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A rose by any other name…?

January 7, 2012

Dogme has been getting a lot of coverage recently. Yesterday it featured highly at the IHDoS conference, which I and many others followed on Twitter thanks to those attendees such as @shaunwilden and @chiasuan who did a fabulous job of tweeting the event as it happened. (You can also read a great summary from @mcneilmahon of the day’s events here.)

Unsurprisingly, not everyone sees this coverage as a good thing, and there are many people out there who harbour reservations towards Dogme / unplugged teaching. One Tweet I saw expressed the hope that Dogme wouldn’t dominate the panel discussion at the end of the day. This is, of course, absolutely justified. We don’t attend (or ‘tweetend’?!) conferences to only hear about one subject. That’s boring, unhelpful and can often seem like preaching to the converted whilst the others leave the room to make a cuppa.

That said, when there’s a new kid in town, especially one who is seen as fairly controversial or simply a fraud, I believe we should lend some time to its analysis, break it down and see what it’s made of, challenge it, confront it, test it, question it. Without this process of enquiry, how can we know if what we are dealing with is worth its weight in board markers, or is in fact not the game-changer its proponents would argue, but rather an existing method/technique/attitude that has been given a (new) label.

But what does it mean?

I have read and been part of many conversations online about what Dogme really is. The first issue seems to be whether we call it a method, an approach or, as I believe Anthony Gaughan first said (correct me if I am wrong here…) an attitude.

Let’s see:

“A method is a system for the teaching of a language that is based either on a particular theory of language or on a particular theory of learning, or (usually) on both.” (Thornbury, 2006:131)

Approach —> Method” (Thornbury, 2006:14)

So let’s, for arguments sake, take these as one and the same, because, as I perceive it, the idea of attitude is where the interesting distinction lies.

As there is no entry in the A-Z of ELT for “attitude” in terms of teaching, let’s take what it says about learning –

“Your attitude to language learning is the way you feel about it”. (Ibid:20)

Change learning to teaching, and perhaps this provides the reason for Dogme as an attitude?

In light of this, I can see Dogme as a method/approach in that it is based upon the theory that the people in the room should be the centre of the action, that an overload of material can stifle learning, that the learners’ interests should drive the lesson etc.. However, I also see it as an attitude in that I feel differently about my teaching, and about the learning which takes place in my lessons, than I did before going unplugged. By this I mean that I don’t start my lessons with the thought “We’ve got a lot to get through.” I don’t get annoyed when the topic changes course and takes us down another path. I am open to suggestion, to interpretation, to ideas, to change. When I was attached to a bunch of photocopies or a book, however much I would like to believe that I was student-centred, I strongly think I am much more so now.

Scott Thornbury defines ‘Dogme ELT’ as

“the name of a loose collective of teachers…” (Ibid:70)

But surely it’s more than this now? Or is it? Does it need to be more than this to be worth the time spent discussing it?

Practically speaking…

So what does Dogme mean in the classroom then? Beyond it being student-centred, materials-light and conversation-driven? Surely this can be done when using a range of other methods? (Is that what makes it an attitude then…?)

There have been many conversations online, and I am sure in staffrooms, pubs and corridors, about what a true Dogmetician does that makes them so different. The actual catalyst for this blog post was a reply to a comment I made on Neil McMahon’s blog last night.

Neil wrote:

“Whether this means I’ve done Dogme or not I really don’t care.”

Who does care what we do in class is called? Why does it need to have a name at all?

Labels enable discourse. We can’t go around using long-winded terms such as “teaching without coursebooks and dealing with emerging language whilst …” etc.. etc.. This would be like referring to Audiolingualism as “teaching using habit-formation, lots of drilling and a strong focus on accuracy”. A name helps us categorise, but that doesn’t mean we have to be so dogmatic about it.

Surely, just as a teacher using Desuggestopedia may decide not to use posters on the wall that make the room conducive to that method’s beliefs about learning, a Dogmetician can enter the room with some paper once in a while? If not, why not? Who says?

Is Dogme being criticised and scrutinised more than we do other methods? I mean, if we look at so-called Communicative Language Teaching we see this idea of student-centredness often realised as a cover for rather uncommunicative classrooms where the book leads the way and teachers often exclaim things like “I just can’t get them to speak!” So this label of “communicative” is actually false, no? Therefore, why insist that Dogme teaching has to be something so tightly defined that no one can put their own stamp on it? Are we, in this world of ELT, too caught up on labels, terms and definitions? I would hazard a guess that yes, we are.

Dale Coulter commented in his IaskU interview with Chiew Pang recently that Dogme is what the teacher interprets it as. Adam Beale, Chiew and I recently discussed this topic on Adam’s blog because he was worried that his (very interesting) Dogme experiment wasn’t actually Dogme anymore.

Shouldn’t we be intent on providing the best we can for our students, in their context, with their needs, rather than jumping around pigeon-holing things to the point that good teachers become worried about what it is they are doing?

I have rambled, now it’s your turn…

I look forward to what transpires below…

References.

Thornbury, S. 2006. An A-Z of ELT, Macmillan.

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86 Comments leave one →
  1. January 7, 2012 12:41 pm

    Hi Jemma. This is as fine an introduction to dogme as I’ve read anywhere, including the work of the leading protagonists of the *movement*.

    I’ve written in a couple of posts that I see dogme as a lens through which to view any particular methodological approach: you can have more or less control based on what you perceive your role to be. A dogme lesson can resemble PPP and, just as easily, TBL. For me dogme has merely meant increasing the extent to which students are involved in reaching objectives based on the course content I’m obliged to teach.

    I think dogme is criticized to a greater extent than other ideas and there is a very clear reason for this: many who espouse this concept do so from an extremely self-righteous position, discarding all other methods as inferior and lesser in terms of actually teaching students. This is complete gobbledygook and does the cause no good, nor does the suggestion that coursebooks have no value whatsoever. I’m afraid that many who would regard themselves as liberal and progressive in their adoption of the dogme philosophy have in fact closed themselves off from more traditional ideas, most of which have benefits and can really deliver in terms of language acquisition.

    • January 7, 2012 1:01 pm

      Hi Adam,

      Thanks for your comment, I agree with a lot of what you say here.

      The concept of a “lens through which to view any particular method” makes sense to me. Perhaps that’s where Dogme is actually a game-changer then, because it casts a different perspective on methods which already exist, rather than trying to be something totally new? Although, the problem there is that it IS trying to be something new, isn’t it? The “holier-than-thou” position that some people may take regarding Dogme does not help us to see it as a new perspective, it only makes people angry and unreceptive. This is not the way to change the ELT world from one of pseudo-communicative teaching to real student-centred teaching. We need to be more open to ideas, and more open to allowing those ideas to be osmosed into what what we already have in our rather large repertoire.

      Jem

  2. January 7, 2012 12:56 pm

    Well, I can only agree with Adam, firstly on the excellence of this post, it’s fantastic, and secondly, on the degree to which any method is adhered to. I’m trying to draw a diagram, a graph, with one of the axes “structured/unstructured”, but I can’t decide on the other. Perhaps you could suggest one. Then, all methods/approaches/attitudes could be plotted on it, not as a dot, but more of a blurry circle as, as everyone seems to agree, all can be followed to a greater or lesser degree. There will be big overlaps between these circles to. The graph could even be 3-D. (Should I post this, or file it under “incoherent ramblings that need greater thought and clarity?)

