Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Gagne's Events of Instruction - Some Thoughts and Views

This post is written by Taruna Goel.

I recently conducted a short classroom training session on ARCS Model of Motivational Design and Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction Model for instructional designers in my division. As an assignment post the training session, I asked the participants to read the blog by Donald Clark titled, Gagne's Nine Dull Commandments. Although the blog is a bit dated, the content is relevant every time we discuss Gagne’s events of instruction.

My question to the group was - do you agree/disagree with the author? In less than 1000 words, share your reflective views on the topic indicating the benefits and/or potential issues when applying Gagne’s nine events of instruction.

Through this blog, am requesting all participants to post their views as comments in this blog. Enjoy reading and feel free to share your views, even if you didn’t attend my training session! :-)


V Ganesh said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:23pm

Overall I mostly disagree with Donald’s view on the Gagne’s nine commandments. I personally think that all the nine options are very much viable with the kind of courses we are creating currently. Gaining attention by a strong video or an animation is appropriate as I see it. Donald is correct that the initial video is rarely interactive so that can be taken in as a suggestion to improve the video/animation. But removing it completely is not a fair idea.

Stating the objectives is required according to me. Any book I would read, any course I would start up, each one of them will start with the objectives or the chapter context of the book. If Donald disagrees with Gagne’s view on the same then he should provide a good replacement for the same which he has failed to do in this regard. That is what I would call a fair strategy.

Stimulating recall of prior learning has been a suggestion on Gagne’s part and not a requirement. And in my online courses, it is a requirement also as such. Yes I disagree with having too long a list of pre-requisites, having just one or two courses as pre-requisites would be a good option. The rest can be clubbed together under suggested learning. That would be the best approach. Here again Donald fails to give a proper replacement.

I agree with Donald’s view on the eliciting performance. Multiple choice questions never personally appealed to me. However as creators of such learning materials, we do use different tactics. Multiple choice questions are the most common type that we create but occasionally we do create drag and drop, true and false questions etc. However I personally think that there should be the method of writing paragraph style answers and figure out some method of correcting the same by an exam checker.

Overall I am not so pleased with Donald’s view. If he is pushing down something he should offer a replacement. Else allow Gagne’s nine commandments to rule.

Sandeep Padhi said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:24pm

I do not agree with the author as he simply builds on his rationale against Gagne’s Nine Instructional events by pointing at what may not be the strategies for all types of learning objectives. While we do use some of those strategies for cognitive courses, the trend is to move away from them. What Gagne proposed was only the events; How you implement them depends on the audience, learning background, and learning atmosphere among many other factors. The author has just highlighted how you should not implement Gagne’s instructional events. A straightjacket approach is learning is never useful anyhow. I think Gagne’s model should be treated as a flexible model. You don’t have to follow all events while it depends on the instructional designer/learning facilitator to build on the learning and let the students wonder.

Shishir Sharma said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:25pm

I went through the blog and I can definitely relate to the sentiments expressed by the author. However, I do not agree with the statement that the Gagne’s nine steps are irrelevant.

I personally feel that Gagne’s model is a very logical approach to motivational learning. Also, if we look at the courses currently being created, we can observe that most of the steps mentioned in Gagne’s model are being used in the courses. The tried and tested methods that we currently use in our courses also map to Gagne’s nine steps. This approach has been working for our customers and end-users which indicates that this approach aids learning.

However, I would not completely disagree with the observations that Donald has shared in his blog. The responses that he has provided against each of the nine steps indicate the experience learners go through when taking the courses currently created. In the e-learning business the major focus for organizations is to be able to deliver courses faster and at a lower cost. This is has resulted in using a factory mode to churn out large number of courses in the least possible duration. My experience is limited to the technology domain where there is anyways not much scope for creativity. In addition, when we use the factory model, our focus as instructional designers shifts from what impact the course will have on the leaner’s knowledge to how quickly we can create this course. Our attempt to focus more on the standards and guidelines to ensure consistency leads to the courses becoming monotonous and boring. We as instructional designers also tend to overuse the strategies that have worked for us in the past. Also, after working on similar courses for a longer time, we tend to stop experimenting and are reluctant to try new strategies. I believe this is the point the author is trying to make in the blog.

