Motivational Theories and Design
This page was originally authored by Diana Bang (2011). This page was added to by Marijke Henschel (February 2013) This page is being edited by Christopher Ward (January-April 2014) Stop-motion video "Intrinsic motivation" added on 29 January 2017, by Agnieszka Weinar.
Motivation is the force that drives one to act. It involves biological, cognitive, emotional, and/or social factors within a human being or animal that arouse and direct goal-oriented behaviour . It is a construct that cannot be directly observed, and must be inferred from what is perceived to be purposeful behaviour.
Motivation influences students in multifaceted ways. There are intrinsic or extrinsic motivational factors that affect students to engage in pursuance or avoidance behaviours . In education, instructors and instructional designers are concerned with creating optimal learning conditions to motivate and enable students to perform to the best of their abilities . Thus, understanding the principles of motivational theories, particularly aspects of motivational design, are fundamental to instructional design.
- 1 Theories of Motivation
- 2 Detailed Examples of Motivational Theories
- 3 Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design
- 4 Guidelines for Motivational Design
- 5 Individual Intrinsic Motivation
- 6 Interpersonal Intrinsic Motivation
- 7 See also
- 8 Stop-motion video
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
Theories of Motivation
There are several viewpoints of motivation proposed by theorists consisting of three major categories:
1. Humanistic (Needs-Based) Motivation Theories
Humanism is a paradigm/philosophy/pedagogical approach that believes learning is viewed as a personal act to fulfill one’s potential.
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (often represented as a pyramid with five levels of needs) is a motivational theory in psychology that argues that while people aim to meet basic needs, they seek to meet successively higher needs in the form of a pyramid.
- Self-Determination Theory (Deci and Ryan) is a theory of motivation and personality that addresses three universal, innate and psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and psychological relatedness.
- ARCS Model of Motivational Design (Keller)argues that there are four steps for promoting and sustaining motivation in the learning process: Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction (ARCS).
- Emotional Intelligence (Goleman)(EQ) is defined as the ability to identify, assess, and control one’s own emotions, the emotions of others, and that of groups.
- Experiential Learning (Kolb) is a four-stage cyclical theory of learning, Kolb’s experiential learning theory is a holistic perspective that combines experience, perception, cognition, and behavior.
2. Cognitive Theories of Motivation
- Expectancy-Value Theory postulates that the degree to which students will expend effort on a task is a function of:
- (a) their expectation they will be able to perform the task successfully and by so doing obtain the rewards associated with successful completion of the task and
- (b) the value they place on the rewards associated with successful completion of the task.
- (a) their expectation they will be able to perform the task successfully and by so doing obtain the rewards associated with successful completion of the task and
- According to psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is our belief in our ability to succeed in certain situations. People with strong self-efficacy are those who believe that they are capable of performing well. These people are more likely to view challenges as something to be mastered rather than avoided.
- Goal Setting Theory has as a basic premise that an individual's conscious ideas regulate his actions and that:
- (1) hard goals produce a higher level of performance (output) than easy goals;
- (2) specific hard goals produce a higher level of output than a goal of "do your best"; and
- (3) behavioral intentions regulate choice behavior.
- Attribution Theory
- In social psychology, attribution is the process of inferring the causes of events or behaviors. There are many attribution-based theories in psychology. With respect learning and motivation, Carol Dweck's theory of Growth Mindsets is an attribution theory that argues that through effort, practice and exploration the learner can come to perform better regardless of how they perform initially, and that teachers and students should know this (as in acquire a Growth Mindset) in order for students to become happy and effective learners.
- Equity Theory is based on the premise that employees will put forth a particular level of effort that they feel compares to the reward potential. It comes down to a straightforward formula of inputs must equal outputs.
3. Behaviourist Theories of Motivation
Behaviorism is a worldview that operates on a principle of “stimulus-response.” All behavior caused by external stimuli (operant conditioning). All behavior can be explained without the need to consider internal mental states or consciousness.
- Classical Conditioning (Pavlov) is a reflexive or automatic type of learning in which a stimulus acquires the capacity to evoke a response that was originally evoked by another stimulus.
- Operant Conditioning (Skinner) is based on the fundamental idea that behaviors that are reinforced will tend to continue, while behaviors that are punished will eventually end.
- Hull's Drive Reduction Theory
- Social Learning Theory (Bandura) posits that people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling. The theory has often been called a bridge between behaviorist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory, and motivation.