    • January 7, 2012 1:11 pm

      Hi David,
      Thanks very much for stopping by and for your compliment (and Adam too!).
      POST IT!!! Wow, I love this idea. So, structured vs unstructured. Perhaps this needs to be defined further? If we are to plot everything from grammar translation through to Dogme, then we need to think about the focus on communication vs focus on cognitive enhancement? Also, accuracy vs fluency?
      Oh, make it 3d! Maybe some AutoCAD is needed?
      Great idea, David. I look forward to the result!

    • January 7, 2012 1:12 pm

      My take on it is that you draw a diagram of a particular methodology and than view it through some receptacle – rose-tinted glasses for example – that give the diagram a lovely pinkish hue: that’s what dogme should be doing for you.

      • January 7, 2012 1:53 pm

        I like it Adam!

        But then, the connotation with rose-tinted is of course that the reality is not so wonderful as that which is perceived through the glasses, isn’t it?

        Is that the problem that many people have with Dogme then? It appears to them to just be a smokescreen for lazy teaching, or making a conversation lesson sound like it’s actually doing something useful?

  3. January 7, 2012 1:09 pm

    Hi Jemma,

    Echoing Adam above, I think this is a fine addition to the ongoing debate. Nice to read something rational and measured rather than an all-out attack or a self-righteous (to echo Adam again) defence.

    The ‘loose collective’ quote is an interesting one as I feel this is both a strength and a weakness for dogme. As a strength, it does not dictate anything about what should take place in the language classroom and is open to interpretation. That’s why it seems adaptable to so many different contexts and appealing to those who are fed up of being told what to teach and how to teach it. The weakness, however, is that it is more open to criticism as those who refute the idea start to pick holes in it or claim that the goal posts are being moved when a counter-arguement emerges.

    Personally, I don’t class myself as a ‘Dogmetician’ – the syllabus I have to follow and the books it is based on prevent that. However, observing and joining the debate has made me a better teacher. I am now happy to go with the flow in class whether it is what was intended beforehand or not and see such unplugged moments as learning opportunities rather than distracting tangents.

    • January 7, 2012 1:14 pm

      Quoting Dave: ‘observing and joining the debate has made me a better teacher. I am now happy to go with the flow in class whether it is what was intended beforehand or not and see such unplugged moments as learning opportunities rather than distracting tangents.’

      Thus is defined my teaching philosophy.

    • January 7, 2012 1:22 pm

      Thanks Dave,

      I didn’t want to become part of the barking-Dogme lot. Glad I have managed not to, however strongly I may actually believe in Dogme.

      Interpretation seems to be the key to Dogme, which as you say is both a strength and a weakness. It seems, from what I gathered from Luke Meddings and Jeremy Harmer’s IHDoS discussion yesterday, that this is exactly where Dogme finds itself – stuck between being something adaptable, but being told to get in a box.

      It’s teachers such as yourself that prove that Dogme can be a force for good when no taken in its entirety. Just as perhaps using snippets of the Silent Way can be too. We don’t have to go “whole hog” to be effective. This is where Chia’s “Improvised Principled Eclectisism” comes in, I think.

      I actually love the phrase “Learning opportunities”. If there’s nothing else that I would love to see my trainees take advantage of, it’s those moments. Good on you for adapting your style to fit the remit of your context.

  4. January 7, 2012 2:02 pm

    Jem,

    What a super post! This needs to go straight into the unplugged library! One thing that struck me the most is how you referred to Dogme as ‘the attitude’. I think I’m echoing the thoughts of other commentators and Dogmeticians when I say the attitude gives me space to work with my students. With, not on…

    Adam, good comment, you’ve hit the nail on the head there; self-righteous people ruffle feathers, so expect to be criticised. Also, critics shouldn’t be surprised when various bombardments provoke a new-born idea to reposition itself slightly; it shows they heard you, right? I guess in the meantime we can let them fight it out and benefit from not 100% dedicating ourselves to a single set of rules, philosophies, techniques and practices, developing our teaching philosophy, which after all, is unique.

    I just wanted to clarify a point though because I’m not sure I understood properly, what does “have closed themselves off to more traditional ideas” mean? What are more traditional ideas and who is closed to them? Would you say this phenomenon is unique to Dogme?

    Dale

  5. January 7, 2012 2:17 pm

    Hi Dale,

    Thanks very much! A rather productive Saturday morning, I guess..

    It’s a shame that there are people out there who have done this feather-ruffling to the extreme that the Dogme-lot are seen to some as these ‘airy-fairy lot who think they’re special when in fact they’re just lazy’.

    I would like to have been there at the advent of Audiolingualism though, to see if they same happened then, but obviously on a less global scale due to the limited internet they had back in the 70s (!).

    Perhaps that’s it, the internet sparks debate, comment, idea crystallisation, argument etc.. and therefore we live in an age where these new ideas can be dissected more publicly in the past, or at least more immediately as we don’t have to wait for the next edition of the ELTj to come out.

    I see this as a great thing. Bring on debate. It only makes us better.

  6. January 7, 2012 2:49 pm

    Just like Dave, I’m not a pure-breed dogmetician either, and labels really don’t mean anything to me. It is, however, good to have people such as Luke, Scott & Anthony defending it tooth and nail if only to make others aware of the strengths of this approach of teaching.

    For me, regardless of how you teach, the important thing is to be aware of the students – that they aren’t there just to make the numbers.

    What dogme has done for me is to give me a professional licence to steer according to the prevalent wind in class, you know, like it is perfectly OK to ignore the coursebook plan, like it is OK to start the class with a how-are-you and not feel guilty that you’d spent an hour talking of anything but what you’d planned for the class, that it’s OK to teach seven different structures in one lesson…

    I do get incensed, though, when critics suggest dogme as winging it or that it doesn’t teach grammar. I also get extremely annoyed at teachers who strictly follow their coursebooks (hell, some of them know their books by heart that they no longer prepare their classes, that they don’t even know where they’d stopped before); I get irritated when they tell students, “Ah, that’s complicated. To express that, you’d need the future perfect, which you won’t study until two year’s time.”

    “That ain’t dogme, that’s good teaching” – heard that one before? Yeah, lots of time, right? Just as Scott has said many times before, all that dogme is saying is that “it is all right for you to do that, that you don’t have to feel guilty about it.”

    Good teaching by any other name is just as good.

    • January 9, 2012 11:39 am

      Hi Chiew,

      Thanks for your comment.

      I think what you say about the coursebooks/course plans dictating which structures come first is very true. I find that, given context and purpose, students of any level can cope with almost any structure. Ok, so you wouldn’t try to teach the use of past perf cont to a beginner, but I think that we can give our learners more credit than they are often afforded by writers. We know them best, as learners. We know what they want to say, if we are prepared to listen. We can help them reach further and do better than they think, if we are only willing to believe in them and believe in ourselves as educators.

      Jem

  7. January 7, 2012 3:03 pm

    I don’t know the difference between “approach” and “attitude”. Please can someone highlight the difference if there is one.

    The Richards and Rodgers book that defines approaches and methods, and which I believe Scott is quoting from, says that an approach is based on two theories, a theory of language – what language is, and a theory of learning- how we best learn. If you think that people learn best when the topic/content is personal to them, their input is valued and important to the lesson development, indeed, it IS the lesson, that learning is not linear, but cyclical, and builds on what the learner already knows, then this is the learning theory that you (by which I mean, me) subscribe to. In R+R terminology, I’d call this an approach. Isn’t “attitude” the same thing?

