Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction Applied to Microlearning

Can Robert Gagné’s concept of the ‘9 Events of Instruction’ be applied in a microlearning scenario for effective learning?

The answer is a BIG yes!

Gagné’s nine events are widely accepted and used to create extremely meaningful microlearning assets.

Let’s find out how…

Gagné’s nine Events of Instruction: The Concept

Gagné called these 9 events the ‘conditions of learning’ which could be internal or external. Internal conditions deal with what the learner already knows (existing knowledge), while external conditions have to do with the stimuli given by the trainer/teacher to a learner (instructions or lessons).

gagne's nine events

Let’s discuss how each one these 9 events can be applied to microlearning.

1. Gain Attention

Gaining the learner’s attention is the first of Gagné’s nine events. This should be done right at the start to set the context for the microlearning. This may involve:

  • Posing a thought-provoking question
  • Presenting an ice breaker activity
  • Providing an interesting/ startling fact or statistic

2. Specify Objectives

The second event is informing the learner about the outcomes of the learning at the start of the microlearning lesson. This will help the learner understand what’s expected of her/ him. Ways to do that include:

  • Describing expected performance
  • Defining the criteria for success
  • Reiterating the objectives in assessment questions, quizzes, or prompts

3. Stimulate Recall

The third event, stimulating recall of prior learning, is about going from the known to the unknown. Relating existing knowledge with the new information in the microlearning lesson will help the learner make sense of the new information. You can stimulate recall by:

  • Asking questions about the learner’s previous experiences or previously learned concepts
  • Enabling him/ her to make a connection between previous learning and the current topic
  • Having the learner incorporate prior learning into current activities

All these elements are deeply embedded in microlearning as it uses:

  • Questions and quizzes to strengthen memory and recall
  • Retrieval practice and spaced repetition to help beat the forgetting curve

4. Present Content

The fourth event is to present content effectively, and that includes organizing it meaningfully. Here are some ways to present the content:

  • Presenting the same content in multiple formats (video, podcast, etc.)
  • Using a variety of media elements
  • Providing access to other external or internal resources

Adaptive microlearning offers learners the freedom to choose their preferred  learning format, with the  content being presented as a combination of videos, short sims, infographics, podcasts, explainer videos, etc. This is where microlearning platforms can help as they are enabled to help align the content to different
learning styles.

5. Provide Guidance

Gagne’s 5th event is all about helping learners acquire the new skills and knowledge (to remember the content more easily) through tips and suggestions. This may include providing:

  • Mnemonics, concept maps (flowcharts, spider maps, diagrams), role playing, or visualizing.
  • Examples and non-examples of what to do and what not to do
  • Case studies, visual images, analogies, and metaphors to help connect with the new content

The ‘fading strategy’ used in microlearning also provides guidance that is measured and appropriate, reducing the level of help the learner needs.

6. Elicit Performance

Eliciting performance, the sixth event, means providing opportunities for the learner to practice, experiment, and apply their new learning. Repeated practice and application will also help reinforce the new skills or knowledge and enable the new information to settle in the learner’s long-term memory. These practice opportunities may include:

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Gamification
  • Short simulations
  • Scenario-based questions, quizzes, etc.

7. Provide Feedback

After eliciting performance, the obvious next step would be to provide feedback, so that the learner can see what they did well and what they need to improve upon.

Feedback needs to be timely (immediately on the learner submitting their response to a question) and should provide a detailed explanation as to why the correct answer was correct and the incorrect answer was not correct. This type of feedback on the learners’ performance aims to reinforce learning and plug gaps in performance and understanding.

The feedback also should be positive and constructive – recognizing and rewarding learning achievements (points, badges, leader boards in case of gamified microlearning), showing ‘how to improve’, providing correct answers upfront, providing suggestions, and highlighting learning gaps/ opportunities.

8. Assess Performance

Gagne’s 8th event checks the extent to which the learner achieved the learning objective at the end of the learning experience through a scored assessment. This is done by implementing multiple assessment methods to demonstrate competence.

These assessments can range from simple multiple-choice questions to gamified assessments. They can also  include ‘pre- and post-’ assessment checks to determine increase in the level of competency.

Microlearning platforms can be used to measure different levels of learning: memorization, comprehension, application, and analysis. Besides quizzes and questions, microlearning tools can be used for adaptive assessments where the level of difficulty of questions can be increased or decreased according to the  learner’s abilities.

Microlearning also uses dashboards, leader boards, badges, etc. to motivate the learner. Success criteria and the learner’s progress can be displayed through gamification, quizzes, or short sims early, making assessment scoring more transparent.

9. Enhance Retention and Transfer

During this final event, you need to help the learner transfer or apply the new knowledge and skills to their job tasks. When the learner applies the new learning to real-world situations, it helps them build connections between the new learning and their needs. Ways to enhance retention and transfer include:

  • Job aids such as quick reference guides or PDFs that the learner can use on the job
  • Questions on how learners will use the new knowledge or skills in their everyday lives
  • Encouraging learners to convert information learned in one format into another format
  • Closely mirroring their work environment in the learning environment

Reinforcement of content is important for learning and application. Microlearning itself is based on spaced repetition and retrieval practice that helps overcome the forgetting curve and build memory.

To conclude, Gagné’s nine events of instruction can be very effectively used to build powerful microlearning assets.

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