Friday, October 24, 2008

tt4t_060 Nine Events of Instruction, Gagne

It’s Friday, October 24th, 2008 and welcome to Episode 60 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. I would like to begin todays episode by asking the question of why some learners seem more motivated to learn than others? Along with that question I would like to follow-up with why some learners are more motivated than others to always do their best. I deal with high-tech solutions for teaching and learning on a daily basis and I often find myself returning to these two questions related to motivation when designing learning experiences. I often find that technology does offer an additional motivational factor for many students.

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Robert Gagne wrote the book Conditions of Learning over 40 years ago and proposed nine events necessary for instruction to occur in an era where behavioral learning and programmed instruction dominated educational thought. After all of these years I am still fascinated by the incredibly diverse ways that humans learn. Gagne attempted to distill this diversity into basic components that still stand today as the foundation for the discipline of Instructional Design.

Here are the nine events of instruction in abbreviated form proposed by Gagne in 1965:
1) gaining attention (reception)
2) informing learners of the objective (expectancy)
3) stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)
4) presenting the stimulus (selective perception)
5) providing learning guidance (semantic encoding)
6) eliciting performance (responding)
7) providing feedback (reinforcement)
8) assessing performance (retrieval)
9) enhancing retention and transfer (generalization)

I have provided some additional links to online resources related to the nine events of instruction and other information regarding Gagne’s work in the show notes for this episode if you are interested in learning more about his work.

Taken at face value these events seem very programmatic yet as any instructional designer will tell you there is tremendous flexibility and numerous ways to prepare any given lesson for a desired outcome. Teachers are always looking for a way to gain the attention of the learner and find a motivational hook to keep the learner interested in the lesson. If we do not have the attention of the learner then we have lost the battle before it even begins. In teaching we move from the simple to the more complex.

Take something as simple as teaching someone to hit a baseball, the point to this lesson is to hit the ball with a bat which requires a performance goal. How one goes about preparing a lesson are as varied as the teachers that will teach the lesson. In the end however the assessment should involve the performance of the student swinging a bat and hitting the ball. The complexity of this simple goal is amazing when you actually have to break down every step in order to reach a successful conclusion. The assessment should also match the goal. In this case giving a written test on the history of baseball would not match the goal of the lesson.

Now, consider a lesson that I recently taught regarding students creating their own podcast. I have students listen to several examples in order to understand the genre of podcasting. I give them the flexibility to choose a podcast of interest to them. I then give a rather structured example of recording a podcast using the audacity program by only introducing the tools needed to do basic audio editing including importing music at the beginning and end of the podcast. This is in the form of a demonstration and then I have students duplicate the basic demo using guided practice. Students are then responsible for picking an educationally appropriate topic and writing a script for recording. I also provide links to resources including video screencasts about using the audacity program.

Some students seem to go through the motions and want very scripted step by step directions for creating their podcast. Others are internally motivated and really get into this assignment. I wish I knew how to bottle this motivation and spread it around. I give the students a lot of leeway in hopes that they will pick something of interests to them and thus be motivated to do their best work. In the end the students are to produce two educational podcasts to demonstrate their proficiency for the learning objective.

Many students are not used to having such leeway and want more structure. Teachers are told that 21st Century skills demand a workforce that can adapt and innovate therefore I believe that we must provide opportunities for students to go beyond prescriptive lessons. I try to instill a sense of pride and want all students to do their best work yet there are often a few that just want to do just enough to get by and I often get asked is this “good enough?” I respectfully ask them “is this your best work?”

As teachers we always need to strive for excellence and expect the same from our students. This is sometimes difficult to achieve as many students are used to doing one lesson and then moving on to the next with the expectation that they will never see the previous lesson again. It takes practice and multi-pass learning opportunities to get better at anything whether it be swinging a baseball bat or creating a podcast. Teachers assign homework for this very reason so that students have opportunities to practice whatever is being taught.

Yet teachers are also always pressed by the curriculum to move forward to the next topic for the allotted time that we have. Teachers need to be creative in creating multi-pass learning opportunities and avoid the temptation of simply moving on to the next lesson if students need more practice. It does no good if only surface learning occurs as there needs to be a firm foundation before generalization and transference can occur. Transference is that magical elusive goal of taking what one has learned and adapting it to a new situation to solve a different problem. In order to transfer the learning experience the learner must first retain the information to recall for later use. In short transference is an extremely valued 21st Century skill and one that teachers should always strive for no matter the lesson.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a wireless microphone from Revo Labs called the xTag that can be handy for teachers wanting to record their voices and classroom lectures and still have the freedom of moving around the room. A link is provided in the show notes to the Revo Labs xTag mic. This microphone comes in several models and is a bit on the expensive side but does offer a good solution for a teacher that wants to be mobile while recording their voice. Because of the expense I would recommend that a unit be purchased by your library or technology department and then checked out on an as needed basis.

The base model can be found for an educational discount price of under $250. The recording quality is very good and you can either clip this wireless mic on your lapel or use the provided lanyard that you can use to hang around your neck. The really nice thing is that you do not have to worry about a cable connected back to the computer. Since the mic is clipped on your lapel your voice will not fade in and out as you move about the room as is typical of a stationary mic positioned in the center of the classroom. The standard USB connected base station for the xTag also serves as a charging station so it will always be charged when you are ready to record. If you are looking for a wireless mic solution for your recording needs be sure to checkout the xTag to see if it might meet your needs. If you have experience with other wireless microphones that would be helpful for teachers to know about I would like to hear your recommendations so please send an email or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog so we can share with others.

I would like to again remind everyone that the K12Online Conference 2008 is still ongoing so I encourage you to visit this free professional development conference if you have not already done so. Please visit the site website to see the schedule and learn more.

K12 Online Conference 2008

K12 Online Conference Schedule:

That wraps it up for episode 60 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology Center website at just click on the Techtalk4Teachers Podcast link. If you have a comment of suggestion please send and email to or leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

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