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Robert Gagne was an experimental psychologist
who was concerned with learning and instruction.
His earlier work was in a behaviorist tradition, but
later he was influenced by the information-
processing view of learning and memory. He is
well known for his synthesis of research on
learning and the identification of internal and
external conditions of learning.
Learning according to Gagne
Learning is cumulative. Human intellectual
development is the building of increasing complex
structures of human capabilities.
Learning is the mechanism by which an individual
becomes a competently functioning member of
Learning results in different kinds of human
behaviors, i.e. different human capabilities, which
are required both from the stimulation from the
environment and the cognitive processing
undertaken by the learners.
Underlying Assumptions derived from
Gagné's ideas about learning and instruction
Because learning is complex and diverse, different
learning outcomes (capabilities) requires different
instructions, prerequisites and processing by the
learners. In other words, the specific operations that
constitute instructional events are different for each
different type of learning outcome.
Events of learning operate on the learner in ways that
constitute the conditions of learning. The internal states
required in the learner to acquire the new skills are
internal conditions of learning, and the environmental
stimuli required to support the internal learning process
are external conditions of learning. Learning hierarchies
Five domains of learning outcomes
Gagne stressed that different variables influence the
learning of different types of tasks. He identified five
domains of learning outcomes:
Domain Definition Example
names, labels, or
organized bodies of
Naming the three branches of
government; describing the
rules of a card game; explaining
Freud's theories; listing causes
concepts, and rules
to solve problems
Distinguishing between different
stimuli like recognizing that two
musical notes are different,
identifying things that belong in
the same category like different
types of virus; applying a rule to
determine something like
calculating the distance it will
take a car to stop; solving a
problem that is new for you such
as determining how much paint
it will take to paint the exterior
of your house
Domain Definition Example
Playing catch with a baseball; writing
your name with a pen; assembling a
Choices we make
to behave in
Choosing to follow proper etiquette
when having dinner with new
acquaintances; showing regard for a
sick co-worker by offering to help them
get their work done; being open to new
ideas by allowing someone to express
his suggestion fro accomplishing a work
task when it differs from your
Using ways to
Determining how to approach a new
learning situation; deciding how to go
about learning a long list of items;
creating a way to remember the names
of several people you just met
1. provide a meaningful context
2. provide opportunity for practice storing and retrieving
information in memory
3. stress relationships among content to be learned
4. provide additional practice over time
1. recall of specific prerequisite intellectual skills
1. observation of a model performing skill in a correct manner
2. opportunity to practice performing the skill
3. receiving feedback on your performance that shows you what to
change and how
1. observation of a model who shows the desired choice and is
reinforced as a result
2. making the desired choice and receiving direct reinforcement as
1. provide opportunities to work with novel problems
2. have students monitor their cognition
3. allow students to observe expert problem solvers at work
Relevant conditions of Learning
Subcategories of Intellectual Skills
Intellectual skills are the domain of learning the Gagne
placed the most emphasis on in his own work.
He thought that mastery of intellectual skills was
fundamental to education and much more important
than learning specific information.
There are several subcategories of intellectual skills
organize from simple skills to more complex skills. The
ability to master the more complex skills is a direct
result of having already mastered the specific
prerequisite lower-level or simpler skills.
Intellectual Skill Example
Encountering a new situation in which you have to decide which
rules to apply and in what combination and sequence to resolve a
Determining how to reduce your company's energy consumption
by 15% next year.
Applying a rule, a principle or formula to resolve a situation.
Determining the impact of a 5% increase in mortgage rates on
Grouping objects based on a classifying rule.
Identifying a country that freely elected its leaders by popular vote
as a democracy;
Classifying a period of time in which real wages and prices for
goods and services rise as inflationary
Grouping objects based on physical characteristics.
Sorting different tree leaves into groups based on their species;
identifying different skin rashes according to the type of rash;
Telling that two or more stimuli are different.
Distinguishing between two different sounds or recognizing that
two fish are not the same.
Nine Events of Learning
As part of his theory Gagne built upon the information
processing model by considering what must happen
externally to the learner to facilitate this internal processing
of information that goes on during learning. That is, what
can a teacher do to facilitate a student learning new content
based on the information processing model of learning. He
identified nine events of learning that should happen to
optimally facilitate students internal processing of
information. (These events were based on empirical
observations of the instructional procedures and the
information-processing model of learning and memory. )
These Events of Instruction are sequenced in this order
because each event impacts the internal processing of
information as we attend to input from our senses, move
information into the sensory register, and then into short-
The first step is to gain students' attention and
motivate him to engage with the content.
Student needs to be clarified what he can expect.
3. Stimulate recall of
Prior knowledge should be activated since it is
important for learning new materials.
4. Present stimulus
Present the material to the students, possibly using
various learning styles.
5. Provide learner
Guidance in terms of communication enables the
teacher to direct the students in their learning or
enable them easier information encoding through
visual or other materials.
6. Elicit performance
Students need practice. Practice should
immediately follow instructions and be well
defined in terms of its nature, objectives and
expected student responses.
Feedback is additional guidance offering the
student immediate evaluation of his performance
enabling him to realize his mistakes and
At the end of each course student's knowledge
should be assessed in order to check if expected
learning has occurred
The learning process does not end when the class
does. The teacher should advise students how
and in which context to apply and transfer the just
gained knowledge in the world outside the
Based on his research, Gagné in 1968 proposed the
theory of cumulative learning, based on the premise
that new learning most of all depends on combining
previously acquired and recalled material and skills,
but also on the ability of learning transfer.
In his own words, “There is a specifiable minimal
prerequisite for each new learning task. Unless the
learner can recall this prerequisite capability… he can
not learn the new task”