Gagne's Conditions for Learning
4.13 Identify the categories of behaviors included in Gagne’s taxonomy of learning, and classify learning outcomes into the appropriate category.
One of the best-known instructional theories based on cognitive principles was formulated by Robert Gagné (1985). This theory involves the conditions of learning, or the circumstances that prevail when learning occurs. Two steps are critical. The first is to specify the type of learning behavior (outcome). Gagné identified five major types. The second is to determine the events of learning, or factors that make a difference in instruction.
The following represents Gagne’s taxonomy of learning based on the five general types of learning behaviors.
His categories include elements of declarative versus procedural knowledge while providing enough detailed differences between some of the subtler differences between types of cognitive skills.
Events of Learning
4.14 Match instructional events with the phase Gagne describes in his model of learning and instruction.
Instruction is a set of external events designed to facilitate internal learning processes. Gagne describe nine fundamental events for learning, based on cognitive learning principles. These events occur within three primary categories of instructional phases:
Preparation for learning
Phases in this category includes introductory learning activities. During attending, learners focus on stimuli relevant to material to be learned (audiovisuals, written materials, teacher-modeled behaviors). The learner’s expectancy orients the learner to the goal (learn a motor skill, learn to reduce fractions). During retrieval of relevant information from LTM, learners activate the portions relevant to the topic studied.
Acquisition and performance
In this category, learners engage in selective perception where their sensory registers recognize relevant stimulus features and transfer them to WM. Semantic encoding is the process whereby new knowledge is transferred to LTM. During retrieval and responding, learners retrieve new information from memory and make a response demonstrating learning. Reinforcement refers to feedback that confirms the accuracy of a student’s response and provides corrective information as necessary.
Transfer of learning
Phases in this category include cueing retrieval and generalizability. In cueing retrieval, learners receive cues signaling that previous knowledge is applicable in that situation. When solving word problems, for instance, a mathematics teacher might inform learners that their knowledge of right triangles is applicable. Generalizability is enhanced by providing learners the opportunity to practice skills with different content and under different circumstances (e.g., homework, spaced review sessions).
Here is a classic example of some common instructional events for each phase of instruction:
4.15 Identify instructional strategies (environmental events) that support the learning of each type of behavior from Gagne’s taxonomy of learning.
Many strategies have been researched to best help people learn the behaviors indicated in Gagne’s VICAM model. These are some of the more practical:
Opportunities should be provided for the learners to explore the overall learning environment with minimal instructor guidance and intervention……but guidance should be available for learners as they apply information presented to the skills, knowledge and attitudes (SKA) being facilitated.
Appropriate strategies for the type(s) of new SKA facilitated should be accessible and embedded within the learning experience:
Verbal Information [a.k.a. Declarative Knowledge]
- New terminology and definitions are used in a sentence.
- Attempts are made to relate new terms and definitions to assumed preexisting knowledge.
- Definitions are presented clearly using the fewest number of words to convey the meaning.
- Related terms or units are grouped into clearly defined categories.
- A variety of concrete (observable) examples are presented whenever possible, emphasizing the clear and well-defined features that relate directly to the information.
- How the learners will be expected to recall the verbal information within the classroom environment is clearly articulated at the time it is presented if possible.
- Make information readily accessible to learners, and provide opportunities for them to explore "nice-to-know" information associated with the verbal information to be learned.
- Provide opportunities for the learners to practice using the verbal information to be learned in the same way it will be assessed in the future…with immediate feedback.
Intellectual Skills [a.k.a. Procedural Knowledge]
- Varied examples or instances of concepts and rule applications must be available in the learning environment, with attention called to the distinctive features of examples, definitions, and procedures.
- Nonexamples or noninstances of new concepts to be learned should be provided if they help clarify meaning.
- Strategies should be employed for encouraging learners to recall previously-learned information or examples that illustrate concepts or rules being presented. This may involve the presentation of cues within the instructional context that aid the learners in selecting and applying appropriate previously-learned SKA.
- Definitions of defined concepts should be clearly communicated, using the fewest number of words.
- The process of performing or applying rules should be broken down into steps, and these steps should be clearly communicated or made accessible to the learners.
- Application of new rules to be learned should be demonstrated for the learners, with access to expert performances whenever possible.
- Regardless of the context type, the learners should be provided with opportunities to "play" with concepts and rules within simulated or real environments, identifying and selecting their own examples and nonexamples of concepts and rule applications if possible.
- Ample guidance throughout the early stages of practice should be available.
- Include all the strategies from the intellectual skills category, paying special attention to the modeling of strategies by experts (or students who already know how to perform the skills well).
- Encourage learners to articulate their personal strategies for applying skills and solving problems.
- Examples of choices made by credible and attractive (similar, familiar, or appealing appearance) people who possess the desired attitude should be provided.
- Strategies for enabling learners to identify instances in their lives in which making choices are based on the attitude being presented should be employed.
- Strategies should be employed for making the learners aware of the personal benefits gained by making choices based on the desired attitudes (using role models or other people that the learners admire if possible).
- Opportunities should be provided that allow learners to practice making choices associated with the desired attitude (role-playing, group discussion, etc.), complete with feedback.
- The instruction should visually represent examples of acceptable and successful motor routine execution.
- The instruction should verbally guide learners through the motor routine.
- The instruction should provide ample practice with immediate feedback.
- The instruction should encourage the use of mental practice or visualization strategies.
Gagne's conditions for learning represent a direct application of cognitive theory to the design of instructional events. The Gagne's work is heavily influenced by the information processing models that defined cognitivism, they were also influenced by other learning theories that contributed to cognitivism. One such theory represents the final scene in Act 2: Social Cognitive Theory.