Sunday, February 15, 2009



In 1962 when Robert Gagne published Military Training and Principles of Learning he demonstrated a concern for the different levels of learning. His differentiation of psycho motor skills, verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, and attitudes provides a companion to Bloom's Taxonomy. Later, he extended his thinking to include nine instructional events ( The Conditions of Learning and the Theory of Instruction (1965)) that detail the conditions necessary for learning to occur. These events are still important for the basis for the design of instruction and the selection of appropriate media:

1. gain attention
2. tell learners the learning objective
3. stimulate recall
4. present the stimulus, content
5. provide guidance, relevance, and organization
6. elicit the learning by demonstrating it
7. provide feedback on performance
8. assess performance, give feedback and reinforcement
9. enhance retention and transfer to other contexts

Gain attention

In order for any learning to take place, you must first capture the attention of the student.. A multimedia program that begins with an animated title screen sequence accompanied by sound effects or music startles the senses with auditory or visual stimuli. An even better way to capture students' attention is to start each lesson with a thought-provoking question or interesting fact. Curiosity motivates students to learn.

Inform learners of objectives

Early in each lesson students should encounter a list of learning objectives. This initiates the internal process of expectancy and helps motivate the learner to complete the lesson. These objectives should form the basis for assessment and possible certification as well. Typically, learning objectives are presented in the form of "Upon completing this lesson you will be able to. . . ." The phrasing of the objectives themselves will be covered under Robert Mager's contributions later in this chapter.

Stimulate recall of prior learning

Associating new information with prior knowledge can facilitate the learning process. It is easier for learners to encode and store information in long-term memory when there are links to personal experience and knowledge. A simple way to stimulate recall is to ask questions about previous experiences, an understanding of previous concepts, or a body of content.

Present the content

This event of instruction is where the new content is actually presented to the learner. Content should be chunked and organized meaningfully, and typically is explained and then demonstrated. To appeal to different learning modalities, a variety of media should be used if possible, including text, graphics, audio narration, and video.

Provide "learning guidance"

To help learners encode information for long-term storage, additional guidance should be provided along with the presentation of new content. Guidance strategies include the use of examples, non-examples, case studies, graphical representations, mnemonics, and analogies.

Elicit performance (practice)

In this event of instruction, the learner is required to practice the new skill or behavior. Eliciting performance provides an opportunity for learners to confirm their correct understanding, and the repetition further increases the likelihood of retention.

Provide feedback

As learners practice new behavior it is important to provide specific and immediate feedback of their performance. Unlike questions in a post-test, exercises within tutorials should be used for comprehension and encoding purposes, not for formal scoring. Additional guidance and answers provided at this stage are called formative feedback.

Assess performance

Upon completing instructional modules, students should be given the opportunity to take (or be required to take) a post-test or final assessment. This assessment should be completed without the ability to receive additional coaching, feedback, or hints.

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