    • January 7, 2012 3:10 pm

      This is really distracting me from what I ought to be doing… 😉
      From a layman’s point of view:
      Imagine an attacking dog… 😉
      Attitude describes what I think and feel about the situation.
      Approach describes how I’m going to deal with the situation.
      Primitive?

  8. January 7, 2012 3:21 pm

    Hi Chiew, not sure I agree. Wouldn’t how I deal with the dog be a method?

    • January 7, 2012 3:47 pm

      But you were asking for the difference between approach and attitude.
      Is there a difference between approach and method? Perhaps.
      If I decide to attack the dog – that’s my attitude, right? My fear is also an attitude, right?
      I’m going to use my bare hands – that’s an approach, right?
      Strangling? Boxing? Karate chop? That’s a method. A method suggests some kind of established procedure.
      If I decide to use my bare hands but play it by ear….that’s winging it or unplugged?

      • January 9, 2012 11:52 am

        Hi David, hi Chiew,

        I like your analogy there Chiew, not primitive, just accessible?!

        Some books seem to categorise the two differently, others don’t. I think, as I say in my post, that the difference I find interesting in the labelling of Dogme is between attitude and approach/method, rather than between approach and method. An attitude seems to me to be much more globally applicable. We can see things differently with an attitude. With an approach, we decide to deal with things in a certain way. A dogmetician will see learning opportunities in their lessons more, and will make the most of those moments, but in different ways. The way in which they deal with those learning opportunities would be the approach (correction/reformulation/drilling/translating etc..)

        Does that make sense?

        Jem

  9. January 7, 2012 4:11 pm

    Hi Jemma,

    Actually, Dogme ELT has been getting a lot of coverage over the past two years in particular, and the overlap with an explosion in social media and teacher blogging (as well as access to ideas and materials) strikes me as being no coincidence. In the teaching blogosphere in particular, Dogme has found a very resonating voice.

    It’s absolutely worth continuing to explore and analyze this ‘idea’ because it’s quite clear it’s not going to just flop over and die as a sort of fad or something. More often that not, it appears those teachers who try Dogme get an exhilarating experience out of it, and I think it only fair to assume in most all of those cases the teachers concerned are looking at a much wider classroom picture (and not just personal preferences or anti-coursebook diatribes).

    Good ideas, put into action and tested, tend to stick and grow. This is the case with Dogme, methinks.

    And what is really telling to me is that the main ‘doubters’ consistently appear to be people who (a) haven’t actually taught in classrooms for decades, and/or (b) have decidedly vested interests with coursebook publishers.

    It can be particularly hard to cop criticism about the success and vibe you achieve in a classroom via a new method/approach/attitude (and by new I mean this could just be ‘new’ to you as a teacher) when it is coming from people who don’t teach, haven’t taught in ages, and have a vested interest in continuing to have teachers rely on their books.

    🙂

    Happy New Year from Mr. Raven.

    • January 9, 2012 12:41 pm

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      The “exhilarating experience” you mention reminded me of my first “full-Dogme” experience. By that, I mean when I knew the name Dogme, and I entered the class without knowing what was going to happen, but that I was going to try to think of activities on the spot. I did this during the beginning of my Delta when I spent 2 weeks at IH London before heading back to Hamburg to do the rest of the course distance learning. It was an observed lesson, both by my tutor and 4 other Deltees. I had only met the students once before. I was SO scared. But also, really excited. I felt liberated, sitting there before the lesson waiting to start. And once I started, it really was exhilarating! I finished that 45mins on an absolute high. And I haven’t looked back since.

      It’s not surprising that those with vested interests in published material can be anti-Dogme. I think your approach to it with the range of material on your website finds a happy balance.

      I sincerely hope that this discussion can continue, both online and off, amongst believers and nay-sayers. There’s no reason why we all have to agree, but there is a reason why we should all attempt to understand the other perspective regardless where our wages come from.

      Happy new year!
      Jem

  10. January 7, 2012 4:47 pm

    This is brilliant.

    I find it disappointing that Dogme gets so much criticism but every EFL course does spend time criticising methods/approaching but then people use them anyway.

    Methods are based on theories of language learning and are supposed to provide the optimal learning experience based on how they think language is learned.Sadly, we may never really know how we learn language and so be stuck with doing a bit of this/that like in the traditional TEFL mishmash of methods, whether this is the optimal mix I’m not sure.

    Eventually, we all come to some idea of what teaching/learning is for us. I’ve heard people say “teaching is about putting my students first” or “teaching is about helping students communicate”. We also come to some decision about how we think language is learned and the best methods that we can use. I think Dogme solidifies the views many of us have held for a long time ie ‘REAL conversation’ and ‘working at the students level’ it also is reflects many people’s exasperation with the huge amount of materials some of us are told to use. Being told that some of the biggest names in EFL say that conversation/Mat light/emergent teaching is not only useful but very useful has reaffirmed a lot of our belief in ourselves, how we want to teach, how we think teaching should be and also what knew wasn’t working.

    Names, names, names don’t matter (big paraphrase of the Tao) If you got 5 EFL teachers in a room and got down to what they really think works very few if any would say “teaching is about completing every exercise in a book” but they may do it because that’s how their school works. Call it want you want but we could even just call it student-centred teaching as this means less book and a focus on emergent language/ideas.

    • January 7, 2012 7:54 pm

      OK 1 more while we’re ranting.

      Teaching. Why do we insist on using this word for Dogme? I’ve always been of the opinion that students are learners which is also what many people are calling them nowadays. There is also more of a sense of us being supporters,developers or moulders of their learning. This is what I like about Dogme! I the teacher am not the centre and giver of all information I can be found sitting in groups, walking round and talking or being asked questions, encouraging students to discover and work stuff out Yes, the language focus bits are a bit teachery but more supportive.

      I for one am much happier with this way of ‘teaching’ but what do we call it? Training? Supporting? Cementing? Formalising? Perfecting? And what would your name badge say ‘Bob Smith EFL Cementer’?

      • January 8, 2012 6:21 pm

        Facilitator? I like that one, since I see my role as making it easier for my students (participants?) to use English to communicate. Maybe it ties in with the idea of affordances as well — we help learners notice and take advantage of learning opportunities that exist in their environment. And not just the classroom, I hope! Occasionally, a bit of teaching facilitates the process, but my ability to decide when it’s appropriate and to do it well … is that yet another affordance?

      • January 9, 2012 1:07 pm

        Hi Kathy and Phil,

        Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

        I think labels in general can be destructive. They immediately give us expectations built upon what we think a teacher/student/whatever should be. As many of us know, there’s more to being a “teacher” than working through exercises in a book, but if the people we work with have that expectation of a “teacher” then that is what will be expected of us. Just as if “materials light” = winging it = going in without a fixed lesson plan, then we will be criticised for not documenting our minute by minute plan for the lessons.

        I, too, like facilitator, but I think that’s just part of our role. I often have the discussion with my trainees at some point about the different roles of a teacher. We tend to brainstorm them on the board and see how many they can come up with. There’s normally around 20 before I stop them. There’s probably lots more. This shows that we can’t put one over-arching label on ourselves. And we shouldn’t. Education is constantly evolving, and it’s the more traditional teacher-roles which are seen less and less nowadays (in most contexts), such as teacher-as-lecturer, that show we are heading in the right direction: One of collaboration.
        This all relates to learner-autonomy, I think. By collaborating rather than lecturing, we can help our students become better learners, both inside and outside the classroom. Surely that’s an aim we all want to achieve?

