Many studies have tried to investigate the factors that reduce the motivation to learn in English. Drawing on the disappointment theory, this study aimed to investigate why and how the discouraging attitude of a teacher and discouraging teaching approaches create negative emotions (i.e., disappointment with English as a medium of instruction), which in turn demotivates Chinese students with English as a medium of instruction.

Teacher Attitude Can Impact Student Motivation

An unfavorable learning environment, English as a compulsory subjective for non-native speakers, lack of confidence, and teachers’ negative attitudes toward students’ learning in English are some important factors that cause demotivation among students. Past research indicates that among other factors, the teacher is the most influential factor for motivation, and that successful learning in a second language, such as English, highly depends on teachers’ attitudes.

Though English is not new in China, in recent years English has received high importance due to the internationalization of the Chinese economy resulting in parents enrolling children in schools where English is the language of instruction.

All Research Hypotheses Turned Out To Be True

A total of 550 students from 10 universities  located in Beijing and Shanghai, China, participated in this survey study. These universities used English as a medium and students in the study had completed compulsory English as a second language course. Out of a total of 548 distributed questionnaires, 428 were received with a response rate of 78%. 257 (60%) were male students, and 171 (40%) were female students. 

  • Hypothesis 1: There is a positive relationship between teachers’ discouraging attitudes and student demotivation with English as a medium of instruction.
  • Hypothesis 2: There is a positive link between discouraging teaching approaches and student demotivation with English as a medium of instruction.
  • Hypothesis 3a: Disappointment with the English language mediates the relationship between teacher attitude and student demotivation.
  • Hypothesis 3b: Disappointment with the English language mediates the relationship between teaching approaches and student demotivation.
  • Hypothesis 3a: Disappointment with the English language mediates the relationship between teacher attitude and student demotivation.
  • Hypothesis 3b: Disappointment with the English language mediates the relationship between teaching approaches and student demotivation.

The researchers concluded that all of their hypotheses were true. The findings show that teachers’ discouraging attitudes and discouraging teaching approaches are important determinants of student demotivation with English as a medium of instruction.

Relationship Building Between Teachers and Students May Help Prevent a Drop in Student Motivation

The findings of this study revealed a significant impact of teacher discouraging attitudes and discouraging teaching approaches on student demotivation. The authors was suggested that universities should intervene to ensure that teachers are fostering a positive experience and motivating learning environment for students by way of their attitude and teaching approaches. Due to the high regard the students indicated for their teachers, it was also suggested that universities find ways to foster relationship building between students and teachers by holding sessions where teachers and students can better understand each other’s expectations and issues. Universities were also advised to find meaningful ways for students to practice English to build their motivation and avoid disappointment.

Notable Quotes: 

“Future researchers are suggested to analyze the impact of demographic variables, such as educational background and income level.”

“According to the disappointment theory (Bell,1985), people have expectations from each other, and their emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral responses are based on the fulfillment of those expectations.”

“Students are inspired by their teachers, and when the students find their teachers less energizing, less enthusiastic and have no interest in teaching, they will experience unpleasant feelings.”

Personal Takeaway: 

This study placed a great deal of emphasis on the responsibility of the teacher to ensure responsive instructional practices were employed and a positive/motivating attitude was readily apparent. While the authors acknowledge more data is needed to understand other impacting factors on student motivation (culture, economic status, etc) and this study focused more specifically on teacher instruction and attitude, it was hard to not feel as if teachers were being portrayed as the sole bearers of accountability for student motivation. I thought facilitating conversations between teachers and students that would lead to a better understanding of perspectives and issues around learning was a great idea to build positive relationships.—Matt Browne

Tang, Y., & Hu, J. (2022). The impact of teacher attitude and teaching approaches on student demotivation: Disappointment as a mediator. Frontiers in Psychology, 13, 985859.

The purpose of the study was to examine the current literature on the use of digital Game-Based Learning (GBL) for students with intellectual disabilities. The authors’ intent was to come to conclusions on how digital GBL affects the acquisition of specific skills and make recommendations on future research.

Definitions around Game-Based Learning

1. “Learning based on digital games can help students with intellectual disabilities to learn new data, learn and develop new skills, acquire life skills, develop social skills and form a way of thinking (Sigh & Agarwal, 2013). A game acts on a student through a biological, social, cultural, emotional (affective), cognitive and physical aspect and as such has a direct influence on behavior, way of thinking and perception of the world in which an individual lives and acts (Sigh & Agarwal, 2013).”

2. The authors differentiate between “educational games” (EG) and “serious games” (SG). Educational games refer to those that utilize software with game technologies and storytelling to create educational content. According to the authors, they are primarily used for the acquisition of factual information. Serious games, on the other hand, are those that reapply resources from the video game field for educational purposes. They are typically high in entertainment factor, and embed instructional content within gaming elements such as badges, levels and time-restricted challenges.  