The Gagne model presentation you conducted was based on Gagne’s approach to motivational learning. I found the presentation both effective and engaging as a user and would therefore, infer that the approach has worked for me. I would say that we can use Gagne’s nine steps and still ensure the courses are engaging and effective if we continue to try being creative and come up with new strategies to present the content. We also need to and need to constantly remind ourselves about end-users of the course and the impact our created courses will have on the learner’s knowledge. I believe, it is our personal responsibility to ensuring that we constantly add value to the content we create, otherwise we would fail in our job as instructional designers.

Abhishek Singh said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:27pm

Gagne’s principal of learning provides an insight into the elements that are necessary to be included in a good instructional design. What makes these elements essential in any instructional design is the simplicity of having a systematic approach towards providing information to the learner in a meaningful manner. For example the trainee’s interaction through the elements of “Gaining attention”, “Stimulating recall of prior learning” and “Eliciting performance” are just some of the methods which guarantee the learners input in grasping the material as they are organized in a phased manner.

I think that Gagne leaves no loopholes in ensuring that there is a positive transfer of learning. Most importantly Gange has designed these principles by keeping the questions or objectives of learning in mind, both from the trainee and the trainer point of view.

• “Why am I learning this”- Inform learner of objectives(trainee)
• “Have I gained anything through the training”- Providing feedback(trainee)
• “How has the trainee Performed”- Assessing performance
• “Is the trainee motivated to learn?”- Gaining attention

These are just some of the questions that are necessary to be included in any instructional design. Gagne not only applies the principles of learning to bring about an effective retention in the trainee but also measures the motivational level of the trainee in order to enhance learning.

This dual approach “Learning and motivation” are introduced in phases in Gagne’s principles of learning. I think Gagne makes a crucial point to have the trainee involved in the learning process, by emphasizing to the learner as to why is he learning the material? “Gaining attention” figures in as an important element to raise the interest level of the trainee and make sure that he remains motivated through-out the training.

Apart from the trainee’s perspective Gagne introduces these elements to enable the trainer to get an effective insight into the performance of the trainee. For example “Providing learning guidance”, “Assessing performance”, “Eliciting performance” and “Stating the objective” provide a variable basis for the trainer to enhance a positive transfer of learning.

However I feel that Gagne has listed too many principles upon which it becomes difficult to categorize all of them in one instructional material. For example trainees will still be able learn even without the “Inform learners of objectives” and “Enhance retention and transfer to the job”. These are just prerequisites listed to allow “flexibility” of choosing the right way of having a maximum transfer of learning.

Overall, Gagne has provided learning principles that are not necessarily to be followed in the phased. They are up to the trainer’s discretion to manipulate learning according to the best transfer of learning.

Ram Garg said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:28pm

The ideas expressed in the blog by Donald Clark are not entirely wrong; but they are not entirely correct either. Giving a corporate presentation or long flash animation is not the only way of gaining attention. Normally, this is the way it happens in most of the Web sites of today. In case of a classroom environment or in an online class, giving a scenario or a situation and asking for the students’ opinion definitely gets their involvement. In a Web site, this surely needs to change. Hence, Gagne cannot be ruled out here.

I agree with Clark’s views on “Stating the objectives.” This is a really boring methodology and puts the learner off. If I were to start a reading a lesson, I would like to run away if I were made to go through a list of objectives before a lesson. This event from Gagne definitely needs a second look.
In writing about “Stimulating recall of prior learning,” Clark seems to find a way to mock at Gagne. I believe that this event is very important in the whole process of learning and needs to be taken seriously. I think this event also helps gain attention.

I am not too sure about the “Presenting the Stimulus” event. I think it should be “Presenting the Content.” These two things are entirely different and Clark seems to have committed a mistake in jotting this one down. “Presenting the Stimulus” is similar to “Stimulating recall of prior learning,” and is different from “Presenting the Content” which is the event according to the training that we had.

Thank God! For a change, Clark shows some respect for “Providing Learning Guidance.”

I agree with Clark about the boring and monotonous use of “Eliciting performance,” “Providing feedback,” and “Assessing performance” MCQs have been used in learning since times immemorial and Clark is right that some of the options given as distracters really don’t make sense. These events need to be used in a better way in learning.

“Enhancing retention and transfer to other contexts” actually doesn’t happen and this even can be considered an ideal culmination of the learning process. This should happen but there is no way to ascertain whether the learner is using the learning in other contexts, such as his/her job. Hence, this event is also not being applied properly by the instructional designers of today. There is nothing wrong with the event as stated by Gagne.

