A concerted effort has been made in the past two decades to integrate Information
and Communication Technology (ICT) into English as a Foreign Language (EFL)
contexts, premised on its potentiality to facilitate L2 teaching and learning.
A high volume of theoretical reviews of ICT in language classroom verify that
ICT-based instructions prevail over traditional pedagogy (Dodge,
1995). However, with the increasing application of ICT in language classroom,
an undercurrent has occurred in the mainstream of compliments, doubting its
practical effectiveness. Correlative experiments reveal that ICT is not used
to its full potential (Dodge, 1995; Foshay
and Bergeron, 2000). According to latest developments in cognitive domain,
individual differences in belief, attitudes, learning experiences and skills
deeply impact the practical operation of ICT (Dodge, 1995;
Foshay and Bergeron, 2000). In response to this divergence,
WebQuests is one of the valuable trials, compounded with bidirectional relationship
between computer-based learning and individual differences (Maddux
and Cummings, 2007). Consequently, WebQuests is selected in this study to
identify the factors that are detrimental to learners motivation in ICT-based
Concept of WebQuests: Initiated by Dodge (1995),
the concept of WebQuests aims to equip learners with an instructional tool for
inquiry-oriented learning in ICT environment, based on learners needs
analysis. A well-designed WebQuests typically involves six components: (a) A
detailed introduction of background information, (b) A series of learner-centered
and well-organized tasks, (c) Sufficient information resources, (d) Description
of process clearly presenting the topics and objectives, (e) Guidance providing
step-by-step instructions in and out of classroom, (f) Conclusion focusing on
encouraging learners to evaluate and reflect on self knowledge acquisition.
The six components form a structured, design-based approach in which learners
interact with resources via the Internet, analyze and synthesize the information,
fulfill the tasks by interpersonal and collaborative skills and engage in higher-level
knowledge acquisition. The schematic diagram of WebQuests is shown in Fig.
WebQuests in EFL classroom: The effect of incorporating WebQuests into
classroom practices has been validated throughout diverse disciplines, including
science, teacher training and special primary education (Ikpeze
and Boyd, 2007; Allan and Street, 2007; Kleemans
et al., 2011).
|| Schematic diagram of WebQuests
These studies prove the practicality of WebQuests as a systematized, inquiry-based
interdisciplinary learning unit and herald the feasibility and prevalence of
adopting WebQuests into second language education domain.
As a matter of fact, pioneering studies have been conducted worldwide to experiment
the integration of WebQuests into L2 classroom. Chuo (2007)
surveyed Taiwanese EFL students perception of utilizing WebQuests in writing
class, concluding that WebQuests has irreplaceable superiority in
making subjects learning experience meaningful, valuable and motivating.
Sox and Rubinstein-Avila (2009) proved the operability
of WebQuests in secondary school EFL curriculum. The findings revealed that
WebQuests offers learners opportunities to integrate technology, content knowledge
development, together with linguistic accommodation. Exploring the effectiveness
of ICT in enhancing EFL students writing and reading performance, Kocoglu
(2010) investigated the versatility of WebQuests among 34 Turkish first-year
university students and proved that it increases two kinds of crucial elements
in language learning, namely, reading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition.
However, in spite of the numerous studies, an overriding proportion of existing
body of research on WebQuests focuses on its design and development merely from
the perspectives of teachers and educators. Little is known on learners
attitudes towards WebQuests as an instructional and learning tool, just as Maddux
and Cummings (2007) asserted: The lack of concern with the learner
is the major weakness of the WebQuests approach. Therefore, to shed more
light on the feasibility of WebQuests in L2 classroom, it is requisite and inevitable
to take learners individual features into account.
Demotivation in WebQuests contexts: It is theoretically and empirically verified that learners perception on WebQuests is impacted by both exterior factors involving learning environments and interior factors relating to learners individual differences, in the process of language learning. Hence, demotivation, one of the pivotal individual features to indicate learners inner procedures of knowledge acquisition and cognition, is chosen in this study as the breakthrough to examine learners insight into WebQuests by focusing on the detrimental factors or on the dark side of motives to language learning in ICT-based environment.