3. The DSM-V now defines intellectual disability as deficits in “reasoning, problem solving, planning, abstract thinking, judgment, academic learning, and learning from experience”. Compared to the DSM-IV, the new edition favors comprehensive assessment based on adaptive functioning over standardized IQ scores.

Adaptive function over intellectual function

The authors of the study established the following research questions for their literature review:

1. Which specific technologies and games are used for digital GBL for students with intellectual disabilities? 

2. For which skills, abilities and subjects are the games being developed?

3. What are the characteristics of the participants in the studies, and which evaluation methods are being used to evaluate the effects of the games?

4. Do the digital GBL systems being developed have a positive impact on students with disabilities?

Only studies involving participants who have intellectual disability as a primary disability (as opposed to those who have intellectual disability as a result of other primary difficulties) were considered. 21 papers met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. According to the classifications set forth by the authors, the most common type of digital tool being used were SGs, and the most commonly used technology was the PC, along with additional equipment such as a webcam. The analyzed studies were more focused on the development of adaptive functions rather than on the development of intellectual functions. Math was the most commonly taught subject area. 15 of the 21 studies showed how the digital GBL was evaluated (the remaining 6 did not, partly because some of the game solutions were in the development or evaluation phases). These studies concluded that digital GBL contributed positively to the participants’ ability to adopt new skills.

Future inclusion of social-emotional skills

Future research could be directed towards developing a framework for the evaluation of digital educational games for students with intellectual disabilities, using a systematic and flexible methodology called Design-Based Research. 

Social-emotional skills were not covered in any of the research studies that were examined. The authors also suggest that a possible area for further development would be digital GBL for students with intellectual disabilities that focuses on recognizing and understanding emotions in others, empathizing, learning how to express feelings appropriately and establish relationships with other people.

Notable Quotes: 

1. “Learning based on digital games can help students with intellectual disabilities to learn new data, learn and develop new skills, acquire life skills, develop social skills and form a way of thinking (Sigh & Agarwal, 2013). A game acts on a student through a biological, social, cultural, emotional (affective), cognitive and physical aspect and as such has a direct influence on behavior, way of thinking and perception of the world in which an individual lives and acts (Sigh & Agarwal, 2013).”

2. “One of the possible further directions of research in this area is to create a frame- work for the evaluation of educational game solutions designed for students with intellectual disabilities using Design-based Research (DBR). DBR can be specified as a systematic but flexible research methodology which strives to improve the educational practice through iterative analysis, design, development and implementation (Wang & Hannafin, 2005). It is based on collaboration between researchers and professionals which leads to contextually sensitive principles of design and theories. DBR is an iterative process which allows the correction and improvement of solutions as many times as needed in order to satisfy all needs of the student.”

3. “The most common teaching subject is mathematics, which is in some studies combined with physical education and reading. Mathematics is followed by the field of science and reading…Most common skills are logical skills (8 studies) followed by the holistic approach of competence development, which includes motor skills, perception, cognition and visual processing, and food (4 studies). Only one or two studies dealt with the areas of professional skills, socio-emotional skills and academic skills.”

Personal Takeaway

“Gamification” of learning is an area of teaching practice that fascinates me, and it is helpful to read Stančin et al.’s meta-analysis of the existing research on the effectiveness of digital learning tools for students with intellectual disability


Akane Yoshida

Summarized Article:

Stančin, K., Hoić-Božić, N., & Skočić Mihić, S. (2020). Using digital game-based learning for students with intellectual disabilities – A systematic literature review. Informatics in Education, 19(2), 323-341.

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While there are many studies out there that examine the general intrinsic motivation for physical activity, little research has been done on emotions as a crucial factor in understanding student motivation in a PE setting. By considering the students’ subjective emotional experiences, a more holistic understanding of physical activity behavior change and why students are not getting enough daily physical activity can be better understood.

The levels of physical activity in school-aged children  

In Germany, only 22.4% of girls and 29.4% of boys aged 3 to 17 reach the WHO guideline of physical activity, and their physical activity significantly decreases from age 3 to 17. Therefore, a deeper understanding of emotions among students during physical activity will better inform what is triggering their regular physical activity during leisure time. In addition, the control-value theory of learning and achievement emotions serves as an appropriate and established theoretical framework, as it presents antecedents and outcomes of emotions in school settings.

The benefits of perceived autonomy supports in student self-efficacy  

The sample consisted of 1030 student participants between 11 and 18 years who attended Grades 6 to 10 of the German Mittelschule, which is a type of school with the lowest educational level among secondary schools in Germany. 408 participants were female (39.6%), and 622 participants were male (60.4%). Whether or not the PE teacher was perceived to be providing cognitive autonomy and organizational autonomy supports positively predicted students’ academic self-efficacy in PE.

Furthermore, the students’ academic self-efficacy in PE positively predicted their enjoyment in PE, which had a negative effect on their anxiety in PE. The intrinsic value that students identified in PE also positively predicted students’ enjoyment and negatively predicted their anxiety.

The students’ enjoyment in PE was a positive predictor of their physical activity during leisure time.