In the end, I would say that watching a movie is not equivalent to going through a lesson presentation, and Clark’s idea that how boring it would be to see the objectives of a film in the beginning doesn’t apply to watching a movie. Clark seems to be heavily biased towards criticizing everyone, including Gagne. This is also evident when he says “……don’t get me started on Mager or Kirkpatrick.”

I consider Clark’s views biased and would rather stand with Gagne than with Clark.

Suchandra Ganguly said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:29pm

What Gagne presented are the nine events of learning and not the nine commandments. Gagne derived these events after studying the mental conditions that adults experience during the process of learning. Unlike the author of the blog, I find most of the events helpful and useful in creating effective trainings. Following are some of my thoughts around these events:

1. Grab attention: Attention has a strong relation with motivation and familiarity. Through grabbing the learner’s attention, I’m telling him that the course has something important for him. However, too often instructional designers directly associate this event to an opening animation and end up blindly using opening animations in their courses. This of course isn’t what Gagne suggested.

2. Stating the objective: Before taking a course, I as a learner would definitely like to know what is it there for me in the course. Is it worth investing my time on the course? Stating the objectives helps instructional designers answer such queries. After all, the course is for the learner and not for the designer. However instead of simply listing the objectives, we can use some creative ways to state the objectives of the training.

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning: If I give importance to the learner’s experience and perception, the learner gives importance to my course. Stimulating recall of prior learning forces the learner to think while taking the training. It builds the learner’s interest in the course. I don’t think that instructional designers that understand adult psychology would ask questions that discourage learners to take the course.

4. Present the content: This is an important event because it’s important to present the content to the learner otherwise the learning doesn’t begin.

5. Provide learning guidance: It’s good not to miss and to mess this event in a course. Learners definitely need guidance while taking a course. However based on the audience profile, we can vary the ways to provide such guidance to the learners. Pros or experienced learners might not need a lot of guidance; however, novice or starters do.

6. Elicit performance: Practice makes a man perfect! So why not allow the learner to practice enough in the course? Exercises help learners apply their knowledge. However, don’t force this on learners through MCQs with stupid options. That doesn’t help the learner and neither did Gagne suggest that.

7. Providing Feedback: Feedbacks build learners’ confidence and provide them direction and satisfaction. However, don’t use them for the sake of having them in your course. Just telling the learners that they are correct or incorrect doesn’t help; they also need to know the rationale behind the correct and incorrect. So be generous and share that with them.

8. Assessing performance: Assessments increase the importance of the course. The learner knows that to complete the course, he needs to pass the final assessment. Therefore, he takes the course seriously and acts responsibly. IDs can think of innovative and interesting ways to access the performance.

9. Enhancing retention and transfer to other contexts: A good course is one that helps the learner apply the learning. This happens if the learner remembers the course content. We help the learners do that through recaps, summaries and handouts.

Therefore, Gagne’s nine events of learning are the guidelines that instructional designers can use to create effective trainings. Designers should use these judiciously and not blindly. These aren’t mandates; therefore, don’t impose them on the learner. If appropriate, do away with some events or club some together. These nine commandments are meant to give direction to designers while developing courses.

Kriti Mishra said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:30pm

Donald Clark’s ideas try to be satirical but end up flat on the ground. I agree with some of the ideas but the rest of them are actually more like a frustrated writer’s outpouring and have nothing to do with instructional design. I would like to go through each of his thoughts on the nine “commandments.”

1. Gaining attention: This is Mr. Clark’s best idea. I agree with him that a Flash animation is not interactive or engaging. Generally, a viewer/student would want to skip this portion.

2. Stating the objective: I don’t agree. Stating the objectives is not “giving the plot away” or “reminding them of how really boring this course is going to be.” Stating the objective upfront sets the expectation. When the student knows what to expect, the receptivity increases.

3. Stimulating recall of prior learning: Uh oh! How did sexual harassment get into instructional design? I think Mr. Clark “lost his way” for a while. I think that this principle sort of connects the known with unknown. I am sure it is encouraging for students to know that they do “know” something.

4. Presenting the stimulus: he still seems floundering; looking for the way. I think Mr. Clark mixed up presenting the stimulus with presenting the content. I think, recall of prior knowledge acts as a stimulus.

5. Providing learning guidance: I agree with this point. He sure found his “way” back.

6. Eliciting performance: I don’t agree with Mr. Clark here. The multiple-choice questions have one wrong answer but it is not a “stupid” option. It would go against ID principles to use a “give away” option.