        Jem

      • January 10, 2012 12:52 am

        Hi Jem,

        I totally agree that expectations that arise from a limited view of what a teacher’s role is can be a source of difficulty. I also agree that using a different name (facilitator) is subject to the same problem. Ya can’t win!

        I’m not terribly stuck on labels (or isms, for that matter) but I do think that trying on different names is one way of exploring how we view ourselves. As someone who works in an ESL environment with adults, many of whom know far more that I do on a wide variety of topics (including teaching), I find the word facilitator to be the most comfortable when I try it on. That says something about me, not about the profession! I’ve considered the words trainer and coach, too. In the end, I don’t really care what word other people use. (Well, I do hope it’s something that can be said in mixed company!) My business card says “educator”. I ask my learners to call me “Kathy”.

        Thanks so much for this great forum!
        Kathy

  11. January 8, 2012 11:35 am

    Hi David (and Chiew)

    According to R+R – if we’re quoting from the same book “Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching” (2001) – an approach is “based explicitly on […] philosophical principles to do with the nature of language, psychological principles to do with the nature of learning, and within a broader socio-political educational principles, to do with the purpose of education”. I think he draws here on Olshtain & Dubin (1986) who describe it in similar terms. Not trying to impress you with citations here, it’s just we had the same confusion on our Syllabus Design course when I was doing my MA. So I had to look into it more closely.

    According to Michael Lewis, an approach is an “integrated set of theoretical and practical beliefs, embodying both syllabus and method”. (from his Lexical Approach, 1993)
    To put it laconically, a method is the how of language teaching and approach is the why (and syllabus is the what but it’s outside the scope of the present discussion 🙂

    (Can’t seem to bold or italicise)

    LEO

    • January 8, 2012 4:46 pm

      Hi Leo, thanks for replying, yes, that’s the book. This all makes sense, and this is what I thought. So where does “attitude” fit in? It still seems to me that my attitude to teaching/learning and therefore my attitude to e.g. affordances is bound up in which approach I believe in.

  12. January 8, 2012 2:29 pm

    I’ll go with that and it’s why CBI is seen as an approach. What I find amusing is when there is so much argument over what these things are that nobody can decide on a real definition. Perhaps we can say the same about Dogme. I have just realised though that many of us, at the start at least, use the structure of discussion, language focus, practice, more talk etc. Jason Renshaw did a blog post on this I recall that pinpointed exactly what a TU lesson seemed to run like while Luke has said it’s about speaking then dropping down a gear to look at what was said and then going back to speed for more speaking (very badly explained, I’m sorry). For me, when I read about the 3 rules of TU and saw some lesson plans I couldn’t get to grips with it until I knew a basic lesson skeleton from which to work. Now, I don’t stick to it exactly but it’s still my benchmark. How about other people?

    • January 10, 2012 9:22 am

      Hi Phil,

      Thanks for more commenting1 🙂

      I just wanted to say that I find Luke’s idea of “dropping down a gear” really useful. I think it’s this that really sets Dogme apart from “just a conversation lesson” or simply “going with the flow”. There are moments when the people in the room pause proceedings and have a think about what has just been said, analyse it and then do it better/continue/expand it etc…

      Incredibly useful way of picturing a TU lesson, I think.

      Jem

  13. January 8, 2012 3:13 pm

    Hi Jemma,
    An excellent post which makes a lot of sense and which, along with your questions on my original post, has made me reflect on my reaction to Dogme. As you responded to me with a blog post, I have done the same here: http://amuseamuses.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/who-needs-dogme/
    For me, Dogme is neither an approach or a method, not even a technique. Attitude is an interesting take, but it doesn’t quite fit for me (despite the ‘attitude’ Dogme seems to provoke in a lot of us).
    Looking forward to hearing what you think of my Dogme conclusions…

    • January 10, 2012 9:24 am

      Sorry for the delay in replying, Neil. I’ve been hosting and not had the time to sit down and think about all of this.

      Thanks for your blog post, I plan to get down to replying later on today.

      Till then..

      Jem

  14. January 8, 2012 5:00 pm

    Great post Jemma. You have touched on a lot of points that I am hoping to include in my next post. I really want to comment but I get the feeling I would go on and on, So, I will save it for the post. Your comment has clearly hit the spot with a lot of people. Some great comments on here.

    • January 10, 2012 9:30 am

      Hi Adam!

      Nice to have you back! 🙂

      I am really looking forward to reading your next post then! You inspired a lot of the thought that went into this post, and so thank you! Some spots have certainly been hit… Excellent!

      Jem

  15. January 8, 2012 7:03 pm

    Hi (again) David and Neil
    So maybe we should all just drop the attitude? 🙂
    LEO

  16. Claudia permalink
    January 8, 2012 8:22 pm

    Dear Jem,
    I think that labelling things not only makes it easier for us to talk about them but also will we as teachers know – to a certain extent at least – what a school expects of us when we know what general view on teaching (attitude) they take.
    I believe to a certain extent that the Dogme discussion is industry driven. Just think of all the profits not to be made if all teachers said their goodbyes to resources. Therefore, dogme might just be criticized harder than any other method that still heavily relies on materials that can be bought.
    However, I absolutely agree with Adam. I don’t care about the label to my teaching as long as the students are happy and feel that my lesson helped them getting better at something that they had wanted to get better at. And yes, I come prepared after I spent a lot of thought at home on analyzing their needs. But, I don’t cling to the plan but adjust it to additional needs that arise during the lesson.

    • January 10, 2012 9:35 am

      Hi Claudia,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! Sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

      Yes, Labels can help us talk about things, but they can also cloud the reality of what is really going on. I think that a DoS could easily misconstrue a teacher’s perspective if they had different ideas of what a certain label means, no? Especially in the case of Dogme. I can imagine that there are many people in managerial positions out there who think that Dogme means “winging it” etc… and would therefore shy away from employing anyone who espouses it as a fully-functioning and useful method/approach/etc…

      I definitely agree with what you say about coursebook writers. And, as Jason says above, whether someone is active in the classroom or has vested interests in coursebooks seems to have a correlation with their beliefs about Dogme.

      Jem

    • January 13, 2012 2:02 pm

      The makers of Post-It notes are laughing all the way to the bank!!

  17. January 8, 2012 10:57 pm

    A great post, Jemma. As a relative newbie, I learn a lot more from back and forth that questions different viewpoints than from a love-fest between True Believers. This discussion has given tons of grist for the mental mill, thanks!

    I’ve had a tenuous grip on the idea of “emergence” — which can’t be good if that’s one of the main principles of Dogme — so I’ve been surfing around trying to get a better idea of what the word means. A very helpful document by Ellis (see link below) says

    “Recent research in the cognitive sciences has demonstrated that patterns of use strongly affect how language is acquired, used, and changes over time. These processes are not independent from one another but are facets of the same complex adaptive system (CAS).”

    and

    “The structures of language emerge from interrelated patterns of experience, social interaction, and cognitive mechanisms.”

