Analysis Workshop & Design: Gagne

Gagne, Briggs and Wager: Principles of Instructional Design
  • Planning a course is begun by creating the overall structure:
    • determining outcomes
    • defining performance objectives
    • deciding upon the sequence of topics and lessons (This seems to leave room for something like looping back and building on previously covered topics, but doesn’t specifically invite it)
  • At this point specific activities can be added (as we’ve discussed before, I think it is a good idea to have a general to specific approach here, deciding on learning activities to fit objectives instead of the other way around) (185)
  • The authors emphasize that the purpose of teaching is not simply to inform students of something, but to help students “from one state of mind to another” (186).  I wonder what exactly a state of mind means. On one hand it could mean a state of not knowing vs. a state of knowing, but I think the more meaningful definition might involve helping students to think more analytically or openly. I have had a professor whose classes seemed to be targeted towards teaching us to think like him about their given topic by making it seem like any other ideas were ridiculous, but another who has gone out of there way to make it clear that it wasn’t necessary for anybody to agree with him, only to understand the ideas he was sharing with us. It seemed clear to me after a few classes that his motive was to guide us to a higher level of exploration and understanding. In both cases our state of mind was altered, but I think that latter is more useful.
Events of Instruction
  • Gaining Attention can be done in any number of ways, and is best tailored to the interests of the learner.  I think this is good and logical in theory, but it seems that it would be fairly difficult to engage every learner, as they have so many diverse interests. It is a good idea to present a teacher with multiple options so that he can pick the one that is best suited to his class, but for such an important instructional event it seems like it can’t possibly be done with every student.
  • Informing the learner of the objective let’s a learner know what the goal is and how he will know when he has accomplished it. I think this is an important way to help students focus on the most important part of the task. I find that when I go to concerts and the conductor doesn’t say anything about the next piece it is less interesting (might this be a way to combat the issue of gaining attention?) and I remember less about it at the end. I think that people are more efficient when they have some way to organize their thoughts. This doesn’t mean they can’t have any other insights, just that they’ll be able to create “boxes” beforehand to put their insights in. 
  • Stimulating Recall of Prerequisite Learned Capabilities helps students to placed their new information in the scheme of things they already know. 
  • Presenting the Stimulus Material describes supplying the students with the right material for the learning experience. It allows the teacher to emphasize the most important parts and use more examples that help students place new information. I think this is also a good way to use different ways that people are able to learn. If you are learning new vocabulary text, pictures of the thing, another person pronouncing the word and using the word in a sentence can use different learning avenues. 
  • Providing Learner Guidance allows a teacher to take learners through steps and exercises, utilizing skills and knowledge they already have to learn the new information instead of just telling the learners.  I think that this further helps learners place new information within their own experiences. It is somewhat difficult to do in many cases. When I was a TA I would often take a long time to take the students step by step through the logical flow of an argument, hoping that I could lead them to the right place. They wrote better papers, but it would have been much faster to just tell them where we were going. I wonder if this conflicts at all with the idea informing the learner of the objective or if your objective should just be something like “understanding X or the answer to X question”. 
  • Eliciting the performance allows students to demonstrate that they have mastered the new information, not only for the teacher, but also for themselves. 
  • Providing feedback allows the student to understand how well he is doing, but can be done in many ways and should be created with a sensitivity to the situation. I have noticed a big difference between how I perform and especially how I feel about a class or learning experience based on the way a teacher responds to me. I think this is one reason that we need to keep teachers in classrooms and not replace them totally with computers, because humans are much more equipped to give appropriate feedback.
  • Assessing performance requires that the teacher make sure that a student can perform the task reliably (like when we had to win the CC card game 5 times in a row) as well as to make sure that the task is completed correctly and in a reliable environment. 
  • Enhancing Retention and Transfer prepares the learner to use the new information in another setting. 
Related Reading: Wiggins and McTighe. “What is Backward Design?
These events seem to add another layer to a backwards design. This way you have not only the learning outcomes but also the steps to take to achieve them, waiting to be filled with specific activities for the specific outcome. 

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