7. Providing feedback: This option is again a good way of telling the student how much he or she has grasped. This acts as a good stimulator to go back to the content to plug the gaps in knowledge.

8. Assessing performance: I agree with Mr. Clark on this one as well. If we have application based assessments, the student has a much better chance of retaining information. A quiz can only give you a momentary “high” if you score high; it does not mean that you really know what you have read.

9. Enhancing retention and transfer to other contexts: I disagree. This event can be considered an ideal culmination of a course. However, we have no method to ascertain whether the student actually applies the knowledge to other fields of his or her life. There is nothing wrong with the original principle as stated by Gagne. However, this is not applied properly by the instructional designers of today

To summarize, I don’t think that watching a movie is same as going through a course. Mr. Clark, as stated before, seems to be a frustrated instructional designer, He is biased and critical; of everyone including Gagne, Mager, and Kirkpatrick. I suggest that he come up with a better theory before shredding a perfectly logical principle of learning. I would rather befriend Mr. Gagne (May his soul rest in peace!!) than the very much alive Mr. Clark (May he be showered with intelligence!!).

Mridul said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:30pm

To some extent I agree with the author. From the development perspective, somewhere I feel that over a period of time the focus of application of these principle becomes bringing out some kind of consistency and convenience in the way content is presented. In an attempt to apply most of the conditions of learning, we tent to create some content which may be boring for certain kind of audience. In most cases, we follow a rule to set the goals for the audience right at the start; however, I want to share an experience where we were told the objectives of the session at the point where we typically tell the summary. Despite this change in the most-commonly followed practice, the learning from the session is something I may never forget.

During my bootcamp, we had a session on Understanding the NIIT structure. Everyone except me in that bootcamp session were new hires. Instead of the faculty whose name was written in the session plan, Asad and Vishal came to the training room and told the participant that the initially planned session has been cancelled because of some emergency. Neeraj has to give a presentation to a prospective customer on how trainings are conducted at NIIT for various roles including PMs, analysts, developers, new hires etc. This was an ad-hoc requirement and therefore, we don’t have anyone free/available from our internal team at such a short notice. Neeraj has to leave today at 6 and we want you people to develop those presentation pieces in groups and present them to Neeraj at 3. There was utter chaos in the room. Different groups were made and each group was given a contact number of a person at NIIT (a PM, an analyst, etc) who could act as SME for them. After half hour, everyone was asked to give estimates of how soon they can present their part of the presentation. After those estimates were shared, some people from each group were taken out and a new group was made and was given another task. In a nutshell, there was utter chaos. No one knew what to do-crunch deadline, critical assignment, no SME, wrong estimates, and then lesser number of people in the team than required. Then after another hour of chaos, the participant were told that it was all a prank. The intent was to make them familiarized with how things typically happen in the real world. Then the objectives were shared and how to handle such situations was told.

My only point here is that breaking away from typical styles of courses may really prove to be effective learning experiences for a set of audience.

Although I agree that all the strategies that were used in the session that I mentioned above may fit in the nine conditions of learning proposed by Gagne; however, how effectively these conditions are used while creating learning materials depends a lot on the experience and creativity of the person developing the material.

I feel that somewhere the alternative version of author on the nine conditions of learning is the derivative of what I mentioned - over a period of time the focus of application of these conditions of learning becomes bringing out some kind of consistency and convenience in the way content is presented. Instead of applying these conditions to make learning more effective, we end up using them as a format/template that we must fill.

Harsh Katyal said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:31pm

Here’s what I feel about Clark’s article “Gagne’s Nine Dull Commandments”:
I don’t agree with his rationale for repudiating Gagne’s philosophy. I feel that Gagne’s theory and the “nine events”, as he calls the nine principles of learning, are relevant even in contemporary times.

To begin with, Clark did not even get his calculations right when he dissects Gagne’s “50-year-old” theory. It’s been a little over 40 years when Gagne wrote the theory in 1965. Even a school student can get this basic calculation right. But this is the least of the problem.

1. Clark’s claim that gaining attention through Flash animation or corporate introduction is not engaging is incorrect. The first most important step in learning is to help the learners connect with the material being taught. If the introduction itself is lackluster than we have lost the learner right at the start. Animation, interesting and relevant scenarios, or sometimes catchy tag lines are a sure shot way to grab learners’ attention.

