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The learning theory of Robert Gagné

The learning theory of Robert Gagné

May 16, 2023

Learning is the basic process by which We acquire information from the outside or inside world to later work with it . The result of this process is knowledge, which allows a wide variety of behaviors, 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 very diverse disciplines and theoretical currents. One of the multiple theories that have emerged regarding the learning process is the learning theory of Robert Gagné . And is that 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 theory of learning, the result is considered to be the interrelation between person and environment , being a change of behavioral, behavioral and even disposition or attitude regarding a part or the totality of the reality.

This change is maintained over time as a result of the interaction between the person and the environment, not only due to maturational changes but also to the experience of experiences and their repetition.

For Gagné, the information reaches the nervous system through the sensory receptors, for later processed and stored in memory until recovery is necessary . If this information corresponds to a previous one, it can easily be stored, but otherwise it will be necessary to practice and repeat the learning.

Intense emotions and motivations facilitate (or hinder, depending on the case) such storage and subsequent recovery.

The role of motivation in learning

When retrieving the information, there must be some situation or stimulus that requires the use of stored learning, which, before said stimulus, passes to a hypothetical generator of internal responses. After passing through this generator the behavior occurs , taking into account when choosing which to apply the level of control and own and other expectations regarding the behavior and the goal or goal to be met.

Thus, motivation acts as an engine of 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.

To learn, it is essential that there is motivation , whatever the type, in order for the information to be attended and processed. Otherwise, the information would not be recorded nor would knowledge be generated. But what do we learn exactly?

What do we learn?

We do not 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 life.

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

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

1. Motor skills

Motor skills are essential when acting.

Training is needed to get the movement automated and it can be done with precision, especially in the case of behaviors that require the follow-up of a sequence of actions.

2. Verbal information

This type of capacity or learning is the one that refers to process of transmission of information and the retention of specific data as names or memories.

3. Intellectual skills

It's about the capabilities that allow capture, interpret and use cognitive elements in order to interpret reality , including the symbolization capacity. These types of skills are very useful to discriminate stimuli and associate symbols and reality.

4. Cognitive skills and strategies

This type of skills refers to the cognitive processes we use to capture, analyze, work and retrieve information. Likewise is linked to the choice of adaptive behaviors to the environment and their specific demands . Attention, response style or planning are several examples of this type of skills, and according to Gagné's theory they work at the same time.

5. Attitudes

Attitudes are considered to the internal states that influence at the time of choose behaviors and behaviors 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 cause personal attitudes to change , but this change is gradual and progressive, being the learning complex and needing to be reinforced so that there is a real and permanent change.

Stages of learning

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

First phase: Motivation

The first phase in the learning process is the motivation phase. In this phase basically an objective is established, directing attention towards him . In this way we know what we should direct our actions towards.

Second phase: Apprehension

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

Third phase: Acquisition

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

Fourth phase: Retention

After the acquisition of information it proceeds to store it in memory , having to monitor the possible interference with other knowledge, this retention being favored by these.

Fifth phase: Recovery

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

Sixth phase: Generalization

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

This generalization allows to establish adaptive behaviors before novel stimuli of which we do not have information. It can be understood as one of the main goals of the learning process, since it is here that the usefulness of what is learned is seen when taking it beyond the initial context.

Seventh phase: Performance

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

Eighth phase: Feedback

The comparison between the results of the action derived from the use of the learning and the expectations that were had regarding said results They are the last phase of the process. If the results are expected or better, learning will be strengthened, while otherwise it will try to modify or discard in that situation in favor of other alternatives.

Bibliographic references:

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

Robert Gagne’s Hierarchy of Learning Types ! Gagne ‘ s learning theory (May 2023).

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