    The old framework of teaching, where students are supposed to absorb the contents of grammar books and dictionaries with the help of activities and exercises from textbooks simply doesn’t support this more dynamic view. Publishers have attempted to keep up with new developments, but their changes are grafted onto the old framework. (After several canned activities, Exercise D says: “Now talk to your partner about your own experience.”)

    I think Dogme asks if we shouldn’t consider redesigning from the ground up. Teaching Unplugged proposes many practical ideas, but it leaves a lot unsaid. And perhaps rightly so, since this direction of research is relatively new. What’s to be said isn’t fully known yet.

    Phil noted above that he found lesson skeletons helpful (me too). Hey, maybe with enough examples, the form of Dogme will emerge! Wait a minute, maybe that’s not as much of a joke as I meant it to be …

    BTW, Jason Renshaw has given a lot of creative thought to rethinking materials from the ground up, with an unplugged perspective in mind. He’s shared “open source” resources on his website. Has anyone tried them? What do you think?

  18. January 8, 2012 10:58 pm

    Ack! Here’s the link: http://www.santafe.edu/media/workingpapers/08-12-047.pdf

    • January 9, 2012 8:52 pm

      Great post, Jemma, and fascinating discussion. If I had to pick out a single sound-bite it would be Dave’s comment (re-posted by Adam), to the effect:

      “…observing and joining the debate has made me a better teacher. I am now happy to go with the flow in class whether it is what was intended beforehand or not and see such unplugged moments as learning opportunities rather than distracting tangents.”

      On the subject of emergence, thanks for that link, Kathy. Here’s something I wrote just the other day, as part of a book chapter to come out next year. Think of this is as a sneak preview!

      “In effect, Dogme attempts to accommodate two kinds of emergence: at the social, or macro-level, where language emerges out of collaborative activity, and at the individual, or micro-level, where each learner’s developing linguistic system evolves out of the need to satisfy their social and communicative needs. At the social level the language that emerges is a shared product, reminiscent of Breen’s (1985, p. …) assertion that ‘the language I learn in the classroom is a communal product derived through a jointly constructed process.’ At the individual level, the linguistic system that emerges is opportunistic, self-organising, adaptive and idiosyncratic, because (as Lantolf and Thorne 2006, p. 17) phrase it, ‘learning an additional language is about enhancing one’s repertoire of fragments and patterns that enables participation in a wider array of communicative activities. It is not about building up a complete and perfect grammar in order to produce well-formed sentences’”.

      • January 10, 2012 1:14 am

        Thanks, Scott! Teaching Unplugged is dense with useful information — every page is a keeper. I really look forward to the next book and appreciate the peek! In thinking about your most recent post (I is for Input), are we looking at finding a balance between macro and micro, then?

        (PS: I don’t want to derail this comments thread, maybe I should take that question to the other forum.)

      • January 10, 2012 9:47 am

        Hi Kathy, Hi Scott,

        Thank you both for your comments.

        When I first came across the idea of emergence, I understood it to be “listening to what the students are saying and doing something with it, rather than batting it off to continue with what I want to do”. So, more from a pedagogical perspective. SInce then, I have begun to have a deeper understanding of the emergence, as Scott says above, which happens both at the micro and macro levels. We know that language learning is not a linear process, and that learners will have peaks and troughs of success and memory throughout the learning process. This is where teachers need to be aware of the micro level linguistic side of emergence. My main concern at the moment with my teaching is recycling/repetition. I have a very disjointed timetable and this is not conducive to recycling in a systematic way, I find. However, if we are to deal with both the macro and the micro, we must make sure that the language which emerges has the chance to re-emerge, repeat, organise, create systems etc.. whilst also allowing our learners to emerge as users of the language into the language speaking community.

        And who said all this was easy, eh?!

        Jem

      • January 10, 2012 5:44 pm

        Hi Jem,

        Oh yes, the thing about Dogme that hooked me first was exactly the “listening to what the students are saying and doing something with it, rather than batting it off to continue with what I want to do”!

        Since you shared your main concern (recycling), I’ll share mine: reinforcing activities. I think they’re the difference between reacting to student needs (“winging it”) and responding to them (skillfully strengthening what we’ve uncovered). I hope this skill will come with applied effort and time on my part. For now, I guess I need patience and maybe a few more canned materials than I prefer.

        I cut a bunch of paragraphs (regarding emergence) ‘cuz it was getting long and was showing no signs of ending, hah! Might be better in a post, if I can make it coherent. Will put up a link if I do.

        Kathy

  19. Varinder Unlu permalink
    January 9, 2012 10:28 pm

    This is all very interesting reading. I was also at the IHWO DOS conference and by the end of the day I felt quite tired with the discussion about Dogme. What was being described is nothing new – most good teachers have elements of it in their classes already and most teachers put their students’ needs first. It’s not new or very innovative. I find that the followers of dogme tend to compare the very worst of course book based lessons with the very best dogme lessons in order to show how wonderful it is. I also have problems with comments such as “when I’m feeling bored, unmotivated and tired, I turn to a coursebook” and “I found that using Dogme help me create a better relationship with my learners and helped the learners’ realtionships with each other.” This simply is not true.

    It takes real skill and imagination to make a lesson interesting and student centred whether it’s Dogme or coursebook based. There is a place in the classroom for coursebooks and materials, in fact of you actually ask the students they will probably tell you that they like having a coursebook which they can refer back to and see how they are progressing.

    I have taught for many years in many different environments and contexts, including ESOL. I am not a follower of any one approach or methodology because I believe that variety, as with everything in life, is key to good teaching. I have, as a Director of Studies, seen some excellent lessons and some very bad teaching. Dogme lessons in my opinion have been more teacher centred – maybe I’ve only seen the worst dogme lessons (yikes!! I’ve said!).

    I’m not a writer or a specialist – I’m just a teacher at heart. A teacher, who has always put her learner first, sometimes using coursebook based materials, sometimes my own materials and sometimes no materials. I’m not a tired, unmotivated or bored teacher. I’m a teacher who has always had positive results and excellent rapport with my students – some of whom are still in contact with me even after 15 years.

    Attitude, approach or methodology – it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is good teaching.

    • January 10, 2012 3:07 am

      Varinder, your comment rings very true to my own reaction to all things Dogme, but I think it’s because we’re the lucky ones: http://amuseamuses.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/who-needs-dogme/ . My response to Jemma was written in the spirit of trying to find what others find so attractive about Dogme and why it has become so notorious (I was going to write popular, but then I started thinking in terms of how much it’s probably used as opposed to talked about and so I think notorious is honestly a better word). If it’s because there really is so much bad teaching out there as Chia suggests, with (probably not very good) course books and getting through them being put ahead of students needs, then perhaps Dogme can help to encourage such teachers to redress the balance. But as you say, it’s hard to believe and the exaggerated examples given by supporters (see Phil Wade’s 5 books comment on my blog for a good example) don’t help ‘the cause’.

      As for being The Lucky Ones, I thought I was lucky because my early days in teaching were very Dogme-style as I describe in ‘Who Needs Dogme?’, but your comment makes me feel it’s probably also due to the great support and development we get working for International House, where I guess there’s few people around who find Dogme ideas so new and innovative?

      • January 10, 2012 10:03 am

        Hi Varinder, Hi Neil,

        Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

        I can see why you think that Dogme is nothing new. You both have much more experience than I do in the ELT world and have seen many more changes happen than me. However, I can safely say that, as a human being, and as someone who has learnt language in lessons lead by coursebooks, and as someone who wanted to learn that language in order to speak it, DOgme works for me much better than any coursebook teaching I have done.

