Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

As part of my duties as an eIntern for the Virtual Student Federal Service program, I, along with two other eInterns, had to revise an existing lesson plan used by the U.S. Department of State. Whenever I develop or revise a lesson plan I use Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction as a framework. To me, Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction or G9 consist of good instruction codified; that is, they are what good instructors or teachers already do put down into a systematic series of events. Gagne outlined the external events that would stimulate internal cognitive processes and facilitate learning.  Here are Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

  1. Gain Attention– in order for a person to learn something he or she must first attend to the thing to be learned
  2. Inform Learners of the  Learning Objectives– this allows the learner to set his or her expectation for learning and direct attention throughout learning
  3. Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning– new information is learned more efficiently when it is tied to or related to something that has already been learned
  4. Present the Stimulus (or content)– the instructor delivers the content
  5. Provide Learning Guidance– the instructor uses instructional strategies such as repetition, mnemonics, and questioning to assist the learner’s acquistion of information or skill development
  6. Elicit Performance– the instructor gives the learner the opportunity to practice the learning content
  7. Provide Performance Feedback– the instructor provides the learner with feedback on his or her performance, coaching to proficiency; this is like a practice test. Practice without feedback is a waste of time.
  8. Assess Performance– this is like a final assessment, used to measure the learners mastery of the content
  9. Enhance Retention and Transfer to Other Contexts– the instructor may provide the learner with job aids, mnemonics, handouts, etc. to increase the probability of the learner retaining what has been learned and using what has been learned in other contexts, such as the performance context

I have had success with developing efficient and effective instruction by using Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, and I use them whenever I have to create micro-level instruction. I recommend you use them too. G9!

Here is a list of books by Robert Gagne.



Alternative Assessment- Learning is Deeper When Learners Create Something

During my second time around teaching Introductory Sociology, I was well into my program in Instructional Design and Development, and I wanted to tryout the instructional strategies and assessment techniques I had learned about. Alternative Assessment appealed to me.

Traditional assessment aims to verify learning.  Alternative assessment, on the other hand, provides opportunities for deeper learning rather than simply identification. With alternative assessment, learners have the opportunity to engage in domain specific learning activities which require the use of higher order thinking skills. Examples of alternative assessments include short answer questions, essays, exhibitions, and oral presentations Alternative assessment views the learner as an active participant in the construction of knowledge.

I created the learning objectives and assessment items below for a workshop I conducted on Alternative Assessment. Compare the traditional assessment item to the alternative assessment item. You will note that the traditional assessment item does not require the learner to produce anything; it only requires the learner to identify the correct response; that is a low level of learning that does not promote depth of learning. Alternative assessment items engage higher order thinking skills, such as synthesis and evaluation. For more information on levels of learning see Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.






Need help with creating alternative assessment items for your learners? Reach out to me via our Contact Us page, via email at [email protected], or leave a note below.



Instructional Design and Visual Design

I just finished an outstanding and informative course on visual design in elearing.  The course was by Sally Cox, available on LinkedIn Learning.  Instructional designers analyze learning and performance contexts, learners, and instructional content. The course on visual design brought out the importance of the visual in what we do; we must analyze how content is displayed, not only what is displayed. Not only in elearning but in print based instruction as well, things like the spacing and alignment of characters, colors and shading, font type, and imagery, create cognitive load that may benefit the learner or obstruct learning. As instructional designers we must use principles of visual design to create instruction that makes learning easy and light.

Sally Cox’s course on LinkedIn Learning is Elearning Techniques: Visual Design.

For more information on cognitive load, see  Cognitive Load Theory by Sweller, Ayres, and Kalyuga.


Teamwork makes the Dream Work

Remember, from grade school, the grade category Works well with others? The ability to work well with others- as part of a team contributing, providing feedback, receiving feedback, being responsive, responsible, gracious, and polite- is a skill necessary for most endeavors. We live in a society; we must interact with others. Those of us in the Instructional Design field must possess this skill to a high degree; it is a non-negotiable, whether working as a sole proprietor/consultant, or working as part of an instructional design/learning design team in higher education, government, or corporate America.

For my latest project, with an Entrepreneur Magazine Franchise 500 2016 Top New Franchise, I am collaborating with a Systems Engineer, a Chief Operations Officer, a technologist, and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). I must interface with the aforementioned parties to obtain content, verify accuracy of content, receive feedback on prototype development, and facilitate upload of elearning content to a learning management system (LMS). It is truly a team effort, and our project would be stalled and possibly aborted if we did not work together to get things done. Thank goodness I learned to work well with others.

Some of the useful tools that have facilitated my work as part of a virtual instructional design team, as an instructional design consultant and as an instructional design eintern, have been

  1. email
  2. web-conferencing tools such as WebEx and Zoom 
  3. elearning content review tools such as ReviewLink 
  4. Google Docs for sharing and collaborating
  5. LinkedIn Learning tutorials on project management and various business topics

Remember, teamwork makes the dream work.

Be Extraordinary!


Graphics and Instructional Design

One of the responsibilities of an instructional designer is to use cognitive science and instructional design principles to inform the creation of efficient and effective learning experiences that are suited to the learner and context. The content created should not impose unnecessary cognitive load (extraneous cognitive load) on the learners, rather content should be created so that relationships, concepts, and ideas are readily obtained by the learner.

