MET:Robert Gagne's Nine Learning Events: Instructional Design for Dummies

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This page originally designed by Linda Stollings (2007) Stop motion video added by Craig Ferguson (2015)

A Reference for the Rest of Us?

Robert M. Gagne's nine learning events (or events of instruction) have been in use by instructional designers since their introduction in the 1960s. Originally, Gagne worked extensively in developing the field of military training, however these events have been adopted by educators and designers as one of the key theories in both training and educational contexts. Many teachers and trainers have used them as a structure for lesson planning. Someargue that Gagne's nine events are dated and dull, however they still offer a rational framework which beginning instructional designers can use to shape meaningful learning spaces. While these nine events are based on behaviourist and cognitive/information processing learning theories, their simplicity provides a design framework that can apply to a variety of educational contexts. As well, with some imagination they can also be conceptualized to incorporate components of constructivist and sociocultural theories to create an eclectic learning environment.


Instruction has been defined as "a set of events external to the learner designed to support the internal processes of learning" (Gagne, Wager, Golas & Keller, 2005, p.194). As a cognitive psychologist, Gagne first proposed nine events of intruction and conditions of learning in 1965 as means to activate and support the processes of information processing. Interestingly, in 1959, Gagne and Jerome Brunerworked on parallel working groups borne out a conference in Cape Cod on science education (Bruner, 1963). Bruner's earliest work is echoed in Gagne's learning events, especially in terms of concepts such as readiness, structure and transfer.

Each of Gagne's learning events was originally designed to produce an 'output' that acts as an 'input' for the next stage in the sequence. However, Gagne was open to the influence of many other educational theorists, which lead him to suggest that these events in their entirety should be regarded as one form of instructional strategy. Further, he noted that the order of events can be altered and not all events need be present in every lesson (Gagne et al., 2005). In the end, the nine events are useful in that they represent repeatedly validated key stages in the instructional process (Richey, 2000). The key question designers need to ask themselves is, "What does the learner need at this point in the task?"

The Nine Learning Events

The following table outlines Gagne's Nine Events and the corresponding cognitive process it fuels.

INSTRUCTIONAL EVENT Relation to Learning Process
Gaining attention Reception of patterns of neural impulses
Informing the learner of the objective Activating a process of executive control
Stimulating recall of prerequisite learned capabilities Retrieval of prior learning to working memory
Presenting the stimulus material Emphasizing features for selective perception
Providing learning guidance Semantic encoding; cues for retrieval
Eliciting performance Activating response organization
Providing feedback about performance correctness Establishing reinforcement
Assessing the performance Activating retrieval; making reinforcement possible
Enhancing retention and transfer Providing cues and strategies for retrieval

(Gagne et al., 2005, p. 195)

For a stop-motion dramatization of the learning events, see below:

Practice Makes it Perfect?

Researchers found that when altering the presence of each of the events during computer-based instruction, the inclusion of practice (eliciting performance), combined with feedback was consistently effective for enhancing student achievement. Furthermore, it was noted that students had a more positive attitude toward instruction that included practice and examples throughout the program (Martin, Klein & Sullivan, 2004).

Reframing the 'Old' into the 'New'

The following table suggests some examples of how the nine events might be applied to the design of three different technology-supported learning environments.

Event Games Learning Objects CMS/LMS See also VLE
Gaining attention
  • utilize quality video clips and audio in the set-up
  • utilize animation and audio
  • incorporate email invitations
  • provide space for introductions/bios (faculty and students)
  • utilize graphics
Informing the learner of the objective
  • provide background and description of how to 'win'
  • provide overview, rules, and tasks/quests
  • provide an overview of the module goals
Stimulating recall
  • leverage the use of background information and levels
  • incorporate pre-tests
  • leverage information from previous stages
  • relate past module content to new material
  • provide module reviews
  • incorporate pre-tests
Presenting the material
  • present material that is encouraging and challenging
  • provide material that clear, up-to-date and accurate
  • present material in a way that is user-controlled and easy navigable
  • have important information pop up
  • provide animation and 3D models when applicable
  • provide material that clear, up-to-date and accurate
  • provide paper based support material
  • provide current links to online resources (articles, videos, audio etc.)
  • leverage multiliteracies
Providing learning guidance
  • offer optional hints, pop-ups with alternate choices and suggestions
  • provide "Help" sections, user guides and tutorials
  • provide email contacts
  • set-up chat-rooms and threaded discussions
  • offer answers to FAQ
  • include links to supporting references/glossaries
Eliciting performance
  • assign tasks/quests/challenges/problems
  • assign meaningful tasks and activities
  • give clear and concise instructions
  • incorporate group work
  • leverage social software
  • provides means for posting work
  • include aspects of individual responsibility
Providing feedback
  • tally scores
  • provide rewards for achieving each level
  • plan for written and/or audio feedback
  • tally scores
  • provide for written and verbal feedback
  • incorporate animated rewards for correct answers
  • provide corrective feedback
  • include "You've now completed..." messages and encouragement
  • encourage instructor use of discussion threads
  • incorporate assignment drop-off box/feedback tools
Assessing performance
  • ensure achievement is assessed in a timely and meaningful way
  • track scores/best scores
  • incorporate score reporting (via email)
Enhancing retention and transfer
  • skills can be transferable between levels and games
  • knowledge can be transferable across genres
  • note transferable information in feedback
  • provide websites for further information
  • provide sequenced material
  • provide further readings
  • provide real-world examples and optional tasks
  • make connections with other coursework/networks

(Becker, 2005; Gagne et al., 2005)

Utilizing the Nine Instructional Ingredients to Create an eClectic Learning Stew

While the nine events do have their roots in behaviourism, cognition and information processing, they can still provide a guiding hand in the development and design of learning environments that include elements of constructivist and sociocultural theories. The following provides some suggestions on how to leverage the events to ensure a well-rounded learning environment. Of course not all entries will be included in any given learning event; this merely shows where designers can situate their choices.

Gaining attention

  • stimulate learner's curiosity with questions
  • present meaningful and relevant challenge

Providing learner with objective

Stimulating recall

  • students can tie new learning to past constructions of knowledge
  • incorporate the use of concept maps

Presenting the material

  • facilitate student ownership of learning material
  • have students create authentic material ie. web-sites, blogs, hypertexts
  • provides spaces for students to construct knowledge
  • provide models
  • create Microworlds
  • incorporate games

Guiding the learning

Eliciting performance

Providing feedback

  • set up chat rooms for peer feedback/collaboration
  • allow students to reflect on their own learning

Assessing the performance

  • monitor student's progress
  • have students self-assess their progress
  • incorporate ePortfolios

Enhance transfer and retention

  • once students become 'experts' have them coach/scaffold others


Becker, K. (2005). How are games educational? Learning theories embodied in games. Proceedings of DiGRA 2005 Conference. Retrieved February 15, 2007 from

Bruner, J. (1963). The process of education. New York, NY: Random House.

Constructivist theory (J. Bruner). [On-line]. Retrieved February 20, 2007 from

Gagne, R.M., Wager, W.W., Golas, K.G. & Keller, J.M. (2005). Principles of instructional design. Toronto, ON: Thomson Wadsworth.

Martin, F., Klein, J. & Sullivan, H. (2004). Effects of instructional events in computer-based instruction. Association for Educational Communications and Technology. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED484984). [1]

Richey, R.C. (Ed.). (2000). The legacy of Robert Gagne. Syracuse, NY: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Research and Improvement. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED445674). Available online or Buy here

See also

Applying the Nine Events to eDetail [2]

Applying the Nine Events to eLearning [3]

Applying the Nine Events to Games [4]

Applying the Nine Events to Multimedia [5]

Applying the Nine Events to PowerPoint Presentations [6]

A Constructivist Learning Event Based on Gagne's Nine Events [7]

Instructional Design Theory and ADDIE [8]

Don Clark's Instructional Systems Design Page (the Nine Events are mentioned under Development)[9]

Don Clark's Blog Condemning (and leading a discussion on) the Use of the Nine Learning Events [10]

Interesting Blog in Response to Don Clark's Article [11]

Gagne's Conditions of Learning Page at TIP [12]

Bruner, Gagne and Ausubel - The Three Cogniteers? [13]

Comprehensive Site Outlining Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction [14]

The Nine Events - Suitable for Framing [15]

Free Gagne's Nine Event Screensaver [16]