As a novel inter-disciplinary concept conjunct psychology and linguistics,
the connotation of demotivation is under divergence. Dornyeis
(2001) definition of specific external forces that reduce or diminish
the motivational basis of a behavioral intention or an ongoing action
used to prevail. However, with the advances in cognitive domain, the aforementioned
definition is challenged by psycholinguists based on a large scale of empirical
findings. Dornyeis definition is claimed to have confined the study of
demotivation to external factors (learning materials, syllabus, teachers, etc.)
and have excluded the other semi-sphere of demotivation, namely internal forces
due to individual differences (Falout et al., 2009;
Li, 2011; Zhou and Wang, 2012).
Consequently, subsequent studies optimize the definition as specific external
or/and internal forces that reduce or diminish the motivational basis of a behavioral
intention or an ongoing action (Li, 2013a). The
triggers (external and/or internal) of demotivation, is entitled demotivators
as in Fig. 2.
Demotivational research was initially introduced into SLA arena by European
and North American researchers. In Chambers (1993)
survey of 193 year-nine pupils and 7 teachers in UK, pupils blamed on teachers
as the major inducements of demotivation, whereas teachers designated their
counterparts inherent factors (family background, past language learning
experiences) as the main triggers.
|| Constitution of external/internal demotivators
Inspired by Chambers research, more empirical studies are conducted,
among which Asian researchers studies are worth reviewing. Investigating
656 Japanese high school EFL learners, Sakai and Kikuchi
(2009) concluded five demotivators, namely Teachers Competence and
Teaching Styles, Learning Contents and Materials, Inadequate School Facilities,
Lack of Intrinsic Motivation and Test Scores. By decoding the questionnaire
obtained from 6301 Korean pupils and 17 teachers, Kim (2011)
unveiled three demotivators, (1) Teachers immediacy, such as incongruence
with students needs, teachers impatience and disinterest in teaching/their
students, (2) Excessive social expectation of English proficiency, (3) The widening
English proficiency gap among peers.
With regard to Chinese EFL learners, Zhou and Wangs
(2012) survey of 766 participants extracted three external demotivators
and two internal ones. The external demotivators are Teachers Competence
and Teaching Styles, Curriculum and Materials and Inadequate Facilities, whereas
the internals are Lack of Intrinsic Interest and Learning Strategies Deficiency.
In Zhous (2012) subsequent study, 41 Chinese
college EFL learners and 36 Japanese counterparts were compared to reveal the
impact intensity of four demotivators, namely Teachers, Learning Contexts, Language
and Culture Background and Learners. The findings of these studies give insight
into Chinese college EFL learners demotivational phenomena caused by both
exterior and interior demotivators. Similar to Western EFL learners, the strongest
demotivator of Asian participants is the teacher, comprising teachers
attitudes toward students, teachers personalities, teaching methods and
teachers language proficiency.
Among these empirical studies, Lis (2013b) is
worth reviewing due to its theoretical roots in the nature of WebQuests. To
identify demotivators that hinder learners L2 acquisition within WebQuests
context, Li conducted a comparative study on 115 Chinese second-year college
EFL learners in both traditional teacher-dominated classroom and WebQuests-based
context. Six factors were presupposed as demotivators, including the Content
of Resources, the Function of Facilities, the Relationship with Peers, the Design
of the Course and Assignments, the Role of Instructor and Learner-self. The
result revealed learners in WebQuests context were more inclined to ascribe
their demotivation to disadvantages of the first three factors, highlighting
the features of WebQuests-based EFL learning that rely largely on information
communications technology. The findings of this study advance insights into
second language acquisition under WebQuests contexts on both theoretical and
practical scales. However, limitations exist in this study: (1) The pre-established
classifications of demotivators might exclude potential demotivators, (2) Learners
individual differences which are proven to be significant variables of demotivation
were not fully investigated due to the small scale of subjects, influencing
the validity of this comparative study, (3) Without guiding hypotheses, the
findings are more focused on superficial phenomenon rather than deepening its
Consequently, further research is needed to investigate the inner correlation
between WebQuests contexts and learners demotivation so as to explore
the nature of WebQuests, to deepen the understanding of L2 learning and most
importantly, to facilitate L2 learners language acquisition in WebQuests
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Research questions: The main objective of the study is to optimize ICT-related factors to reduce or diminish EFL learners demotivation in WebQuests context at theoretical and practical levels. Therefore, the research questions might be decoded into the following segments:
||What are the factors that significantly trigger Chinese college
EFL learners demotivation in WebQuests context?
||What individual variables impact on learners demotivation in a sheltered
Internet environment with the example of WebQuests?
