Properly instructing others goes a long way. From change management (my specialty) to developing new and improved skills within your organization, learning how to properly instruct and facilitate learning is a key characteristic in all organizational leaders.

The method we will be discussing today is called the “9 Events of Instruction.” This method was originally developed in the 1960s and 1970s (Edutech: Gagne and Medsker), but today we will be discussing them in terms of creating learning activities and training sequences.

Ultimately, these “events” are critical components to the implementation of training and effective learning within people. It is beneficial to an organization to focus on procuring and nurturing each of these events, in order, to reap the rewards that they bring.

You may notice how similar many of these points sound to other lessons I’ve discussed in blog posts on this website, that is because they reflect many of the similarities regarding the “knowledge” and “ability” stages of the ADKAR model; a model I use and reference frequently.

The 9 Events of Instruction

A man giving a presentation.

Here are the 9 events that become necessary for effective and efficient training and learning to take place.

1. Gain Attention

Gaining attention can mean a lot of things. Ultimately, what it means is breaking through the barrier of the “unknown.” Only when people can become aware of a problem, advertisement, or situation, can they become willing to alter behaviors or learn new things.

People learn the most effectively when they can see the bigger picture that the situation represents. This is what Simon Sinek often calls the organizational “Why.” Providing context to the situation at hand is meant to form a foundation upon which you can build motivation for change, more specifically, a hunger for learning.

Gaining attention is merely about making an issue or situation known to all the key players. That is why the ADKAR model begins with “Awareness” as the stepping stone to effective change efforts.

2. Describe the Goal

After you have finished building attention around the context that supports learning, describe what the learning/training is meant to accomplish. What are the benefits and positive effects that will occur as a result of training and learning?

Communicating the positive effects will benefit your training initiatives by making people more willing to comply and commit to them. This is another stepping stone to providing motivation and crafting the bigger picture surrounding “why” learning (and often, change) is necessary within the organization.

By creating a compelling demonstration, you can often communicate the necessity of training, the effectiveness of an individual, and the bigger picture in one fell swoop. Describing the goal, in this case, is about what your students can accomplish and achieve after the training has been concluded.

3. Recall Prior Knowledge

A good facilitator for learning will use the opportunities given to leverage any previous knowledge or experience that the students may have. Consider the job descriptions of recruiters in this way. They are meant to match qualifications with experience and knowledge.

In this sense, you should make the best use of any previous relevant knowledge that your students have to cross over skills and thought-processes. The value here can be momentous for a few reasons.

1. The first reason is that leveraging pre-existing knowledge makes the new task more familiar, less burdening, and more willingly accepted than it otherwise would be. This occurs because the new task is considered a mere extension of learning and action that has been previously instilled in the habits and thoughts of individuals.

2. It helps actualize learning more quickly by presenting a set of pre-existing patterns of behavior and links to relevant actions that have been taken in the past.

Recalling prior knowledge is about connecting the new learning and training initiatives with the previous or existing knowledge from within the individuals you wish to instruct.

4. Present the Material

Presenting the material is simple. All you must do is craft a presentation regarding the actual material to be learned. Instead of leveraging previous knowledge, or preparing the “bigger-picture,” I suppose you could say this is the actual “learning” segment of the 9 events model.

Ultimately, craft an engaging and relevant presentation of materials that reflects the bigger picture and considered the previous relevant knowledge of the individuals. By doing this, you can create a presentation that speaks directly to the skills of the individuals themselves, as well as their vested interests.

Common presentation techniques include applying graphics, text, books and resources, simulations, sound, pictures, and any other type of media that can keep engagement high.

5. Provide Learning Guidance

The key here is to recognize that the actual material displayed (section 4) is separate from how to instill it in the minds of individuals. That is to say, don’t repeat the information, but tell them how they can better absorb the information presented.

Often, you can help retention rates by assessing engagement (what does and doesn’t work) and by relating all information to the bigger picture initiative or end goal.

Here are a few key notes on assessing and maintaining retention of material:

1. Take a multi-sensory approach to learning. (helps with engagement)
2. Create a mental association of ideas to applicable life.
3. Discuss how learning works and make people aware of the process.
4. Exaggerate key points.
5. Provide storylines when possible.

