Keller, J.M. (1987). Development and use of the ARCS Model of instructional design. Journal of Instructional Development, 10(3), 2-10.


Keller’s (1987) ARCS Model of instructional design was introduced as a way to build in motivation during the instructional design phase of development. With a desire to develop more effective and influential ways to learn, Keller’s (1987) ARCS Model introduced four categories of motivation built through the entire design process in order to develop the most effective classroom materials possible. These four categories, attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction, work together as motivation for the learner before the unit begins all the way through the end of the unit when the learner is assessing their accomplishments and what they were able to complete. The ARCS Model also includes a design process and separates into a system that includes four steps: define, design, develop, and evaluate.

Key Points

  • ARCS Model is a theory of motivation that was built by Keller but grounded in expectancy-value theory (Lewin, 1938; Tolman, 1932).
  • Expectancy-value theory had two categories (value and expectancy) that Keller expanded to eventually create the ACRS Model.
    • Value became interest and relevance, looking at achieving and utility acknowledging the significance of the environment that the learner is in and how the activity impacts the goal.
    • Expectancy remained the same, looking at the learner’s need to be successful, including self-efficacy, confidence, and control.
    • A new category, outcomes, was added. This category focused on the strength of the instruction and how having goal-directed instruction and reinforcement would be vital to the motivation of learners.
  • This is an intrinsically-based model that is not behavioral-based.
  • Developed as a problem-solving, motivational model.
  • The ARCS Model has a design process with four steps (define, design, develop, and evaluate) that allows instructional designers to walk through the full process of identifying where motivation may be lacking, designing the instruction, developing materials, and then evaluating what does and does not work.

Design Principles and Examples

  • Designed and developed to understand influences on why people learn.
  • Keller’s ARCS Model is made up of four components: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction
    • Attention: Requirement for learning; must have the proper incentive to have learner engagement for motivation
    • Relevance: Designing and presenting content in a way that the learner finds its to be significant to their lives and futures; can come both from the way the content is taught and from the content itself
    • Confidence: The learner’s “expectancy for success” with the content their learning which then impacts their believe and persistency in finishing and working through the remaining content (p. 5)
    • Satisfaction: Learners feel a sense of pride and accomplishment about the content they have learned over time and what they have completed.

Figure 1. Dempsey, J.V., & Johnson, R.B. (1998) from The development of an ARCS gaming scale. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 25(4), 215-221, shows the four elements of the ARCS Model along with the subcategories that align with each motivational element. With subcategories like goal orientation, equity, personal control, and variability, the figure also provides different questions for each element for the instructional designer and instructor to ask throughout the design and instruction process to make sure learner motivation is at the forefront of the lesson.

  • ARCS Model includes design process with four steps for design process: define, design, develop, and evaluate.
  • Table 5. Keller, J.M. (1987, p. 7) shows the four steps for the design process within the ARCS Model and how each of the steps are approached. The Motivational Design Model allows the instructor and/or designer to walk through the process of developing the content for the learner in the most effective way to keep the learner motivated throughout the process.

Guiding Questions

  1. Think of a specific educational technology tool or platform that is used in your classroom (tablets, Padlet, computers, a specific application). How do you see this tool or platform being used as a motivational tool as it relates to the ARCS Model?
  2. How would you incorporate educational technology while also remaining cognizant of motivational strategies that discuss time awareness, cost, accessibility and more?
  3. Keller mentions how scoring on the basis of gain scores or achievement measures isn’t “good practice” and, instead, encourages use of evaluation of motivation and learning outcomes. Have you had experience of this type of evaluation and do you agree or disagree with this mindset? Explain.

Additional Resources & References

Dempsey, J.V., & Johnson, R.B. (1998). The development of an ARCS gaming scale. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 25(4), 215-221.

Keller, J. M. (n.d.). Arcs Model. Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.arcsmodel.com/


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