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Heralded as a pioneer in educational instruction, Robert M. Gagné revolutionized instructional design principles with his WW II-era systematic approach, often referred to as the Gagné Assumption. The general idea, which seems familiar today, is that different things are best learned using different methods. Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction are a perfect example of how to implement this concept.
Using this adaptive model, teachers can connect with students in a way that is suitable to their learning styles in any given circumstance. Through this manner, students achieve more optimal learning outcomes and become true subject matter experts.
A key facet of Gagné’s model is its flexibility. For instance, it can be readily incorporated into Bloom’s Taxonomy concepts, and vice versa, with the end product being worth more than the sum of the parts.
See also: Gagné’s Taxonomy of Learning
The nine steps of Gagne’s “Events of Instruction” are:
- Gaining the attention of the students
- Informing the learner of the objective
- Stimulating recall of prior learning
- Presenting the content
- Providing learning guidance
- Eliciting the performance
- Providing feedback
- Assessing the performance
- Enhancing retention and transfer
Let’s examine each of the steps and break them down further.
1. Gaining attention
No educator on Earth can teach a subject without first getting the student’s attention. This is easier said than done, but failing in this first task sets all subsequent tasks up for failure, too. Students enter class with their minds on other things, and it’s the teacher’s job to get them primed, focused, and ready to learn the topic at hand.
A few tricks to set the mood include:
- Asking a question they don’t expect
- Bringing up an interesting point of trivia
- Challenging them with a problem
- Using a loud and unexpected tone or other audio stimuli
- An eye-catching visual stimulus
- Establishing a student-to-student exercise
There is no shortage of tactics to get student attention. The point of this step is to make sure it’s done so they can transition into the proper state of mind.
2. Informing the learner of the objective
When giving speeches, we’re often told to “tell them what we’re going to tell them.” That idea holds true here, as well. Once we have their attention, we want to quickly educate the student about what they should expect to learn during the lesson. This further primes them and gets them ready to receive information and predict what they’ll need to comprehend and deliver at the end.
The best way to accomplish this step is to outline the concrete learning objectives and outcomes simply. This can be done any number of ways, including:
- Providing measurable criteria they must meet at the end of the lesson
- Explaining a task they’ll be asked to perform
- Drawing a clear connection between prior-stated objectives and later assessments
- Involving the students themselves by asking for their input in determining ways to test knowledge and understanding
3. Stimulating recall of prior learning
After you’ve gotten their attention and explained the lesson’s objectives, it’s time to prime them even further and draw out their prior-learned knowledge of the given topic. Having students remember what they know provides a refresher, so they’re ready to add to that foundation via scaffolding techniques.
This step also has several ways it can be completed. For example:
- Doing a quick summary or review of past lessons
- Prompting students to answer questions about things they learned before related to the subject
- Asking the students to explain what they recall
- Using engaging audiovisual presentations of material
- Incorporating elements of prior-learned information into the new lessons, as a bridge from one to the other
See also: How To Design A Course
4. Presenting the content
Now that you’ve told the students what you’re going to tell them and gotten them pre-engaged with the subject matter, it’s time to present the lesson material and scaffold upon that prior knowledge base.
Ideally, this presentation stage should be carefully planned out, but with enough flexibility to allow for spontaneous discourse. Teachers should strive to offer material using various delivery methods, such as audiovisual media, lectures, physical demonstrations when applicable, and hands-on practice whenever possible.
It’s also encouraged to incorporate technology when feasible, as most modern learners have grown up using devices and the Internet and are thus quite tech-savvy. Learning management system platforms are a great way to stay organized and keep track of work while enabling simple peer collaboration from a distance.
5. Providing learning guidance
Before and during the content presentation, it’s beneficial to provide students with examples of suitable outcomes. This way, there is no confusion about what will be considered acceptable versus what falls outside that range.
For instance, if you ask them to write an essay, it’s handy to offer them a sample of what a perfect essay would look like for the purpose of the lesson. Giving an example of what not to do is an excellent way to offer contrast, so they can avoid making mistakes.