2. Did he say, “…bore the learner with stupid list of learning objectives”? I’m surprised if this is coming from a person who knows the basics of sound instructional designing. It is really important, if not essential to the core, to inform the learners what they will gain through a course. It is like showing a lantern on a dark and treacherous path lest the learners fall on the way or get lost on the way toward their goal.

3. It is interesting to note that Clark can only think of sexual harassment when he mentions “Stimulating recall of prior learning”. I wonder if that comes from personal experience. Recalling prior learning “definitely” helps learners relate better with the new content and activates their brain cells for the new learning, thereby making them more receptive.

4. Learners need to be evaluated on what they have learned to enhance their confidence levels and to lead them toward a more satisfying learning experience. It is a fallacy to believe that assessments are limited to MCQs. It can be review questions, practice exercise, research assignments, analyses, etc.

5. Feedback is never limited to correct/incorrect or right/wrong. There’s always a rationale provided for the feedback.

6. Retention is definitely enhanced through job-aids, checklists, and real-life scenarios that are invariably (if not always) provided with courses.

I feel that Mr. Clark has actually just skimmed through the surface of Gagne’s theory that has led him to have an incomplete and distorted understanding. My humble suggestion is that before something so serious is made public in a blog, the author does some pithy research and yes, some “soul-searching.”

Papia Chatterjee said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:32pm

Though the writer has tried to portray the ineffectiveness of Gagne’s nine events of instruction in today’s scenario, I still feel that Gagne’s nine events of instructions still holds true for a learner. Even if we forget E-learning for a moment and just concentrate on the implementation of these nine events on any learner generically, Gagne’s nine events would hold true.

For example, we all might have had some experience in our lives of teaching something new to kids. Recall how difficult it had been to hold his or her interest. Initially, you needed to catch hold of his interest making him curious enough so that his or her interest stays alive. The same kind of strategy holds true for all type of learners, thus, showing the effectiveness of Gagne’s first event of instruction. However, this does not mean that every course needs to start with a flashy animation or a trainer addressing the learners. We can always brainstorm to find new ideas to attract the attention of learners apart from these routine methods.

Mr. Clark has tried to present the giving away of the objectives to learners in the start as banal and dull. However, I feel that the example of going to the cinema and expecting to hear the objectives of the film before you start can nowhere be compared with telling the objectives of a courseware to learners. This is because a movie is much different from learning. We watch movies for refreshing our minds and entertaining ourselves. However, learning can be both as a serious way to learn something new as well as entertain oneself. If I am going to learn something, I would surely want to know my level of knowledge after I complete learning that subject. I would also want to know that what exactly, I would be taught in that subject. So certainly, per me, telling the objectives to a learner before he or she actually starts learning would help a learner make a decision whether he or she actually needs to go through that course or not.

To conclude, Gagne’s nine events of instruction though may sound dull and boring, still, these have not lost their efficacy in today’s times.

Harish Sati said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:32pm

I do not agree with the writer’s thoughts. The writer has interpreted Gagne incorrectly. We might not follow the nine principles in the same order. For instance, there could be practice activity, such as a game which can be used to gain attention. How you implement these principles depends on many factors, such as the audience profile and the delivery media. Moreover, the author emphasizes only on not using these principles without suggesting an alternative. He has compared the learning courses with movies, which is not a fair comparison. We go to a movie for pure entertainment and not for learning and retention of that learning per se.

Tanuka Sharma said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:33pm

My view of these nine commandments is perfectly fine. Rest, it is up to the instructional designer to apply these in the courses. Here is my take on Gagne’s model:

Gain attention: This looks as a crucial commandment to me. This may be in the form of surprise, humor, opening animation, and much more. Although your example seemed to have an opposite effect, but Gagne isn’t to be blamed for this. It needs something that relates to the learner.

Inform learners of the objectives: This looks to me another important commandment. The learner should definitely be informed what they will get for investing their time. In fact, if they don’t know why they are doing the course, they probably won’t do it. This should be done to ensure motivation for the learner. If this is not done, they won’t be able to put it in context because they won’t have a context. In your example, suspense is useful, but don’t you have a pretty good idea how the next Bond film is going to turn out before it is even made? I don’t think this will make it boring. Suspense can be added in the end.

Prior learning: This commandment can be at an introductory level. It would be more helpful when this is a sequence of modules or learning events. I think it is a good idea to recap on the last event for better understanding of future concepts.

Presenting the stimulus: This means the kind of situation that is needed for this course? I think this is a good commandment.

