• Karuna Sanghvi

Robert Gagne Demystified

Over the next three posts, we will discuss Robert Gagne's theory of engagement, education and retention, popularly called Gange's nine steps to learning.


Gagnes Nine Step Theory of Instruction

What is it? Why do instructional designers need to know this theory? Is it enough to just know it?

How will you apply it? All newcomers to Instructional Design ask this question and not many succeed in applying it in their strategy.


One of the most favourable aspect of Gagne’s 9 steps to effective instruction is the engagement aspect. He starts with engaging the user. The most difficult step is to attract attention in the right manner and to retain it. Gagne does not stop at engagement but also goes on to suggest how to retain and lead the user to learn the information/instruction imparted.


Let’s look at the nine steps and some objectives to each step.


Step 1 – Gaining Attention

The how of incorporating this in your strategy.

1. Introduce an unrecognized pattern in the middle of recognized ones.

2. Provide stimulus to the learners

3. Receive neural impulses and commanding attention by changing the stimulus

4. As an instructor, take up a topic to the things that interest the learner.





Step 2 - Informing the learner about the objectives


Why is this needed? When you start a book, you read the overview on the back cover or inside covers. When you start a lesson in math, you know that you will tackle a topic such as calculus and trigonometry. Similarly, when a learner starts your course, you need to tell the learner what they will learn and what they should have learnt by the end of the course. How you tell that is entirely up to you. Creativity in writing objectives is totally lacking and should be a major part of it.

Further it helps to keep students focused instead of getting side-tracked.



Objectives should be precise and not ambiguous.

They should always state a goal


Traditionally an objectives can be broken up into

1. Intent statement

2. Goal statement

3. Process/ Action statement


For instance

  • Intent Statement – To learn

  • Goal Statement– Algebra

  • Process/ Action Statement – Doing sums

So the objective would read as

  • To do sums to learn algebra

Here, algebra is the overall goal for which the action required of students it to do sums.


(To be continued)


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