Other aspects of this step include providing anything that helps the learner achieve their goal of understanding the lesson. Graphs, stories, role-playing, mnemonic memory tricks, or stimuli that facilitate memory by attributing value to the lesson concepts are all potentially useful.
The point here is to help the information be understood in the present and stored deep enough so as not to be forgotten the moment they walk out the door. In other words, they must remember what is taught because that will be the foundation for the next lesson and the new round of scaffolding.
See also: Inclusive Teaching Strategies
6. Eliciting the performance (practice)
As the educator, you have just completed four critical steps in Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction. Now it’s time for the students to do their part!
They must either practice or demonstrate their newfound knowledge in a manner you can assess. This is known as eliciting the performance, i.e., giving them the chance to show you that they did their job and learned what you taught. It’s a critical step because it allows educators to gauge their success and lets the student practice and thereby reinforce knowledge. Repetition always helps with memorization as well as confidence-building.
A few ways to elicit performance include tests, quizzes, classroom presentations, essays, group projects, and application-oriented lab exercises.
See also: Formative and Summative Assessment
7. Providing feedback
Instructor real-time feedback is crucial to completing the teaching-learning cycle. Generally-speaking, feedback should be personalized, constructive, positive, and immediate. There are a few unique types of feedback with specific purposes:
- Confirmatory feedback informs the student whether or not they are complying with guidance on how to complete an assignment, without exploring how well they did or what they might need to work on.
- Evaluative feedback lets the student know your current appraisal of their assignment’s quality without getting into details about how they might do better.
- Remedial feedback is a type of feedback designed to adjust a student’s line of thinking or course of action so they can come to find an answer on their own, without telling them that answer directly.
- Descriptive or analytic feedback is explicitly designed to boost student performance by offering additional assistance, including tips or exact action steps to take.
Peer-evaluation helps students recognize differences between their work and that of peers to close the gap. Self-evaluation teaches ways students can spot areas for improvement on their own.
8. Assessing the performance
After the student demonstrates their level of understanding and has been given feedback, the teacher can do a comprehensive assessment to gauge the extent they met objectives. Keep in mind one performance cannot provide enough data to measure overall knowledge and abilities. Still, it will give enough insights to measure how well they learned and stored the information provided during a particular lesson.
Assessment techniques include giving oral quizzes or offering pre- and post-lesson quizzes to measure learning efficacy. No matter which methods are used, they should be objective, logical, and based on pre-established criteria outlined in rubrics when practical.
9. Enhancing retention and transfer
Once teachers have assessed the above steps’ effectiveness, it is time to build upon them to increase retention and transfer. Here, retention implies the student’s ability to internalize then remember what they learned, whereas transfer describes their capacity to apply the knowledge and skills in the real world.
Both are readily enhanced through an abundance of practice, though to the greatest extent possible such practice should be creative and not merely rote repetition, which tends to bore learners. Another potential problem educators can run into with this step is time itself, for it’s often difficult to squeeze in meaningful practice at the end of lessons.
- A few practical tips for enhancement include adding questions about previously-taught content into future exams to keep students on their toes
- Finding ways to link concepts together versus isolating them
- Giving creative assignments that require students to think about the lesson in dynamic new ways
- Being transparent about goals and learning outcomes, so students can see exactly what they’re supposed to learn for each lesson as well as by the end of all lessons
Below is a concise review of Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction along with practical examples that teachers can use to complete each within their lessons:
See also: Backward design
- Gain attention: Get the students primed and focused, so they’re ready to learn the topic at hand.
- Use attention-grabbing “ice breaker-type” leading questions or challenges
- Throw out a bit of interesting trivia about a controversial current event
- Ask their opinions and comments about an entertaining topic
- Bring out eye-catching visuals and audio stimuli
- Inform learners of objectives: Tell students what they’ll learn during the lesson to get them in the proper state of mind and so they can anticipate what they’ll need to do afterward.
