Robert Gagné's Nine Steps of Instruction
There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge available to us: observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination. Our observation of nature must be diligent, our reflection profound, and our experiments exact. We rarely see these three means combined; and for this reason, creative geniuses are not common. - Denis Diderot (1713-84), French philosopher. On the Interpretation of Nature, no. 15 (1753; repr. in Selected Writings, ed. by Lester G. Crocker, 1966).
According to Robert Gagné (1985), there are nine events that are needed for effective learning, thus they include a sequence of events similar to the following:
While some think the Nine Steps are iron clad rules, it has been noted at least since 1977 (Good, Brophy, p.200) that the nine steps are “general considerations to be taken into account when designing instruction. Although some steps might need to be rearranged (or might be unnecessary) for certain types of lessons, the general set of considerations provide a good checklist of key design steps.”
1. Gain attention. Present a problem or a new situation. Use an "interest device" that grabs the learner's attention. This can be thought of as a teaser -- the short segment shown in a TV show right before the opening credits that is designed to keep you watching and listening). The ideal is to grab the learners' attention so that they will watch and listen, while you present the learning point. You can use such devices as:
- Presenting a problem to be solved
- Doing something the wrong way (the instruction would then show how to do it the right way)
- Why it is important
For example, when I was training loading and unloading trailers with a forklift, I would search the OSHA reports for the latest incidence report on a forklift operator who decapitated them self by sticking their head out of the protective structure of the forklift cage in order to get a better view when entering the trailer and then getting it caught between the bars supporting the forklifts protective top and the side of the trailer (it happens more often than we care to think about). This would become the basis for a story on why they needed to pay attention as the forklift may be small, but it weighs several tons and can easily slice off a limb or another body part if not treated with proper respect.
Wick, Pollock, Jefferson, and Flanagan (2006) describe how research supports extending the interest device into the workplace in order to increase performance when the learners apply their new learnings to the job. This is accomplished by having the learners and their managers discuss what they need to learn and be able to perform when they finish the training. This preclass activity ends in a mutual contract between the learners and managers on what is expected to be achieved from the learning activities (this is also closely related to the next step).
2. Inform learner of Objective. This allows the learner's to organize their thoughts and around what they are about to see, hear, and/or do. There is a saying in the training filed to 1) tell them what you're going to tell them, 2) tell them, and 3) tell them what you told them. This cues them and then provides a review which has proven to be effective. e.g. describe the goal of a lesson, state what the learners will be able to accomplish and how they will be able to use the knowledge.
Marzano (1998, p.94) reported an effect size of 0.97 (which indicates that achievement can be raised by 34 percentile points) when goal specification is used. When students have some control over the learning outcomes, there is an effect size of 1.21 (39 percentile points). This is the beauty of using Wick, Pollock, Jefferson, and Flanagan's mutual contract.
Of course the problem that some trainers and instructional designers run into is telling the learners the Learning Objectives word for word, rather than breaking it down into a less formal statement. Learning Objectives are normally designed for designers, rather than the learners, thus they must be transformed into a more causal language.
3. Stimulate recall of prior knowledge.This allows the learners to build on their previous knowledge or skills. Although we are capable of having our creative minutes, it is much easier to build on what we already know. e.g. remind the learners of prior knowledge relevant to the current lesson, provide the learners with a framework that helps learning and remembering.
This is building on prior learning and forms the basis of scaffolding by 1) building on what the learners know, 2) adding more details, hints, information, concepts, feedback, etc. 3) and then allowing the learners to perform on their own. Allan Collins John Seely Brown, and Ann Holum (1991) note that scaffolding is the support the master gives apprentices in carrying out a task. This can range from doing almost the entire task for them to giving occasional hints as to what to do next. Fading is the notion of slowly removing the support, giving the apprentice more and more responsibility.