Learning guidance: This is a commandment in the instructional phase. This is important as this can be presented using a case study, examples, non-examples. I feel this is a good commandment Gagne has pointed out.

Eliciting performance: I feel without this commandment, the course will become a mere study without any interaction. There should be some questions, activities that will engage the learner in the course. This is a good commandment.

Providing feedback: This could be part of the previous commandment, but needs to happen in order to build the confidence of the learner.

Assessing performance: This looks as a difficult task to do in any self-study context for most skills. It would be better to set them off-line exercise (pre- and post assessment).

Enhance retention and transfer to job: This is an essential commandment. I don’t think it is Gagne’s fault if people don’t implement it.

I feel there is no need to discard Gagne’s nine principles, but these should be adapted to the new changing scenario for multimedia delivery systems. You shouldn’t blame the roadmap for poor drivers. I conclude that Gagne provides a good map, but it is up to the designer to interpret that map into directions that his audience will understand and relate to.

Grace Nila Ramamoorthy said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:34pm

I would partially agree with the author. Though he seems blunt in his comments, he drives home his point with realistic examples.

Gaining attention depends on the creative instincts of the author. The video clip we had about physical training and Nike shoes for our training session was an exception. Not always, we manage to gain attention to that extent. Soft skill courses may provide good attention grabbing scenarios, but with pure tech courses it is a great challenge.

I tend to partially agree that giving away the objective at the beginning either prepares a learners mind or shuts it off forever. I feel that as the course progresses, the objectives should unfold. In that case, there is an element of expectation build up. However, in a shabbily developed course, a learner might be completely lost without an upfront objective. Therefore, an objective at the beginning might be helpful in steering in the right direction.

I also agree with the author that the actual content - the raison d’etre - of the course is hidden as point 5 and before the learner realizes, the course has moved on to point 6. So much built up and a sudden limp! That’s how I feel about the nine commandments. Fresh new learning is limited to such a small part of the content and so much time and effort is placed in building up and assessing.
I see two major draw backs in this nine commandments principle: The first one is the bland look and feel of the structure of the course. There is no newness or freshness in each new creation. If the learner has done one course that follows the nine commandments, the learner knows to skip straight to the actual content part without even a cursory glance at the build up.

Second drawback I see is that with this all learners are expected to behave and learn in a similar fashion. However, learning behavior of each individual could be different. A pure technical course learner might find these build up mechanism quite frivolous. The learner may like the change from a pure technical document to an interestingly presented course material. However, the repetitive pattern may lead to boredom.

Following the nine commandments may transform the creative writing domain into a measurable structured process-driven domain. It may even be easy to initiate the non-initiated into the writing domain. Nevertheless, it tends to create a factory-produced bland product.

Geeta Ravi said...

Submitted on 2008/10/08 at 2:56pm

As I read the blog, I realized that Mr. Clark has pre-confined notions about things. There are some places where I agree but, there are others where I strongly disagree with him. Also, I believe he doesn’t realize that the stated points need not be performed in a sequence. Let us take each at a time Gagne Vs Clark.

1. Gain attention:
Gagne - Stimuli activates receptors
Clark - Normally an overlong Flash animation or corporate intro, rarely an engaging interactive event:

Capturing the attention is the key to building the interest of the learner, but it like Clark says, it should not be overdone.

2. Inform learners of objectives:
Gagne - Creates level of expectation for learning
Clark - Now bore the learner stupid with a list of learning objectives (really trainer speak). Give the plot away and remind them of how really boring this course is going to be

The learner should be aware of the content if it is a technical or knowledge based topic. It is important as it involuntarily drives the attention level of the learner as the learner judges the importance of the course by its objectives. Hence, I totally disagree with Clark on this point.

3. Stimulate recall of prior learning:
Gagne - Retrieval and activation of short-term memory
Clark - Can you think of the last time you sexually harassed someone?

Learners are more willing to comprehend a topic if they can relate to it. The example that Clark has taken up is bland.

4: Present the content:
Gagne- Selective perception of content
Clark - presenting the Stimulus: Is this a behaviorist I see before me?

There is a difference between the understanding levels. Gagne is talking about Content, whereas, Clark is still stuck on stimulus. Its time to move on to Clark. I agree with Gagne as presentation of the content, structuring it in the right way is the most important thing.

5. Provide “learning guidance”:
Gagne - Semantic encoding for storage long-term memory
Clark - We’ve finally got to some content.

