According to Gagne, a learning unit (lesson/topic/module) should include nine learning events. The nine events are based on the manner in which our brain processes information. It is especially useful when you start off as an instructional designer. It is also valuable in training organizations that operate in the factory mode and produce learning material in high volumes.
This framework is flexible – you may reorder the events or even drop one or two. It is well-researched and time-tested, and it even has the four components of Keller’s motivational design built into it. It is important to note that Gagne’s Events of Instruction is not a rigid tool, but a guideline – you may drop an event or two, and even re-order events if required.
Significance of Gagne’s Events
Gagne’s Events of instruction is a pattern that works most of the time, regardless of the delivery media. However, personally I have found that there are some situations when it does not work very well, especially in learning programs that are designed for adults. Why so? Well, do you recall Andragogy or Adult Learning principles? Remember the principle according to which, adults like to be given the opportunity to use their existing foundation of knowledge and apply their experiences in learning? Most adults welcome opportunities to share their interests and experiences and appreciate reflective learning. Gagne’s Events doesn’t take this into account.
So, in what situations is this framework recommended, and not recommended? From my experience I have found that it works well in the following situations:
Universally Accepted Principles: Gagne’s Framework works well in situations when very specific knowledge that is universally accepted needs to be imparted to ensure a uniform understanding. This includes content, which addresses basic scientific principles that are universally accepted or any content that is a derivative of these principles. Some examples are: Some examples are: Universal Laws of Gravitation, Newton’s Laws of Motion, Laws of Thermodynamics, and Economic Principles, such as Demand and Supply.
Content with a high intrinsic cognitive load: This framework also works well in situations which require the explanation of complex content – content that has an intrinsic cognitive load; and is difficult to understand by novices, beginners and intermediate learners (even though they are youth/adult learners).
And I have found that the framework doesn’t work well in the following situations:
Principles that are Derived: Situations when the content is a derivative of what people have experienced, perhaps successfully. Basically, the content cannot be accepted as universal law, and there may or may not be consensus around it since it is derived from people’s experiences.
Content with a low intrinsic cognitive load: This framework is not recommended in situations which require the explanation of simple content for adult and youth learners – content that does not have an intrinsic cognitive load. It is easy to comprehend even by novices, beginners and intermediate learners. For example, Time Management, Team Building and so on.
So, the next time you think of applying Gagne’s Events, think carefully – will the learner benefit from this design, or will the learner be put off?
Here is a short video explaining Gagne’s Events: Re-imagine Learning
To learn how Gagne’s Events of Instruction is applied in scripting for e-learning courseware, you may take this short course: Scripting an Instructional Unit.