Motivational Design and Problem-Based Learning May Increase Student Engagement in Information Literacy Instruction Sessions




motivational design, information literacy instruction, threshold concepts, non-traditional students, ARCS Motivational Design, Problem-based Learning


A Review of:
Roberts, L. (2017). Research in the real world: Improving adult learners web search and evaluation skills through motivational design and problem-based learning. College & Research Libraries, 78(4), 527-551.


Objective – To determine whether the use of the ARCS (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction) Model of Motivational Design, combined with the Problem-Based Learning approach, improves the skills, confidence, and perception of workshop relevance among non-traditional students in information literacy sessions.

Design – Experimental study, one group pre-test and post-test.

Setting – Community college in Denver, Colorado, United States.

Subjects – 41 community college students.

Methods – A convenience sample of three community college student groups each attended an information literacy session. The session was constructed using principles and strategies outlined in the ARCS Model of Motivational Design and the Problem-Based Learning approach. Pre-test and post-test instruments were developed by the author after a literature review. The students were given the information literacy-related pretest before the session. After receiving instruction, the comparable posttest (with different literacy challenges) was administered.

Main Results – A comparison of the pre-test and post-test results showed that there were increases in the students’ search skills; their confidence in their own search skills; and their perceptions of workshop relevance in relation to their needs and to real-world situations.

Conclusion – This study focuses on the use of motivational design for information literacy instruction. It addresses a gap in the research literature, as it explicitly examines issues of concern regarding the instruction of non-traditional students. The conjunction of the ARCS Model and Problem-Based Learning is considered to be an effective strategy for improving learning and perceptual outcomes for non-traditional students in information literacy contexts. This is important because: 1) information literacy skills are a central aspect of successfully transitioning from the educational setting to the modern workplace; 2) increased confidence can enhance students’ sense of self-empowerment and self-efficacy, as well as decreasing “library anxiety”; and 3) establishing a sense of the personal relevance of information literacy engages students with tools that they can and will actually use in work and life situations.

In addition, the author connects these findings to two other areas. One is the new ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries) Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education; the author notes that “threshold concepts”, defined by Roberts as “big picture ideas that are foundational to the field”, relate best to teaching techniques such as problem-based learning. The other is the concept of metacognition, which is an aspect of metaliteracy; the author states that the study’s information literacy session addressed three of four metaliteracy goals being considered. Future avenues of research and collaboration will include librarians working with learning scientists around the Framework content; finding new and engaging methods for teaching literacy concepts and assessing learning; incorporating metacognitive awareness into teaching and assessment; and specifically focusing on transferable skills and knowledge, in the service of preparing non-traditional students for the world of work.


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How to Cite

Glusker, A. (2017). Motivational Design and Problem-Based Learning May Increase Student Engagement in Information Literacy Instruction Sessions. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 12(4), 259–261.



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