Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction

The University of Florida. Center for Instructional Technology & Training, ‘Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction‘ (from Robert Gagné’s 1965 book, The Conditions of Learning)

This is a useful list of the nine events of instruction, based on the ‘information processing model’.  It is described on our Moodle page as ‘a behaviourist model which also draws from the cognitive approach.’  It seems very logical, though perhaps less interactive than other approaches I’ve been reading about.  In my own context, I have difficulty with some of the nine events – not a theoretical difficulty, but a difficulty in their application, as I shall explore herewith.

I would instinctively begin by telling a class what I was going to be talking about with them.  In a library context, this would tend to be along the lines of, “help you to use the catalogue more effectively so you can find the materials you need for your studies”; “give you an oversight of the many electronic resources available to you here in RCS, and help you decide which might be most useful to you”; or – for my postgraduate researchers, “help you to work out an effective strategy to keep on top of your citations and bibliography,” in the context of the bundle of useful transferable skills that a doctoral student can be expected to acquire.  There’s a very useful website called Vitae (realising the potential of researchers), from which I use their Vitae Researcher Development Framework as the broad context for my work.

Stimulating recall of prior learning is not quite so easy when you’re giving one-off classes.  The best one can do is to prompt contributions from individual students about how they themselves have, for example, kept on top of their bibliographical references – or relate my cautionary tale of the girl who had a great quotation, with no idea where it came from, and see if anyone else has any other ‘dissertation nightmares’ that they’re brave enough to share.

As I’ve mentioned earlier today, I am hoping to invite students to come ready to share with their peers any ‘good practice’ of their own, so although I’ll obviously be presenting content (step 4), I am hoping not to stand delivering a monologue.  ‘Learning guidance’ (5) in this context will entail demonstrating some key tools.  In an hour, I hadn’t envisaged offering hands-on experience (6), which couldn’t be done in much depth.  I plan for the session to be more one of shared experience, than a computer-based workshop.

As a consequence, Gagne’s events 7 and 8 are not quite applicable to my purposes.  Instead of providing feedback and assessing performance, I would prefer to initiate a discussion, summing up some of the conclusions we’d reached, and encouraging students to come and see me individually if they wanted to explore any particular aspect or technique in greater depth.  I would then follow up a day or two later with an email asking if the session had been helpful; if there were any points I could clarify or expand upon; or any suggestions for future sessions.  This would be how I interpret event 9, since ‘enhance retention and transfer to the job’, whilst desirable, is something I have little control over.

Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction

  1. Gain attention

  2. Inform learners of objectives

  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning

  4. Present the content

  5. Provide “learning guidance”

  6. Elicit performance (practice).

  7. Provide feedback

  8. Assess performance

  9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job

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