August 29th, 2013 Instructional Design


Back in 1965, Robert Gagne detailed a nine-step instructional process that many teachers, trainers, and instructional designers still use today when creating their learning events.  The steps are not meant to be absolute rules, but they do provide a a good place to start during the creation process. Truth is, there are many design models you can use, so feel free to just add this one to your toolbox as it could very well prove useful.

1. Gain Attention – In the beginning of any training course, it is helpful to present a new problem or scenario to pique the interest of the audience and to grab their attention. There are a variety of ways to do this, but usually some kind of story is effective.

2. Describe the Objective – After you have gained the attention of the learners, you need to inform them about what they will be able to accomplish, and how they will use the new knowledge they are about to gain.  The key here is to make it relevant to them.  If it makes something in their lives easier, then let them know!

3. Stimulate Recall of Prior Knowledge – Remind the learners of related information or knowledge that they already have to help them build on previously gained knowledge and skills. This helps the anxiety people naturally feel when they sense that something is going to “change” from what they previously have known.

4. Present the Material – Once items one through three have been established, you can present the material. Use various methods, like text, videos, images, sounds, and simulations. Present the material in small chunks so as to avoid information overload.

5. Provide Learner Guidance – Provide guidance strategies like examples, case studies, apologies, and mnemonic devices to help learners store the new information in their long-term memories.

6. Elicit Performance (Practice) – Allow the learner to practice the new skill or behavior they are learning. This provides an opportunity for learners to confirm their understanding, and even to fail in a safe environment.

7. Feedback – Provide learners with specific and immediate feedback when they are practicing the new skill or behavior they have learned. Explain in detail the concept to those who are not as quick at picking it up.  Give more than “you’re right” or “you’re wrong” feedback.

8. Assess Performance – After ample practice has been given, test the learners to determine if the lesson has indeed been learned.

9. Enhance Retention & Transfer – Provide the learners with additional practice and materials (job aids, quick reference guides, additional tests) so that they may review the material on their own time at a later date.



Nicole Legault

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About Justin Ferriman

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8 responses

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I love your articles. I have forwarded several to your ID team here. Please keep them coming.

Avatar Kendra Barker

Hi Kendra-
Thank you for the kind words, much appreciated! 🙂

This is a really nice, easy way to remember all the components that should be incorporated into our work so that we achieve what should be all of our ultimate objective – that the learner learn something! Thanks.

Avatar Karen jensen

You wrote, “The steps are not meant to be absolute rules, but they do provide a a good place to start during the creation process.” I don’t agree that Gagne’s 9 points regarding design are a good place to start. However, they are important to consider when moving into the finer points of the ID process, which would be reflected in the ID document or blueprint for the course. The ID process should start with needs analysis, specification and confirmation of learning objectives, an outline of content needed to attain the objectives, the selection of learning activities needed to “animate” each item of content, the transfer of learning strategy and, finally, the evaluation strategy — all captured in the ID document. Within the section of the ID document in which the Content and corresponding Learning Activities are described — i.,e,,a “snapshot” of how the learning would occur from start to finish — Gagne’s 9 points come into play. Though not “…a good place to start”, as you wrote, Gagne’s 9 points should be kept in mind when creating the description of how the learning would unfold from the kickoff of the course to the administering of the Level 1 evaluation form.

This is a very traditional and mechanistic model of delivery appropriate to the industrial age, not the information age. It has it’s place still, when used sparingly, but this is not sufficient for engaged learning. This was created during an age when content and expertise were limited. This is a sit and get practice designed around imitating the teacher’s behavior or playing the game to get a grade. Times have changed and so must pedagogy.

Avatar Tom Downs

I’ve always understood Gagne’s Nine Steps to be a very micro-level design model, applicable to the design of one lesson, or maybe just one activity within a lesson. ADDIE or SAM are macro-level design models, applicable to design and development at the course or curriculum level. These macro-level and micro-level design models are not necessarily incompatible.

Avatar Robert Lindsay

This was a great intro article that I passed on to one of our junior content developers. Thanks for the straightforward and succinct info!

Avatar Rachel Shiekman

The steps are sure guides for reference and will be of great help to refresh
during abstract situation. It is a detailed chronicle for future assimilation.

June,24 2021 at 8:35am

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