Hypotheses: In terms of learners individual characteristics, variables like gender, major, learning experiences, significantly impact on learners demotivation in WebQuests-based EFL learning context. To be more specific and unequivocal, four hypotheses are hence proposed:
||Hypothesis 1: With reference to previous studies (Dodge,
1995; Allan and Street, 2007), it was hypothesized
that certain factors exert detrimental influence on Chinese college EFL
learners demotivation in WebQuests context besides the merits described
in preceding studies
||Hypothesis 2: It had been previously found that male students demotivated
to a higher degree when browsing further on the Internet while females were
more demotivated when teachers authority was weakened in WebQuests
context (Segers and Verhoeven, 2009) and it was
thus hypothesized in this study
||Hypothesis 3: For learners with different majors, it was supposed
that liberal arts majors manifested discrepant demotivational state from
engineering or science majors in WebQuests-based EFL learning context
||Hypothesis 4: It was assumed that the longer participants learned
in WebQuests environment, the more demotivated they were towards EFL learning
|| Participants information
Participants: Participants in this study were 217 EFL learners from one university in a medium-sized Chinese city. The mean age of the participants at the outset of the study was 19.8. The participants information is as shown in Table 1. A total of 131 boys and 86 girls were randomly selected, representing 12 different majors in three general categories: Engineering, Liberal Arts and Science. Among all participants, 28.1% were reported to have more than one year of WebQuests-based learning experience, while the others had no or little previous learning experience. All participants had some prior academic experience in learning English.
Methods: The experiment methods comprised two phases. In the first phase, blended qualitative approaches were adopted, including written feedbacks on open-end questions, in-person interviews and learners log. Data of participants demographic information and their perception of EFL learning in WebQuests contexts were collected as well. Certain individual variables, including gender, major, learning experiences and linguistic proficiency, were sorted out.
Based on the analysis of antecedent research and information obtained from the first phase, the WebQuests-based Demotivation Questionnaire (WBDQ) was designed and conducted in the second phase. The questionnaire comprised 50 items measured in 5-point Likert scales (1 for strongly disagree; 5 for strongly agree), reporting agreement with diverse demotivational grades. Three pre-tests were conducted before formal test.
Six tasks from Dodges Matrix of WebQuests (Dodge,
1995) were integrated into the EFL classroom intentionally. The six WebQuests
tasks showed no significant difference in terms of grade levels, topic or level
Data collection: To guarantee the reliability and validity of the study, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected and evaluated. Qualitative data were gathered through the content analysis of students essays and logs to extract possible triggers of demotivation while quantitative data were accumulated via questionnaires. In response to the hypotheses, mixed-methods of statistical analysis were designed with Statistical Program for Social Sciences (SPSS) 18.0.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The aim of this study was to further explore Chinese college EFL learners demotivators in WebQuests context and reveal the demotivating factors of learner-self in L2 acquisition. The discussion is laid out in accordance with the aforementioned four hypotheses.
Hypothesis 1-overview of detrimental factors: Table 2
illustrates the descriptive statistics of the items surveyed in the WBDQ, presenting
an overview of learners cognition of demotivation in WebQuests context
from different perspectives. Among the 50 items in total, Item 14 (misunderstanding
of peers ideas) ranked the highest of all, at 4.207 and was regarded as
the most demotivating element. Due to the emphasis on learners interpersonal
consciousness and cooperative ability, it was not surprising that subjects reacted
strongly to communicative deficiency. This phenomenon echoes Lis
(2013b) finding that learners are inclined to demotivate on encountering
difficulties in implementing the community activities in language classroom.
Besides Item 14, it is worth noticing that the means of other 14 items exceeded
|| Descriptive statistics of college participants questionnaire
responses on each item (N = 217)
These items adequately displayed their grave impact on participants
learning demotivation. The items are Item 8 (embarrassment in expressing ideas),
Item 4 (incapability in developing interpersonal skills), Item 20 (helplessness
in peer work), Item 5 (teachers insufficient participation), Item 2 (teachers
ambiguous explanation), Item 24 (inappropriate level of the course), Item 41
(teachers insufficient instructional support), Item 36 (incapability in
fulfilling assignments), Item 10 (goal-lost in learning), Item 48 (teachers
negative attitude), Item 50 (less confidence in fulfilling assignments), Item
29 (imbalance between information and instruction), Item 45 (unspecific and
unclear information) and Item 38 (teachers unidirectional explanations).
