Learning – Motivating People to Learn

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People aren’t always motivated to learn. Some simply don’t want to learn new things; they just don’t want to change. Others think that learning happens naturally and that it’s an inevitable outcome of instruction. Clearly, that isn’t always true because you can teach someone lots of skills, and still not know whether the person will actually use and apply those skills.

However, you can’t make someone learn. You can have the greatest session prepared. You can have the most organized presentation. You can be charming and know your subject thoroughly. But unless ‘students’ are motivated, it’s unlikely that they’ll learn.

That’s why it can be helpful to know a technique for motivating people to learn. A useful model is ARCS, which stands for ‘Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction.’ This was developed by John Keller in 1983, and it’s been used and validated by teachers and trainers across a wide range of learning environments – from universities to the military.

Here are the basic components of the ARCS model:

  • Attention – Capture the learners’ attention at the start of the session, and maintain it throughout the lesson.
    • Ask the learners questions to make them think about why they should learn the skill.
    • Use role-playing or other activities to show the importance of learning the skill. For instance, you could play the role of an angry customer, and have the learner respond to you as a way of demonstrating the best way to handle a difficult situation.
    • Use specific examples, and ask learners to offer their own solutions, to stimulate their interest further.
  • Relevance – Explain to learners how important the lesson is, and how it could benefit them.
    • Describe the benefits. For example, by learning strategies for handling angry customers, your staff will be less stressed and anxious about dealing with them.
    • Relate the lesson to their current jobs and experiences. The learning materials, assignments, and projects should be applicable to their work, and to specific situations they face in their daily jobs.
    • Develop a connection between learning the skill and developing their careers. Discuss issues like increased satisfaction, higher pay, and promotion opportunities.
  • Confidence – Tell learners what is expected of them.
    • Set clear objectives for the session, and check in regularly with learners to make sure they’re not falling behind.
    • Design projects and lessons so that learners experience small successes along the way before they completely master the skill.
    • Give learners enough time to practice the skills so they’ll be successful when they apply those skills on the job.
    • Make sure you’re teaching at the right level. Learners can lack motivation if something is too difficult – or too easy.
    • Allow learners to have input into their learning by helping them create their own learning goals.
  • Satisfaction – Reinforce successes and motivation.
    • Give lots of feedback. Make sure it’s specific, timely, and relates to how learners can put the skill into practice on the job.
    • Recognize learners’ successes. Praise often, and find ways to reward achievements. Let learners know that you and the company value and appreciate the expertise and high levels of skill and competence.
    • Look at ways to increase motivation. Find out what learners are interested in and passionate about. And find ways to get learners to motivate one another as well.

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