Detailed Examples of Motivational Theories
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory
Abraham H. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory (1943) is represented in a hierarchial pyramid with five successive levels . Lowest level needs must be satisfied before higher-order needs such as self-actualization can influence human behaviour.
The following five levels are illustrated in Figure 1:
- Self-Actualization: vitality, creativity, morality, problem solving, etc.
- Esteem: from self and from others- confidence, achievement, respect, etc.
- Belongingness: love, friendship, intimacy, family, etc.
- Safety: security of environment, employment, resources, health, property, etc.
- Physiological Needs: air, water, food, shelter, sleep, sex and other factors for homeostasis.
According to Wigfield and Eccles (1994, 2002) the expectancy-value theory asserts that individuals’ choice, persistence, and performance can be explained by their own beliefs on how well they will perform an activity and the extent that they value the activity . Eccles et al. (1983) proposed the expectancy-value model of achievement motivation (shown in Figure 2). First, expectancies and values are assumed to directly influence achievement choices, performance, effort, and persistence. Second, expectancies and values are influenced by social cognitive variables including ability, perceived task difficulties, internal goals, self-schema, and affective memories. In turn, these social cognitive variables, are influenced by self perceptions of previous experiences and a variety of socialization influences (Eccles et al., 1983).
Weiner’s (1974) attribution theory as it applies to motivation is that a person's own perceptions for success or failure determines the amount of effort the person will expend on that activity in the future . There are four factors related to attribution theory that influence motivation in education: (1) ability, (2) task difficulty, (3) effort, and (4) luck. In detail, these characteristics are defined as:
- Ability is an internal and stable factor that the learner cannot directly control
- Task difficulty is an external and stable factor that is largely beyond the learner's control
- Effort is an internal and unstable factor that the learner can control
- Luck is an external and unstable factor that the learner has little control.
Attribution theory assumes that individuals interpret their environment in a way to maintain a positive self-image. For example, they attribute their failures or accomplishments to factors that enable them to feel good about themselves. For learners, when they succeed in school they will attribute their success to their own abilities and efforts however when they fail they will attribute it to factors beyond their control such as bad luck or teaching .
Self Determination Theory
SDT web site
- Supporting Athlete's Needs (5:27 min): This video was made in the context of a Personality and Social Psychology course at the University of Ottawa, Canada.
- Four types of extrinsic motivation (7:55 min): From the University of Rochester
- Three basic psychological needs (6:15 min): From the University of Rochester
- Dan Pink's talk RSA animated (10:47 min video)
Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design
a) Defining Motivational Design
According to John M. Keller (2006), motivational design is defined as the “process of arranging resources and procedures to bring about changes in motivation". It is systematic and aims for replicable principles and processes. Motivational design can be applied to improve students’ motivation to learn, employees’ motivation to work, the development of specific motivational characteristics in individuals, and to improving individual's skills in self-motivation .
b) Characteristics of the ARCS Model
Keller’s ARCS model (2000) is based on four categories of motivational concepts as shown in Figure 3:
- attention (A)
- relevance (R)
- confidence (C)
- satisfaction (S)
These four categories represent sets of conditions that are required for an individual to become fully motivated.Each category contains subcategories illustrating specific components of motivation (see Table 1 below).
c) ARCS Motivational Design Process
According to Keller (2006) the ARCS motivational design process is a "systematic problem solving approach that requires knowledge of human motivation and progresses from learner analysis to solution design". Figure 4 illustrates in detail Keller's ten sequential steps in motivational design (Keller, 2000). This systematic process includes steps and results in the preparation of learning environments. It also contains activities or tactics that influence the direction and amount of individual behaviours.
Highlighted below are Keller's (2006) five major components of the ARCS motivational design process:
- Knowing and identifying the elements of human motivation,
- Analyzing audience characteristics to determine motivational requirements,
- Identifying characteristics of instructional materials and processes that stimulate motivation,
- Selecting appropriate motivational tactics, and
- Applying and evaluating appropriate tactics.
Guidelines for Motivational Design
According to Lee and Boling (1999), learner motivation and experience are pivotal at the highest level of instructional design. From clicking a "Forward" button to explore more then one path in a hypertext environment to comparing video clips at the content level in order to draw conclusions about subject matters, these authors assert that students require motivation in order to complete different types of activities within an interactive learning environment. Lee & Boling (1999) identified practical guidelines for screen design and interactive multimedia instruction aimed at improving and preventing loss of student motivation. In brief, these five key guidelines include:
- Typography: use high contrast between letters and background to improve readability
- Graphical images: use simple images vs. complex and include labels/captions for the user's understanding
- Colour: limit the use of colour and maintain consistency
- Animation: use animation as a substitute/aid for communication and use it sparingly; and
- Audio: use voices or speech for providing information to enhance learning.
