ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Keller)



Summary: According to John Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design, there are four steps for promoting and sustaining motivation in the learning process: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction (ARCS).

Originator: John Keller

Key terms: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction (ARCS)

ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Keller)

1. Attention

  • Keller attention can be gained in two ways: (1) Perceptual arousal – uses surprise or uncertainly to gain interest. Uses novel, surprising, incongruous, and uncertain events; or (2) Inquiry arousal – stimulates curiosity by posing challenging questions or problems to be solved.
  • Methods for grabbing the learners’ attention include the use of:
    • Active participation -Adopt strategies such as games, roleplay or other hands-on methods to get learners involved with the material or subject matter.
    • Variability – To better reinforce materials and account for individual differences in learning styles, use a variety of methods in presenting material (e.g. use of videos, short lectures, mini-discussion groups).
    • Humor -Maintain interest by use a small amount of humor (but not too much to be distracting)
    • Incongruity and Conflict – A devil’s advocate approach in which statements are posed that go against a learner’s past experiences.
    • Specific examples – Use a visual stimuli, story, or biography.
    • Inquiry – Pose questions or problems for the learners to solve, e.g. brainstorming activities.

2. Relevance

  • Establish relevance in order to increase a learner’s motivation. To do this, use concrete language and examples with which the learners are familiar. Six major strategies described by Keller include:
    • Experience – Tell the learners how the new learning will use their existing skills. We best learn by building upon our preset knowledge or skills.
    • Present Worth – What will the subject matter do for me today?
    • Future Usefulness – What will the subject matter do for me tomorrow?
    • Needs Matching – Take advantage of the dynamics of achievement, risk taking, power, and affiliation.
    • Modeling – First of all, “be what you want them to do!” Other strategies include guest speakers, videos, and having the learners who finish their work first to serve as tutors. 
    • Choice – Allow the learners to use different methods to pursue their work or allowing s choice in how they organize it.

3. Confidence

  • Help students understand their likelihood for success. If they feel they cannot meet the objectives or that the cost (time or effort) is too high, their motivation will decrease.
  • Provide objectives and prerequisites – Help students estimate the probability of success by presenting performance requirements and evaluation criteria. Ensure the learners are aware of performance requirements and evaluative criteria.
  • Allow for success that is meaningful.
  • Grow the Learners – Allow for small steps of growth during the learning process.
  • Feedback – Provide feedback and support internal attributions for success.
  • Learner Control – Learners should feel some degree of control over their learning and assessment. They should believe that their success is a direct result of the amount of effort they have put forth.

4. Satisfaction

  • Learning must be rewarding or satisfying in some way, whether it is from a sense of achievement, praise from a higher-up, or mere entertainment.
  • Make the learner feel as though the skill is useful or beneficial by providing opportunities to use newly acquired knowledge in a real setting.
  • Provide feedback and reinforcement. When learners appreciate the results, they will be motivated to learn. Satisfaction is based upon motivation, which can be intrinsic or extrinsic.
  • Do not patronize the learner by over-rewarding easy tasks.

For more information, see:

  • Keller, J. M. (1983). Motivational design of instruction. In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional-design theories and models: An overview of their current status. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Keller, J. M. (1984). The use of the ARCS model of motivation in teacher training. In K. Shaw & A. J. Trott (Eds.), Aspects of Educational Technology Volume XVII: staff Development and Career Updating. London: Kogan Page.
  • Keller, J. M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS model of motivational design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2-10. John Keller’s Official ARCS Model Website