Robert Gagné

Taken from How to be an e-tutor by Dr Richard Mobbs. Used with permission.

In 1972 Robert Gagné developed his taxonomy of learning. Gagné's work has been particularly influential in the design of instructional materials (particularly for military personnel) and as such his theory has been classified as an instructional theory. Gagné theory is based upon an Information Processing model and described several factors that influence learning and as such are called the Conditions of Learning.

There are three elements in Gagné's theory: a taxonomy; internal and external factors necessary to achieve learning and nine events of instruction.


The taxonomy learning comprises five categories:

  1. verbal information
  2. intellectual skill
  3. cognitive strategy
  4. attitude
  5. motor skill

Intellectual skill can be further sub-divided into:

  • stimulus recognition
  • response generation
  • procedure following
  • use of terminology
  • discrimination
  • concrete and defined concepts
  • rules

Internal and external factors

Different internal and external conditions are necessary for for each type of learning. For example, for verbal information to be learned there must be a chance to practice in different situations and environments. For cognitive strategies to be learned there must be the opportunity to practice new solutions to problems.

Instructional events

In addition the theory outlines nine instructional events, which should be found in any instructional context, and the corresponding cognitive processes.

  1. Gain attention
    Present a good problem or new situation in a stimulating and engaging way. (reception)
  2. Inform learner of objectives
    Describe the learning outcomes, the aims and objectives of the session, what skills will be accomplished and how they will be able to use the knowledge, give a demonstration if appropriate. (expectancy)
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning
    Remind students of prior knowledge relevant to the current lesson (facts, rules, procedures or skills). Show how the sessions are connected. Provide the student with a framework that helps learning and remembering. Tests can be included. (retrieval)
  4. Present stimulus material to be learned
    Use a mixture of media e.g. text, graphics, simulations, figures, pictures, sound, etc. e.g. follow a consistent presentation style, chunking of information (avoid memory overload, recall information) (selective perception)
  5. Provide learner guidance
    Show examples and demonstrate the relevance of the materials. Use different approaches to demonstrate the same information. (semantic encoding)
  6. Elicit performance
    Let the student do something with the newly acquired behaviour, practice skills or apply knowledge. (response)
  7. Provide informative feedback
    Show correctness of the student's response, analyse learner's behaviour (or let him do it), maybe present a good (step-by-step) solution of the problem - model answer. (reinforcement)
  8. Assess performance
    Test if the lesson has been learned. Also give sometimes general progress information in the context of the whole course. (retrieval)
  9. Enhance retention and transfer
    Give examples of similar problems or situations, provide additional practice. Put the learner in a transfer situation and get them to review the training materials. (generalisation)


  1. Obituary [external link]
  2. The Conditions of Learning [external link]

Taken from How to be an e-tutor by Dr Richard Mobbs. Used with permission.

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