Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning

Training Your Team Effectively

Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning

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Elina Manninen

Use this tool to structure and deliver training effectively.

Have you ever trained someone on a new process or skill? Perhaps you thought it would be an easy, straightforward task. But once you actually started the session, it may have been harder than you expected.

Everyone has different learning styles . So, how do you present information so that the trainee, or group of trainees, is learning effectively? And when is it appropriate to offer feedback, or ask for a demonstration of skills, to ensure that trainees understand your message?

Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning provide a step-by-step approach that can help managers, trainers, and facilitators structure their training so that their students or teams get the most from their learning opportunities.

In this article, we'll examine Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning, and we'll review how to apply this tool when training your team.


Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning are also known as Gagne's Nine Conditions of Learning, Gagne's Taxonomy of Learning, and Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction.

Background to the Model

Robert Gagne (1916–2002) was an educational psychologist who pioneered the science of instruction in the 1940s. His book "The Conditions of Learning," first published in 1965, identified the mental conditions that are necessary for effective learning.

Gagne created a nine-step process that detailed each element required for effective learning. The model is useful for all types of learning, but this article focuses on applying it to training your team in a work environment. You can see these nine steps in Figure 1, below. (We'll explore these in detail later in this article.)

Figure 1: Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning

Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning


Benefits of Gagne's Model

Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning model gives trainers and educators a checklist to use before they engage in teaching or training activities. Each step highlights a form of communication that aids the learning process. When each step is completed in turn, learners are much more likely to be engaged and to retain the information or skills that they're being taught.

If you use this approach before any type of training session or presentation, you'll remember how to structure your session so that your people get the best possible learning experience.

Using the Tool

We'll now look at each of the nine levels, and provide example of how you can apply each step in your own situation.

Level 1: Gaining Attention (Reception)

Start the learning experience by gaining the attention of your audience. This change in stimulus alerts the group that learning will soon take place.

Apply: Gain attention by raising the volume of your voice, gesturing, showing a short video on the topic of instruction, or using any other event that brings the period of "waiting for the lesson to start" to an end.

Level 2: Informing Learners of the Objective (Expectancy)

Next, you must ensure that your team knows what they need to learn, and that they understand why they're about to learn this new information.

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Apply: Explain to your team what they will have learnt by the end of the session. Then, explain how their learning is going to benefit them, and the organization.

For example, you might explain that the new process that they're going to learn about will save the organization 20 percent in overhead fees. Because of recent budget cuts, the new lower-cost process will help your organization avoid laying six people off in your department. Now that your team understands why they're learning this new information, and what the risks are if they don't learn it, they'll be more motivated and more receptive to your training.

Level 3: Stimulating Recall of Prior Learning (Retrieval)

When your people learn something new, match the new information with related information or topics they've learned in the past.

Apply: Review any previous learning that you've done with your team, and apply it to what they're learning now. Also, ask your team if they have any previous experiences with the topic, or if they have experienced the problems that the training is trying to resolve. Then make connections between what they are learning, and their previous learning.

Level 4: Presenting the Stimulus (Selective Perception)

Present the new information to the group in an effective manner.

Apply: Organize your information in a logical and easy-to-understand manner. Try to use a variety of different media and styles (such as visual cues, verbal instruction, and active learning) to suit people with different learning styles.


Step 2 of the Communication Cycle can help you to identify the best way to present your information.


Level 5: Providing Learning Guidance (Semantic Encoding)

To help your team learn and retain the information, provide alternative approaches that illustrate the information that you're trying to convey.

Apply: Help your team learn more effectively by including examples, case studies , graphics,storytelling , or analogies.

Level 6: Eliciting Performance (Responding)

At this stage, you need to ensure that your people can demonstrate their knowledge of what you've taught them. The way that they show this depends on what they're learning.

Apply: If you've taught a new process or skill, ask your people to demonstrate how to use it (role playing exercises can be useful for this). If you've taught new information, ask questions so that they can show their knowledge.

Level 7: Providing Feedback (Reinforcement)

After your team demonstrates their knowledge, provide feedback and reinforce any points as necessary.

Apply: Imagine that you've taught your team a new technique for handling difficult customers. After several role playing scenarios, you notice that a few team members aren't assertive enough to calm the customer in this fictional "tense situation." Your feedback and tips point out their mistakes so that they can correct them.

Level 8: Assessing Performance (Retrieval)

Your team should be able to complete a test, or other measurement tool, to show that they've learned the material or skill effectively. Team members should complete this test independently, without any help or coaching from you.

Apply: Tests, short questionnaires, or even essays can be good ways of testing your team's new knowledge.


It may also be useful to provide further feedback after you have assessed their performance.


Level 9: Enhancing Retention and Transfer (Generalization)

In this last stage, your team members show that they've retained information by transferring their new knowledge or skill to situations that are different from the ones you've trained them on.

Apply: Repeated practice is the best way to ensure that people retain information and use it effectively. Make sure that your team has enough opportunity to use their learning on a regular basis. Schedule "practice runs" if you've been training on a new process, or have a follow-up session to review information or skills.

As people become more proficient, schedule in variants of the practice runs and expose people to different situations, so that they become comfortable generalizing.

Comparing With Other Training Models

Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning provide a useful approach that helps managers and structure the learning process. Each different stage complements the others, and by working through all nine levels, you can help to ensure that your team fully understands and retains information.

Although Gagne's model is different from other popular training models, you can still combine it with other methods. A good example is 4MAT , a training method that helps you to structure your approach so that people with different learning styles will learn just as effectively as everyone else. (Our article on 4MAT also explains common learning styles – Kolb's, and Honey and Mumford's are particularly respected.)

The ARCS model is also a good learning method to use with Gagne's model. ARCS focuses on motivation and making sure that learners understand the benefits of the new skill or information. Since this is step 2 in Gagne's model, the ARCS model can help you to understand better how to increase your team's motivation and engagement with the training.

Key Points

Gagne's Nine Levels of Learning provide a step-by-step checklist that helps you ensure that you present a comprehensive and successful learning experience. Each step is designed to help your trainees understand and retain information effectively.

Gagne's model can be combined effectively with other training methods, such as 4MAT and the ARCS model. These additional methods can help you better understand your team's needs.

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Comments (3)
  • Over a month ago Yolande wrote
    Hi SamsonP

    Welcome to the forums - it's great to see you posting. Training is one of my favourite topics of discussion and one of my big passions in life. I can't agree with you more that measuring is SO important yet so often overlooked.
    What methods of measuring do you prefer using or have you been exposed to? (I'm always curious to know how other people/companies go about it!)

    Kind regards
  • Over a month ago SamsonP wrote
    YES! A great article. As trainers our purpose it to train keeping in mind the trainees will be on their own. It is essential to test them and also give all scenarios / situations that can come up. This will greatly help them.. Once they are on their own they should be able to fall back on the training that was provided.

    I liked the measuring training part. Most do not measure the effectiveness of the training and that is of paramount importance.
  • Over a month ago Yolande wrote
    This is an excellent article and really reinforces the fact that when you conduct training, preparation is crucial. I've sat in "hit-and-miss" training sessions more than once, where it was obvious that the trainers didn't prepare well and that they didn't know how to engage, test or reinforce the training material.

    On Level 8 (Assessing Performance/Retrieval) I like asking learners to write a case study. For example if the training was about learning how to handle an irate client, I'd ask them to write the scenario, the approaches used to handle the problem as well as possible outcomes. That may sound strange, but it tests their knowledge of a learning area as well as their insight.

    Training is one opportunity we get to really REALLY make a difference in someone's life - let's do it with integrity, passion and sound training principles!

    Kind regards