There is no point to disagree, plus Clark agrees with Gagne on this as well.

6. Elicit performance (practice):
Gagne - Responds to questions to enhance encoding and verification
Clark - Multiple-choice questions each with at least one really stupid option.

Yes I agree, practical are the best form of learning; hence they should be incorporated as much as possible. But, there are some topics are meant only for theory. E.g.: Sex Education.

7. Provide feedback:
Gagne - Reinforcement and assessment of correct performance
Clark - Yes/no, right/wrong, correct/incorrect…try again.

If a positive response is provided for a wrong answer, it makes the Learner want to learn more. E.g. Incorrect Clark - You are on the right track, try again…

8. Assess performance:
Gagne - Retrieval and reinforcement of content as final evaluation
Clark - Use your short-term memory to choose options in the multiple-choice quiz.

As the memory is absolutely fresh after the course, hence time should be given to grasp the entire thing & assessment done later. Otherwise, it is more or less like learn & forget.

9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job:
Gagne - Retrieval and generalization of learned skill to new situation
Clark - Never happens! The course ends here; you’re on your own mate…

The retention is only possible if the learner connects with the course, hence all the above 8 commandments should be fulfilled. If not, then Clark is right.

Ritu Dey said...

Submitted on 2008/10/11 at 11:17am

I choose to disagree with the author on most of the points. The nine events are very muck relevant even today. The events do impart learning; the degree of learning may vary from one individual to other.

1. Gaining attention: There can be different strategies to gain attention. Gagne never restricted anyone to include only flash animations or corporate videos. An instructional designer can have various ways to gain attention. There can be scenarios to introduce the learner to the concept; there can be quotations or simply some relevant statements to gain the attention of the learner. What matters here is the understanding of the target audience and their motive for attending a particular course.

2. Stating the objective: It is very important to tell the learner about the benefits of the training. If I apply this to myself, I would never attend training if I am not aware of what will I get out of the course? Similarly, a learner will not be motivated to go through the course. If he goes through the course, his objective would be to merely put it on record. There will be no actual learning taking place.

3. Stimulating recall of prior learning: We can remember anything better when we relate it to something from our personal experiences or past learning. It is always a good idea to recap what we have done in the past. This helps in building the connect and maintaining a flow.

4. Presenting the stimulus: If we do not build relevance for the learner and he does not see any benefit, he would not go through the course. The learner might look at it as a mere wastage of time. The relevance can be built keeping in mind the new developments in media and technology advancements.

5. Providing learning guidance: Again, it’s the most important part of any course or training. I fell, an instructional designer can take the liberty to merge two steps or alter the order of the steps to present the content in an engaging way. This can make the training more fruitful.

6. Eliciting performance: We have the option to use some games or puzzles to elicit the performance of the learner. It is not necessary to stick to MCQs or MMCQs, unless the client has demanded for the same.

7. Providing feedback: There can be constructive feedback that has an elaborate explanation for why is correct or incorrect. We have come a long way from simple yes/no, right/wrong. But we definitely allow for more than one attempt to the learner when we have complex questions.

8. Assessing performance: Assessments are usually at the end of any course. It is not necessary that the learner completes the course at one go or attempts the assessment right away. Also we can text the learner by giving some questions or question based on situations. We have many options to implement rather than testing a learner by giving him simple questions. We can make the MMCQ options in a fashion that teats the learner in a better manner.

9. Enhancing retention and transfer to other contexts: The course ends here but its practical part is yet to be tested. A learner is supposed to implement his learning in the practical life as well else he will end up with failures.

Nishant Ranganathan said...

Submitted on 2008/10/13 at 4:49pm

Gaining attention: This makes me think of presentations, trainings, and online student materials that gains maximum interest of the audience with the help of attractive images and animations. It is important that any learning material that you prepare for your target audience, whether they are books, Web-based programs, presentations over projectors; you must prepare them in such a way that it attracts maximum attention, for example, colorful images and subject-related animations. I strongly agree to this commandment.

Stating the objective: Sounds very boring to me but this is as important as you ask a child to do his homework everyday

Stimulating recall of prior learning: At some point of time, this may be a very important aspect of helping the learner to recall his past learning and relate them with the ongoing subject.

Presenting the stimulus: Okay, this seems to be like teaching a qualified person about applying “common sense” in his work life

Providing learning guidance: This sounds interesting where you encourage your learners to read some more relative contents in-relation to the ongoing subject.