Part of stimulating recall is having the learners take notes and drawing mind maps. Learning is enhanced by encouraging the use of graphic representations when taking notes (mind or concept maps). While normal note taking has an overall effect size of .99, indicating a percentile gain of 34 points, graphic representations produced a percentile gain in achievement of 39 points (Marzano, 1998). One of the most effective of these techniques is semantic mapping (Toms-Bronowski, 1982)) with an effect size of 1.48 (n=1), indicating a percentile gain of 43 points. With this technique, the learner represents the key ideas in a lesson as nodes (circles) with spokes depicting key details emanating from the node.
4. Present the material. Chunk the information to avoid memory overload. Blend the information to aid in information recall. This is directly related to Skinner's "sequenced learning events." This allows learners to receive feedback on individualized tasks, thereby correcting isolated problems rather than having little idea of where the root of the learning challenge lies. Bloom's Taxonomy and Learning Strategies can be used to help sequence the lesson by helping you chunk them into levels of difficulty.
5. Provide guidance for learning.This is not the presentation of content, but are instructions on how to learn. This is normally simpler and easier than the subject matter or content. It uses a different channel or media to avoid mixing it with the subject matter. The rate of learning increases because learners are less likely to lose time or become frustrated by basing performance on incorrect facts or poorly understood concepts.
6. Elicit performance. Practice by letting the learner do something with the newly acquired behavior, skills, or knowledge. In addition, demonstrate it (modeling and observational learning)
Albert Bandura noted that observation learning may or may not involve imitation. For example if you see someone driving in front of you hit a pothole, and then you swerve to miss it—you learned from observational learning, not imitation (if you learned from imitation then you would also hit the pothole). What you learned was the information you processed cognitively and then acted upon. Observational learning is much more complex than simple imitation. Bandura's theory is often referred to as social learning theory as it emphasizes the role of vicarious experience (observation) of people impacting people (models). Modeling has several affects on learners:
- Acquisition - New responses are learned by observing the model.
- Inhibition - A response that otherwise may be made is changed when the observer sees a model being punished.
- Disinhibition - A reduction in fear by observing a model's behavior go unpunished in a feared activity.
- Facilitation - A model elicits from an observer a response that has already been learned.
- Creativity - Observing several models performing and then adapting a combination of characteristics or styles.
7. Provide feedback. Show correctness of the learner's response, analyze learner's behavior. This can be a test, quiz, or verbal comments. The feedback needs to be specific, not, "you are doing a good job" Tell them "why" they are doing a good job or provide specific guidance.
8. Assess performance. Test to determine if the lesson has been learned. Can also give general progress information
9. Enhance retention and transfer. Inform the learner about similar problem situations, provide additional practice, put the learner in a transfer situation, review the lesson.
The Army Research Institute on Behavioral & Social Sciences completed a meta-analysis of the effects of over-learning — additional training for the learner that occurs after the learner has reached proficiency on the task.
The results of the analysis indicate that over-learning produces reliably better retention of the skill than just training to proficiency. Even after thousands of practice trials, over-learning produces reliably better retention of the skill than just training to proficiency. Apparently, when considering the amount of practice - no amount is ever too much, especially for fundamental skills. — Zipperer, Klein, Fitzgerald, Kinnison, Graham, (2003)
Bandura, A. (1997). Social Learning Theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Holum, A. (1991). Cognitive apprenticeship: Making thinking visible. American Educator, 6-46.
Gagné, R. (1985). The Conditions of Learning and the Theory of Instruction, (4th ed.), New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Good, T., Brophy, J. (1990). Educational Psychology: A realistic approach. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
Marzano, R. J. (1998). A theory-based meta-analysis of research on instruction. Mid-continent Regional Educational Laboratory, Aurora, CO.
Toms-Bronowski, S. (1982). An investigation of the effectiveness of semantic mapping and semantic feature analysis with intermediate grade level children. Wisconsin Center for Education Research, The University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.
Wick, C., Pollock, R., Jefferson, A., Flanagan, R. (2006). Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results. San Francisco: Pfeiffer
Zipperer, E., Klein, G., Fitzgerald, R., Kinnison, H., Graham, E., (2003). Training and Training Technology Issues for the Objective Force Warrior. U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences: Research Report 1809. Retrieved on Sept 25, 2004 from: http://www.hqda.army.mil/ari/pdf/rr-1809.pdf