Conditions of Learning Theory by Robert Gagne

Conditions of Learning Theory by Robert Gagne, stipulates that there are several different types or levels of learning. The significance of these classifications is that each different type requires different types of instruction. Gagne identifies five major categories of learning: verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, motor skills and attitudes. Different internal and external conditions are necessary for each type of learning. For example, for cognitive strategies to be learned, there must be a chance to practice developing new solutions to problems; to learn attitudes, the learner must be exposed to a credible role model or persuasive arguments.
Gagne suggests that learning tasks for intellectual skills can be organized in a hierarchy according to complexity: stimulus recognition, response generation, procedure following, use of terminology, discriminations, concept formation, rule application, and problem solving. The primary significance of the hierarchy is to identify prerequisites that should be completed to facilitate learning at each level. Prerequisites are identified by doing a task analysis of a learning/training task. Learning hierarchies provide a basis for the sequencing of instruction.
In addition, the theory outlines nine instructional events and corresponding cognitive processes:
1. Gaining attention (reception)
2. Informing learners of the objective (expectancy)
3. Stimulating recall of prior learning (retrieval)
4. Presenting the stimulus (selective perception)
5. Providing learning guidance (semantic encoding)
6. Eliciting performance (responding)
7. Providing feedback (reinforcement)
8. Assessing performance (retrieval)
9. Enhancing retention and transfer (generalization).
These events should satisfy or provide the necessary conditions for learning and serve as the basis for designing instruction and selecting appropriate media (Gagne, Briggs & Wager, 1992).
Talking about instruction and selecting appropriate media, the subject of homework is one of the most controversial issues in education. Homework is practiced due to the fact that there is a limited amount of time in school day to cover everything on the curriculum. Furthermore, homework serves as a venue for learning extension, where students can practice a newly learned skill in school, prepare themselves for future lesson and review lessons covered. Others claimed that, non-academic benefits such as developing time-management skill, self-discipline promoting and increase in parent-child bonding was made possible through homework.
Although homework is beneficial to both academics and non-academics. This case is not always true to all. Younger students, such those in elementary level find homework leisure-grabbing. Instead of making most of their free time enjoying their youth, they are burdened of the thought of accomplishing homework.
Think about this, does covering everything on curriculum necessary if it is being relearned in succeeding grade levels? Mastery or meaningful learning should be given more emphasis, instead of simply instilling rote learning. Does it allow meaningful learning if it is the parent does the task instead of the student? Does assigning too lengthy math problems accomplish any more than assigning five? Is memorizing word list the best way to increase vocabulary-especially when it takes away from reading time? Does practicing a newly learned skill through homework truly purposeful if instruction and media selection does not go well with the objective? Does assigning them to prepare themselves for the future lesson proven to increase their motivation to learn?
The truth, according to Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, authors of the book entitled The Case for And Against Homework (2006) is that there is almost no evidence that homework helps elementary school students achieve academic success and little more that it helps older students. It robs children of the sleep, play, and exercise time they need for proper physical, emotional, and neurological development.

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