From Andragogy to Instructional Design for eLearning: Gagné nine events

In the previous articles we have talked about the six principles of Adragogy elaborated by Knowles and why instructional design is essential for a training project to be successful, either eLearning or not: in this article we will describe Gagné nine events of instruction for adults training design. 



Robert Gagné published his work “The conditions of learning” for the first time in 1965: the objective was to identify the mental conditions for learning, in particular basing on the information processing model for adults and linking, therefore, to Malcolm Knowles’ six principles of Andragogy published a few years later. 

Gagné outlines a nine step process, called nine events of instruction, whose goal is to organize training and learning in an effective way. 

Before developing the lessons, however, there are two important underlying factors to consider: the conditions of learning, both internal and external, and the expected results, which have to be defined in all their aspects (for example using Bloom Taxonomy). 



Since they refer to the instructional design level, Gagné nine events can be applied to any kind of training, regardless the subject area and the used mean: this is why this model has been applied to eLearning after its spread, being engagement and motivation particularly important to achieve good results

Looking at the nine events in detail, in fact, it is clear that they aim to use the knowledge of how adults learn to help them to learn – namely memorize and be able to apply – new information. 



The first and most important of the nine events consists in introducing contents in order to gain the learner’s attention, to make him/her interested and involved in the learning process. There are different strategies that can be useful to do that: exploiting the novelty of presented topics, stimulating attention with questions (or having students posing questions) or presenting contents as useful for learners’ work.

Talking specifically about eLearning, this step can consist of starting with a short video to capture the attention, questions to act as pre-assessment (to teachers and students themselves) or a real problem that the course (or the single lesson) aims to solve



In relation to the adults’ need to know, it is fundamental to present the objectives for the course: learning outcomes need to be clear and shared with the students, to make them motivated to keep up with the training program. 

To this end, it seems to be useful using microlearning, namely dividing content into training pills, typical of eLearning courses: introducing the objectives at the beginning of each section can help to stimulate learners’ sense of “usefulness” in relation to the treated content, and therefore interest



The third of Gagné’s events is linked to the Experience principle of Andragogy: to make training effective, in fact, new content needs to be introduced in relation to prior learning, which are already stable in the adult’s mind. 

It becomes essential to know what students already know: in eLearning, using pre-assessments – parts of the need analysis phase – allows to recall this knowledge and also adapt the learning program to students’ real needs. 

It is important to underline that this step should not be done exclusively at the beginning of the course, but can be useful before each micro-module to make all elements of the learning process connected and consequential



Presenting contents is the fourth event: in this phase it is possible to exploit different training strategies, both face-to-face or eLearning, according to the type of content (hard or soft skills), the referring target (e.g. gamification can be more or less suitable) and many other key-factors arisen from the need analysis.



Guiding learners through the training program is fundamental to make training effective, avoiding dissatisfaction and discouragement derived from the uncertainty about the right way to go. 

Talking about eLearning and digital platforms, then, the learning environment itself is in charge of guiding: it is important to add graphic and text elements to support training, to avoid that the learner feels lost. 



Once the content is explained, it is useful to create practice activities, to reinforce the sense of usefulness of what has been learnt, facilitate memorization of information and at the same time confirm their accuracy

Talking about eLearning, this Gagné event can be difficult. To put knowledge into practice it can be useful to have final assessments with tasks to complete, or if the digital medium is not enough for the specific content type, exploit blended learning mechanisms. 



Feedback is essential for the training process: immediate and detailed, it helps learners to reinforce learnt content and promptly correct possible misunderstandings. It can be of different types, but in this specific case is it advisable that it shows the correct answer to help learners to memorize knowledge in the right way and guide them in keeping up with the learning program, highlighting strengths and weaknesses



Differently from intermediate feedback, the final evaluation should portray the learnt knowledge, highlighting if all the objectives have been achieved, allowing to fill possible gaps before the end of the lessons. In addition to that, this is the moment to evaluate the training itself, and to improve the used strategies. 

It is worth it to notice how, using digital solutions, measuring this is extremely simple: teachers can easily collect data on students’ performance and act quickly to achieve all goals. 



Evaluation should not be limited to the moment right after the end of training, but should be repeated after a while and in different forms, to check that information has been really learnt and learners are able to put it into practice in real contexts

About that, eLearning and using LMS platforms in particular, can be really helpful: creating a learning environment that stays accessible even after the end of lessons, it allows to recall participants many times, giving free access to materials and resources when needed. 


In the end, the structure of Gagné nine events seems to be perfectly suitable for eLearning, even if it was created way before its spread, showing once again how instructional design is not related to content and means. 

Do you want to know more about eLearning? Follow our next articles!



Northern Illinois University, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction
Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning and theory of instruction (4th ed.). New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Invisiblefarm, La formazione secondo i 9 eventi di Gagné


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