Gagne’s book, The Conditions of Learning, first published in 1965, identified the mental conditions for learning. These were based on the information processing model of the mental events that occur when adults are presented with various stimuli. Gagne created a nine-step process called the events of instruction, which correlate to and address the conditions of learning. Keeping these stages in mind as you plan for a class session or online module can give your lesson plans a strong foundation.


The following information includes an explanation of each of the nine events as well as examples of how an instructor may apply the Nine Events of Instruction in the development and instruction of a course.

  1. Gain attention: Obtain students’ attention so that they will watch and listen while the instructor presents the learning content.
    • Utilize ice breaker activities, current news and events, case studies, YouTube videos, and so on. The object is to quickly grab student attention and interest in the topic.
    • Utilize tools such as clickers and surveys to ask leading questions prior to lecture, survey opinion, or gain a response to a controversial question.
    • In online and hybrid courses, use the discussion board for current news and events, to discuss a controversial topic, or to comment on media.
  2. Inform learners of objectives: Allow students to organize their thoughts and prioritize their attention regarding what they are about to learn and do.
    • Include learning objectives in lecture slides, the syllabus, and in instructions for activities, projects, papers, and so on.
    • In online and hybrid courses, include learning objectives in introductory course materials, module pages, lecture slides, and the syllabus, as well as in instructions for activities, projects, papers, and so on.
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning: Encourage students to build on previous knowledge or skills.
    • Recall events from previous lectures, integrate results of activities into the current topic, and/or relate previous information to the current topic.
    • In online and hybrid courses, provide discussion board forums as part of “gaining attention” with a focus on relating the previous topic to the current topic.
  4. Present the content: Show and explain the material you want students to learn.
    • Utilize a variety of methods including lecture, readings, activities, projects, multimedia, and others.
    • Present or post content via a learning management system to allow students to access the materials outside of course meeting times.
    • In face to face courses, integrate the use of clickers to keep student attention during content presentation.
    • In online and hybrid courses, integrate the use of interactive tools like discussion boards, wikis, blogs, and polls.
  5. Provide “learning guidance”: Provide students with instructions on how to learn, such as guided activities or common pitfalls. With learning guidance, the rate of learning increases because students are less likely to lose time or become frustrated by basing performance on incorrect facts or poorly understood concepts.
    • Include detailed information such as rubrics for projects and activities. Provide expectations, instructions, and timelines.
  6. Elicit performance (practice): Allow students to apply knowledge and skills learned.
    • Encourage students to apply what they are learning in group or individual projects and activities, written assignments, lab practicals, and so on.
    • Scaffold high-stakes assessments with smaller activities so students can practice and receive feedback before turning in something for a larger grade.
  7. Provide feedback: Give students feedback on individualized tasks, thereby correcting isolated problems rather than having little idea of where problems and inconsistencies in learning are occurring.
    • Provide detailed feedback on assignments showing students what was done correctly, what must be improved, and include explanations. Utilize rubrics when possible. Give formative feedback on smaller assignments as well as summative feedback on larger assessments.
    • Utilize tools such as Turnitin or change tracking in a word processor to quickly give feedback to large audiences.
    • Provide feedback to discussion boards in online courses.
    • Utilize peer-evaluation and self-evaluation or self-assessment methods.
  8. Assess performance: Help students identify content areas they have not mastered.
    • Utilize a variety of assessment methods including exams/quizzes, written assignments, projects, and so on. Utilize rubrics when grading activities that are not standard exam and quiz questions.
    • Ensure that students have practiced and received feedback prior to high-stakes assessments.
  9. Enhance retention and transfer to the job: Prepare students to apply information to personal contexts. This increases retention by personalizing information.
    • Provide opportunities for students to relate course work to their personal experiences when designing essays and projects.
    • Provide opportunities for discussion in small groups or using a discussion board.
    • Allow students to reflect on what they have learned and how they will use that knowledge or those skills in the future.
    • Have students create a reference for their future selves that summarizes what they have learned.

References and Additional Resources

Further Exploration