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How to Use Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction [Examples]

by | Dec 16, 2019

Creating a learning experience and not sure where to start? Robert Gagne has you covered.

Based on his research from the 1960’s, Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction are intended to provide teachers, trainers, instructors, and instructional designers with a set of guidelines to create efficient and effective learning experiences.

Each step in Gagne’s process provides a communication strategy that is intended to further deepen the human learning process. As each step is completed, learners are meant to become interested, engaged, and invested in the learning topic.

Before you begin designing eLearning courses or instructor-led training materials, make sure you read through and apply all of Gagne’s guidelines.

We suggest printing out the guidelines and using them as a checklist as you design your learning experience. The checklist certainly helps you stay on track, making sure your developed learning output is engaging, memorable, and effective.


How to use the guidelines:

Gagne’s steps are meant to be used in sequential order – starting with the first step and moving through all nine, in order. As you utilize each step, the theory states that learners should become more engaged and invested in the subject matter. Let’s get started!

1. Gain your learner’s attention

As soon as your learning experience begins, BOOM! you must capture your learner’s attention. Presenting a powerful stimulus at the start is essential for gaining learner interest and sustaining motivation and engagement.

Tips for gaining learner attention:

  • Play a humorous video clip
  • Ask a thought-provoking question
  • Tell an emotional story
  • Share surprising statistics or facts
  • Tell a joke
  • Poll the audience
  • Present a challenge
  • Play a game
  • Have learners ask questions
  • Do an ice-breaker activity
  • Have a controversial discussion

2. Inform learners of the objectives

Once your learners are engaged, they need to know what to expect from your learning experience. This helps your audience understand the full picture. Providing expectations around what they will learn helps put your audience in a learning mindset.

Tips for stating objectives:

  • Create an objective slide
  • Explain what the audience will learn and why it is important
  • Describe the goals and outcomes of the learning experience
  • Explain how this information will benefit the learners

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning

Many cognitive psychologists suggest that leveraging prior knowledge is critical to continuing knowledge. That is, new knowledge builds upon old knowledge that’s already stored in our long-term memory. In this step, the goal is to activate the recall of that old knowledge. Once the old knowledge is recalled (or remembered), it makes it easier to connect the dots to new information.

Tips for stimulating recall:

  • Ask questions from the last lesson
  • Conduct pop quizzes
  • Post discussion board questions related to prior knowledge
  • Perform pre-tests to understand what the audience already knows
  • Create lesson plans that build upon each other

4. Present the learning content

This is the most straightforward step of all – do the teaching! This is where a variety of different approaches can be used to present the learning content to the learners. Make sure to adjust and use appropriate methods if you are creating an instructor-led learning program or a virtual online learning program.

As you’re developing your presentation of learning content, it’s important to remember a few key tips. Make sure your learning content is well-organized and structured in smaller chunks. Especially in eLearning, ensure that the content is engaging by using images, videos, and relevant multimedia.

Tips for presenting the learning content:

  • Assign books/articles
  • Watch videos
  • Perform lectures
  • Require writing (or notes)
  • Assign activities and projects
  • Post homework assignments

5. Provide guidance for learning

As an instructional designer, you need to make the learning experience as simple and straightforward as possible. Sometimes that means providing exact instructions on where to click and what to do next. It may seem intuitive to you, but it often helps to be overly clear in your instructions to avoid any confusion.

Tips for providing learning guidance:

  • Provide expectations as needed
  • Write clear and concise instructions
  • Provide an accessible ‘next’ button for online learning experiences
  • Include tips on how best to navigate the course

6. Elicit performance (allow time for practice)

After content is presented, you need to allow time for learners to practice. The mix of repetition and recall is critical to any deep-learning. After all, this is the first time your audience has the chance to apply what they’ve learned.

Tips for eliciting performance:

  • Knowledge checks, quizzes, and tests
  • eLearning branching scenarios
  • Activities, projects, and writing assignments
  • Role-playing situations
  • Group discussions and sharing

7. Provide timely feedback 

Personalized, immediate feedback is most effective for learning. Feedback is the only way your learners know what they’re doing correctly and what they need to improve upon. Make sure your learning experience has some type of feedback system built-in. This is easier to implement for instructor-led learning experiences than for eLearning, but it can still be done.

Tips for providing feedback:

  • Personalized written feedback on assignments and projects
  • Detailed rubrics outlining both positive and negative feedback
  • Use peer-evaluation assessments

8. Assess Performance

Recall, or remembering, is the ultimate way to learn. When you try to remember something, your brain replays a similar pattern of neural activity that you already experienced. The more practice you have at remembering this information, the more solidified this similar pattern becomes.

Assessments are the formal way to test learner recall. This helps learners understand what they already know, and what they need to spend more time learning. Assessments also capture important learning data to help us as designers improve future instruction.

Tips for assessing performance:

  • Include pop quizzes
  • Use written exams
  • Assess often throughout the course

9. Enhance retention and transfer

At the end of your instruction, learners need to be able to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. This step is arguably the most difficult of all of Gagne’s events. Make sure you spend plenty of time allowing learners to practice themselves.

Tips for enhancing retention:

  • Use real-world scenarios
  • Build in time for real-world practice
  • Interactive eLearning activities
  • Allow for flexible learning opportunities (such as mobile access)
  • Continually use examples of real-world situations


About the Author:

Andrew DeBell is a learning experience strategist and content developer on the customer education team at Atlassian. Connect with him on LinkedIn for more.