Conditions of Learning (Robert Gagne)

Gagne’s theory of instructional learning offers a more rounded theory of learning and instruction than other cognitive psychologists; and one which offers far more directive advice on how the teacher should manage individual lessons.

Gagne offers a series of instructional “events” which characterize a good lesson – grounding each in a particular cognitive process.

Instructional Events & Cognitive Processes

  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).


In doing this, his perspective provides a fairly straightforward recipe which allows teachers to formulate effective lesson which are likely to be encourage the acquisition and recall of new concepts.

The model is, perhaps, most linked to Ausubel’s perspective; with an emphasis on the role of the teacher in carefully managing the development of new schemata.

However, it is important to note that the approach puts emphasis on student activity, and therefore avoids overtly over-emphasizing the teacher.


Gagne, R. (1962). Military training and principles of learning. American Psychologist, 17, 263-276.

Gagne, R. (1985). The Conditions of Learning (4th Ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Gagne, R. (1987). Instructional Technology Foundations. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc.

Gagne, R. & Driscoll, M. (1988). Essentials of Learning for Instruction (2nd Ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Gagne, R., Briggs, L. & Wager, W. (1992). Principles of Instructional Design (4th Ed.). Fort Worth, TX: HBJ College Publishers.

Olivia Guy-Evans

BSc (Hons), Psychology, MSc, Psychology of Education

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Educator, Researcher

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education.