With regard to the principles of integrating ICT into language classroom, the 15 items listed above could be categorized into four types to highlight the demerits of WebQuests that influenced subjects language learning demotivation.
Internal demotivating factors: Four items listed above (8, 10, 36 and
50) correlated with learners internal drives to reduce or diminish their
motivation of language learning in WebQuests context. To be more specific, the
four items unveiled diverse aspects of internal factors. For instance, Item
8 and 10 illustrated subjects cognitive and affective insufficiency, Item
36 revealed participants learning strategy deficiency and Item 50 related
to lack of confidence in WebQuests context. The high mean value of the four
items (3.412) proved the significance of internal factors among Chinese college
EFL learners demotivation. Yet this phenomenon is alarming, as it might
elicit attribution bias, incurring learners down-spiral affective state
of self-blame (Zhou, 2012). Therefore, some attribution
training is suggested to dissociate subjects blame of demotivation from
internal factors, but certain external triggers instead.
Teachers role: The high mean value of the six teacher-correlative
items (2, 5, 29, 38, 41 and 48) in this study was 3.291, directly manifested
teachers detrimental influence on subjects. Similar to Sakai
and Kikuchis (2009) findings in traditional EFL classroom, teachers
incompetence (Item 2) and inappropriate teaching styles (Item 5 and 38) demotivated
learners as expected. Besides, teachers demotivational influence in WebQuests
context was revealed as well in this study. Teachers insufficient support
(Item 41), negative attitudes towards online learning (Item 48) and ill-defined
instructions (Item 29) exerted strong impact on learners demotivation.
In response to the teacher-related demotivating factors, sufficient correlated
teacher-training is recommended to overcome substantial obstacles to the seamless
integration of ICT into language classroom.
Ill-defined setting: Item 24 and 45, reaching the mean value of 3.364
and 3.097 respectively, reported significant impact triggered by the organizational
features of WebQuests. Falout et al. (2009)
prove that inappropriate level of courses and unclear information may further
exacerbate motivational problems in traditional classrooms. This statement applies
to WebQuests context as well. Inappropriate level of WebQuests setting leads
learners to experience incompetency and hurt their self-confidence, while over-loading
information may interrupt learners critical thinking and knowledge application.
Therefore, prudent needs analysis is demanded before setting WebQuests tasks.
Peer pressure: It is undeniable that WebQuests facilitates learners
social interaction skills (Dodge, 2001), yet Item 4,
14 and 20 unveiled the accompanying dark side in cooperative learning, namely
the negative pressure imposed by classmates. The mean value of the comprising
items was 4.005, ranking the highest of all. Similar findings are reported as
well among Japanese learners (Falout et al., 2009).
It is culturally explicable that East-Asian learners imbued in Confucianism
tend to be more introversive and are more inclined to be embarrassed and reluctant
to practice target language in front of peers. Therefore, cultural-specific
countermeasures in the designing and organizing of WebQuests tasks are to be
route-mapped to lessen language learners sense of frustration and thus
encourage social interaction.
||Item loadings in the factor analysis of male participants
||Item loadings in the factor analysis of female participants
Hypothesis 2-gender: The study was carried out to explore the correlation between Chinese college EFL learners individual variables and their demotivation in WebQuests context. The Bartletts Test of Sphericity was significant, revealing the data collected was adaptive for factor analysis. Consequently, principle component factor analysis was conducted (the cutoff point for loadings on each factor was set at 0.40) to examine the gender differences in Chinese college EFL learners demotivation. Table 3 and 4 illustrate the loading on each item within factors (demotivators) extracted for male and female participants respectively.
