Faculty Scholarship

Document Type


Publication Date



Categorizations of knowledge and skills have different purposes. Robert Gagne's classification, which we use here, organizes types of learning according to the mental processes involved in performing them. The best practices for teaching knowledge or skills in a particular category are similar, whether the knowledge being taught is torts, contracts, or electrical engineering.

For law teachers, the practical advantage of this classification is that it allows us to identify successful learning techniques from other subjects and adapt them to law teaching, rather than starting from scratch and developing and testing our own techniques. A second advantage of classifying types of learning is that it encourages us to break the complex skills that we are trying to teach into their constituent parts and identify the prerequisite knowledge and skills for these parts, so that we teach systematically the prerequisites for high-level skills.

The rest of this article will proceed through Gagne's classification, providing definitions and examples of each type of knowledge, the appropriate learning conditions for each, and some specific advice for law school teachers. We then provide a sample use of Gagne's classifications to break an over-all learning goal into sub-parts and provide some thoughts on teaching the sub-parts. [excerpt]