Teaching and Learning Theory
Varieties of Performance

Robert Gagne's work enables teachers to classify and specify learning objectives and the relationships between various kinds of performances. Gagne's six variables of performances that can be the result of learning are:

Specific Responding is making specific responses to a particular stimulus. A simple example of specific responding occurs when a teacher holds up a card (the stimulus) with the word dog printed on it and a young child says "dog" (the response). Specific responding is the basis of much of the information we possess. In order for the student to learn to make correct, specific responses, we must assume he or she has the ablity to make connections between things. This is the first order of contextual learning.

Chaining is making a series of responses that are linked together. Gagne makes the example of translating from one language to another. When one takes the words "How are you?" and translates them to "Como esta usted?", one is chaining by taking a series of specific responses in linking them into a phrase.

Multiple Descrimination is involved in learning a variety of specific responses and chains and in learning how to sort them out appropriately. For example, when one is learning a different language, one develops a storehouse of words and phrases. Multiple descrimination involves learning to handle previously learned chains of various sorts.

Classifying is assigning objects to classes denoting like functions. Learning to distinguish cars from books or trees from animals involves classifying. The result of this process is concepts, ideas that compare and contrast things and events or describe relationships.

Rule Using is the ability to act on a concept that implies action. For example, to spell we learn varieties of concepts that describe how words are spelled. Then we apply those concepts in rule form in the act of spelling.

Problem Solving is the application of several rules to a problem encountered before by the learner. Problem solving involves making the connections to select the correct rules and applying them in combination.


Dr. Mark L. Merickel
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School of Education
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR