Disparities in Students’ Perceptions of Demotivating Factors in Learning English across Educational Levels and Fields of Study

Document Type: Original Article

Authors

Department of English Language, Falavarjan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran

Abstract

Demotivation is a relatively new topic in the field of second or foreign language acquisition which is in need of more rigorous research. In this regard, the present study was an attempt to investigate university students’ perceptions of seven demotivating factors in learning English as a foreign language across educational levels and fields of study in an Iranian context. To this end, three hundred and eighty two Persian learners of English were selected through stratified clustering sampling procedure to participate in this mixed method study. The data was collected through a 40-item Likert type questionnaire and a follow-up interview. The results of the study revealed that postgraduate students were significantly different from undergraduate students regarding their perception of inadequate facilities, lack of purpose to study English and class characteristics. The comparisons of four groups of field of study including social sciences, basic sciences, engineering, and medicine showed significant differences with respect to inadequate facilities, teaching methods, and reduced self-confidence. The findings had important pedagogical implications for curriculum planning and teaching English in tertiary education since diagnosing differences in perceptions of demotivating factors in learning EFL across educational levels and fields of study could pave the way in the procedure of removing and preventing such detrimental features.

Keywords


Article Title [Persian]

تفاوت در درک دانشجویان از عوامل سلب انگیزش یادگیری زبان انگلیسی بر مبنای مقطع و رشته تحصیلی

Authors [Persian]

  • نفیسه حسین پور
  • لعیا حیدری دارانی
گروه زبان انگلیسی، دانشگاه آزاد اسلامی، واحد فلاورجان، فلاورجان، ایران
Abstract [Persian]

بررسی عوامل سلب انگیزش موضوع نسبتا جدیدی در حیطه یادگیری زبان دوم یا زبان خارجی است که نیاز به تحقیقات گسترده تری دارد. لذا پژوهش حاضر، به بررسی درک دانشجویان ایرانی از هفت عامل سلب انگیزش در یادگیری زبان انگلیسی با توجه به گروه و مقطع تحصیلی پرداخته است. بدین منظور تعداد ٣٨٢ زبان آموز ایرانی از طریق نمونه گیری لایه ای خوشه ای انتخاب شده و در این پژوهش ترکیبی کمی-کیفی شرکت نمودند. اطلاعات لازم برای این تحقیق بوسیله یک پرسشنامه از نوع لیکرت ٤٠ سوالی و مصاحبه ای که در پی آن انجام شد جمع آوری گردید. یافته ها نشان داد که دانشجویان تحصیلات تکمیلی درمقایسه با دانشجویان مقاطع پایین تر برداشت متفاوتی ازعواملی نظیر کمبود امکانات، نداشتن هدف برای یادگیری زبان انگلیسی و ویژگی های کلاس دارند. علاوه بر آن، بررسی عوامل سلب انگیزش بر مبنای گروه تحصیلی نمایانگر تفاوت دیدگاه میان دانشجویان گروههای علوم پزشکی، علوم پایه، علوم انسانی و مهندسی در زمینه های کمبود امکانات ، روشهای تدریس و کتهش اعتماد به نفس بود. نتایج این تحقیق دارای کاربردهای آموزشی حائز اهمیتی برای برنامه ریزی درسی و تدریس زبان انگلیسی در مقاطع و گروههای مختلف تحصیلی دانشگاهی می باشد زیرا تشخیص تفاوت های ادراکی از عوامل سلب انگیزش در یادگیری زبان انگلیسی بر مبنای مقاطع و رشته های تحصیلی می تواند زمینه را برای فرایند حذف یا پیشگیری از چنین عوامل مخربی فراهم کند.

Keywords [Persian]

  • انگیزش
  • عوامل سلب انگیزش در یادگیری زبان خارجی
  • زبان آموزان ایرانی
  • مقطع تحصیلی
  • رشته تحصیلی

Disparities in Students’ Perceptions of Demotivating Factors in Learning English across Educational Levels and Fields of Study

[1] Nafiseh Hosseinpour*

[2] Laya Heidari Darani

IJEAP- 1807-1252

 

Abstract

Demotivation is a relatively new topic in the field of second or foreign language acquisition which is in need of more rigorous research. In this regard, the present study was an attempt to investigate university students’ perceptions of seven demotivating factors in learning English as a foreign language across educational levels and fields of study in an Iranian context. To this end, three hundred and eighty two Persian learners of English were selected through stratified clustering sampling procedure to participate in this mixed method study. The data was collected through a 40-item Likert type questionnaire and a follow-up interview. The results of the study revealed that postgraduate students were significantly different from undergraduate students regarding their perception of inadequate facilities, lack of purpose to study English and class characteristics. The comparisons of four groups of field of study including social sciences, basic sciences, engineering, and medicine showed significant differences with respect to inadequate facilities, teaching methods, and reduced self-confidence. The findings had important pedagogical implications for curriculum planning and teaching English in tertiary education since diagnosing differences in perceptions of demotivating factors in learning EFL across educational levels and fields of study could pave the way in the procedure of removing and preventing such detrimental features.

Keywords: Motivation, Demotivating Factors in Learning EFL, Iranian EFL Learners, Educational Levels, Fields of Study

 

 1. Introduction

Motivation research has conceptualized motive as a positive force to do something (Gardner & Lambert, 1972). More specifically, it is believed that (Dörnyei, 2001a) motivation plays a significant role in academic success. Dörnyei (1994) highlighted the importance of motivation in ELT as “one of the main determinants of second or foreign language achievement” (p. 273). Whereas motivational factors have been repeatedly reported to influence learning positively, demotivating factors are supposed to have detrimental de-energizing effects in educational contexts. After reviewing few relevant studies, Dörnyei (2001a) concluded that demotivation is a prominent phenomenon in second language learning and recommended further research in this regard. Dörnyei (2001a, p. 124) defined demotivation as “specific external forces that reduce or diminish the motivational basis of a behavioral intention or an ongoing action.” However, many researchers found that internal factors may cause demotivation as well (Arai, 2004; Falout & Maruyama, 2004; Tsuchiya, 2004). Moreover, in contrast to his own definition of demotivation, Dörnyei listed reduced self-confidence and negative attitude toward the foreign language as sources of demotivation (2001b). Therefore, Dörnyei’s original definition of demotivating factors needs to be expanded to include both internal and external factors as possible demotivators which reduce or diminish the motivation to study English (Sakai & Kikuchi, 2009). The following section is a chronological review of studies on demotivation in order to find out the factors which have been focused on in Asian context of EFL.

 2. Literature Review

Not only researchers but also teachers are interested to find out the possible causes of demotivation in educational contexts in order to prevent or remove it. Rudnai (1996) and Dornyei (1998) were two of the first scholars who studied demotivation in the field of language teaching. Based on Dornyei’s Motivation Model (1994), Rudnai (1996) prepared interview guides investigating demotivation at the language level, the learner level, and the learning situation level. She concluded that the most important levels were those of learners (i.e. lack of self-confidence) and learning situation which included a) lack of free choice, b) lack of skilled teachers, c) lack of constant learning, and d) being placed in inappropriate proficiency groups. Similarly, Oxford (1998) found the following demotivating factors: teachers, textbooks, class activities, insufficient equipment, and inappropriate tasks. Dornyei (2001a) presented the following nine factors as demotivators: a) teachers’ personalities, commitment, competence, and teaching methods, b) inadequate school facilities (very big group, not the right level, or frequent change of teachers), c) reduced self-confidence due to experience of failure or lack of success, d) negative attitude toward the foreign language, e) compulsory nature of the foreign language, f) interference of another foreign language that pupils are studying, g) negative attitude toward the community of the foreign language spoken, h) attitudes of group members, and i) course books used in class.

In an Asian study, Ikeno (2002) asked Japanese university students about their perceptions of motivation and demotivation. He came up with twenty two motivating and thirteen demotivating factors such as a) lack of control over content, b) teachers’ characters, c) exam-oriented classes, d) feeling of inferiority, and e) peer negative attitudes and etc. In another study in Japan, Hasegawa (2004) studied high school students and pointed out that negative experiences related to teachers were the most frequently cited source of demotivation. Teachers’ behavior was also a top-ranking factor in other studies (Kearney, Plax & Allen, 2002; Millette & Gorham, 2002; Potee, 2002). Thus, it can be concluded that teachers-students relationship plays a significant role in the development of learners’ (de)motivation (Chesebro & McCrosky, 2002; Den Brok, Levy, Brekelmans & Wubbles, 2005; Noels, Cle´ment & Pelletier, 1999; Takako, 2005). Keblawi (2006) investigated demotivators among Arab learners of English. He mentioned such factors as teaching style, teacher personality, textbooks, and evaluation system as the most significant ones. Tsuchiya (2006a, 2006b) added the lack of English speaking models to the other demotivating factors including teachers, classes, complexity of English, negative attitudes, and reduced self-confidence.

In a survey done by Falout, Elwood, and Hood (2009), demotivating factors were grouped into three categories of external conditions, internal conditions, and reactive behaviors to demotivating experiences. The findings indicated that internal conditions and reactive behaviors were correlated with long-term EFL learning outcomes. Focusing on external factors, Kikuchi and Sakai (2009) pointed to five extracted factors: a) course books, b) inadequate school facilities, c) test scores, d) non-communicative methods, and e) teachers competence and teaching styles. However, in a follow-up study considering both internal and external factors, different components were extracted: a) learning content, b) teacher competence and teaching style, c) inadequate school facilities, d) lack of intrinsic motivation, and e) test scores (Sakai & Kikuchi, 2009). Lee and Lee (2011) investigated differences in perception of demotivating factors according to gender and general English proficiency. The results revealed that male students had more negative attitudes and low proficient learners were the most demotivated ones. Al-Khairy (2013) stated teacher behavior, peer pressure, teaching methods, insufficient teaching aids, and complexity of English language as the most demotivating factors among Saudi university students.

 On the other hand, Tabatabaei and Molavi (2012) reported that factors such as teaching methods, inadequate class time, problems in understanding oral language, and lack of practice in real situation were essential demotivators among Iranian seminary students. Moreover, they found that more motivated students were at higher levels of general English proficiency. Meshkat and Hassani (2012) investigated the demotivating factors of learning English among Iranian high school students. The results indicated that a) students considered lack of school facilities, overemphasis on grammar, long passages and expectancy to use grammatically correct English in the classroom as strong sources of demotivation, b) learning contents, materials, teachers’ competence and teaching styles were moderate sources of demotivation, and c) statistically significant differences were found between girls and boys with respect to learning contents, materials, teachers’ competence and teaching styles. In a recent study of university students, Hosseinpour and Heidari (2013) extracted seven factors including a) inadequate facilities b) reduced self-confidence, c) class characteristics, d) lack of purpose to study English, e) teaching methods, f) teachers and teaching styles, and g) negative attitudes toward English and the culture of English-speaking countries as demotivators. Finally, Sahragard and Ansaripour (2014) investigated demotivating factors among Iranian MA students of TEFL. Their findings indicated that economic problem was the most salient demotivating factor for the participants of the study, and the order of importance of other demotivating factors was reported to be as the following: future pessimism, professors’ characteristics, syllabus design, curriculum decisions, scoring system, administrative decisions, facilities and classroom environment.

The review of related literature indicated the fact that it is a good idea not only for researchers but also for curriculum developers and teachers to find out the possible causes of demotivation in educational context in order to prevent or remove it (Cheng & Dornyei, 2007; Falout, Elwood & Hood, 2009; Meshkat & Hassani, 2012; Sahragard & Ansaripour, 2014). Many studies have tried to diagnose these detrimental features and classify them into various groups. However, one important point which has been ignored in such studies is the fact that diversity of the results might be due to a number of other external and internal factors influencing learners’ perceptions including levels of education, fields of study, age, personality types, learning styles, and cultures of teaching and learning to name just a few. Thus, it seems more reasonable to conduct more inclusive research in this regard in order to avoid overgeneralization of the findings.

Regarding the importance of English as the international language of science and numerous advantages of knowing English for academic purposes such as broadening the scope of scientific studies and participating in international symposiums, learning English is a necessity for university students. However, demotivation in learning EFL seems to be a common phenomenon in its Iranian context (Meshkat & Hassani, 2012, Hosseinpour & Heidari Tabrizi, 2013, Sahragard & Ansaripoor, 2014). Hence, it seems necessary to conduct more studies to increase our understanding of the details related to such unfavorable features. In this respect, this study can contribute to the field of demotivation research by investigating perceptions of demotives by university students across levels of educational levels including undergraduate versus postgraduate, and also fields of study including social sciences, basic sciences, engineering and medicine. The research questions that guided the study were:

1) Are there any significant differences in perceptions of demotivating factors in learning EFL by undergraduate versus postgraduate students?

2) Are there any significant differences in perceptions of demotivating factors in learning EFL by students of social sciences, basic sciences, engineering and medicine?

 3. Methodology

A mixed method survey was conducted to find out the probable discrepancies between the perspectives of undergraduates versus postgraduates as well as the perceptions of students of four different fields of study considering demotives in learning EFL in Iranian educational context.

 

 

3.1. Participants

The participants under the study were university students attending Islamic Azad University (IAU) in Isfahan Province, Iran. There are twenty branches of IAU in Isfahan out of which five branches were chosen for sampling based on stratified clustering procedure in order to access students of both educational levels including postgraduate and undergraduate, and also four major fields of study including social sciences, basic sciences, engineering, and medicine. The population of students out of which the sample was selected included 66,000 people in 2016 spring semester. Cochran sampling formula indicated the sample size to include 382 participants. The entire population was divided into five subgroups or strata, and then the final number of subjects was proportionally selected from the five branches of IAU (see Table 1). All students, including 223 females and 159 males, were Persian learners of English whose age ranged between 19 to 35 years old. They had passed 3-5 credits of general English courses and 2-4 credits of English for Academic Purposes (hereafter EAP). Table 1 illustrates the distribution of the participants across five university branches of Islamic Azad University.

Table1: Descriptive Statistics Representing the Participants of the Study

 

 

Male

Female

Total

 

 

A

0

24

24

33

41

 

B

14

19

 

C

21

20

 

D

53

103

156

 

E

71

57

128

Total

159

223

382

 

3.2. Instruments

The demotivation questionnaire (see Appendix) designed by Hosseinpour and Heidari Tabrizi (2013) which consisted of forty, 5-point Likert type, items was applied to assess students’ perceptions of seven demotivating factors including a) inadequate facilities b) reduced self-confidence, c) class characteristics, d) lack of purpose to study English, e) teaching methods, f) teachers and teaching styles, and g) negative attitudes toward English and the culture of English-speaking countries. The instruction was “How demotivating are the following items?” There were 5 alternatives to choose including 1) not at all, 2) slightly, 3) moderately, 4) very, 5) extremely, so that number 1 was the least and number 5 the most demotivating ones.

On the other hand, a follow-up interview was carried out and the participants’ answers were audio recorded and transcribed for further qualitative analysis of the content. The interview question was “What factors cause demotivation in learning EFL in Iran?”

3.3. Procedure

First of all, the demotivation questionnaire was piloted with a group of 30 university students who had passed both the general English and the EAP courses. Item reliability test was performed and items with low reliability were revised. Cronbach’s Alpha test revealed a high reliability coefficient of .87 for the demotivation questionnaire. Then, the data collection procedure was carried out in five branches of IAU in August 2016. The collected data was put through statistical analysis by SPSS software, version 20. In order to compare the perspectives of undergraduates versus postgraduates, Mann-Whitney U Test was applied due to the nature of data which was ordinal. Moreover, to find out the significant differences between the students based on their fields of study, Kruskal-Wallis Test was applied. On the other hand, a follow-up interview was done with 50 students in order to ensure the triangulation of data and increase the generalizability of the results.

 4. Results

4.1. Quantitative Analysis

In order to answer the first research question which focused on the perceptions of demotives by undergraduate versus postgraduate students, a series of Mann-Whitney U Tests was carried out. Table 2 shows the descriptive statistics.

Table 2: Descriptive Statistics for Demotives across Educational Levels

 

 

 

Educational Levels

N

Mean Rank

Sum of Ranks

Negative Attitudes

 

Undergraduate

218

192.33

41927.00

Postgraduate

164

190.40

31226.00

Total

382

 

 

Inadequate Facilities

 

Undergraduate

218

172.24

37548.00

Postgraduate

164

217.10

35605.00

Total

382

 

 

Teachers

 

Undergraduate

218

193.10

42096.50

Postgraduate

164

189.37

31056.50

Total

382

 

 

Lack of Purpose

 

Undergraduate

218

171.41

37367.50

Postgraduate

164

218.20

35785.50

Total

382

 

 

Teaching Methods

 

Undergraduate

218

185.96

40540.00

Postgraduate

164

198.86

32613.00

Total

382

 

 

Reduced Self-confidence

 

undergraduate

218

187.76

40931.00

postgraduate

164

196.48

32222.00

Total

382

 

 

Class Characteristics

 

Undergraduate

218

171.38

37361.50

Postgraduate

164

218.24

35791.50

Total

382

 

 

 

As it is displayed in Table 2, there were 218 undergraduate students and 164 postgraduate ones. For undergraduates, the hierarchy of demotivators was observed to be as follows: teachers and teaching styles, negative attitudes towards English, reduced self-confidence, teaching methods, inadequate facilities, lack of purpose to study English, and class characteristics. However, the ranking of demotives was found to be different for postgraduates: class characteristics, lack of purpose to study English, inadequate facilities, teaching methods, reduced self-confidence, negative attitudes, and finally teachers and teaching styles. On the other hand, taking a look at the mean rank scores, it seemed that the two groups had different views. However, the diversity of ideas was more remarkable regarding three factors including inadequate facilities, lack of purpose and class characteristics. In order to test the significance of differences a series of Mann-Whitney U tests was carried out whose results are displayed in Table 3.

Table 3: Mann-Whitney Test for Comparing Means across Educational Levels

 

 

 

Negative Attitudes

Inadequate Facilities

Teachers

Lack of Purpose

Teaching Methods

Reduced Self-confidence

Class Characteristics

Mann-Whitney U

 

17696.000

13677.000

17526.500

13496.500

16669.000

17060.000

13490.500

Wilcoxon W

 

31226.000

37548.000

31056.500

37367.500

40540.000

40931.000

37361.500

Z

 

-.169

-3.940

-.328

-4.111

-1.134

-.765

-4.120

Asymp. Sig. (2-tailed)

 

.866

.000

.743

.000

.257

.444

.000

 

As it is shown in Table 3, Mann-Whitney U Test revealed significant differences between the two groups of students with regard to such demotivating factors as inadequate facilities U= 13677.000, z= -3.940 , p= .000 , lack of purpose U=13496.500 , z= -1.134, p= .000 and class characteristics U= 13490.500, z= -4.120 , p= .000 . In order to have a better understanding of the differences, it is necessary to look at the median score of each group which is presented in Table 4.

Table 4: Medians for Demotives across Educational Levels

 

Educational Program

 

Negative Attitudes

Inadequate Facilities

Teachers

Lack of Purpose

Teaching Methods

Reduced Self-confidence

Class

Characteristics

Undergraduate

(n=218)

 

 

2.500

3.000

2.800

2.600

2.600

3.142

3.000

Postgraduate

(n=164)

 

 

2.375

3.500

2.600

3.000

2.800

3.142

3.250

Total

(n=382)

 

 

2.500

3.250

2.600

2.800

2.600

3.142

3.250

 

Taking a look at figures in Table 4, it became clear that all three demotivating factors, that is inadequate facilities (Md=3.500), lack of purpose (Md= 3.000), and class characteristics (3.250) were perceived more strongly by postgraduates.

The second research question focused on the probable differences in university students’ perceptions of seven demotivating factors based on their fields of study. In this regard, a series of Kruskal-Wallis tests were conducted with fields of study as the between-groups variable and demotivating factors as the within-groups variables. Table 5 illustrates the descriptive statistics for demotivating factors across four groups of university majors including social sciences, engineering, medicine and basic sciences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 5: Descriptive Statistics for Demotives across Fields of Study

 

 Demotives

 

Fields of study

N

Mean Rank

Negative Attitudes

 

SS*

134

196.66

E*

115

182.39

M*

71

175.47

BS*

62

215.60

Total

382

 

Inadequate Facilities

 

SS

134

203.36

E

115

166.80

M

71

216.87

BS

62

182.64

Total

382

 

Teachers

 

SS

134

195.18

E

115

192.26

M

71

197.61

BS

62

175.15

Total

382

 

Lack of Purpose

 

SS

134

202.23

E

115

194.75

M

71

170.94

BS

62

185.82

Total

382

 

Teaching Methods

 

SS

134

198.99

E

115

167.22

M

71

198.57

BS

62

212.24

Total

382

 

Reduced Self-confidence

 

SS

134

208.67

E

115

170.32

M

71

162.69

BS

62

226.67

Total

382

 

Class Characteristics

 

SS

134

206.08

E

115

179.27

M

71

201.06

BS

62

171.71

Total

382

 

Note. SS (i.e. Social Sciences), E (i.e. Engineering), M (i.e. Medicine), BS (i.e. Basic Sciences)

 

As it is shown in Table 5, there were 134 students of social sciences, 62 students of basic sciences, 115 students of engineering, and 71 students of medicine. The mean rank score of each demotivating factor is shown for each group of learners. As the figures show, the seven demotivating factors were perceived differently by students of four major fields of study. For students of social sciences, the ranking of demotives was as follows: reduced self-confidence, class characteristics, inadequate facilities, lack of purpose, teaching methods, negative attitudes, and finally teachers and their teaching styles. For engineering students, the order of factors from the most demotivating to the least demotivating was: lack of purpose, teachers and teaching styles, negative attitudes, class characteristics, reduced self-confidence, teaching methods, and finally inadequate facilities. However, for Medicine students, inadequate facilities, class characteristics, teaching methods, teachers and teaching styles, negative attitudes, lack of purpose, and reduced self-confidence were ranked respectively. Finally for basic science students, the hierarchy of demotivating factors was observed to be reduced self-confidence, negative attitudes, teaching methods, lack of purpose, inadequate facilities, teachers and teaching styles, and class characteristics. The results of Kruskal-Wallis tests (Table 6) indicated the significant differences among perceptions of students based on four fields of study.

Table 6: Kruskal-Wallis Tests for Demotives across Fields of Study

 

 

Negative Attitudes

Inadequate Facilities

Teachers

Lack of Purpose

Teaching Methods

Reduced Self-confidence

Class Characteristics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chi-Square

5.565

11.506

1.739

4.014

8.722

18.637

6.316

df

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

Asymp. Sig.

.135

.009

.628

.260

.033

.000

.097

 

The results revealed statistically significant differences among the four major fields of study with respect to inadequate facilities x2 (3, n=382)= 11.506, p= .009, teaching methods x2 (3, n=382)= 8.722, p= .033 , and reduced self-confidence x2 (3, n=382)= 18.637, p= .000. In order to have a detailed understanding of such differences, it is crucial to investigate the median scores (see Table 7).

Table 7: Median Scores for Demotives across Fields of Study

 

Field of Study

 

Negative Attitudes

Inadequate Facilities

Teachers

Lack of Purpose

Teaching Methods

Reduced Self-confidence

Class

Characteristics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Sciences

(n=134)

2.500

3.250

2.600

3.000

2.600

3.428

3.250

Engineering

(n=115)

 

2.500

2.750

2.800

2.800

2.400

3.000

3.000

Medicine

(n=71)

 

2.250

3.250

2.800

2.600

2.600

2.857

3.000

Basic Science

(n=62)

 

2.750

3.000

2.600

2.800

2.800

3.571

3.125

Total

(n=382)

2.500

3.250

2.600

2.800

2.600

3.142

3.250

 

As it is illustrated in Table 7, inadequate facilities were considered most strongly by students of Medicine and Social Sciences (Md=3.250) and least strongly by Engineering students (Md= 2.750). Regarding teaching methods, the most demotivated group was basic sciences students (Md= e2.800) and the least demotivated one was engineering students (Md=2.40). The last significant difference was related to reduced self-confidence which was perceived most strongly by basic sciences learners (Md=3.57) and least strongly by medicine students (Md= 2.857).

4.2. Qualitative Analysis

The qualitative analysis of audio-recorded follow-up interviews with 50 students was conducted based on Ritchie and Spencer (2002) framework. At first, the interviews were transcribed. Then a thematic framework was designed based on the answers of the interviewees. In the third step, the data was analyzed once more based on the thematic framework and the frequency of occurrence of the themes was recorded for each research question separately. Table 8 shows the thematic components as well as the frequency of occurrence of each one based on the educational levels and fields of study.

 

Table 8: Frequency of Thematic Components Based on Fields of Study and Educational Levels

 

Educational Levels

Fields of Study

 

Post-graduates

Under-graduates

Medicine

Engineering

Basic Sciences

Social Sciences

Themes

30

14

8

10

22

40

Low GEP of Students

6

3

11

7

5

8

Incoherent Curriculum Planning for EFL

12

16

19

27

23

8

Impractical Instructional Materials

15

41

43

24

17

13

Uncommunicative Teaching Methodology

10

5

2

3

5

12

Lack of Financial and Cultural Support of the Families

10

3

5

3

5

4

Mismatch between Difficulty Level of Lessons and Students’ GEP

2

13

5

6

18

13

Mixed Proficiency Classes

15

5

7

20

5

2

Lack of English Sources in Content Courses

100

100

100

100

100

100

Total

 

The results of the qualitative analysis of interviews with undergraduate students revealed that the most significant demotivating factor was uncommunicative teaching methods (41%), while for postgraduates, it was low GEP (30%). Considering field of study, the most frequent demotivating factor for social sciences students was low GEP (40%). For basic sciences students, low GEP (22%) and impracticality of instructional materials (23%) were considered as the strongest demotives. For engineering students, impracticality of instructional materials (27%) and uncommunicative teaching methods (24%) were reported most frequently. Finally for medicine students, uncommunicative teaching method (43%) was reflected as the most demotivating factor.

 5. Discussion

The results of quantitative analysis indicated that the students under the study had completely different ideas with respect to the seven demotivating factors based on their educational levels and also fields of study so that it was not possible to propose a common hierarchy of demotives. However, the findings of this study support Sakai and Kikuchi’s claim (2009) that the original definition of demotivation should be expanded to include both internal and external factors as possible demotives.

Regarding the ranking of demotivating factors based on educational levels, teachers and their teaching styles was the top-ranking one for undergraduates. This finding is consistent with Kearney et al. (2002), Melit and Gorham (2002), Potee (2002), Keblawi (2006), and Al-khairy (2013) who found teacher’s behavior, characteristic, and styles as the most demotivating factor. However, for postgraduates, the top-ranking factors were class characteristics, lack of purpose to study English, and inadequate facilities. These results are in line with the findings of Oxford (1998), Dornyei (2001a, 2001b), Ikeno (2002), Kikuchi and Sakai (2009), Meshkat and Hassani (2012), and Hosseinpour and Heidari Tabrizi (2013).

With respect to the role of fields of study in perceptions of demotives, the findings could be contrasted considering internal and external dimensions of demotivation. More specifically, the high-ranking factor for the students of social sciences (reduced self-confidence), basic sciences (reduced self-confidence), and engineering (lack of purpose to study English), was internal. This finding supports Falout, Elwwod and Hood (2009) who pointed to the importance of internal conditions in their study. While, for medicine students the internal factors (i.e. negative attitudes, lack of purpose, and reduced self-confidence) were the least demotivating ones in contrast to the external factors (i.e. inadequate facilities, class characteristics, teaching methodology, and teachers’ styles) which were reported to be the highest demotivating ones.

On the other hand, the results of qualitative analysis indicated that low GEP of students, uncommunicative teaching methods, and impractical instructional materials were the strongest demotives. These findings are in line with those of Tsuchia (2006), and also Tabatabaee and Molavi (2012). Moreover, some other factors as lack of financial and cultural support of the families, incongruity of the difficulty level of lessons with students’ GEP and mixed proficiency classes were considered to be demotivating. These findings are generally consistent with the results presented by Sahragard and Ansaripoor (2014) which mentioned economic problems, administrative issues, curriculum planning, class facilities, and instructional features as important demotivating factors.

So far, no research has focused on demotivating factors across educational levels and fields of study. Therefore, the findings of this study can expand the scope of research on demotivation. Compiling the results of quantitative and qualitative analyses, it can be inferred that postgraduate students had experienced such demotivating factors as class characteristics, lack of purpose to study English and inadequate facilities more strongly than undergraduates which seemed to be related to their low GEP, uncommunicative teaching methods, and lack of English references for their content courses as they mentioned these more frequently in the follow-up interviews.

On the other hand, mixed method analyses of demotives based on fields of study indicated that students had different opinions about the factors. Inadequate facilities was perceived most strongly by medicine students, while reduced self-confidence was a stronger demotivator for social and basic sciences students which seemed to be related to their self-reported low GEP. Class characteristics were observed as another detrimental factor which was perceived more strongly by the students of social sciences and medicine rather than the other two groups. However, further qualitative analysis of interviews pointed to disparities in priorities with regard to the same factor. For medicine students, uncommunicative teaching method was a key point. While for basic science and engineering students, the most important point was impracticality of instructional materials. However, for social science students, being placed in mixed proficiency classes was more dissatisfying.

 6. Conclusion and Implications

In conclusion, bringing the findings all together revealed that even when a special demotivating factor was perceived to be important, there were differences in priorities and perceptions of the learners considering the same factor. In other words, it seems that perception of demotivating factors is highly inconsistent so that a general pattern cannot be found even within the same community of learners. These findings reflect that demotivation is correlated with or influenced by other variables. This shows the need for more rigorous and inclusive research on demotivation to study English. The contribution of this study on demotivation research was investigating perceptions of demotivating factors across educational levels, and fields of study. Some other effective variables such as general English proficiency, and gender were also scrutinized by other researchers. So far, many common demotives have been found in different studies. However, demotivation is a complex construct consisting of various factors which may not be perceived in the same way by different groups of learners; therefore, generalizations should be reached out with more caution.

The findings of this study have certain pedagogical implications specially for teaching EAP courses in tertiary education. For example, it is a good idea to make an attempt to remove the demotivating factors in learning EFL. According to the findings, a number of suggestions can be provided:

  • providing the EFL classes with more auditory, visual, and digital instruments,
  • introducing more interesting class activities and textbooks that are relevant to the needs of students based on their educational levels,
  • considering English not only as a subject to study, but also as a medium of instruction in content specific courses,
  • practicing more communicative and learner-centered tasks,
  • emphasizing the importance of English in students’ academic achievement,
  • introducing English references in content courses to constantly engage learners in the process of learning and practicing English, and finally
  • reassessing the curriculum of secondary and tertiary education to include progressive English courses with tangible increasing level of difficulty to match the needs and proficiency level of students.

 Acknowledgement

The authors would like to appreciate Islamic Azad University, Falavarjan Branch for granting this research (grant number: 51722940408001).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Al-Khairy, M. H. (2013). English as a foreign language learning demotivational factors as perceived by undergraduates. European Scientific Journal, 9(32), 365-382.

Arai, K. (2004). What ‘demotivates’ language learners?: Qualitative study on demotivational factors and learners’ reactions. Bulletin of Toyo Gakuen University, 12, 39-47.

Cheng, H., & Dörnyei, Z., (2007) The Use of Motivational Strategies in Language Instruction: The Case of EFL Teaching in Taiwan. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1, 153-174. http://dx.doi.org/10.2167/illt048.0

Dornyei, Z. (1994). Motivation and motivating in the foreign language classroom. Modern Language Journal, 78 (3), 273-284.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001a). Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow: Longman.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001b). Motivation strategies in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Falout, J. & Maruyama, M. (2004). A comparative study of proficiency and learner demotivation. The Language Teacher, 28 (8), 3-10.

Falout, J., Elwwod, J., & Hood, M. (2009). Demotivation: Affective states and learning outcomes. System, 37, 403–417.

Gardner, R.C. & Lambert, W.E., (1972). Motivational variables in second language acquisition. In R.C. Gardner & W. Lambert (eds.), Attitudes and motivation in second language learning (pp. 119-216). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Hasegawa, A. (2004). Student demotivation in the foreign language classroom. Takushoku Language Studies, 107, 119-136.

Hosseinpour, N., & Heidari Tabrizi, H. (2013). University students’ perception of demotivating factors in learning English as a foreign language. The Journal of Applied Linguistics, 6 (13), 84-104

Ikeno, O. (2002). Motivating and demotivating factors in foreign language learning: A preliminary investigation. Ehime University Journal of English Education Research 2, 1–19.

Kearney, P., Plax, T.G., & Allen, T.H. (2002). Understanding student reactions to teachers who misbehave. In J. L., Chesebro & J.C. McCroskey (Eds.), Communication for Teachers, (pp.127–140). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Keblawi, F. (2006). Demotivation among Arab learners of English as a Foreign Language. Retrieved from http://www. readingmatrix.com/ conference/pp/ proceedings2005/ keblawi.pdf

Kikuchi, K., & Sakai, H. (2009). Japanese learners’ demotivation to study English: A survey study. JALT Journal 31 (2), 183-204.

Lee, J., & Lee, Ch. (2011). Demotivation factors in learning English for elementary school students. Primary English Education, 17 (1), 327-355.

Millette, D.M., & Gorham, J. (2002). Teacher behavior and student motivation. In J. L., Chesebro & J. C. McCroskey (Eds.), Communication for Teachers (pp. 141–153). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Noels, K.A., Clement, R., & Pelletier, L.G. (1999). Perceptions of teachers’ communicative style and students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The Modern Language Journal, 83 (1), 23–34.

Oxford, R. L. (1998). The unravelling tapestry: Teacher and course characteristics associated with demotivation in the language classroom: Demotivation in foreign language learning. Paper presented at the TESOL 98 Congress, Seattle, WA, March.

Potee, N. (2002). Teacher immediacy and student motivation. In D. M., McInerney & S., Van Etten (Eds.), Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning: A Historical Perspective (pp. 207–223). Greenwich, Connecticut: Information Age Publishing.

Ritchie, J., & Spencer, L. (2002). “Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research”. In A.M. Huberman & M.B. Miles (Eds), The qualitative researcher’s companion (pp. 305-329). London: Sage Publications.

Rudnai, Z. (1996). Demotivation in learning English among secondary school students in Budapest. Unpublished master thesis. Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary.

Sahragard, R., & Ansaripour, E. (2014). Demotivating and Remotivating Factors among MA Students of TEFL: An Iranian Case. International Journal of Society, Culture & Language, 2(1), 85-105.

Sakai, H., & Kikuchi, K. (2009). An analysis of demotivators in the EFL classroom. System, 37, 57–69.

Stevens, J. (2002). Applied multivariate statistics for the social sciences (4th ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Tabatabaei, O., & Molavi, A. (2012). Demotivating Factors Affecting EFL Learning of Iranian Seminary Students. International Education Studies, 5 (1), 181-190.

Takako, T. (2005). Teacher influence on learner motivation. The Journal of Educational research, 35, 49-58.

Tsuchiya, M. (2004a). Factors in demotivation concerning learning English: A preliminary study of Japanese university students. The Kyushu Academic Society of English Language Education, 32, 39-46.

Tsuchiya, M. (2004b). Factors in demotivation concerning learning English: A preliminary study of Japanese university students. The Kyushu Academic Society of English Language Education, 32, 39-46.

Tsuchiya, M. (2006a). Factors in demotivation of lower proficiency English learners at college. The Kyushu Academic Society of English Language Education, 34, 87-96.

Tsuchiya, M. (2006b). Profiling of lower achievement English learners at college in terms of demotivating factors. Annual Review of English Language Education in Japan, 17, 171-180.

Appendix

Demotivation Questionnaire

How demotivating are the following items? Choose one of the alternatives: 1) not at all, 2) slightly, 3) moderately, 4) very, and 5) extremely. Number 1 is the least demotivating and number 5 is the most demotivating.

No

Items

not at all

slightly

moderately

very

extremely

1

I don’t use English language out of the class.

1

2

3

4

5

2

Translation technique is used extensively.

1

2

3

4

5

3

Most lessons focus on grammar.

1

2

3

4

5

4

Course books are exam-oriented.

1

2

3

4

5

5

Accuracy is mainly focused on.

1

2

3

4

5

6

Memorizing technique is overemphasized.

1

2

3

4

5

7

Retention of new vocabulary is challenging for me.

1

2

3

4

5

8

I got low scores on English tests.

1

2

3

4

5

9

I am not able to study English by myself.

1

2

3

4

5

10

Teaching pace is not appropriate for me.

1

2

3

4

5

11

I can’t cope with great number of new materials assigned.

1

2

3

4

5

12

Teachers are not knowledgeable.

1

2

3

4

5

13

All materials are presented by teachers.

1

2

3

4

5

14

Teachers’ explanations are too complex to understand.

1

2

3

4

5

15

Teachers show negative feedback to students’ errors.

1

2

3

4

5

16

Reading texts are too lengthy.

1

2

3

4

5

17

Reading comprehension is problematic to me.

1

2

3

4

5

18

Textbooks are old fashioned.

1

2

3

4

5

19

Classes are short of digital teaching aids.

1

2

3

4

5

20

Classes lack visual teaching aids.

1

2

3

4

5

21

Classes are in need of auditory teaching aids.

1

2

3

4

5

22

Classes are overcrowded.

1

2

3

4

5

23

My friends are not interested in learning English.

1

2

3

4

5

24

English is the compulsory foreign language to study.

1

2

3

4

5

25

I hate learning English.

1

2

3

4

5

26

Teachers do not speak English in other content courses.

1

2

3

4

5

27

Teachers speak fast.

1

2

3

4

5

28

My friends make fun of me if I speak in English.

1

2

3

4

5

29

English textbooks are boring.

1

2

3

4

5

30

Class time is inadequate.

1

2

3

4

5

31

I am not interested in culture of English-speaking countries.

1

2

3

4

5

32

My academic success does not depend on Knowing English.

1

2

3

4

5

33

Getting a university degree does not depend on knowing English.

1

2

3

4

5

34

English sources are not used in other content courses.

1

2

3

4

5

35

I don’t know why I should study English.

1

2

3

4

5

36

I don’t feel confident when I speak in English.

1

2

3

4

5

37

Class activities are boring

1

2

3

4

5

38

Teachers are bad-tempered.

1

2

3

4

5

39

Teaching methods are teacher-centered.

1

2

3

4

5

40

Content of English textbooks are not practical.

1

2

3

4

5

Note. Reprinted from “Students’ Perception of Demotivating Factors in an Iranian EFL Learning Context” by N. Hosseinpour and H. Heidari Tabrizi, 2013, The Journal of Applied Linguistics 6 (13), p.104. Copyright 2013 by “The Journal of Applied Linguistics”.



[1] PhD student of TEFL, hosseinpour@iaufala.ac.ir; Department of English Language, Falavarjan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran

[2] Assistant Professor, heidari@iaufala.ac.ir; Department of English Language, Falavarjan Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran

Al-Khairy, M. H. (2013). English as a foreign language learning demotivational factors as perceived by undergraduates. European Scientific Journal, 9(32), 365-382.

Arai, K. (2004). What ‘demotivates’ language learners?: Qualitative study on demotivational factors and learners’ reactions. Bulletin of Toyo Gakuen University, 12, 39-47.

Cheng, H., & Dörnyei, Z., (2007) The Use of Motivational Strategies in Language Instruction: The Case of EFL Teaching in Taiwan. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1, 153-174. http://dx.doi.org/10.2167/illt048.0

Dornyei, Z. (1994). Motivation and motivating in the foreign language classroom. Modern Language Journal, 78 (3), 273-284.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001a). Teaching and researching motivation. Harlow: Longman.

Dörnyei, Z. (2001b). Motivation strategies in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dörnyei, Z. (2005). The psychology of the language learner: Individual differences in second language acquisition. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Falout, J. & Maruyama, M. (2004). A comparative study of proficiency and learner demotivation. The Language Teacher, 28 (8), 3-10.

Falout, J., Elwwod, J., & Hood, M. (2009). Demotivation: Affective states and learning outcomes. System, 37, 403–417.

Gardner, R.C. & Lambert, W.E., (1972). Motivational variables in second language acquisition. In R.C. Gardner & W. Lambert (eds.), Attitudes and motivation in second language learning (pp. 119-216). Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Hasegawa, A. (2004). Student demotivation in the foreign language classroom. Takushoku Language Studies, 107, 119-136.

Hosseinpour, N., & Heidari Tabrizi, H. (2013). University students’ perception of demotivating factors in learning English as a foreign language. The Journal of Applied Linguistics, 6 (13), 84-104

Ikeno, O. (2002). Motivating and demotivating factors in foreign language learning: A preliminary investigation. Ehime University Journal of English Education Research 2, 1–19.

Kearney, P., Plax, T.G., & Allen, T.H. (2002). Understanding student reactions to teachers who misbehave. In J. L., Chesebro & J.C. McCroskey (Eds.), Communication for Teachers, (pp.127–140). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Keblawi, F. (2006). Demotivation among Arab learners of English as a Foreign Language. Retrieved from http://www. readingmatrix.com/ conference/pp/ proceedings2005/ keblawi.pdf

Kikuchi, K., & Sakai, H. (2009). Japanese learners’ demotivation to study English: A survey study. JALT Journal 31 (2), 183-204.

Lee, J., & Lee, Ch. (2011). Demotivation factors in learning English for elementary school students. Primary English Education, 17 (1), 327-355.

Millette, D.M., & Gorham, J. (2002). Teacher behavior and student motivation. In J. L., Chesebro & J. C. McCroskey (Eds.), Communication for Teachers (pp. 141–153). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Noels, K.A., Clement, R., & Pelletier, L.G. (1999). Perceptions of teachers’ communicative style and students’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The Modern Language Journal, 83 (1), 23–34.

Oxford, R. L. (1998). The unravelling tapestryTeacher and course characteristics associated with demotivation in the language classroomDemotivation in foreign language learning. Paper presented at the TESOL 98 Congress, Seattle, WA, March.

Potee, N. (2002). Teacher immediacy and student motivation. In D. M., McInerney & S., Van Etten (Eds.), Sociocultural Influences on Motivation and Learning: A Historical Perspective (pp. 207–223). Greenwich, Connecticut: Information Age Publishing.

Ritchie, J., & Spencer, L. (2002). “Qualitative data analysis for applied policy research”. In A.M. Huberman & M.B. Miles (Eds), The qualitative researcher’s companion (pp. 305-329). London: Sage Publications.

Rudnai, Z. (1996). Demotivation in learning English among secondary school students in Budapest. Unpublished master thesis. Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary.

Sahragard, R., & Ansaripour, E. (2014). Demotivating and Remotivating Factors among MA Students of TEFL: An Iranian Case. International Journal of Society, Culture & Language, 2(1), 85-105.

Sakai, H., & Kikuchi, K. (2009). An analysis of demotivators in the EFL classroom. System, 37, 57–69.

Stevens, J. (2002). Applied multivariate statistics for the social sciences (4th ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Tabatabaei, O., & Molavi, A. (2012). Demotivating Factors Affecting EFL Learning of Iranian Seminary Students. International Education Studies, (1), 181-190.

Takako, T. (2005). Teacher influence on learner motivation. The Journal of Educational research, 35, 49-58.

Tsuchiya, M. (2004a). Factors in demotivation concerning learning English: A preliminary study of Japanese university students. The Kyushu Academic Society of English Language Education, 32, 39-46.

Tsuchiya, M. (2004b). Factors in demotivation concerning learning English: A preliminary study of Japanese university students. The Kyushu Academic Society of English Language Education, 32, 39-46.

Tsuchiya, M. (2006a). Factors in demotivation of lower proficiency English learners at college. The Kyushu Academic Society of English Language Education, 34, 87-96.

Tsuchiya, M. (2006b). Profiling of lower achievement English learners at college in terms of demotivating factors. Annual Review of English Language Education in Japan, 17, 171-180.