Finally, perceived cognitive autonomy support provided by the PE teacher positively predicted students’ physical activity in leisure time via students’ PE-related academic self-efficacy, intrinsic value, enjoyment and anxiety.

Creating positive emotional experiences  

If students are provided the opportunity to influence their learning environment, they tend to have higher action-control expectancies and assign more relevance to their PE class. PE can be seen as a potentially powerful platform for the promotion of leisure-time physical activity, especially if it is conducted in a way that evokes regular positive achievement emotions in students while keeping negative ones on a minor level. This study suggests a substantial potential of emotional experiences in PE as a powerful predictor of physical behavior outside of school.

Notable Quotes: 

“Positive emotional experiences in PE could be seen as a main factor to increase physical activity in a lifelong perspective and could thus help students to improve their overall health.”

“PE teachers have the opportunity to create positive emotional experiences for students and to reduce the experience of negative emotions by use of autonomy-supportive teaching strategies.”

“PE exhibits the potential to affect students’ thoughts and feelings related to PE in leisure time and thus is a promising starting point for children and adolescents with regard to an active lifestyle in the long term.”

Personal Takeaway:

As special educators, we tend to focus on our students’ core subjects. We may easily forget the importance of PE and how emotions can play a big role in their motivation to do well in their physical activity. The findings of this study allow me to attend to the students’ emotional experience during physical activity in recess and PE classes. It will also allow me to use autonomy-supportive teaching strategies by considering the environment and creating opportunities in the classroom for physical activities they enjoy.


Michael Ho

Summarized Article: 

Zimmermann, J.; Tilga, H.; Bachner, J.; Demetriou, Y. The Effect of Teacher Autonomy Support on Leisure-Time Physical Activity via Cognitive Appraisals and Achievement Emotions: A Mediation Analysis Based on the Control-Value Theory. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 3987.

Key Takeaway: There are some studies supporting the notion that learning with ease suggests fluency and can lead to better performance. However, this can lead to a misconception that learning has to be easy and facing challenges is problematic. It is important to establish that difficulties are part of learning and that disfluency can open up possibilities for identity exploration. Virtual learning environments (VLEs) can be designed in such a way that they support this exploration, by looking at features such as gamification, engagement and connection, and learning supports. —Nika Espinosa

In their article, Oyserman and Dawson look at the framework of identity-based motivation and how it connects to virtual learning environments (VLEs). Identity-based motivation is about the self and the motivational power behind it. This includes procedural readiness, action readiness, and dynamic construction. “Together, these core aspects provide a framework for understanding the interplay between people’s sense of who they are, their actions, their interpretations of experienced ease and difficulty, and how learning environments may frame these processes.” 

The authors used the identity-based motivation lens to examine how to enhance VLEs. With the current global context, digital learning platforms have boomed. According to Lenhart (2016), “almost all (92%) adolescents currently go online daily and nearly three in four (72%) play games, regardless of their socioeconomic status, age, race, or gender.”1 But even before the global pandemic, as technology aims to further enhance our lives, digital platforms are increasingly being used in education. Oyserman and Dawson believe that VLEs have the potential to provide opportunities for identity exploration because they are versatile and dynamic. “As such, they can scaffold either a learn-with-ease norm that diminishes engagement with schoolwork and forecloses identity exploration or a learn-through-difficulty norm that enhances both.” Moving forward, we need to understand how to effectively use VLEs and how they can complement face-to-face learning.

In connection with identity-based motivation and the research mentioned by the authors, it can be inferred that students in a difficulty-as-importance context outperform students who are in a difficulty-as-impossibility context or even students who are not posed with either context. This is a consideration when designing VLEs. When VLEs are successful, they have the potential to improve engagement and connection when learning. “This is more likely when the VLE learning norm does not conflate ease with learning but instead links learning and engaging with difficulty.” According to the authors, VLEs can be used to identify probable future identities in relation to identity-based motivation. For example, an activity that is science-based could encourage the learner to consider a possible future in the same field. 

Meaningful learning comes with effort.2,3 When students acknowledge and accept the notion of difficulty-as-important, engagement and connection increase. In the context of well-designed VLEs, these can also be used to promote self-discovery.  

Article Summarized: 

Oyserman, D., & Dawson, A. (2021). Successful learning environments support and harness students’ identity-based motivation: A primer. The Journal of Experimental Education, 1–15.

Summary by: Nika Espinosa—Nika believes that personalized learning is at the heart of special education and strives to collaborate with educators in providing a holistic, personalized approach to supporting all learners through the MARIO Framework.

Additional References:

  1. Lenhart, A. (2016). Teens, social media & technology overview, Pew Research Center, internet/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/
  2. Kornell, N., & Bjork, R. A. (2007). The promise and perils of self-regulated study. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(2), 219–224.
  3. Yan, V. X., Bjork, E. L., & Bjork, R. A. (2016). On the difficulty of mending metacognitive illusions: A priori theo- ries, fluency effects, and misattributions of the interleaving benefit. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145(7), 918–933.