EVENTS OF INSTRUCTION
One of the foundations of instructional design is Robert Gagné's concept of the events of instruction. All good instruction, according to Gagné, requires a set of external events designed to support the internal processing of learning. He has identified a set of nine events listed below in the order in which they are usually utilized:
- Gaining Attention - Alerts and prepares students to receive new information.
- Informing the learner of the objective - Communicates the aim of the learning and helps students to focus in on the critical information and to prepare to practice it.
- Stimulating recall of prerequisite learning - Reviewing any necessary prerequisite concepts, principles, or procedures so they are fresh in the students' mind.
- Presenting the stimulus material - In this step the new information is first presented. New information can be presented in a variety of media to engage different student's learning style preferences; and it can be presented utilizing a variety of examples, to compensate for a variety of backgrounds and interests among the students.
- Provide learning guidance - Hints, questions, suggestions provided by a teacher to help guide the student to discovery and understanding of the new concept, principle or procedure being learned. Note, this is not "telling the student the answer", rather it is guiding the student to the answer. Learning guidance requires a insightful and individualized approach to each student, therefore it is the one event that most heavily depends upon the knowledge and skill of the teacher.
- Eliciting the performance - Practice is necessary in order for new information to be reinforced to the point that it becomes integrated into the student's knowledge structure.
- Providing feedback about performance - Providing feedback as to the correctness or degree of correctness is necessary after the performance to ensure that the student's new knowledge is accurate. Feedback should be given as quickly as possible after the performance to ensure that misunderstood information is not integrated into the student's knowledge structure. For higher level objectives relating to application, analysis, or synthesis, feedback usually more extensive and requires an individualized approach.
- Assessing the performance - Once the student has had the opportunity to practice and refine the newly acquired knowledge, some form of formal assessment is presented to test the ability of the student to retrieve (and often apply) the new knowledge. This is done to help reinforce the student's new knowledge, and to see if the student has mastered the objective and therefore is ready to move onto the next topic. Assessment can also be used to test the effectiveness of the instruction itself by identifying areas of the instruction that failed to adequately insure learning. Again, higher levels of objectives may require an individual evaluation of the learning by the teacher.
- Enhancing retention and transfer - To encourage students in retaining what they have learned, students should be provided with follow on activities that helps them put the new learning in context. Proving them with a variety of new problems, case studies, or practical applications as a concluding event will help them recall the new knowledge in a meaningful context.
We often assume that event #4. Presenting the stimulus material, is what instruction is all about. However, without events #1 -3, students will not be prepared to receive the new information, nor without events #5 -9 will they retain or apply the new learning. Therefore, the entire cycle of the events of instruction is critical to promote learning.
Also note that events #5, 7, and to a certain degree #8 all rely upon the intervention of a skilled teacher. All the other events can be structured and presented through various forms of media and technology, but #s 5,7,8 require the intervention of a human's critical judgment.