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ARCS & the Spirit of Inquiry

"I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas.I'm frightened of the old ones."

John Cage (1912 - 1992)​

The quest for answers, for new knowledge, for new solutions, and for greater wisdom can be exciting, but not everyone shares John Cage’s opinion, because inquiry can also be daunting. It requires that one be able to tolerate anxiety, to accept the possibility of failures and “dead ends,” and be prepared to deal with the consequences of new discoveries. Thus, some people prefer the known to the unknown. But, it is the spirit of discovery that leads to great personal satisfaction in the conduct of inquiry, even though the growth of indeterminacy, or uncertainty, seems to be outstripping the growth of certainty. As Robert Persig put it:

The predicted results of scientific enquiry and the actual results of scientific enquiry are diametrically opposed here, and no one seems to pay too much attention to the fact. The purpose of scientific method is to select a single truth from among many hypothetical truths. That, more than anything else, is what science is all about. But historically science has done exactly the opposite. Through multiplication upon multiplication of facts, information, theories and hypotheses, it is science itself that is leading mankind from single absolute truths to multiple, indeterminate, relative ones. The major producer of the social chaos, the indeterminacy of thought and values that rational knowledge is supposed to eliminate, is none other than science itself.


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Even though there may be less of an expectation of discovering immutable principles, I believe it is fair to say that expansions of knowledge and the development of new paradigms of inquiry makes life more exciting and has potential for inestimable benefits.

Inquiry takes many forms including the musical experimentations of John Cage incorporating elements of chance and innovative uses of silence, the formal investigations of basic research scientists, systematic troubleshooting by mechanics investigating the causes of malfunctions, and clinicians seeking effective methods for changing and improving human behavior. With regard to investigations into why people do what they do and what can be done to influence their choices, there already is a vast body of research on human motivation. Yet, this body of research, in keeping with Persig’s observation, seems to be expanding, not contracting. No matter how many questions are answered, there are far more that have not been answered. The same thing was happening with motivation research. There was a growing interest in motivation research which led to the introduction of many new concepts, some of which had attributes that were very similar to existing concepts (for example, origin-pawn theory and locus of control). Furthermore, these numerous "micro-theories" led to a large array of application recommendations. This situation provided part of the impetus for the ceation of the ARCS model in an effort to synthesize rather than expand the the study of motivational theory and practice, especially in support of the development of principles and practices that could be incorporated into the design of instruction and learning environments.


This folder contains subtopics pertaining to several recent themes in motivational design research.

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