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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Gagne's Theory of Learning - Part I

By Andrew Loh

There are several child education theories today that attempt to propose the most effective ways of teaching and educating young children. Some of them are extremely effective and practical, while a number of others rely on theoretical propositions and hypotheses that might be quite difficult to apply in a real-time scenario. On the contrary, some theories are very good because of their extreme usability under practical conditions. One such theory is the Gagne's Theory of Learning.

Robert Gagné is a learning expert of international repute. His legendary work on learning theory has been used or applied in many countries and regions of the world. Practical and usable under any learning condition, Gagne's theory has opened up a new front in learning front. Of late, child educational experts have been trying to use this theory in classroom and out of it. Results thus obtained have been rather encouraging and positive. This article provides a brief glimpse of what that theory is and in what ways you can use it to teach and educate your children.

Robert Gagne published this theory as a part of his research on learning technologies. In the year 1965, he published a monumental article titled, The Conditions of Learning. This article was able to pinpoint and identify several mental conditions and scenarios for effective learning.

These mental conditions relied on a working model for information and knowledge processing of those events that occur when children or adults confront different types of stimuli that are so common in life. According to Gagne, humans undergo several types of levels of learning. He also mentioned that each of these levels require specific types of instructions or methods of teaching. In all, nine different events define a learning system. Gagne defines all these events, as the basis for learning, be they among adults or among children. Each individual step leads to the next one with an affirmed learning process. Here are those nine steps of learning (as explained by Gagne and modified here by the author):

#1: Gaining attention

Before teaching any topic or subject, you will need to arouse a sense of interest or curiosity. You can do this with a hint of surprise as well. Questions asked should lead to valid answers. In other words, you may need to ask questions that lead to definite answers. Make sure that you ask open-ended questions. Questions and queries always lead to active engagement with lessons and course curriculum.

#2: Tell learners about the objectives or goals

Before starting teaching, you will need to inform children of your expectations from each of them. Your children should know their objectives and goals. When children learn about the objectives, they will feel confident, excited and thrilled about the future learning sessions. In other words, they should know what they would be studying in the future.

#3: Encourage recall and retrieval of prior learning

One of the important aspects of learning is to enable children relate the learning concepts to something they already know. In other words, you should allow them to make a connection between the topic in question and their previous experiences. This link works in an organic way to facilitate quicker learning.

#4: Provide materials that create a stimulus

Sometime during the learning process, children will need to know more about the contents that they are going to learn. Content as a whole may present a big challenge to children because they will not be able to comprehend its meaning as a whole. Therefore, you may need to present the content in smaller bits or chunks so that children will be able to understand them according to their importance. In addition, you may also need to use suitable teaching methods to fit a certain learning style. Retention of course content should be easily retained and internally streamlined; you can achieve this objective by using real-life examples and situations.

#5: Guide and lead learning experience

Guidance and mentoring are very important for effective learning. Proper communication between tutor and children is essential for effective teaching as well. Effective communication will help children stay focused on the learning. In addition, the teacher will also be able to keep a tab on how children are learning. Now, you can introduce varied learning materials like audio-visuals, analogies and stories to keep children hooked to the learning process.

#6: Evaluate performance

Nothing could be learnt or mastered without practicing what is learnt. You should allow your children allow practicing what they learn. Other associated goals are specifying the format of mastering the course, understanding the student's response and later eliciting performance of the children based on the learning experience.

#7: Give feedback

Feedback is the heart of learning process. Without proper feedback, children may never know how they performed in their learning task. Feedback provides a chance to know whether the children have grasped and comprehended the given content. Feedback should be frequent and well placed.

#8: Assess performance

This step ensures that the children have learnt and mastered what they were supposed to learn and master. The ultimate goal of any learning process is to ensure that learning process has actually occurred.

#9: Ensure retention and transfer of subject

Children should be provided an opportunity to apply and use what they learnt under field conditions. Knowledge should be practical. Children may be given specific context where they can deploy the skills and knowledge learnt in the previous sessions. Continue to read Gagne's Theory of Learning - Part II


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