Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction

Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction

At the onset of World War 2, the U.S. Army was tasked with training 8 million unseasoned soldiers for war.

Robert M. Gagné was finishing up his PhD in Psychology at Brown University. Not long after completing his degree, Gagné joined the Air Force Personnel and Training Research Center where he worked with other psychologists to research and discover new training methods.

Later, Gagné worked for multiple universities conducting research on instructional design. Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction are in wide use by instructors today.

Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction

An example science class lesson plan using Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction is a framework for instructors to follow to design engaging and effective lessons. They are: 

  1. gain attention
  2. state objectives
  3. stimulate recall 
  4. present content
  5. provide guidance
  6. elicit performance 
  7. provide feedback
  8. assess performance 
  9. enhance retention and transfer.

According to Dave McAlinden, Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction is “a very clear, effective, and efficient pathway to design a lesson or any piece of instruction.” 

McAlinden advices that these nine steps can be broken up into three main phases. He suggests the first three steps help “prime” the learner and prepare them for learning. He labels the next three steps as the “learn” phase where students are presented with new information and tasked with putting that information into practice. McAlinden considers the last three events to be part of the “reinforce” phase where learning is fortified in the learner’s mind and learners are encouraged to apply what they have learned to the real world. 

While Gagné suggests these steps be used as a framework for designing instruction, there is no exact way that each step should be completed. 

“Depending on what your intended outcomes or objectives are each one of those steps or events are going to be a little bit different.” 

– Dave McAlinden
 Assoc. Director of Instructional Design and Media
Columbia U. School of Professional Studies

In other words, each instructor’s use of the nine events will be distinct to them as they shape their lesson around their particular students and their intended learning outcomes. It is up to the instructor to use their creativity to come up with a plan that best suits who and what they are teaching.”While it may seem daunting to devise and teach a nine-step lesson, REACHUM, an interactive teaching platform, was designed to make the process much easier. By housing multiple features in one platform, REACHUM allows instructors to compile images, PowerPoint presentations, quizzes, and more in just one easy to create lesson plan. It’s quick and easy to bring Gagné’s framework to life!

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Applying the Framework

1. Gain Attention

An example of step 1 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

First draw learner attention and arouse their curiosity. This step is akin to turning over fertile soil in preparation to receive seed.  Begin lessons with a hands-on activity. Refer to a current event. Ask a probing question. Or show a brief video to get students thinking of the subject matter. 

Imagine teaching a science lesson about space. Showing students a video of life in the International Space Station would get them thinking about how living in space is different from living on Earth, but also pique their interest so they want to learn more. Any YouTube or Vimeo video can be added to REACHUM class by simply copying and pasting the URL.

2. State Objectives

An example of step 2 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

The second step in a well-crafted lesson involves telling students what they can expect to learn. It is also important to explain how this soon-to-be-learned knowledge can be applied in real life. Students will likely be more engaged in the lesson if they believe what they are learning has practical application outside of the classroom.

3. Stimulate Recall

An example of step 3 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

Gagné advises instructors to make connections between what students already know and what they are about to learn. By creating associations, new information is more easily absorbed into long-term memories.

4. Present Content

An example of step 4 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

Use multiple media to deliver information. Since a group of students is likely to have a diverse array of learning styles, using various modes of delivery will help ensure all students understand what is being taught. Using REACHUM it’s easy to mix photos, slides, videos, animations, games, whiteboards, webpages . . . literally any type of digital content is shareable within the platform.

Students will be less likely to become bored and disengaged when multimedia is employed. Think about it – would you rather be in a classroom where the instructor stands at the front of the room and lectures for the entire class or would you rather be in a classroom where the instructor uses varying methods of teaching including the use of videos, class discussion, and gamified activities?

REACHUM makes creating a lesson with multiple modes of instruction less overwhelming for instructors by having everything they need for their lesson in one place. For example, an instructor can start off their lesson by using PowerPoint slides that they uploaded to REACHUM. With a single keystroke, they can trigger a brief video that further explains the content. With another keystroke, they move to a diagram they uploaded into the presentation. Education works best when the content is varied.

5. Provide Guidance

An example of step 5 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

Discussion is a key component in message retention. Instructors facilitate student learning by collaborating on practice problems, initiating class discussion, or answering students’ questions surrounding the new material.

For instance, REACHUM’s whiteboard feature is ideal for walking through math problems.  Rather than tackling the problems on their own, students are teacher led through the problem-solving process. With guidance, students build the confidence to apply the knowledge on their own. 

6. Elicit Performance

An example of step 6 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

Gagné urges instructors to have students put what they learned into practice. Instructors can provide students with exercises or scenarios that allow them to apply their newly gained knowledge. Using REACHUM breakout rooms, students may apply their newly gained knowledge in a group.

7. Provide Feedback

An example of step 7 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

Throughout the entire learning process, Gagné urges instructors to provide continuous feedback to the entire class on general areas that need improvement, or to individually address roadblocks specific students are facing. 

REACHUM’s assessments provide instructors with real-time data indicating message reception and identifying learning gaps. Armed with this data, instruction can be adjusted on the fly to meet individual and group needs. 

Since learning is cumulative, it is important that students receive feedback immediately. Each building block of knowledge is dependent on acquiring and understanding the prior block. 

8. Assess Performance

An example of step 8 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

REACHUM has 7 styles of gamified experience built into the platform. It takes less than 30 seconds to prepare a fun assessment for an in-person, remote, or hybrid class.  

REACHUM leaderboards report the results of every game or quiz in a leaderboard, which informs teachers of progress and drives student engagement and performance as students engage in spirited competition. 

9. Enhance Retention and Transfer

An example of step 9 of Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.

Gagné’s final step involves locking up knowledge. Instructors accomplish this by having students reflect on, write about, or share what they learned during the lesson. Students ideally apply the new learning to real life situations, demonstrating the practical value of the knowledge.

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Make Gagné’s Nine Events Your Own

The REACHUM Content Manager utilizing Gagné's 9 Events of Instruction.
The REACHUM Content Manager utilizing Gagné’s 9 Events of Instruction.

McAlinden describes Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction as “a prescription, but [he doesn’t] like to use it as one.” In other words, Gagné’s Nine Events are just an outline for planning a lesson, not something that needs to be followed to a tee. He suggests that instructors utilize Gagné’s ideas while making the lessons their own. 

Some steps may be unnecessary. 

“If you are teaching or upskilling a group of experts, they might already know why they are there, so you don’t have to tell them what their objectives are.”

– Dave McAlinden
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Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction are a valuable framework for creating engaging lessons. They can be used flexibly, adapted by teachers to fit the teaching needs required by the subject matter.

REACHUM makes it easy to use this framework by providing all the tools needed in one simple, easy-to-use platform.