Gagné Conditions of Learning

Gredler (1997) praised that Gagné's condition of learning has shifted the study of learning in the lab to the study in real-world settings and explained that such changes was a results of training needs in World War II:

What is learning to Gagné?

  1. Learning is cumulative. Human intellectual development is the building of increasing complex structures of human capabilities.
  2. Learning is the mechanism by which an individual becomes a competently functioning member of society
  3. Learning results in different kinds of human behaviors, i.e. different human capabilities, which are required both from the stimulation from the environment and the cognitive processing undertaken by the learners.

The underlying assumption derived from Gagné's ideas about learning and instruction:

  1. Because learning is complex and diverse, different learning outcomes (capabilities) requires different instructions, prerequisites and processing by the learners. In other worlds, the specific operations that constitute instructional events are different for each different type of learning outcome.
  2. Events of learning operate on the learner in ways that constitute the conditions of learning. The internal states required in the learner to acquire the new skills are internal conditions of learning, and the environmental stimuli required to support the internal learning process are external conditions of learning. Learning hierarchies define what intellectual skills are to be learned and a sequence of instruction.

Taxonomy of Human learning capabilities
Gagné identifies five major categories of learning: verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, motor skills and attitudes. Different internal and external conditions are necessary for each type of learning. The following matrix is abstracted from Gredler's (1997) descriptions of Gagne's condition of learning:

Types of Human Capabilities
Principles for Instructional Events
Verbal Information
Retrieving stored information: the internal conditions to support this learning include
  • Preexisting of organized knowledge
  • Strategies for processing the new information
  • Provide meaningful context of information for encoding
  • Provide elaborations, imagery, or other encoding cues
  • Organize information so that it can be learned in chunks
Intellectual Skills

Metal operations that permits individuals to respond to conceptualizations of the environment:

  • Discrimination
  • Concrete and defined concepts
  • Rule using
  • Problem solving: combining subordinate rules in order to solve a problem

The internal conditions to facilitate this type of learning include:

  • Recalling prerequisite skills
  • Interacting in a variety of ways with the new learning
  • Applying the new skills to range and variety of different situations and contexts
  • Provide varied concrete examples and rules
  • Provide opportunities for interacting with examples in different ways
  • Assess learners in new situations
Cognitive Strategies

An internal process by which the learners plans, controls, and monitors his/her won ways of thinking and learning, including

  • Task specific
  • General
  • Executive
  • If task-specific, describe the strategy; if task general, demonstrate the strategy.
  • Provide opportunities for strategy specific practice with support and feedback
An internal state, i.e. predisposition that affects an individual choice of action
  • Provide respected models who enact positive behavior and reinforce the model
  • When learner enacts the behavior, provide reinforcement
Motor Skills

Capability to perform a sequence of physical movements. It involves three stages:

  • Learning the sequence of the movement
  • Practicing the movement
  • Refining the movement from the feedback from the environment
  • Establish executive subroutine and provide for mental rehearsal.
  • Arrange several repetitions of skills with correct feedback

Gagné indicated nine events of instruction
The instructional events do not produce learning, but support the learner's internal process. Three phases of the nine events are described (Gagné & Briggs, 1974):

  1. Preparing for learning: gain attention, inform objectives, and stimulate recall of prior knowledge
  2. Acquisition and performance: present stimulus material, provide learner guidance, elicit performance an provide feedback
  3. Transfer of learning: assess performance and enhance retention and transfer process

The nine events are:

Gagné's learning theories have had a positive influence on the evolution of the systems approach to designing instruction. The features of systems model for instruction design are (Gredler, 1997):

  1. Goal-directed: instruction is designed for specified goals and objectives
  2. A closed-loop process: a iterative process of design, try out, and revision to achieved the desired goals.


Gagné, R. M. (1965). The conditions of learning and theory of instruction ( 1st ed.). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Gagné, R. M., & Briggs, L. J. (1974). The principles of instructional design ( 1st ed.). New York, NY: Holt.

Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning and theory of instruction ( 4th ed.). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Gredler, M. E. (1997). Learning and instruction: Theory into practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Merrill, M. D., Li, Z., & Jones, M. K. (1991a). Second generation instructional design (ID2). Educational Technology, 30(1), 7-11.