- Deliver this information via slides, a written syllabus, or other formats
- Include complete details about assignments, readings, activities, etc.
- Stimulate recall of prior learning: Prime students for learning new material by refreshing their memories of prior-learned content.
- Conduct summaries of past lessons
- Explain how you’ll scaffold upon the foundation of prior lessons
- Connect the material from the past to the current lesson and bridge the gap
- Utilize discussion forums if teaching online.
- Present the content: Once the environment is ready and students are receptive and primed, it’s time to teach the applicable lesson.
- Ensure you did your homework and devised a carefully planned out lesson
- Keep things flexible enough to allow for discussions
- Incorporate a variety of content delivery methods to keep students engaged, such as audiovisual content, readings, group projects, and other creative ideas
- Demonstrate through physical methods when applicable and appropriate
- Allow for hands-on practice when feasible
- Leverage the power of technology and the Internet whenever lessons can be tailored around it (see also: How to use wikis and blogs)
- Provide “learning guidance”: Explain clearly to students what is expected for them to understand and any instructions needed to achieve successful outcomes.
- Don’t make students guess what they’re supposed to be learning or doing
- Offer examples of what is acceptable versus what is not
- Make relevant facts and guidance clear, not ambiguous
- Use graphs, timelines, stories, rubrics, role-playing, mnemonic memory tricks, and anything else that helps students comprehend and store pertinent information
- Elicit performance (practice): Instruct students to practice or demonstrate their newfound knowledge so it can be assessed.
- Be sure all steps above have been completed and that students are aware they’ll be assessed and given feedback
- Create a stress-free environment where students can focus on showing their understanding of what was taught
- Have students practice in groups, when possible
- Offer a range of practice opportunities, including lab work and other hands-on activities
- Use scaffolding techniques to ensure practice builds upon previous work and sets the stage for future work
- Provide feedback: Offer immediate feedback on student tasks that is personalized, constructive, and positive.
- Remember the different types of feedback and use the correct type for every circumstance:
- Confirmatory — telling a student if they’re complying with guidance or not
- Evaluative — appraising student work quality but without giving details
- Remedial — guiding students to find the correct answer without telling it to them
- Descriptive or analytic feedback — boosting student performance by giving extra assistance
- Peer-evaluation and self-evaluation — having students help each other and themselves
- Use formative feedback for brief assignments, and summative for fuller assessments
- Incorporate technology tools including software that can expedite actions and increase efficiency
- Remember the different types of feedback and use the correct type for every circumstance:
- Assess performance: Conduct a comprehensive assessment to determine how well students met their learning objectives so learning gaps can be addressed.
- Use a mix of assessment tools, including but not limited to standard tests, pre- and post-lesson quizzes, essays, activities, and hands-on assignments
- Be transparent, objective, and fair in all assessments
- Grade work against pre-established criteria and evaluation rubrics
- Remember that one assessment isn’t a gauge of ability; take into consideration the unique aspects of the applicable learner as well as any obstacles to learning they may face
- Enhance retention and transfer: Teachers should do everything possible to help students retain the information they worked so hard to learn and give them chances to personalize their learned experience to apply it to their own life or job.
- Ask students to write an essay describing how the lesson impacted them and what they might do with the new information
- Assemble students into discussion groups and provide prompts for them to talk about
- If the lesson is conducive to a hands-on activity related to practical, customized use of the information given, have students complete such activities either in class or as homework
See also: Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
Clearly, Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction is a highly-organized, action-oriented methodology that empowers educators with a solid framework they can use to increase teaching efficacy in virtually any setting. It’s flexible enough to be modified for a wide range of circumstances and simple enough to be readily incorporated into your existing lesson plans. The emphasis is firmly placed on the learner and teachers doing everything possible to ensure students capture, retain, and use the information taught to them. In this regard, it’s every teacher’s dream come true!
See also: Flipped Classroom