Article Review: The Dark Side of Motivation

This is a review of the article The dark side of motivation: teachers' perspectives on 'unmotivation'.


For the purpose of this study, the authors differentiate between amotivation, demotivation, and unmotivation.  Amotivation refers to people who "see no relation between their actions and consequences of those actions...In such a situation, people have no reason, intrinsic or extrinsic, for performing the activity, and they would be expected to quit the activity as soon as possible (Noels, Pelletier, Clément, and Vallerand, 2000, p. 40).  Demotivation describes a situation in which learners lose motivation for various reasons (Dornyei, 2001).  For the purpose of their study, the authors use the term more general term, unmotivation to include both amotivation and demotivation.

The Study

An open-ended survey was sent out to 100 university EFL teachers in Japan, asking the following four questions:
  1. How do you, as a classroom English teacher, understand learner motivation?
  2. Do you, as a teacher, think that you can influence learner motivation?  Why/why not?
  3. What motivational strategies do you use?
  4. When do you think your strategies are limited in influencing learner motivation?
The fourth question was the focus of this study.  Thirty-two teachers responded and the results indicated three areas in which teachers feel limited when motivating learners: institutional systems, student attitudes and personalities, and teacher-student relationships.  The results can be best summarized as being a three-way responsibility between administrators and policy makers (institutional systems), learners (student attitudes and personalities), and teachers (teacher-student relationship).


This article might be helpful for those in English language teaching programs who want to research unmotivated learning environments.  Perhaps a look at the differences between student, educator, and/or administrator perspectives might shed more light on possible actions that reduce unmotivation.  Another related research topic might be to compare amotivation and demotivation (or study them in independently), again including the various perspectives of the educational stakeholders.


Sakui, K. & Cowie, N. (2012). The dark side of motivation: teachers' perspectives on 'unmotivation'. ELT Journal 66(2), pp. 205-213. doi 10.1093/elt/ccro45