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Gagné's Nine Steps of Instruction

1. Gain attention: Present stimulus to ensure reception of instruction.

It's rule #1 in marketing, so why would education be any different? Students are much more receptive when they are engaged. It's why teachers use warm up writing exercises at the start of class. The more you have your students attention, the more they will learn. In a recent survey I did, the vast majority of the professors I agreed with the statement that students attention spans are much shorter than they were 25 years ago. If that is true, maybe it's because educators are competing with technology and its plethora of apps promising instant gratification. If thats the case then like it or not we as educators have to also play the role of entertainer as well as teacher. It could be a simple as a cleverly worded question students answer at the beginning of class, or something off the wall like what this math professor did as a prank in the video below. The point is the GRAB THEIR ATTENTION.

this class prank by a professor Matthew Weathers has over 14 million views on YouTube.​

2. Provide the learners the learning objective: What will they gain from the instruction?

Providing your learners with the competencies and learning objectives at the beginning of your instruction means the intended outcome is known from the start. It is what drives the instruction. The clearer you write the intended outcome the better. When students know up front what they will "learn", it reduces their anxiety, allows them to focus on the learning outcome and makes it possible for them to know when they have reached mastery.

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning: Ask for recall of existing relevant knowledge.

The brain grows dendrites partly by making connections. Recall is low on Blooms list, but consider it as an important step instead. Without recall, students don't have the building blocks for higher level thinking. It is important to provide students with a clear understanding of how new information fits in with their previous knowledge. 

4. Present the Stimulus: Display the content

The learner needs to engage with the material. Teachers are subject matter experts, they know their field as well as anybody else. It is important not to overload the learner but to instead break the learning into small chunks. Learners need to interact with the content in a way that makes sense to them and their particular paradigm. This is why it is important to know your learner, what knowledge and thoughts they already have, and what you want them to "take away" from your lesson. By displaying the content in managebale bites, the learner can then begin to gain the necessary building blocks to master the outcome.

5. Provide Learning Guidance: Support the learner

The learner should not be left alone to master the content. The knowledge for any particular discipline is available in libraries and across the internet. It is important to not overwhelm the learner with material as is noted in step 4. Instead, the material should be presented in an engagin way that requires students to critically apply what they already know to what they are learning. The learner needs to be supported as they engage with the material. Various formative assessments and constant feedback provide the necessary support to help move the student towards mastery.

6. Elicit Performance: Learners respond to demonstrate knowledge

In the Performance Based Learning model, students demonstrate mastery by being able to perform a task. These start with a verb from Bloom's Taxonomy. Examples include:

  • Produce a to scale CAD drawing of a part for production. 

  • Ensure patient confidentiality by following HIPPA standards.

  • Summarize the American colonists grievences against the British monarchy.

In these three examples, the learner are asked to perform a task. The competency is something that can be measured. 

7. Provide Feedback: Give information to the learner about their performance

Feedback is critical. Without feedback, the learner does not know if they are demonstrating their understanding of key concepts. Feedback should be honest, frequent, and constructive. 

8. Assess Performance: Reinforce the learning by using appropriate assessments

Without an assessment how will you know the student has mastered the learning outcome? Backwards design aserts that you should build your lessons with the end goal in mind. This model requires foresight and planning on the part of the instructor but the extra work pays off when the learner has a clear idea of the expectations and can demonstrate their learning in a way that is real and measurable. 

9. Enhance Retention and Transfer to Other Contexts

Applying content to a different context is a clear demonstration that the learner has met the desired outcome. Not only do they "know" the material (remembering), but the learner actually has the ability to ability their knowledge to different contexts. They are able to make inferences and look at a piece of information from a different context or discipline. There are many examples of this applied knowledge, from Forensic Psychologists to the Carpenter who understands math, physics and weight distribution when building the framing of a house. Learners should be encouraged to make the information make sense to them, and to critically apply their newly gained knowledge to other contexts.

Learn more

Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction - Northern Illinois University - A helpful 3 page pdf with more details of each of the nine steps.

Gagne's 9 Events of Instruction on YouTube - This 2 1/2 minute video is "a fun and effective example of Gagne's 9 events of instruction." It uses the example of a teacher receiving help is developing an assessment to demonstrate the key contepts of Gagne's 9 events. I'm not sure about the chicken dance at the end, but the point is well made.

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