As to male participants, five factors were drawn out. Factor 1 included 8 items (2, 5, 21, 31, 34, 38, 41, 48), correlating with teachers teaching capacity, style and attitudes towards L2 instruction in WebQuests. Therefore, this factor was entitled The Teacher. Factor 2 contained seven items (7, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32, 44), reflecting how male participants were demotivated by inappropriate information and references in WebQuests tasks. This factor was named as Information and References. Factor 3 covered three items (14, 20, 40) and was labeled as Peers Influence, indicating the demotivating influence exerted by peers in interaction. Factor 4 consisted of three items: Item 17 and 24 revealed subjects aversion of ill-designed course whereas Item 18 targeted at the inappropriate amount of assignments for high-order thinking and learning autonomy. Hence, this factor was defined as Course Design. Factor 5, made up of three items (15, 26, 50), signified male subjects internal forces to reduce or diminish motivation in WebQuests-based EFL learning and was hence nominated Learner-self.
Meanwhile, the results of female participants are illustrated in Table 4. Factor 1 comprised six items (22, 28, 35, 46, 47, 49), adhering to teaching facilities and school equipment. Therefore, this factor was entitled Inadequate Facilities. Factor 2 included four items (2, 31, 34, 41), concerning teacher-related elements and was hence addressed as The Teacher. Factor 3, containing Item 1, 23, 27 and 45, proved inappropriate information and references, both in quantitative and qualitative forms, impaired participants motivation. This factor was entitled as Information and References. Factor 4 was named as Course Design as the constituent Item 18, 30 and 42 embodied the frustration elicited by ill-organized course and accompanying tasks. Factor 5 highlighted learners internal triggers of demotivation and was entitled as Learner-self.
Among the male and female participants categorization of demotivators,
four out of five were shared by both sides, namely The Teacher, Information
and References, Course Design and Learner-self. Peers Influence was unique
to male subjects, while Inadequate Facilities to female counterparts.
||Radar charts of the means on teacher-related items of male
and female participants
Besides the similarities of categories between male and female Chinese college
EFL learners, discrepancies still existed to be reviewed, involving the complexity
of teacher-related factors, the detrimental influences of peers within male
learners, as well as the emphasis of facilities by female counterparts.
In retrospect of previous demotivation studies, most learners report teachers as one of the most significant demotivators. Both male and female subjects of this study were of no exception. However, the constituent elements of this demotivator to both genders were not the same. In comparison with female learners who concerned more on teachers instructional role in classroom, male counterparts demanded more on teachers. Hence, teachers deficiency in overall qualifications in WebQuests, involving teaching competence, attitudes, motivation and even personality, is more likely to demotivate male learners than females. The complexity of teacher-related items presented in Fig. 3 exemplifies this discrepancy.
It is alarming to find the negative consequences of peer work stood out among
male participants in this study. Actually, the majority of learners with individual
differences are likely to be prone to fall victims of peer pressure. However,
male students tended to express contempt or jealousy more directly and aggressively
toward peers of the same gender according to data analysis. Therefore, male
learners are more likely to be outcast by peers and thus deprived of the opportunities
to practice English, consequently silenced and demotivated. The high mean value
of Item 14 (4.160) revealed learners anxiety in understanding peers
views and Item 20 (3.817) of subjects sense of helplessness in peer work.
This finding echoes Lis (2013b) former assertion
that male learners demotivation in interaction and cooperation outstands
further than that of females in WebQuests classroom. Therefore, reconsiderations
are needed to meticulously design and organize cooperative WebQuests tasks,
so as to construct social interaction for learners L2 acquisition within
The demotivator of Inadequate Facilities was unique to female participants
in this study. The inducement of this salience lies in the features of WebQuests
which demands highly of both technological facilities (Item 35, 46, 49) and
learners competence in manipulating the facilities (Item 22, 28, 47).
With the increasing integration of ICT into WebQuests-based EFL classroom, new
term of technology literacy emerges (Segers and Verhoeven,
2009), representing a wide range of crucial abilities targeting at learning
in Internet-based context, including: (1) Ability to find and assort the appropriate
information among the vast amount of resources available online, (2) Ability
to integrate newly required information into the acquisition of new knowledge,(
3) Ability to apply computer-based techniques into the problem-solving situations,
(4) Ability to reconsider and evaluate knowledge application and learning process
in the Internet-based environment. Female participants demotivation in
Inadequate Facilities revealed their increasing anxiety of technology literacy.