All of these things have been proven to help memory and knowledge retention among people. Using them to your benefit will ensure you make the best use of your presentations and resources, and avoid having to expend more resources on further training.

6. Put Training in Action

One of the best ways to retain knowledge is to use it. Confucious said “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

There is without a doubt one crucial part of the learning and retention process, and that step is taking purposeful action towards the usage of one’s new knowledge.

Only when we can begin to form mental links between our knowledge and their respective results will we retain that knowledge and properly learn. Consider the nature of entrepreneurship. Most entrepreneurs I have met employ a similar guideline of “fail fast and fail forward.”

The most successful entrepreneurs recognize that failing is a part of the process and that only when they can use their knowledge and abilities to test what works and what does not can they begin to see results.

This is why experience is so valuable, and also why there is a noticeable rift between the “Knowledge” stage of the ADKAR change model and the “Ability” stage of the model.

Create purposeful and useful opportunities to have individuals learn by DOING rather than seeing or hearing. This will make the biggest difference in retention and cause/effect analysis.

7. Provide Feedback

Feedback should be given both during and after the initial implementation or action step (step 6). This feedback is meant to analyze and inform students of the effectiveness of the training and/or to alter the action sequence to augment effectiveness.

Put simple, feedback is meant to help the individuals improve their actions or abilities. This is why, in most organizations, there is a dedicated “yearly review” that will help inform the individuals of their strengths and weaknesses.

Feedback that is based on a physical activity should be given during the activity, but feedback that is based on cognitive activities should employ full-group Q and A’s., as well as the discussion of models and steps to be taken in given circumstances.

This way, the thought process is modeled and can be understood by a variety of individuals in real-time. Feedback is meant to construct, not degrade, individuals. Think of giving feedback like aiding others through a process, not displaying their faults.

8. Assess Performance

Assessing performance is about proper evaluation and key metrics that can aid you in forming a conclusion about the effectiveness of the training and retention cycle. Ultimately, by choosing relevant metrics, you can properly analyze the newly developed abilities within individuals and how they may affect the organization for the better.

You can effectively assess performance by monitoring thee respective characteristics of proper learning.

1. Reactions: How learners react to new material and their willingness to accept it.
2. Learning: Immediate outcomes of applying the newly-developed material in the given action steps. (step 6)
3. Behavior: Intermediate outcomes as a result of an individual’s changed knowledge, skills, and attitudes
4. Results: Long-term outcomes for the business or organization as a result of training initiatives.

By properly assessing performance given these key characteristics you can monitor the overall effectiveness of the training program OR the learning-culture within your organization as a whole. For example, if the outcomes follow the same process or pattern despite changes in the training program, culture may be the limiting factor.

If culture is what limits you, it can also be changed, however, it is more difficult. Consider reading this post on Organizational Change-Readiness. I describe, heavily, the impacts of culture on an organization’s ability to change in that post.

9. Enhance Transfer of Knowledge

Enhancing the transfer of knowledge means relaying the information across multiple situations or uses. There is not often a “one size fits all” solution in modern business, however, there IS more than one way in which knowledge can be utilized and applied.

Informing the learner about the various ways in which new knowledge can be applied will cause various mental “links” to occur simultaneously, and potentially leverage the creativity of the learner in using new knowledge in various, unforeseen, ways.

Prepare learners for immediate application. This is critical for retention rates and proper change-management initiatives. Why? Over time, we tend to forget the knowledge that is irrelevant or unapplied to our daily lives, therefore, applying knowledge while it is fresh and new will better help us make the most of every bit of information from our training.


All in all, here are the list of key points to consider when forming training programs or facilitating learning initiatives.

Keys for Learning Facilitation:
1. Gain Attention
2. Describe the Goal
3. Recall prior Knowledge
4. Present the Material
5. Provide Learning Guidance
6. Put Training in Action
7. Provide Feedback
8. Assess Performance
9. Enhance Transfer of Knowledge

Thanks for reading!
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-Austin Denison is a change management consultant from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life.