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Robert Gagne’s “Nine Events of Instruction” framework is my favorite lesson learned so far in my instructional design research. It works for all types of teaching and training situations, but I’m focusing on college course design in this post. Keep in mind that this framework can be used for one assignment or for a course design as a whole.


Nine Events of Instruction Video

1. Gain Students’ Attention

This event is the most important element of week one. Have an activity, do a speech, ask a question, etc. that will grab students’ attention and create in them a positive feeling about your course. Get them intrigued. Help them see the connection between your course and their life. Make them invested in your course.

2. Inform Students of the Learning Objectives

Your course goals are likely listed in your syllabus. Don’t just tell students to read them later and move on to the next section. Take the time to tell students exactly what they should be getting out of the course. What knowledge and skills they will learn or improve upon. Providing this context can help students feel more confident, as they know what’s to come in the course. It also might inspire some students to find another course that fits their needs or interests more. Another key week one event.

ABCD Model for Learning Objectives

3. Stimulate Recall of Prior Learning

Students can also gain confidence if they feel that they are not starting from scratch in your course. If something they’ve done or learned before will be helpful or needed in this course, that can bring students a sense of relief. Having them recall prior learning can also help them realize that older lessons are often foundational for newer ones. If they are not paying attention and retaining what they’ve learned, they can end up in a bad spot in future courses or experiences. Help them make connections to their prior knowledge early on.

4. Present the Content

I consider this the start of the second stage of a course. Giving lectures is often necessary early on in a semester, as you might need to provide foundational knowledge to students before they can begin doing their own activities and making their own connections with this new information. But, don’t rely solely on lecturing, as this approach can really bore students. Present content through lectures, written materials, videos, infographics, podcasts, and more. Here are some ideas to consider.

5. Provide Learning Guidance

When lecturing, provide some slides or a handout that students can use to follow along. Give them instructions on how to approach reading or watching a homework assignment. Teach them how to annotate a reading or outline a paper. Giving them the content isn’t enough; you also need to guide them into understanding what content is most important, how different content connects to one another, and so on.

6. Elicit Performance/Practice

Individual activities, small group projects, whole class discussions, and more are all ways to elicit performance in your students. Have them practice applying the knowledge and skills that they are learning in your course in different ways. This diversity in activities helps insure that students are really grasping the nuances of the course content. Everything doesn’t need to be graded. A lot of these activities can be used for participation points.

Class Activity Ideas

7. Provide Feedback

I consider this the start of stage three, though these events happen throughout the semester, not just at the end. Really, all the events can happen at various times in a course. As some of the activities in event six will be collected, provide feedback on the most important activities, especially ones that are used as scaffolding for later activities and major projects. Feedback can be written and shared with students, but verbal feedback is another option that requires less time for instructors.

8. Assess Student Performance

Just because you are giving students feedback doesn’t mean you are assessing the work and giving them grades. But, at some point, assessment is necessary. Help students improve their work by making clear what needs improvement and what is already working well. You can use rubrics for this event or take a more holistic approach to assessment. You can also have students peer assess each other’s work before they submit it to you. That can be another way to strengthen student understanding and performance.

9. Enhance Retention and Transfer

During the last week or two of class, help students see how they can apply what they’ve learned to future situations. Future courses, jobs, hobbies, etc. Remind them of the course resources they can use after the course ends and discuss with them different scenarios in which their new knowledge or skills can prove useful. These discussions can happen throughout the semester, but should be emphasized at the end so that students leave your course on this helpful note.

Final Thoughts

I’ve added a PDF checklist of these events to the resource library. [Don’t have access? Sign up here.] Feel free to use it as a reminder when designing new courses or assignments. If you want more instructional design information, check out my post about ADDIE or my post about creating learning objectives using the ABCD Model. I also have a playlist of videos on my YouTube channel, as well.