Robert Gagné’s theory of learning

Robert Gagné's theory of learning

Learning is the basic process by which
we acquire information from the outside or inside world and then work with it . The result of this process is knowledge, which allows us to perform a wide variety of behaviours, predictions and even acquire new knowledge and cognitive schemes.

Learning is therefore a fundamental phenomenon that allows us to survive and adapt to the environment, being studied by many different disciplines and theoretical currents. One of the many theories that have emerged regarding the learning process is
Robert Gagné’s theory of learning . Jean Piaget was not the only one to talk about learning in a psychological key.

Learning for Robert Gagné

As we have said, there are very different ways of understanding what learning is.

In the case of Robert Gagné’s learning theory, it is considered as such the result of
the interrelationship between person and environment , being a change of behavioural type, conduct and even of disposition or attitude towards a part or the totality of reality.

This change is maintained over time as a consequence of the interaction between the person and the environment, not only due to changes in maturity but also to the experience and repetition of these.

For Gagné, the information reaches the nervous system through the sensory receptors, and then
be processed and stored in memory until it needs to be retrieved . If this information corresponds to a previous one, it can easily be stored, but if not, it will be necessary to practice and repeat the learning process.

Intense emotions and motivations facilitate (or hinder. as the case may be) such storage and subsequent retrieval.

The role of motivation in learning

When it comes to retrieving information, some situation or stimulus must occur that requires the use of stored learning, which in the face of such a stimulus passes to a hypothetical internal response generator.
After passing through this generator, the behaviour is produced , taking into account when choosing which one to apply the level of control and one’s own and other people’s expectations with respect to the behaviour and the goal or objective to be achieved.

Thus, motivation acts as a motor for learning and, at the same time, creates more situations to put into practice what has been learned, since it creates more opportunities in which a situation is detected in which the new skills acquired can be useful.

In order to learn, it is essential that there is motivation , of whatever kind, so that the information is attended to and processed. Otherwise, the information would not be recorded and knowledge would not be generated. But what exactly do we learn?

What do we learn?

We don’t always learn the same kind of things. In fact, there is a wide variety of stimuli, situations, skills and procedures of different types that we can acquire throughout our lives.

For Gagné, the wide variety of possible learning
can be grouped into eight different types of learning : learning to react to signals or reflexes, conditioned stimulus-response learning, chaining of motor action sequences, verbal association, discrimination, learning and understanding of concepts, the principles with which structure the assessments made by the subject and problem solving .

The products of these trainings are also classified into five main categories.

1. Motor skills

Motor skills are essential when it comes to acting.

Training is required for
to ensure that movement is automated and can be carried out accurately, especially in the case of behaviour that requires a sequence of actions to be followed.

2. Verbal information

This type of ability or learning is what refers to
process of transmitting information and retaining specific data such as names or memories.

3. Intellectual skills

These are the capabilities that allow
capture, interpret and use cognitive elements in order to interpret reality , including the capacity of symbolization. These types of skills are very useful for discriminating stimuli and associating symbolism and reality.

4. Cognitive skills and strategies

These types of skills refer to the cognitive processes we use to capture, analyze, work and retrieve information. Also
is linked to the choice of adaptive behaviours to the environment and its specific demands . Attention, response style or planning are several examples of this type of skill, and according to Gagné’s theory they work at the same time.

5. Attitudes

Attitudes are considered to be those internal states that influence
choose the behaviours and attitudes towards specific situations, people or objects . They are, in short, predispositions that incline us more towards one option or another and that shape our way of behaving.

Learning can
to provoke a change in personal attitudes , but this change is gradual and progressive, and learning is complex and needs to be reinforced so that there is real and permanent change.

Stages of learning

Regardless of the type of knowledge, skill or disposition acquired, Gagné learning theory considers learning as a process which
can be divided into different stages before the acquisition of knowledge . These stages or phases are the following.

First phase: Motivation

The first phase in the learning process is the motivation phase. In this phase basically
a goal is set, directing attention to it . In this way we know what we should direct our actions towards.

Second phase: Apprehension

In this second phase, attention and selective perception processes are used
when a change in some stimulus attracts attention and makes us focus physically and cognitively on it .

Phase three: Acquisition

While the previous phases are mainly based on attention setting and intention to attend, during the third phase the acquisition and codification of information takes place. collecting the stimuli and working with them. This third phase
is the main one in the learning process since it is the moment when the knowledge is acquired .

Fourth phase: Retention

After the acquisition of the information
is stored in the memory , and it is necessary to monitor possible interference with other knowledge, which favours its retention.

Fifth phase: Recovery

Once the information is retained, the learning remains in the memory until
some kind of stimulus triggers the need to retrieve it . In this situation the memory of the stored information is born after processing the needs that arise from the stimulus or demand.

Phase six: Generalization

A very important part of learning is the
capacity to generalise information n . In this phase of the learning process an association is built between the knowledge acquired and recovered and the different situations in which this knowledge could be demanded.

This generalization allows us to establish adaptive behaviors in the face of new stimuli of which we have no information. It can be understood as one of the main goals of the learning process, since it is here where the usefulness of what has been learned is noted by taking it beyond the initial context.

Phase Seven: Performance

The seventh phase of the learning process is performance. In this phase the individual
transforms learned knowledge into action , performing a behaviour in response to external or internal stimulation.

Eighth phase: Feedback

The
comparison between the results of the action derived from the use of learning and the expectations that were held regarding these results are the last phase of the process. If the results are as expected or better, learning will be strengthened, while if not, attempts will be made to modify or discard them in favour of other alternatives.

Bibliographic references:

  • Gagné, R. (1970). The conditions of learning. Aguilar. Madrid.
  • Meza, A. (1979). Psychology of cognitive learning. Empirical findings in the approaches of Piaget and Gagné. Lima: NUCICC.

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