners find out how much they already know and whether or not they can or should skip certain sections of the course or focus on specific topics. Post-testing should confirm whether learners have well comprehended a specific topic. Use online quizzes, word games, multiple-choice questions, text-based answers to assess learners’ understanding of topics versus predetermined criterion or Criterion-referenced Performance. Use normative-referenced performance to evaluate how learners perform.
Event 9: Enhance Retention and Learning Transfer
Instructional Designers should provide the opportunity for the learners to apply what they have learned to solve real-world scenarios. For instance: learners might be given realistic assignments or provide a reference guide that learners can refer to at any time when they perform the tasks and overcome the challenges presented in the lesson. Instructionally-sound courses should enable learners to translate the knowledge provided by the course into real-world solutions. Some ways to accomplish that include getting learners to map content learned to their everyday life activities, making learners think of specific work-related situations where the new knowledge can be applied, and providing simulated examples; “what if” scenarios and gaming situations that required learners to respond with new skills or knowledge learned in the course.
Gagne’s nine events of instruction provide a framework to design instructionally-sound courses that consider learners’ needs and the logical flow of the course to effectively transfer knowledge and increase learners’ retention and comprehension. It’s not always possible to integrate all nine events into the course design. Nevertheless, We should at least consider them when developing the design.