Robert Gagne

About Me


I am an education psychologist best known for my "Conditions of Learning" which identified the mental conditions of learning and was published in 1965. I was born in North Andover, Maine in 1916 and died in 2002. I earned my Ph.D. in psychology from Brown University in 1940. I went on to work as a professor for Connecticut College, Penn State University and Florida State University. I also served as Director of the U.S. Air Force Perceptual and Motor Skill Laboratory were I began developing my principles of my learning theory.

I am considered to be a major contributor to the systematic approach of instructional design. My 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. I've also identified a hierarchy of eight conditions to learning.

Five Types of Learning - learning is similar to processing it is sequential and builds on prior knowledge.

  1. Verbal Information
  2. Intellectual Skills
  3. Cognitive Strategies
  4. Motor Skills
  5. Attitude

Nine Events of Instruction - these events apply to each of the 5 types of learning but not necessarily in the same order for each type.

  1. Gaining attention - pique the learners interest
  2. Informing learners of objectives - discuss what will be taught
  3. Stimulating recall of prior learning - ask questions to call upon what they already know
  4. Presenting the stimulus - teach the lesson
  5. Providing learning guidance - allow teacher facilitated student practice
  6. Eliciting performance - have learner complete a task on what was taught
  7. Providing feedback - let learner know how they did on the task
  8. Assessing performance - evaluate learner on their knowledge of what was taught
  9. Enhancing retention and transfer - provide activity to help learners remember what was taught

Eight Conditions of Learning - the hierarchal structure is listed lowest to highest, you must master each step before reaching the next.

  1. Signal learning: the learner makes a general response to a signal
  2. Stimulus-response learning: the learner makes a precise response to a signal
  3. Chaining: the connection of a set of individual stimulus & responses in a sequence.
  4. Verbal association: the learner makes associations using verbal connections
  5. Discrimination learning: the learner makes different responses to different stimuli that are somewhat alike
  6. Concept learning: the learner develops the ability to make a generalized response based on a class of stimuli
  7. Rule learning: a rule is a chain of concepts linked to a demonstrated behavior
  8. Problem solving: the learner discovers a combination of previously learned rules and applies them to solve a novel situation
The Gagne Assumption ~ is for each of the different types of learning (learning goals) that exist different instructional conditions are required.