ARCS: Four Components of Learner Motivation

How do you keep the motivation of your students? What are some of your ways to motivate them? Are there lessons that you like to teach because many of them are interested? Are there also lessons you found boring for both of you and the learners? These are some of the guide questions we can ask to study the important elements of the learner motivation.

In remote learning, motivation is one of the less discussed areas. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not difficult to bore students and kills their desire to learn. Instructional designers like teachers are interested in what can keep students motivated to learn. Hence looking at motivational designs can help us formulate motivational tactics to support instructional goals. Though motivation is unpredictable and changeable subject to influence over which an instructional designer has no control, we can still stimulate and sustain student’s motivation to learn (Keller,1987).

According to the ARCS Model of Motivation, there are four components of learner motivation to improve learning and this stands for Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction.


Attention is an important element of motivation and a prerequisite to learning. Even on Gagne’s steps of instruction, gaining the attention of the learners is the first step of instruction. For teachers, getting students’ attention may be a familiar task already that they do in face-to-face classes. But, sustaining it during remote learning can present a different challenge. When students ask questions related to the topic, make sure to notice and answer them because they can help sustain their attention.

In this ARCS model, one can get students’ attention through perceptual arousal that uses the element of surprise and uncertainty to gain students’ attention or inquiry arousal by posing challenging questions and problems for students to be solved such as during brainstorming or act out problem activities.

In gaining students’ attention, variability on learning materials and experience accounts for individual differences and learning styles such as the use of videos, animations, podcasts, vignettes, write around, and think-pair-share. But to succeed in this part, one has to understand the type of learners you’re dealing with. A short survey about the interests and learning styles of the students at the beginning of the lesson can help you learn about your students. There are already tools that can easily generate statistics and graphs describing your students which can offer you some valuable information in choosing or developing tactics to get and sustain your students’ attention.


“Why I’m learning this?” is a classic question asked by students to teachers. There will be a relevance problem when students are not convinced by the answer to this question. According to the author of the ARCS Model, relevance doesn’t always come from the content, but on how you teach your lessons that highlight the present and future usefulness of the topic especially on their career opportunities.

Since the learner experiences matter on this aspect, helping students set goals and help them take personal responsibility towards achieving those and strive under conditions of moderate risk can help them develop perceived relevance. But we need to allow them to take these opportunities where they can pursue work, build their skills, and have personal choices giving them control of their learning.

This component is difficult to achieve without acknowledging the struggles of the learners. Being able to provide additional resources for support will bring the learning process more relevance to them.


If the goal is to improve the motivation of the students, helping students understand their likelihood of success is the golden rule. Stating prerequisites and making the evaluative criteria available to them can help students achieve standards and meet your expectations. The use of a rubric and other assessment tools can also help communicate the stated learning goals of the instructional materials and learning activities.

Improving self-confidence is also vital in growing learners. A self-monitoring tool can help them take smaller steps for growth and help them become increasingly independent in learning and demonstrating a skill that reinforces some degree of personal control of their learning. Providing feedback and a “feedforward” to pursue excellence can encourage them, but you need to help them understand the concept of failure and learn to feel good about genuine accomplishments as success is a direct result of their efforts.


According to the reinforcement theory, people are motivated if the task and reward are clearly defined. When learners receive feedback and reinforcement, it may help them to be motivated. But not all people like to be told about what to do, so an important factor is on “control” by stimulating or tapping on the intrinsic motivation of the students. This also suggests minimizing the application of surveillance and control tools imposed by the teacher on some activities, but rather on the applications of feedback.

A newly acquired skill should be applied by the learner in a real-world setting as soon as possible to help them feel the usefulness of the skill and further develop it. You can also provide intermittent reinforcement as they become more competent with the skill in doing a relevant task. Providing motivating feedback to your students can help them, but it’s also important not to patronize them by rewarding easy tasks and mere outputs. As the teacher, you can provide helpful strategic comments when needed.

In this time of remote learning, what are your most favorite tactic to improve learner’s motivation that taps on one of the components above? Or what’s the motivational design that you’re currently applying?

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