        Of course there are good and bad Dogme teachers, just as there are good and bad anything in this world. I would love to invite you into my classroom to see what you think of my lessons. That isn’t me saying “I think I’m one of the good ones” it’s me saying “Feedback from someone who is actually against the beliefs behind way I teach would be incredibly useful.”

        What I wanted to say though, was that I agree that students like to have a record of what has happened in class. And yes, coursebooks can provide this. However, from what we know about learner autonomy and retention of information, surely what we really need to do is get our learners to record it themselves in their own way in their own books? There’s no reason why a Dogme teacher can’t provide a grammar reference overview after the lesson depending on what has come up, but personally I would/do prefer my learners to make their own notes. They are then not only more likely to actually look at them, but also to remember what they wrote, with their own examples and contexts. I have a stack of German and Italian coursebooks on my shelves, but whenever I want to revise something, I go to my folders of notes.

        Yes, this means we have to help our learners make useful notes. But surely that’s why we are there – to help them learn? Whether that be the language, or also how to learn the language?

        Jem

    • January 10, 2012 9:55 am

      Personally, I find it encouraging that Dogme is equated with good teaching. This suggests that the need for a ‘patch’ to counteract ‘bad teaching’ has outlived its usefulness – or is starting to. Maybe it’s just a short-term fix, and that one day – like flu jabs, or ashtrays – the need for Dogme will simply fade away. 😉

      • January 10, 2012 12:48 pm

        Hi again Jem,

        I completely agree with what you say about students making their own notes being better learning than relying on a course book record, but again, I don’t see that as something Dogme has brought to the table.

        And I’d love to come and watch you teach, but I just want to reiterate I’m not against the beliefs behind the way you teach at all. While it’s been raised over the last couple of days that it’s difficult to nail down what is ‘good teaching’ I haven’t been disagreeing with anybody’s ideas about what good teaching is – from students making their own notes, to responding to student needs and utterances to take advantage of learning opportunities etc etc – what I don’t like about Dogme is the evangelical exaggeration that oft seems to accompany it.

        And as a non-smoker who has been given a few ashtrays as souvenirs from well-meaning holidaymakers over the years, I hope Scott’s right in musing that they and it and the need for them might just fade away.

      • January 10, 2012 1:02 pm

        Neil writes ‘what I don’t like about Dogme is the evangelical exaggeration that oft seems to accompany it’.

        If a teacher has stumbled on a sense of self-worth and job satisfaction because of Dogme, or because of task-based learning, or because of Raymond Murphy – all power to them! I think they have a right to be evangelical. Better the evangelicals that the moaners and the whiners down the other end of the staffroom! 😉

      • January 10, 2012 7:46 pm

        Hi Neil and Scott, again,

        I find the word “evangelical” a bit of an over-statement. Although, I have to agree I’d prefer to be evangelical than one of the moaners!

        I think that the quote from Oli that Luke has posted below really deals with at least some of the point. We are dealing with a community that is addicted to published material. Critical analysis of coursebooks is seriously lacking in most teachers’ planning time. So therefore, perhaps we do need something which swings so far the other way as to make a new point? And being behind this 110% will only make people sit up and listen, and hopefully try and put their book down and become less dominated by published material, but instead let the students lead the way.

        It seems, Neil, that you have found your happy medium. And good on you. But there’s still a lot of people out there who have not achieved such a happy balance as you have.

        I am not saying we should all be using the same methods. And I am not saying that everything in Dogme is new. But it is a reaction, and a necessary one, to all of those teachers/lessons/classrooms/learners that have had more than their fair share of “do exercise 1…now do ex. 2….now talk to your partner about it…”.

        The fact that Dogme is a reaction to a situation our ELT community, or at least a large part of it, finds itself in, could mean that we will fail to need it at some point. But there’s a lot of classrooms to set free from those shackles of “Not Unit 5!” syndrome (to quote Luke’s BC blog post).

        Neil, can you show me some of this evangelical stuff you refer to? I’d love to read it.

        Jem

  20. January 10, 2012 1:26 am

    Thanks Jemma for a timely and well-written post with some valuable definitions and quotes worth reminding us all about! From the many comments you’ve received, this blogsite has certainly served as a platform to continue the debate from the IH DOS conference.

    One thing that seems to be constantly said about Dogme, both by its supporters and critics is that Dogme is simply good teaching and Dogmeticians should not be Dogmatic or precious about their approach.
    I found that after reading all the comments here, I’d really like to reiterate what I posted on Neil’s blog yesterday, if that’s okay with you.

    I think if teachers are able to relate to the theories and sentiments expressed by the Dogme/Unplugged Approach to teaching and identify it as what they often do anyway, calling it simply good teaching, then good for them! They are clearly self-aware and constantly reflecting on what works or does not work for their students’ needs and interests. These are the people who are already free from the reigns of books and materials, and in a way, perhaps not quite the target audience of Dogme talks…

    However, there are teachers I have met through conferences, through the teacher training programmes and courses that I run, through Twitter, etc who do belong to the target audience of the people I do hope would seriously consider Dogme principles. These teachers fall into the following categories:

    1. They use course books rigidly because they either think they have to, or they have kind of got use to the routine of repeating those materials that they ‘know’ work that they have got bored with their day job.
    2. They are still following more traditional approaches to teaching and are not so exposed to SLA theories that underline TBL and the communicative approach, i.e. interaction and meaning negotiation is what promotes language acquisition.
    3. When topics that students want to talk about emerges, instead of going with the flow and exploiting it, they feel a deep sense of guilt for not sticking to the plan and not following the course book/syllabus. This could partially be due to the ‘CELTA system’ where they are very much graded upon the plans they produce and the systematic way in which they teach.

    The teachers from the last category often find it useful and, in a way, comforting to know that there is indeed a label and a name for teaching without sticking to the plan… Vygotsky talked about the fact that giving something a label makes it come alive, make it legit, makes it acceptable. Perhaps calling it Dogme allows teachers to understand that good teaching is really about teaching the students and not the plan.

    And if you already do that, hey, good on you! ; )

    • January 10, 2012 10:17 am

      Hi Chia,

      Thanks for your comment, and no problem about it being what you said over on Neil’s blog. You make a great point, worth repeating!

      I think you have really touched upon something here. It’s those teachers who are still chained to their coursebooks and who have yet to realise/learn that it is ok to stray from the plan if that’s going to be better for your students which need to hear more about Dogme/TU. The question is, how do we reach these people? At our school, it has been an almost one-by-one process. Anthony and our colleague Izzy have given workshops on TU to help teachers with some basic first ideas. However, in the staffroom, I still see most people opening books randomly and saying “what shall I do? Oh, that’s fun I’ll do that”. Or waiting impatiently by the photocopier to copy half a book’s worth of material.

      What’s happening in your school to spread the word? Have you had in-house workshops on TU?

      Jem

  21. January 10, 2012 7:38 am

    BUT how many people are in a position where they can go Dogme and not follow the tight syllabus and Chapter 1 to 10? Having complete freedom and doing various types of topics/focus is great but it’s good to check with your DOS. I haven’t seen many places that hire experienced/qualified teachers who are at the stages Chia states (probably after many years of experience) but what I do see too much are franchised schools or very top down ones where teachers are just at the bottom and must follow all the set materials/lessons.

