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Robert Gagne Robert Gagne

Robert Gagne

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  • Robert Mills Gagné (August 21, 1916 – April 28, 2002) was an American educational psychologist best known for his “Conditions of Learning”. Gagné pioneered the science of instruction during World War II when he worked with the Army Air Corps training pilots. He went on to develop a series of studies and works that simplified and explained what he and others believed to be ‘good instruction.’ Gagné was also involved in applying concepts of instructional theory to the design of computer-based training and multimedia-based learning.

    • Won scholarship to Yale University. Received A.B. (atrium baccalaureus) degree in 1937.
    • Did graduate work at Brown University.

    • The Conditions of Learning (1965, 1970, 1977, 1985)
    • Principles of Instructional Design (with L.J. Briggs, 1974, 1979, 1992)
    • Psychological Principles in Systems Development (1962)


Robert Mills Gagné is considered to be a major contributor to the systematic approach of instructional design. His learning theory is summarized as The Gagne Assumption and consists of five types of learning (each requires a different type of instruction) and nine events of instruction. He’s also identified a hierarchy of eight conditions to learning.

Influential Theories

Gagné’s theory incorporates three major components: a taxonomy of      learning outcomes, specific learning conditions required for the attainment of each outcome, and the nine events of instruction.

Related Theories

Charles M Reigeluth’s design-oriented theories offer methods of instruction for different situations that increase the probability that desired outcomes will occur.

Theory or Research

Two approaches—cooperative learning and events of instruction and several studies brought something valuable to Gagné’s events of instruction.

Contribution to Adult Education

Gagné’s instructional theory is widely used in the design of instruction by instructional designers in many settings, and it continues to influence the field of educational technology.

Relative Points

  • Instruction refers to the deliberate arrangement of learning conditions to provide the attainment of some intended goal
  • Learning incorporates several types and levels. Therefore, different instructions are required.


Personal Thoughts

Sometimes summarized as the Gagné’s assumption, his theory reminds me of the differentiated instruction, which is quite valuable in instructional design and teaching.

Gagne’s 9 Events of Instructional Design

This abstract was created by Ying Wang. Download a printable version: Gagne Overview

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