Rather than becoming technophile, females learners are afraid of being technophobia
within WebQuests, as learners are just not learning to deal with technology,
but are using the technology to enhance their high-order thinking and scaffold
learning within WebQuests, as well as other ICT-based EFL contexts.
Hypothesis 3-major: Paired-samples T test was conducted to evaluate
the statistical significance of discrepancies among participants from discriminating
major backgrounds. Results proved learners majored in Engineering, Liberal Arts
and Science manifested discrepant major-specific demotivational performance
in WebQuests-based L2 learning (p = 0.00). This finding accords with Segers
and Verhoevens (2009) assertion that in the perceptions of WebQuests,
major is shown to correlate with learners demotivation.
Figure 4 demonstrates all the 19 items with mean values exceeding 3.000 in any of the three majors. As discussed before, the mean values of Item 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 14, 20 and 36 went beyond 3.000 in all the three majors and did not have the statistical significance to show the distinction among different majors. The rest 11 items were studied hereby.
Engineering majors were demotivated the least in WebQuests as merely Item 25
(3.036) surpassed the mean value of 3.000. This item correlated with learnersdemotivation
of accomplishing WebQuests activities with their prior knowledge.
|| Selected items with mean value over 3.00 N (Engineering)
= 83, N (Liberal Arts) = 101, N (Sciences) = 33
|| Descriptive statistics of items between experienced and inexperienced
participants (N = 204, N = 13)
Since, engineering majors had sufficient experience in dealing with computer-based
tasks, the main attribution of this demotivating element lied in subjects
insufficient L2 proficiency or learning experience.
Meanwhile, liberal arts participants demotivated significantly on items related with teachers instructions, like Item 29 (3.327) and Item 41(3.802), revealing subjects over-dependence upon teachers instruction rather than learner autonomy within WebQuests. Consequently, the absence or ineffectiveness of tutors facilitation might lead to liberal arts learners deficiency in managing information obtained in WebQuests, as Item 1 (3.149) and Item 48 (3.406) proved.
With regard to science majors, demotivative elements covered a wide range of
fields, including the ill-designed assignments of WebQuests (Item 3, 24, 29),
the inadequate facilities (Item 6, 46), coupled with teachers negative
moods towards online learning (Item 48). This salience might result from the
features of science learners who emphasize on rational learning style and logical
way of thinking (Li, 2013b).
Hypothesis 4-learning experience in WebQuests: It was presupposed that experienced learners in WebQuests might pay more attention to negative factors of WebQuests as aforementioned. In this study, the correlation between Chinese college EFL learners demotivation and learning experience in WebQuests had been confirmed. However, the result was contrary to the hypothesis. New learners (less than one years experience) in this survey were found to be more demotivated in WebQuests-based L2 learning. As one participant with more than two years experience in WebQuests reported, he would not be easily demotivated in WebQuests due to the sufficient experience accumulated. In line with qualitative feedback, the quantitative data revealed noticeable discrepancy between the two subgroups as well. The average mean value on all 50 items of new learners was 2.801, significantly surpassed that of experienced counterparts (2.060). In addition, new learners scored higher on the mean value of most items than the others (Fig. 5). Therefore, it can be concluded that Chinese college EFL learners with little or no learning experience in WebQuests are more inclined to be negatively affected by detrimental elements of English language learning within WebQuests contexts.
In response to the experience-related phenomena, sufficient correlated WebQuests-training is suggested, recommending teachers to introduce WebQuests-based practices so as to familiarize EFL learners with this type of Internet-based L2 learning.
There is an agreement that integrating WebQuests into classroom is responsible for organizing learning process and encouraging learners autonomy in classroom, which are regarded as key factors in developing deep approaches to L2 learning. However, some problematic aspects of WebQuests have a real influence on learners demotivation to long-term learning in ICT-based environment. Therefore, the field is still open to advances but especially so in terms of the application of new technology-driven approaches to foreign language teaching and learning, a field in which many foreign language teachers feel unfamiliar.
This study is sponsored by the Youth Foundation of Humanities and Social Science of Chinese Ministry of Education (13YJC740044), China Foreign Language Education Funds (ZGWYJYJJ2012A55), Zhejiang Philosophy and Social Science Planning Project (13NDJC131YB) and Zhejiang Province Education Science and Planning Project (2014SCG271).