    In some jobs I have to submit post-lesson summaries and I do get asked questions about why we covered so much or why I taught that or why I am not using lots of handouts. Am I towing the line so to speak? Well, happy progressing students seems to get very good FB so we’ll see. If I do get fired then I’m coming to live with….

    • January 10, 2012 10:23 am

      THE LSD!! 🙂

      But seriously Phil, you are right, There are many institutions out there which do not give much space to Dogme. However, this is where allowing for the different “levels” of Dogme comes in. By helping a teacher see that they can allow time for those ever-so-important learning opportunities, rather than just going through exercises 1 – 10 in a lesson, this will open some space for more real conversation and emergent language.

      I am interested to see how it works in my new position, as in the teacher handbook it states that I must write weekly plans, something I haven’t had to do for years. If anyone has any tips on how they go about this as a Dogmetician, I would love to hear them!

      Jem

      • January 10, 2012 9:25 pm

        We have to write weekly plans where I work too, and that’s on of the things that I’ve been trying to think about in relation to dogme this year. It’s so tempting to just list coursebook pages, so I’ve had to try very hard to avoid this. Instead I’ve been spacing things out on my plan a lot to try to leave time to respond to what comes up, while having a plan which is complete enough to satisfy the powers that be.
        I’d be interested to hear how others would deal with this.
        Sandy

  22. January 10, 2012 11:58 am

    OK.Sign me up for your school Jem.

    Weekly,daily,monthly,termly.Yes, been there. Even at the start of my career most teachers did their week plan at the end of the week as it was more accurate. I used to do daily ones but they got crossed out,changed and generally completely altered depending on the day, level, mood and needs of the students. I had a crumpled up back pocket back of a receipt plan today, like in Luke’s BC seminar. Just 4 points and we only did 2.

    1 serious problem of course in Blended Learning in that my classes in one place used to have half lab online stuff and half inclass book stuff. I’d say that after a while the online stuff took over and the classes were just consolidating it but you couldn’t ‘diverge’ as you had to keep up with the online content. I’m pretty sure this was an attempt to keep teachers inline and it also enable the heads of the company to know exactly when every single class/school was doing. This put a lot of teachers off while others just said “do the online stuff and the book at home, in class we’ll talk and do speaking/writing topics”. I did prefer the latter.

    • January 10, 2012 7:52 pm

      Hi Phil,

      Not done any Blended Learning as such. Sounds rather controlling, your situation. Not sure I could deal with that at all!

      I am looking forward so much to being back in a context where I see my students every day, and therefore having more of a feel for their progress. I think it will do me good to have to do weekly plans, and Luke has set out some great ideas below!

      Jem

  23. January 10, 2012 1:00 pm

    Hey Jem, great stuff here – post, comment, response to comment – made me think this morning, thanks goodness we don’t all agree! 

    A general thought first, via Oli, who made a great point on Neil’s blog here http://amuseamuses.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/who-needs-dogme/ , saying: ‘I don’t believe the Dogme position is so extreme, rather a proportional counter position’, adding ‘the status quo is so in favour of coursebook usage that I think the serious definition of Dogme is necessary in order to validated in professional circles.’ I strongly agree with this, and I love the way we are doing the defining together. I happen to think it can be defined, incidentally.

    In answer to your second question, you could start to map out a week by thinking in terms of ‘slots’ for different types of activity. For example, you could book out the first session on Monday for conversation about the weekend (obvious I know, but if you ‘re required to you could pencil in the kinds of language that you might expect to come up, without forcing it on the actual conversation);  the first session on Tuesday for work on a minimal text; part of Wednesday’s lesson for some work on pron, and so on. A week fills up pretty quickly.

    Set aside 15 minutes at or near the start of each lesson to do some controlled practice based on emergent language from yesterday’s work, and 15 minutes at the end of each lesson to review the outcomes of the day – and to suggest some homework where they can do some freer practice of some sort (write some sentences practising 5 words or phrases that were new to them, and 5 that they already knew, for example; or asking someone outside the class some of the questions that arose in the lesson to contribute to an informal survey next day, and so on). 

    Lessons don’t operate in isolation from one another, the flow between them is very important. 

    There is room for all sorts of familiar classroom activity in dogme lessons (witness references to free and controlled practice above) – we like to look at ‘language at the point of need’, a phrase Mike Harrison uses, but we can use evolved teaching behaviours to do this. Wednesday’s pron lesson? Mark it up for some drilling – if you’re refining their pronunciation a) of language that has emerged from classroom interaction, and b) of sounds that have emerged as problematic, you’re still teaching bottom-up. It might help to reassure colleagues.

    A rather lengthy comment I know, but maybe of some use if it helps to steer people away from the sense that dogme is just waiting for stuff to happen. We can anticipate too!

    Luke

    • January 10, 2012 8:04 pm

      Hi Luke,

      Welcome to the convo/thread/river of opinion!

      I have kinda replied to your first point in a comment above to Neil and Scott, so I will comment on the rest here.

      Thanks so much for your ideas. I actually think it will do me some good to plan my weeks out and to see the same students every day, something I haven’t had for the last 3.5 years. I have been struggling with how well I connect lessons together. It’s hard to do when you only see your students once a week, I find. Time is of such a premium: you only have 90 mins to get everyone in the room, revise last week’s vocab/language, have time for a general catch up – a lot can happen in a week, but you also don’t want that to always become the focus of the lesson, as they may want to chat about other stuff too! – then some time at the end to recap and give hwk ideas, I struggle to fit it all in. But now I will see my students everyday and can ensure more recycling etc.., as you describe above, in an easier to manage way. This is one of my main reasons for prefering the context you find at language schools back in the UK.

      Anticipation is certainly part of being a Dogmetician. I actually often do this before I go into class. I’ll think about how I will get us onto the topic, and then make a list (often with the help of my colleagues in the staffroom) of some of the possible chunks/phrases that may come up. I might not use these in class, but it helps me to prepare something to feed in if necessary. It also allows me to think about any problem areas, regional differences (that’s where my colleagues come in), and pronunciation / intonation patterns.

      I am looking forward to transferring my Dogme-ways to my new context. Will be sure to let you know how it all goes!

      Thanks for your help.
      Jem

  24. January 10, 2012 9:04 pm

    Hi Jemma,

    I must admit I was one of those at the IH DOS conference rolling their eyes at the end of the day hoping to never hear that D word again (that said, however, the discussion with Jeremy, Luke and the others was fab and I was thrilled to be there). From time to time I read blog posts on Dogme just to see what all the fuss is about but I only ever really skim through as nothing strikes a chord….. until I read this one. An incredibly well written post with some fabulous discussion following. Thanks to all for a great read 🙂

    Kylie

    • January 10, 2012 9:15 pm

      Hi Kylie,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m really glad that this post and the ensuing comments have given you something! I didn’t really expect to get such a reaction, but it seems that I have brought up a topic which lots of people have something to say about.

      I just had a quick look at your blog. VYLs, wow. I have never taught YLs, let along VYLs. From your comment, it sounds like you don’t go in for Dogme, but I’d be interested to know how Dogme and VYLs could / do fit together? Any ideas?

