Motivation Theory & Instruction:
Attention, Relevance, Confidence & Satisfaction (ARCS)

Note: The theory overview presented here is all but directly quoted from the Keller/Kopp paper. Only minor edits have been made by me for my own clarity. (see bottom of page for full citation)


John Keller (Florida State University)

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Goals & Preconditions

  • In the late 1970s, John Keller began work on motivation in instruction, which was an outgrowth of his interest in effort and its variability. It was largely born out a frustartion that so much of the interest in psychology - especially research and theory that accounted for learner differences in achievement - was concentrated on differences in leaner ability.

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  • Behavioral influence - contingency design, reinforcement & feedback.
  • Cognitive influence - emphasizes learner characteristics, distinguishes between effort and performance.
  • Humanistic influence - emphasizes the importance of free will.
  • Social Learning Theory influence - motivation is dependent at least in part upon human interactions; psychological research on motivation to instructional design.

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  1. Motivational strategies should:
  2. Not take up too kjuch time
  3. Not detract from learning objectives
  4. Fall within time and money constraints of the development ansd implementation phases of the instruction.
  5. Be acceptable to the audience
  6. Be compatible with the delivery system, including the instructors personal style.
  • Attention. Increase perceptual arousal with the use of novel, surprising, incongruous and uncertain events. Increase inquiry arousal by stimulating information seeking behavior; pose or have the learner generate questions or a problem to solve. Maintain interest by varying the elements of instruction.
    • Perceptual arousal
    • Inquiry arousal
    • Variability

  • Relevance. Emphasize relevance within the instruction to increase motivation. Use concrete language and examples with which students are familiar. Provide examples and concepts that are related to learners' previous experiences and values. Present goal orienting statements and objectives. Explain the utility of instruction for both present and future uses.
    • Familiarity
    • Goal orientation
    • Motive matching
  • Confidence. Allow students to develop confidence by enabling them to succeed. Present a degree of challenge that allows for meaningful success under both learning and performance conditions. Show the student that his or her expended effort directly influences the consequences. Generate positive expectations. Provide feedback and support internal attributions for success. Help students estimate the probability of success by presenting performance requirements and evaluation criteria.
    • Expectancy for success
    • Challenge setting
    • Attribution molding
  • Satisfaction. Provide opportunities to use newly acquired knowledge or skill in a real or simulated setting. Provide feedback and reinforcements that will sustain the desired behavior. Maintain consistent standards and consequences for task accomplishments. Manage reinforcement: keep outcomes of learner's efforts consistent with expectations.
    • Natural consequences
    • Positive consequences
    • Equity

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Major Contributions

  • ARCS enhances the traditional ISD orientation and includes motivational criterion measures. It also considers expected and unexpected motivational effects of instruction during formative and summative evaluation. One of first to imply that designers should assume responsibility for motivation; major contribution was not too focus on learner ability like others were doing to account for different achievement, but look at motivation.

Additional Resources


Note: The theory overview presented here is all but directly quoted from the Keller/Kopp paper. Only minor edits have been made by me for my own clarity. (see bottom of page for full citation)

Sources: Keller J. M. & Kopp T. W. (1987). An Application of the ARCS Model of Motivational Design. ology for Teaching General Methods of Thinking. Ch. 9 in Instructional Theories in Action. C.M. Reigeluth (ed.)

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