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


Gagne's Theory of Learning - Part II

By Andrew Loh

Gagne's theory of learning is a multi-faceted theory that ensures an all-round learning outcome. As a parent or teacher, you can easily identify five different types of learning outcomes such as:

  • Acquisition of verbal information

  • Acquisition of intellectual skills

  • Development of cognitive skills

  • Development of motor skills

  • Development of better attitude and determination

Gagne's theory of learning works on specific types of examples and based on topics that would heighten the interest among the children. For example, children who study in lower schools will get real-time examples that relate to animal and plant kingdom while older children who study in higher schools will get to work on those topics that relate to their skills and intelligence. Here are some steps that teach how parents and teachers can use this theory to the maximum best.

Let us assume that we are teaching young children in lower primary school (K3-K5 Grades). Let us also assume that the topic of the day relates to flowers. To use Gagne's theory of learning, teachers and parents will need to study the entire theory and apply the basic principles of each step to learning process. Here is how one can use all the nine steps:

#1: Gaining attention

Bring many colorful flowers to the study table. Show all these flowers to the children one by one and ask them about all individual colors. Let the bunch of flowers be in all sizes and shapes. The most important aspect of this step is to draw children's attention to the learning process. Your words, actions, and flowers will act together to gain children's attention to learning.

#2: Tell learners about the objectives or goals

This step involves asking a series of easy questions that relate to flowers. The basic tone of the questions should evoke a sense of curiosity among the children. In other words, you will need to identify the goals of the learning session. You can ask the following questions to the children:

  • What are these?

  • How do they look?

  • Do they smell?

  • If yes, how do they smell?

Once they identify that the object is a flower, you can ask them "What is a flower?". These questions will help children know about the main goal of the learning exercise that is learning about flowers.

#3: Encourage recall and retrieval of prior learning

Most possibly, all children will know about flowers. In most of the cases, they will have a prior experience of coming across colorful flowers. You can use these prior experiences to induce children learn about flowers. In this way, you can easily stimulate children to learn about flowers. It also acts as a retrieval session for children to bring out information about flowers from their previous experiences. You can define what a flower is and why people use flowers.

#4: Provide materials that create a stimulus

Useful presentation of study materials to children will act as stimuli in the learning process. You can give various definitions of flowers and highlight each one of them by using live examples. When children see this simple demonstration, they will get a stimulus to learn their lessons in an effective way.

#5: Guide and lead learning experience

This is the most important step of the entire learning process. Here, you can take your children a garden or park to demonstrate in live how they look and feel in reality. This step is sort of practical session when children will get the first hand experience of seeing flowers in life. Alternatively, you can even ask your children to cut and paste shapes and patterns of flowers by using white sheets and color them to make them look like real flowers.

#6: Evaluate performance

This step involves evaluating performances displayed by all children. Each child may need to work on five different flowers to learn more about them. You can ask them about five different flowers, their shapes, patterns and colors.

#7: Give feedback

Once children finish doing their exercises, you will need to provide actual or true feedback on their learning efforts. You will also need to check whether the examples provided by them are correct or not.

#8: Assess performance

This step is the assessment step when you will assess all individual performances according to their merits. You may also need to give them scores based on the actual performance. By chance, if a child performs badly, you may need to ask them whether they have any difficulties in understanding the session and exercises. You may also like to repeat the entire exercise again the help children perform better in learning.

#9: Ensure retention and transfer of subject

This step is the last one that involves enhancing retention process and later transferring the learning outcome to practical situations. You can show slides of different flowers of the world and explain in detail on their life. You can even ask them to bring flowers from their backyard garden and display in front of classroom.

The entire learning cycle is practical and intelligent, as children will learn by doing and seeing things. Gagne's learning theory works on principles of independent thinking which in turn helps children acquire skills and knowledge in a practical way.

Featured Resource

Principles of Instructional Design
By Robert M. Gagne, Walter W. Wager Katharine Golas and John M. Keller

This pioneering text describes a rationally consistent basis for instructional design, based in cognitive psychology and information-processing theory. The authors prepare teachers to design and develop a course, unit, and module of instruction, outline the nine stages of instructional design procedure, and integrate current research and practice in the movement toward performance systems technology.

The Fifth Edition of PRINCIPLES OF INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN emphasizes the social and cultural context of learning, learner-centered principles, and the affordances of new technologies and learning environments.


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