      Thanks so much for stopping by,
      Jem

      • January 10, 2012 9:38 pm

        Hi Jemma,

        There doesn’t seem to be much about in regards to Dogme in the YL classroom. I did find an interesting post once but I can’t remember where/ who? Maybe it was Dale? You got me – yes, I’ve been one of the sniggerers at the back saying ‘don’t we already do this as part of good teaching’ but I really like what you say about ‘attitude’. I think it’s the labelling and the hype that puts me off. I think a ‘Dogme’ attitude is certainly appropiate in the YL classroom, especially in the growing number of 1:1 YL classes. Furthermore I;’m a big believer in the less is more approach which is not so far away. One of these days I might even get around to writing a post about it, but as you can see if you’ve looked at my blog I haven’t posted in a long time and I wouldn’t like anyone to hold their breath waiting for a YL perspective 🙂

        I see on another of your posts that your considering an MA. This is what is chewing up my time at present an MA at Sheffield Hallam. It’s tough finding the time to study but rewarding and enjoyable as many other commented. I say go for it 🙂

        During the discussion with Luke at the IH DOS conference I scoffed a little at the mention of using Dogme with unruly low level teens as I immediately decided they needed some good old fashioned discipline and boundries, but I guess it comes down to ones comfort zone and going with what has worked in the past vs being brave and trying something ‘new’ (by new I mean new for me – I don;lt think Dogme is entirely new). Like I said, I’m not totally won over, but I do like your take on things. It’s like a softer more palatable presentation.
        After cringing at hearing the D word all weekend I seem to have found myself reading it all Monday and Tuesday by choice. What has Luke done to me! Dam him and his persuasive presentation 😉

        Kylie

      • January 12, 2012 9:00 am

        Hi Kylie,

        Sorry for the delay in replying.

        It’s a shame it isn’t more documented. I think, as you say, that it is appropriate to use in the YL classroom. I can’t imagine that sticking rigidly to a plan is easy when children have so much energy and will surely pick up on things and question things just as much, if not more, than adults.

        I would love to give it a go, but I would also love to read more about it. Let me know if you find anything else on the web about it!

        Good luck with your MA, not sure which one I will do, but am looking forward to doing it, despite the hard work.

        Funny how we get sucked in by something we have “scoffed at” :-), hope you’ve learnt a bit about what Dogme is to all of us who have written about it this week and before. Personally, I find the comments that there is so much hype and that we are being evangelical a bit over the top. I don’t feel at all hyped up or evangelical about it, but it appears that we’ve made at least a few people feel like this.

        Have a great day,
        Jem

  25. January 10, 2012 9:39 pm

    Apologies for the lack of proof reading on my above comment Jemma 🙂

  26. January 10, 2012 9:41 pm

    Instead of weekly plans, how about weekly (or better yet, monthly) checklists? Depending on the school or the teacher’s attitude to syllabus design, one could have checklists containing language points, or topics that the students have expressed interest in, or skills that the students have listed as part of their language goals. Keeping these needs and checklist items in mind, the teacher can choose to focus on those things in the classroom as they emerge and tick them off the list post lesson…of course, without forgetting to always go back and recycle, review and provide further practice of those items.

    • January 10, 2012 11:34 pm

      I’m very much appreciating this side-discussion on plans in a Dogme context. I’m supposed to have a lesson plan on paper and with me in the classroom for every lesson, then add brief reflections and hand the whole pile in every month. Loosening up the death-grip on materials has helped make my lessons more flexible, but I’ve been finding it hard to capture this flexibility in writing, especially ahead of time (and using the pre-defined format, bleh). Luke’s suggestion of slots, with the first and last making a connection to previous and next lessons: It. Just. Might. Work! I can write the name and (more or less) time allotment in for each slot and a few brief notes, based on the anticipation technique that Jem describes. Maybe sketch out a few possible reinforcement activities, since that’s my current weakness. I can also write the *anticipated* language down (referring to the brilliant idea of monthly checklists, thanks chiasuanchong!). My reflection can be about what actually was uncovered (and compared to the checklist again). Excellent!

    • January 12, 2012 9:09 am

      Hi Chia, Hi Kathy,

      This is a great idea, have just read about what was said on this at IHDos over on your blog and it makes sense to me. In fact, it’s kind of what I already do when I do a needs analysis with a new group. It then becomes a list in their folder for me to check things off as we do them. This list includes language points, skills and topics, as well as notes on types of things they like to do / not do in class. i.e. play games, read articles etc…

      I really like that Dogme is able to work within the remits of school admin requirements. I am looking forward to putting this into practice and having more of a record of what my learners are covering in class once I am seeing them on a more frequent and regular basis.

      Hehe, Kathy, I laughed at your “loosening the death grip” comment! Thank goodness you have, good luck with it all!

      Jem

  27. Lyle permalink
    January 11, 2012 8:03 am

    I only came to know about dogme on the internet. I have followed its progress on the Yahoo talkboard over ten years with great interest. I have the impression that it is still evolving, and morphing, it is a very protean idea that is hard to pin down. This fuzzy eclecticism becomes a source of frustration to certain people who then diss, dismiss or even attack dogme, and are themselves rounded on by those loyal to dogme. This mostly takes place on the internet, in the blogosphere or on Twitter, occasionally spats arise between the great and the good at international conferences. I agree with those who say that, if nothing else, dogme has become a great source of debate and discussion about teaching, and learning, and language, and linguistics, and philosophy, and more. What a great thing it is to have the internet.

  28. January 12, 2012 9:17 am

    Hi Lyle,

    Thanks for reading and your comment!

    I couldn’t agree more! The dialogue we can have over the internet is an amazing source of information, debate and opinion we would never be able to have otherwise.

    I think though, as I say in my post, that just as audiolingualism can mean slightly different things to different teachers, so can Dogme. It’s just that there haven’t been so many books written on it yet. All Dogmeticans have the same basic beliefs underlying their teaching. Not sure if you know much about yoga, but this makes me think about the difference between Bikram where every lesson all around the world is IDENTICAL, and then all the other forms of yoga, say – vinyasa, which has basic principles but each teacher and every class experiences a slightly different realisation of them. What’s wrong with that? I can’t see the issue. I just think that, because this is something new, people want it to be put in a box. I am not willing to put my teaching in a box, that’s in fact one of the reasons I do Dogme.

    Cheers,
    Jem

  29. February 28, 2012 10:06 am

    A very well-written post. I read and liked the post and have also bookmarked you. All the best for future endeavors

  30. almogit permalink
    April 2, 2012 7:09 pm

    Hi Jemma, I am new to teaching EFL (I’m a first year teacher) and I haven’t heard anything about Dogme in my school or from my other fellow teacher. Could you refer me to a reliable Dogme 101?

Trackbacks

  1. What the Dickens! « Jeremy Harmer's Blog
  2. IH DOS Conference, 2012 « chiasuanchong
  3. On Why The (Unplugged) Revolution Will Not Be Televised « Teacher Training Unplugged
  4. Do You Hear Me? | Communication Advancement
  5. Blog challenge: a quote that defines your teaching style | A journée in language
  6. The (unplugged) revolution needs to be televised! | Five against one: Teaching against the odds.
  7. Dogme Lesson vs DELTA level requirements | Teacher Training Blog
  8. Dogme for False Beginners. | languagelego
  9. A rose by any other name…? | Best of the ELT Blogosphere | Scoop.it
  10. Tweet and Ye Shall Find. « Unplugged Reflections
  11. Tweet and Ye Shall Find « ELTbites

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