Robert Gagne
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  • Yale, A.B. 1937
  • Brown, Ph.D. 1940

Career Highlights

  • Professor, Connecticut College (1940-49)
  • Professor, Penn State University (1945-46)
  • Director of Perceptual and Motor Skills Laboratory, U.S. Air Force (1949-58)
  • Professor, Florida State University (present)

Major Contributions to Instructional Development

  • co-developer of "Instructional Systems Design"
  • wrote The Conditions of Learning, 1965
  • co-wrote Principles of Instructional Design

Findings, Research, Studies

Although Gagne's earlier work reflected behaviorist thought, he is considered to be an experimental psychologist who is concerned with learning and instruction. In 1965, Gagne published The Conditions of Learning which outlined the relation of learning objectives to appropriate instructional designs. Gagne identifies five categories of learning:

Taxonomy of Learning Outcomes
Critical Learning Conditions
Verbal Information
Stating previously learned materials such as facts, concepts, principles, and procedures, e.g., listing the seven major symptoms of cancer
  1. Draw attention to distinctive features by variations in print or speech.
  2. Present information so that it can be made into chunks.
  3. Provide a meaningful context for effective encoding of information.
  4. Provide cues for effective recall and generalization of information.

Intellectual Skills: Discriminations, Concrete Concepts, Defined Concepts, Rules, Higher Order Rules

Discriminations: Distinguishing objects, features, or symbols, e.g., hearing different pitches played on a musical instrument

Concrete Concepts: Identifying classes of concrete objects, features, or events, e.g., picking out all the green M&Ms from the candy jar

Defined Concepts: classifying new examples of events or ideas by their definition, e.g., noting "she sells sea shells" as alliteration

Rules: Applying a single relationship to solve a class of problems, e.g., calculating the earned run averages (ERA) of the Atlanta Braves

Higher Order Rules: Applying a new combination of rules to solve a complex problem, e.g., generating a balanced budget for a state organization

  1. Call attention to distinctive features.
  2. Stay within the limits of working memory.
  3. Stimulate the recall of previously learned component skills.
  4. Present verbal cues to the ordering or combination of component skills.
  5. Schedule occasions for practice and spaced review.
  6. Use a variety of contexts to promote transfer.
Cognitive Strategies
Employing personal ways to guide learning, thinking, acting, and feeling, e.g., devising a corporate plan to improve customer relations
  1. Describe or demonstrate the strategy.
  2. Provide a variety of occasions for practice using the strategy.
  3. Provide informative feedback as to the creativity or originality of the strategy or outcome.
Choosing personal actions based on internal states of understanding and feeling, e.g., deciding to exercise daily as a part of preventive health care
  1. Establish an expectancy of success associated with the desired attitude.
  2. Assure student identification with an admired human model.
  3. Arrange for communication or demonstration of choice of personal action.
  4. Give feedback for successful performance; or allow observation of feedback in the human model.
Motor Skills
Executing performances involving the use muscles, e.g., doing a triple somersault dive off the high board
  1. Present verbal or other guidance to cue the executive subroutine.
  2. Arrange repeated practice.
  3. Furnish immediate feedback as to the accuracy of performance.
  4. Encourage the use of mental practice.

Information from: Driscoll, M.(1991) Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Allyn and Bacon.

Gagne's idea is tied to Skinner's idea of sequenced learning events as displayed in his Nine Events of Instruction. The table below shows Gagne's events of instruction and an example lesson that follows it.


Example Lesson: Be Inspired Using Kidspiration
Objective: Students will learn how to use the Kidspiration multimedia software program to create a diagram.
Note: This lesson is geared for K-5 teachers with basic computer skills.

Event of Instruction Lesson Example Rationale
1. Gaining Attention

Teacher tells learners how she has used Kidspiration in the classroom.
Shows an example diagram made using Kidspiration on projection screen/TV monitor.
Asks learners questions about diagramming.

Giving background information creates validity.
The use of multimedia grabs the audience's attention.
Asking questions in the beginning creates an interactive atmosphere.

2. Informing the Learner of the Objective Teacher says, "Today I am going to show you how to use a multimedia presentation software called Kidspiration." Make learners aware of what to expect so that they are aware and prepared to receive information.
3. Stimulating Recall of Prior Learning For this particular group of learners, they have learned previously about Mind Mapping and Schemata. Teacher associates this knowledge with lesson at hand. When learning something new, accessing prior knowledge is a major factor in the process of acquiring new information.
4. Presenting the Stimulus Teacher gives students step-by-step tutorial on using Kidspiration. (My eCoach Kidspiration Guide) and has installed Kidspiration software on their computers. The goal is information acquisition, therefore, the stimulus employed is written content and the actual software program.
5. Providing Learner Guidance

Teacher demonstrates how to create a diagram on the video projection screen/TV monitor. Teacher shows students how to use Kidspiration tools to type in text, add links, add symbols, use sounds, etc.
Learners are allowed to try the tools demonstrated in partners on their computers.

Teacher uses "discovery learning" because learners are adults and it gives them the freedom to explore. Teacher facilitates the learning process by giving hints and cues when needed. Since the audience are teachers with some basic level of technology skills and the software program is easy to follow and understand, guidance is minimal.
6. Eliciting Performance Teacher asks students to demonstrate Kidspiration tools. Requiring the learner to produce based on what has been taught enables the learner to confirm their learning.
7. Giving Feedback Teacher gives immediate feedback to learners after eliciting responses. Regular feedback enhances learning.
8. Assessing Performance Assign a practice activity - Create a diagram that focuses on Farm Animals.
Teacher checks work.
Independent practice forces students to use what they learned and apply it. Assessing such gives instructors a means of testing student learning outcomes.
9. Enhancing Retention and Transfer Teacher asks learners to create activities using Kidspiration for 2nd grade students.
Teacher also charges learner with teaching another learner how to use Kidspiration.
Applying learning in real-life situations is a step towards Mastery Learning.



Conditions of Learning: Gagne

Robert Gagne's Instructional Design Approach

Driscoll, M.(1991) Psychology of Learning for Instruction: Allyn and Bacon.