is motivational design?
consists of excerpts, excluding references, from the introduction and
conclusion of a paper on the concept of motivational design. This paper
is a draft of a revised manuscript based on Keller, J. M. (1988). Motivational
design. In U. C. (Ed.), Encyclopaedia of Educational Media Communications
and Technology (2nd ed., pp. 406 - 409). Westport, CT: Greenwood
Press. I am making quite a few changes and preparing it for publication.
If you would like to read a complete PDF copy of the current manuscript
including all references, you may click here:
of Motivational Design
design refers to the process of arranging resources and procedures to
bring about changes in motivation. Motivational design can be applied
to improving students’ motivation to learn, employees’ motivation
to work, the development of specific motivational characteristics in
individuals, and to improving peoples’ skills in self-motivation.
Motivational design is systematic and aims for replicable principles
and processes. In that regard, motivational design is based on the scientific
literature on human motivation and stands in contrast to “charismatic”
motivational speakers and workshops whose aims are largely in the area
of emotional arousal and are grounded in a blending of personal experiences,
psychological principles, and intuition. Certainly, the successes of
motivational speakers or anyone else who attempts to influence the motivation
of another can be explained or investigated, even if on a post hoc basis,
in terms of motivational constructs. The difference is that motivational
design seeks explanation and predictability while charismatic approaches
tend to be grounded more in the unique talents of individuals who have
achieved success (or purport to have).
focus of this introduction to motivational design is on the motivation
to learn and refers specifically to strategies, principles, and processes
for making instruction appealing. This adds another dimension to the
traditional view of instructional design as being the process and technique
of producing efficient and effective instruction. Efficiency refers
to economy in the use of instructional time, materials, and other resources.
It is not generally viewed as relating to the motivational aspects of
instruction except in a negative way. If an instructional event makes
inefficient use of time and resources it can be boring or irritating
to the audience. But, efficiency of delivery does not add to students’
intrinsic interest in the situation.
however, is sometimes regarded as including motivation. The argument
is that instruction cannot be effective if it is not appealing to people.
But in practice, instructional designers tend to have an unstated assumption
that effectiveness refers to how well people can learn from an instructional
event given that they want to learn. In other words, it is assumed that
instruction will be effective if it is presented to the defined target
audience, something is done to get their attention as in Gagné’s
first event of instruction, and they are reinforced for correct responding.
However, none of these elements provides a sufficient explanation of
motivation to learn.
to succeed in a given instructional setting may not come from the instruction
itself; it may come from long range goals, institutional requirements,
or many other sources. Students might succeed, hence confirming the
effectiveness of the instruction, because of purely extrinsic rewards
such as a certificate, advancement to a higher grade or position, or
avoidance of termination even they do not have a desire to learn. Thus,
instruction, like a trip to the dentist, can be very effective without
being at all appealing, but the experience will be avoided unless absolutely
necessary. In contrast, motivational design strives to make instruction
more intrinsically interesting.
other extreme, instructional materials can be very appealing without
being effective, especially when their appeal comes purely from their
entertainment value as illustrated in the following dialog:
“Boy, that textbook had a lot of good cartoons in it.”
“Yes, it did. What was the book about.”
“I don’t know.”
To be effective,
motivational tactics have to support instructional goals. Sometimes
the motivational features can be fun or even entertaining, but unless
they engage the learner in the instructional purpose and content, they
will not promote learning. As a classroom management technique, the
teacher can introduce fun activities as an extrinsic reward for achievement
or effortful behavior. This can contribute to the students’ overall
good feelings about the course and the teacher, but they will not in
and of themselves promote learning. If used improperly and too frequently,
these entertainments can actually have detrimental effects on students’
motivation to learn when they begin to work only for the extrinsic rewards.
Thus, motivational design is concerned with how to make instruction
appealing without becoming purely entertaining.
on a survey of the literature, it seems that motivational design models
can be categorized into four groups:
• person-centered models,
• environmentally-centered models,
• interaction-centered models, and
• omnibus models.
three are grounded in psychological theories of human behavior. They
can be classified as person – centered theories, environmentally
– centered theories, and interaction theories. The fourth group
has a more pragmatic, or pedagogical, origin and includes omnibus models
that incorporate both instructional design and motivational design strategies.
These models tend to grow out of solutions to specific kinds of instructional
problems. Each of these categories of models is described in the
full version of this document.
little doubt that there is a growing interest in the problem of motivation,
both in relation to understanding learners, and in relation to motivational
design. There are professional organizations in the United States, the
Netherlands, and perhaps other countries, that are concerned exclusively
with problems of motivation in education, and the number of articles
on motivation in educational research journals is growing.
this increased activity, there is still very little work on the specific
problem of motivational design. The ability of educational designers
to create instructional systems that are effective for students who
want to learn has grown tremendously in the last several
decades, but what about the students who do not want to
learn? This remains a challenge despite the progress that
has occurred. Two decades ago, Keller indicated that there was a lag
in knowing how to systematically develop effective motivational components
of instruction. However, he indicated at that time that motivation was
likely to receive more research and development in the future. This
has certainly proven to be the case, but there are still many avenues
to explore, especially in regard to learner motivation in technology-based
instructional environments and in regard to the challenge of integrating
motivational design with instructional design, not to mention the classrooms
of our society. One could even say in the teachers’ lounges. Their
challenges have not diminished!
2006 John M. Keller, All rights reserved.
Contacts l John Keller
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