Eliciting performance: I agree. According to me, each chapter must have knowledge check questions to test learner’s understanding over the subject.

Providing feedback: I agree. Each question that you prepare for your learner must have a feedback, by telling them whether their answer is correct or incorrect, and provide them the reason behind it.

Assessing performance: I think you should have post-training exercises to assess your learners, rather than including them as one of the training activities.

Enhancing retention and transfer to other contexts: According to me, providing knowledge obviously enhances learner’s level-of-understanding, but a good learning experience can help bottom-line performers to the maximum, so that they can be retained in the company and even reduce the number of transfers to other contexts.

Manjari Verma said...

Submitted on 2008/10/13 at 6:03pm

What Clark has written is the most common way of interpreting and using the Gagne’s commandments. Most of us probably do only this much in our writing. For introduction, the first thing that comes to our mind is actually a Flash animation. When we think of objectives, what flashes on our mind is a sentence “In this lesson, you will learn about:” and a bulleted list of objectives.

However, what we need to do is to understand these nine rules and be creative in presenting the content by using these rules as guidelines. Yes, an introduction can be a Flash animation, but how effective it has been made is the main question. One should also use other methods on introducing content, such as scenarios, role plays, a list of questions that are likely to be there in user’s mind, and so on. Further, one can merge these strategies to come up with an even more interesting introduction that is engaging for the user.

Similarly, objectives need not be a boring list of a few points. A good introduction will provide the basis for the students to read the objectives. One can then try presenting the objectives in an attractive manner, such as using some animation or an explanation that talks to the learner and is easy for them to understand.

Similarly, the other commandments should be taken as guidelines and then creativity should be explored to present content in the most innovative way that makes sense to the learners and motivates them to take the course.

One needs to be thoughtful while using these commandments. The overall product should teach the learners and give them a sense of satisfaction that they have gone through a lesson and have actually had some learning experience.

Gagne’s nine commandments are very much useful for instructional designing. These provide a broad-level framework that one can use to design motivational content for the students. Within this framework, one should identify the scope of new ways of presentation. Following these commandments as guidelines will definitely help to create a useful product for the customers.

Sandipan said...

Submitted on 2008/10/14 at 2:39pm

This post reminds me of a past incident in one of my previous organizations, where using Gagne’s Nine Events of instruction deemed as USP and all were required to read Dick and Carrey’s book on ISD. Our understandings was then dicussed in subsequent group sessions. In one such session, I told the faculty that I could not see Gagne’s nine events being followed in toto in any of the courses in our repository. The faculty had to agree with me, but did not have any explanation for the same.

Now, even today, I can vouch that the courses that was in teh repository were one of the best I have seen till date.

So, my straight-talk: Gagne’s Nine Events are not manadatory for creating a good course. We can use some or all of the events as and when situation demands, but they are not mandatory, and can be used in any sequence.

I am not surprised by the views expressed by most in this topic. Few months back, I posed a similar question in another e-learning community in Orkut, and got similar response. Somehow, there is always a knee-jerk reaction in our industry whenver someone wants us to take a fresh look at estbalished methods. We try to defent at any cost, without trying to see if there’s any merit at the criticism.

Being an ex-NIITian, and having gone through the courses in our repository, I beg to state that few would qualify as having used ALL of Gagne’s Nine Events in sequence; neither is this required. Even NetG and Skill soft has created thousands of online courses, without following this methodology.
We are fast approaching an era of just-in-time learning; learners know very well what they want before they take up any courses and they are fully attentive the moment they click the “Launch” button. Therfore, few people would need/want a attention grabber; it’s at best, redundant.

Stimulating recall of past learning is defunct in the era of Web 2.0. “Just give me the information I need, dont try to tell remind what I already know, because you may not know as well what I already know.”

Just a few points that I wanted to emphasize on. The main message is, however, please don’t provide a knee-jerk reactions, as if someone is trying to tarnish the sanctity of your idols. Try to see merit in criticism, and try to recollect, honestly, how many times you have used Gagne’s nine events in the sequence he had described.

Gagne’s reseacrh dates back to at least three cecades back; and today we are living in another age.

Gary Whitfield said...

Submitted on 2008/11/03 at 1:42am

Just to echo what Harish Sati and others have said: Gagne introduced nine events… these are not nine sequential steps, but events that should take place in your content. The mind still works in the same way and Gagne is just as relevant today.

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