I am developing an elearning module for a new product offered by a corporate client. In this project, as well as with paper-based instructional content I’ve created, I have found that a good graphic is worth a thousand words. For my current project, I used a 4 X 5 table to illustrate declarative knowledge that would take several paragraphs of text.

As an instructional designer, it is my job to create content that is displayed in a more efficient, less cognitively-taxing way than strictly text-based delivery; the way I do that is with graphics.

The role of the textbook; the role of the instructor

woman standing at podium; foreground are backs of students headsThis semester, I am teaching a face-to-face Social Problems class. After the first class meeting, a student asked, “Will the test be mostly memorization of terms in the book?” This question prompted two thoughts. First, do most large undergraduate level classes focus on memorization of terms for assessment purposes, and second, I must make it explicit to the class what is my role as its instructor.

For me, the instructor’s role is to connect abstract concepts to concrete examples/illustrations. The textbook is a necessary tool for introducing students to the language of a field or content area, and providing definitions of concepts, terms, and ideas; however the textbook is just the beginning of the learning experience. A skilled and thoughtful instructor must establish the relevance of the content and use relevant media and multi-media to draw a clear line from the abstract to the concrete- guiding the learner to a depth of learning that the textbook alone cannot provide. Indeed, most of my preparation for class meetings consists of searching for and vetting media that will assist with demonstrating the concept, terms, and ideas covered in the textbook.

For more on the importance of demonstration in learning to illustrate concepts; procedures, processes, and behaviors, see M. David Merrill’s paper First Principles of Instruction, particularly the Demonstration Principle, or his book by the same name.


Backwards Design and Stephen Covey

The Backwards Design model is one of my favorite Instructional Design models. Perhaps I like it so much because it is similar to the Dick and Carey Model of Instructional Design, the first instructional design model I learned. Perhaps it resonates with me because of my training as a Quality Matters reviewer; quality matters reviewers are taught the importance of beginning with measurable objectives and aligning all other course components to those objectives. The Backwards Design model starts with determining what learners should be able to do at the end of a unit of instruction. Next, assessments and performance tasks are developed, and finally, instructional material and learning activities are designed and developed to help learners achieve the stated ends, aka learning objectives or learning outcomes.

Urban legend has it that a popular qualifying exam question for the Instructional Design and Development doctoral track student at the University I attend used to be, “Name a person, living or dead, who would make a good instructional designer and why?” I was a first year instructional design student when I heard the story of that question. I immediately thought, Stephen Covey would make a good instructional designer because of one of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit 2 of Covey’s list is Begin with the End in Mind. The point is to think of your future self then bring all decisions and actions into alignment with that vision of your future self. It is like Backwards Design; the model begins with a vision of what learners should be doing at the end of instruction then performance tasks, assessments, instructional materials and learning activities are designed and developed to align with that vision of the learner at the end of instruction. Begin with the end in mind, in instruction and in life.

Information on Backwards Design and Curriculum Planning 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People



Instructional Analysis- Working with SMEs


Analysis is one of my favorite parts of the instructional design process. Today, my team and I worked with a group of subject matter experts (SMEs) to conduct task detailing- a step in task analysis. The aims of task analysis include (1) enumerating the steps involved with completing a task and (2) stating the prerequisite knowledge for each step. The prerequisite knowledge is where things got a bit fuzzy for the SMEs today. Prerequisite knowledge in task detailing refers to what the learner must already know in order to learn a particular step. Prerequisite knowledge  is not general knowledge about a concept, process, or procedure; it is specific knowledge the learner needs to possess in order to learn a step required to complete a task.

When conducting task analysis be sure to ask the SME what the learner needs to know in order to learn a step required to complete a task; ask it specifically: What does the learner need to know in order to learn this step?

A New Educational Paradigm

Today, I started Reinventing Schools: It’s Time to Break the Mold, by Charles M. Reigeluth and Jennifer R. Karnopp. Reigeluth and Karnopp (2013), argued the current Industrial Age Paradigm of education includes time-based progress in which time is constant and learning is variable; learners are given a pre-determined amount of time to learn content and the learning outcomes are variable, with some mastering the content and some requiring more time to master it. Reigeluth and Karnopp (2013) insisted a new Information Age Paradigm was necessary in order to accomodate society, including the workforce, as it currently exists- the Information Age. In the Information Age Paradigm learning would be constant and time would be variable, all learners would be required to master the same skills before moving on and the time required to master the skills would be variable as learners learn at different rates.

Do you have any experience with this new paradigm? Please share your experiences here.



Three Types of Feedback

Dictionary entry for the word Feedback
Nick Youngson – link to –

Good instruction provides learners opportunities to practice the objectives (sometimes called learning objectives, performance objectives, behavioral objectives). Practice without feedback is futile.  Here is the takeaway, instruction should provide practice opportunities and practice opportunities must include feedback.  Mager (2012) described three types of feedback–

  1. Adequacy feedback tell a learner if his or her performance is acceptable
  2. Diagnostic feedback tells a learner what is wrong with his or her performance
  3. Corrective feedback tells a learner how to improve his or her performance

Mager, R.F. (2012). Making instruction work. Carefree AZ:  Mager Associates, Inc.