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
From the observations of the students' learning, he thought
that the cause of their failure in learning was the gaps in their knowledge
of the sub-components of the tasks, i.e. the prerequisite skills. Thus,
he assumes a cumulative organization of learning events based on prerequisite
relationships among learned behaviors. In other worlds, instruction should
provide a set of component tasks and sequence those tasks to ensure the
learners' mastery of each component task and the optimal transfer of the
- Gagné's principal assumption is that there are different kinds of
learned outcomes, and that different internal and external conditions are
necessary to promote each type. Gagné's original work (Gagné,
1965) was based on the experimental learning psychology of the time, including
paired associate learning, serial learning, operant conditioning, concept
learning, and gestalt problem solving.
Recent versions (Gagné, 1985) have incorporated ideas
from cognitive psychology, but the essential characteristics of the original
What is learning to Gagné?
Learning is cumulative. Human intellectual development is
the building of increasing complex structures of human capabilities.
Learning is the mechanism by which an individual becomes
a competently functioning member of society
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:
- 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.
- 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
Retrieving stored information: the internal
conditions to support this learning include
- Provide meaningful context of information for encoding
- Provide elaborations, imagery, or other encoding
- Organize information so that it can be learned in
Metal operations that permits individuals to respond
to conceptualizations of the environment:
- 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
- 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
An internal process by which the learners plans, controls,
and monitors his/her won ways of thinking and learning, including
- 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
Capability to perform a sequence of physical movements.
It involves three stages:
- Establish executive subroutine and provide for mental
- Arrange several repetitions of skills with correct
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):
- Preparing for learning: gain attention, inform objectives, and stimulate
recall of prior knowledge
- Acquisition and performance: present stimulus material, provide learner
guidance, elicit performance an provide feedback
- Transfer of learning: assess performance and enhance retention and transfer
The nine events are:
- Gain Attention: it is related to the processing of perception
- Inform objectives: it builds up expectancy
- Stimulate recall of prior knowledge: it initiates the retrieval from working
- Present stimulus material: it focuses on selectively perceiving stimulus
- Provide learner guidance: it related to the encoding process
- Elicit performance: the focus is response
- Provide feedback: the focus is reinforcing response
- Assess performance: it establishes cueing retrieval
- Enhance retention and transfer: it requires generalization process
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):
- Goal-directed: instruction is designed for specified goals and objectives
- 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.