by Dimitrios Thanasoulas
have taken an interest in demotivation, as it is considered
to be a frequent phenomenon related to the teacher's interaction
with the students. In L2 studies, in particular, the interest
in demotivation has been aroused by a different reason. The
L2 domain is most often characterised by learning failure,
in the sense that merely everyone has failed in the study
of at least one foreign language. So, language learning failure
is directly related to demotivation.
Among others, Oxford (1998), Chambers (1993), Ushioda (1998)
and Dornyei (1998b) have investigated demotivation in relation
to language learning. Let us briefly review their findings.
Oxford (1998) carried out a content analysis of essays written
by 250 American students (in high schools and universities)
about their learning experiences over a period of five years.
More specifically, they were required to respond to such prompts
as 'Describe a situation in which you experienced conflict
with a teacher' or 'Talk about a classroom in which you felt
uncomfortable'. In this analysis, four broad themes emerged:
The teacher's personal relationship with the students, including
hypercriticism, belligerence, a lack of caring, and favouritism
2. The teacher's attitude towards the course or the material,
including lack of enthusiasm, sloppy management and close-mindedness
3. Style conflicts between teachers and students, including
multiple style conflicts, conflicts about the amount of structure
or detail, and conflicts about the degree of closure or 'seriousness'
of the class
4. The nature of the classroom activities, including overload,
repetitiveness, and irrelevance.
basic assumption permeating Gary Chambers's (1993) study is
the view among language teachers that 'Arguably the biggest
problem is posed by those pupils who are quite able but do
not want to learn a foreign language and make sure that the
teacher knows it!' (ibid.: 43). To find out what goes on inside
the heads of students who 'dismantled' L2 lessons, Chambers
visited four schools in Leeds, UK, and administered a questionnaire
to 191 year nine students enrolled in eight classes. Seven
teachers also filled in a questionnaire. According to the
latter, the main characteristics of the demotivated pupil
are the following; he or she
makes no effort to learn; shows no interest; demonstrates
poor concentration; produces little or no homework; fails
to bring, or claims to have lost, materials;
lacks a belief in own capabilities;
demonstrates lethargy, 'what's the use?' syndrome,
and gives negative or nil response to praise;
is unwilling to cooperate, distracts other students,
throws things, shouts out.
enough, the participant teachers perceived the causes of demotivation
as related to a variety of reasons (which, of course, did
not include themselves): psychological, attitudinal, social,
geographical, historical. On the other hand, the students'
responses were different. Although only 14 % view the modern
language component of the curriculum as a 'waste of time',
50 % go on record as not enjoying or even loathing language
learning. Some blame their teachers for
going on and on without realising that they have lost everybody;
not giving clear enough instructions;
using inferior equipment;
not giving sufficient explanations;
shouting at them when they don't understand;
using old-fashioned teaching materials, etc.
on his data, Chambers drew only few conclusions about the
exact impact of the language-learning experience. At any rate,
demotivated learners in the survey appeared to possess very
low self-esteem and were in need of extra attention and praise.
As Chambers (ibid.: 16) notes, 'pupils identified as demotivated
do not want to be ignored or given up as a bad job; in spite
of their behaviour, they want to be encouraged'.
Ushioda asked the participants to identify what they found
to be demotivating in their L2-related learning experience.
According to her, almost without exception, these demotives
related to negative aspects of the learning context, such
as particular teaching methods and learning tasks. Ushioda
also stresses that the learners that took part in the survey
managed to sustain or revive their positive motivational disposition
in spite of the various negative experiences, by dint of:
setting themselves short-term goals;
indulging in an enjoyable L2 activity that is 'not
monitored in any way by the teacher or by essays or exams'
(Ushioda, 1998: 86), such as watching a film or even eavesdropping
on the conversations of L2-speaking tourists in the shops.
page 3 of 3
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