by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
have elsewhere concerned ourselves with student motivation
and what teachers can do to foster it. In this article, we
shall introduce the notion of 'student demotivation', mainly
drawing upon Dornyei (2001), among others. Besides, we shall
try to establish a connection between teacher expectations
and student achievement, thus casting the phenomenon of demotivation
in a meaningful framework, within which both teachers and
students are salient participants.
is no question that there are motivational influences that
exert a detrimental effect on student motivation. Classroom
practitioners can easily think of a variety of events that
can have demotivating effects on students, such as public
humiliation, disheartening test results, or even conflicts
with peers. Reality shows that demotivation is not at all
infrequent in schools and the number of demotivated learners
is increasing. So, in this paper we shall see the "dark
side of the moon," trying to shed some light on some
'potential motivational pitfalls and danger zones', as Dornyei
(2001) calls them.
Generally speaking, a 'demotivated' learner is someone who
was once motivated but has lost his or her interest for some
reason. In the same vein, we can speak of 'demotives', which
are the negative counterparts of 'motives'. While a motive
can be said to increase an action tendency, a demotive decreases
it. However, it is not necessary to tack the label 'demotivation'
or 'demotive' onto every type of negative influence. Dornyei
(ibid.: 142) identifies three negative factors that he would
not refer to as instances of demotivation:
An attractive alternative action that serves as a powerful
distraction (e.g. watching TV instead of doing one's homework).
2. The gradual loss of interest in a long-lasting, ongoing
3. The sudden realisation that the costs of pursuing a goal
are too high (e.g. when someone recognises how demanding it
is to attend an evening course while working during the day).
to Dornyei (ibid.: 143), these negative factors differ from
what one would call 'demotivating events' in three significant
Powerful distractions are not demotives in the same sense
as, say, public humiliation, because they do not carry a negative
value: instead of reducing motivation, their distracting effect
consists in presenting more attractive options.
The gradual loss of interest is also different from a demotivating
event because-using a racing metaphor, whereby a runner is
doing very well yet does not win the race because there is
someone who is doing even better-it reflects the runner's
losing speed caused by, for example, ageing, rather than by
a particular incident in the particular "race."
As regards the sudden recognition of the costs of an activity,
this is the result of an internal process of deliberation,
without any specific external trigger. Conversely, if something
triggered the termination of action (e.g. the persuasion of
an influential friend), that would be a case of demotivation.
light of Dornyei's considerations, 'demotivation' concerns
'specific forces that reduce or diminish the motivational
basis of a bahavioural intention or an ongoing action' (ibid.:
Furthermore, Dornyei (ibid.) makes the distinction between
'demotivation'and'amotivation' (a term used by Deci and Ryan
(1985)). For him, 'amotivation' refers to a lack of motivation
brought about by the realisation that 'there is no point
or 'it's beyond my ken
' Thus, 'amotivation' is inextricably
related to general outcome expectations that are deemed to
be unrealistic, whereas 'demotivation' is related to specific
external causes. Of course, some demotives can lead to amotivation
(e.g. a series of horrendous classroom experiences can put
paid to the learner's self-efficacy), but with some other
demotives, as soon as the detrimental external influence ceases
to exist, other positive motives may again surface (e.g. if
it turns out that someone who dissuaded the individual from
doing something was not telling the truth).
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