Individual Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is driven by a curiosity or pleasure in a particular task. This is an individual feeling and does not rely on external pressures or a reward to complete or start a particular task. Students who have intrinsic motivation are more likely to engage themselves in a task in order to improve their educational skills and knowledge. Malone and Lepper describe four individual motivating factors: Challenge, Curiosity, Control and Fantasy. 
This is an individual factor since a person can be challenged without involving other people.
Four factors influence the contribution of challenge to intrinsic motivation.
1. Goals: Short or long term goals can be supplied by the teacher or learners. Performance approach goals are generally associated with more positive outcomes than performance avoidance goals. Goals create personal relevance that can be increased by:
- A) Creating links between the activity and the esteemed outcomes by the learner.
- B) Creating interpersonal motivations (Ex. Cooperation, competition, recognition) to appeal to the learner.
- C) Relating material to imaginary concept the learner finds interesting. 
The following link is to a video on a blog of Neurologist/Teacher Judy Willis who talks specifically about the importance of challenge and play in motivation: Challenge in Learning
How to incorporate Goals into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Create and hand out Learning Objectives with Chapters/Units/Assignments.
- Creating a timeline or checklist will help students keep track of their progress through to certain goals.
- Post Inspirational posters in the classroom.
- Use phrases such as:
2. Self-esteem: If learner believes they are competent in an activity, they are more likely to succeed at challenges they deem important.
How to incorporate Self-Esteem into Classroom Motivational Design
- Use formative assessment more so than summative assessment to create understanding for improvement.
- Praise students for good choices and understanding.
- Encourage confidence by asking students to try different approaches to solving problems.
- Utilise physical activity to improve moods and release stress.
- Use phrases such as:
3. Level of Certainty: This factor, like self-esteem is important when determining if a challenge can turn to motivation in a learner. Walking the line between completely certain and uncertain is best as neither success nor failure is certain for the learner.
How to incorporate a particular Level of Certainty into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Use goals that vary in difficulty level. 
- For those who feel they are overconfident of success, apply enriched questions and encourage individual work. Let students know that you are available for questions if they need it.
4. Feedback: This reminds learners of their ability or status in relation to the challenge of their goals. Formative assessment by an educator is the most relevant feedback.
How to incorporate appropriate Feedback into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Encourage classroom questions to allow for self-verification of student understanding.
- Incorporate non-summative games or practice of curricula to allow for a fun atmosphere with feedback for students.
Control: This naturally comes into play as it is basic human instinct to seek control over one’s environment. This is also an individual factor as a person can feel in control without involving other people. Malone and Lepper note in their research that people find games compelling due to the sense of control it gives the players.  Cassandra Whyte’s educational research focusing on control related to academic achievement of students showed that individuals who perceive and believe that their hard work may lead to more success (instead of depending on luck or fate) end up persisting to receive and achieve a higher level of academics. 
Three factors influence the contribution of control to intrinsic motivation.
1. Freedom of Choice: If a student believes they are being forced to do something against their will, they will not feel like they have control of their own learning. Students who perceive themselves as choosing to do something because they would like to encourage that feeling of control and therefore motivation. 
How to incorporate Freedom of Choice into Classroom Motivational Design:
- When doing final projects, allow students to present in a way they feel most comfortable. For example: A written report, a play, a power-point presentation, an experiment, a debate, etc.
- Allow free time periodically throughout the year when students can choose what they would like to work on during that time. 
2. Cause-and-Effect Relationships: This connection between individual actions and considered benefits enable a feeling of control in learners.
How to incorporate Cause-and-Effect Relationships into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Create connections between what students like and enjoy and how that would relate to their learning.
- Use phrases such as:
3. Powerful Effects: When a student believes in the objective of what they are learning, they are more likely to succeed in their own learning. Being able to complete a new task because it holds value to their possible future endeavors in this area allows a student to feel in control.
How to incorporate Powerful Effects into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Use phrases such as:
- “Remember this... I’m now going to teach you how to... after this you will be able to...”
Curiosity: This is stimulated in a student when something in their physical environment grabs their attention to become even more engaged in their learning. This can arise from the complexity of a subject or activity/challenge that students feel the need to unravel. Malone and Lepper described curiosity as arising from “bling.” One type of curiosity called Sensory Curiosity incorporates the novelty of “technical trapping.” Cognitive Curiosity on the other hand incorporates the primal urge to organize and rearrange knowledge structures with increased efficiency.  Curiosity is an individual factor because a person’s curiosity or interest can be piqued without the involvement of other people.
Two factors influence the contribution of curiosity to intrinsic motivation.
1. Sensory Curiosity: Physical factors such as light, sound, and audio changes attract the interest of learners.
How to incorporate Sensory Curiosity into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Use new forms of technology and integrate them into lessons. For example, use of a smart board, iPad, Tablet, Video Presentations, Guest Speaker Presentations and more. 
- Use techniques like changing tone of voice to reach students. 
- Bolding words in an assignment will create engagement of that particular word or subject. 
2. Cognitive Curiosity: This is created when students believe that it is useful to invest energy to modify existing cognitive structures. 
How to incorporate Cognitive Curiosity into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Use new platforms for getting information across to students in order to make things more interesting. For example: Instead of reading a chapter of the history textbook, have students debate or act out what was happening in that time. 
Fantasy: Students may use mental images of situations that are not present to motivate their behavior. Malone and Lepper defined fantasy as an environment that “evokes mental images of physical or social situations not actually present” (Malone and Lepper, 1987, p.241) and describe the optimal learning environment in which learners create their own fantasies. Fantasy is an individual factor since imagination of a student can influence learning without involving other people.
Fantasy: There are three factors that influence the contribution of fantasy to intrinsic motivation.
1. Emotional Elements: This allows students to be more willing to engage in a scholastic activity since the emotional element makes it exciting or fun to take part.
How to incorporate Emotional Elements into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Use games to build your learning activity. 
2. Cognitive Elements: Students imagining themselves using a learned skill in real life will allow them to be more engaged in a scholastic activity.
How to incorporate Cognitive Elements into Classroom Motivational Design:
- For Example: In a math class, have students imagine themselves using the math they are learning in their future lives and careers.
3. Endogenous fantasies: These create intrinsic connection between learning and fantasy for students: 
How to incorporate Endogenous Fantasies into Classroom Motivational Design:
- Use a computer simulation of relevant course material (For Ex. Pioneers finding new land in a social studies class) and have students imagine themselves as pioneers. 
Interpersonal Intrinsic Motivation
In addition to individual factors affecting intrinsic motivation, there are factors that arise from interactions with other people. Malone and Lepper describe three interpersonal motivating factors: Cooperation, Competition, and Recognition. 
Learners in this case derive satisfaction from working towards goals as a group. The motivating force of cooperation can be stronger for some students than others and this can be related to a previous experience, culture or subculture’s importance of cooperation. Malone and Lepper (1987) consider motivating cooperation through a “group scoring system” as a weak extrinsic factor. If individual tasks (highly desired) were dependent on the efforts of group members, they believe that learners would be more highly motivated.
How to incorporate Cooperation into Classroom Motivational Design to promote Intrinsic Motivation:
- Create a situation in which all team members are required to succeed in an individual task for the team to do well. As a result, all team members contributed to help the team.
Competition motivates behaviour of students because of the possibility of enhancing self-esteem. The importance of competition is greater for some learners than others and these differences are often related to a previous experience, culture or subculture’s importance of competition versus cooperation. Malone and Lepper (1987) notes that this exogenous competition is an inferior motivating force than endogenous competition.
How to incorporate Competition into Classroom Motivational Design to promote Intrinsic Motivation:
- Include games that merit one winner in a classroom. For example, a Jeopardy-style game that would encompass information required by the class to study for an upcoming exam.
- Competitions require students to compete over things they care about, otherwise this becomes an extrinsic form of motivation.
In order for recognition to be a motivator, a learner’s efforts must be visible. There are three ways to achieve this: 1) The activity performed could be visible, 2) The product of the original activity could be visible, or 3) Another result of the activity could be visible. Malone and Lepper describe the difference between exogenous and endogenous forms of recognition.  Situations that promote endogenous recognition will allow the learner to reflect on their recognition and continue to learn from it. 
How to incorporate Recognition into Classroom Motivational Design to promote Intrinsic Motivation:
- Exogenous Recognition example: Honor Roll 
- Endogenous Recognition: Artefacts of the learners’ creative efforts. For example: A school newsletter, a poster in the school or classroom, etc. 
- Category: Motivational Theories
- Instructional Design
- Instructional Design Methods
- Motivation and Emotion
- Super Motivation
Stop-motion video "Intrinsic motivation" - https://youtu.be/G6Z5iyE2tsQ
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