Comment on @harrisonmike ‘s blog post ‘Mine, Mine, Mine’

29 01 2012

http://www.mikejharrison.com/2012/01/mine-mine-mine/#comment-7442

Hi Mike,

Yes, less is more should definitely be the message and is one we stress again and again on our Luke-less Delta course here in Buenos Aires.

Another extension to your dialogue ideas is the ‘half a dialogue’, which can be used as revision of a certain dialogue or as a way into a new one. The idea is that if you have a dialogue between A and B (hopefully written by the students) one group gets the A lines and the other the B lines. What they have to do is write the other speaker’s lines of the dialogue (As write B lines and vice versa) on a separate piece of paper, leaving lines free between the lines they write. Then the groups swap papers and have to complete the half dialogues written by the other group, creating a new dialogue completely written by the class. this can then be compared to the original dialogue and any interesting differences (i.e. students using simpler language than the original) can be noted, or they can just be mined, mined, mined in their own right.

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Comment on Man City 3 Spurs 2 on Spurscommunity

22 01 2012

http://www.spurscommunity.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=82994&page=6

Funny old game football and today’s match shows us just what a brilliant game it still is, even in these money-dominated, poorly-officiated times. So many ifs and buts, so much confusion about whether to feel proud or gutted and at the end of the day the stark reality of a widening divide from the top two, but thankfully, a status quo with the trailing four. 

I thought we played pretty well as a team in the first half, but not individually in midfield or attack (which was probably the way Harry was happy for it to go). Bale was ineffective infield as an attacking force, Lennon needed to run more at Clichy after the booking, and VDV and Modric were uninspired and unincisive in the middle. But at the same time, we were keeping the league leaders comfortably at bay. The plan was probably to try and do this for as long as possible and then as their fans demanded more risks as the game wore on, break with pace and nick a winner. The plan was working up until they scored, it just wasn’t the plan I’d have followed or that Harry had promised pre-game, which was to take them on man for man and have a go at them from the first whistle. 

Once they scored however, we had to take them on to get anything from the game. Unfortunately they scrambled a second in off Lescott’s arse before we’d had a chance to get the grip between our teeth. There was bad defending in both goals, but there was also excellent football in the first and the pot luck of a dangerous set piece in the second (just a shame we never invite lady luck along to our set pieces). 

Even so, we had the spirit and courage and football and luck to take them on on an equal footing. The long ball that had been over-used in the first half was transformed by their weak link into an incisive pass in the second, well controlled and finished by Defoe, who had been anonymously battering his blonde lack of locks against a brick wall up until then. 

And a sublime finish by Bale for the second, after Modric finally woke up from his slumber or shrugged off his shackles (take your pick). If only Luka had that type of finish in him himself. I initially blamed Bale for the goal that wasn’t since he played it in ahead of Defoe, who simply wasn’t ever going to reach it early enough to turn it in, but then how can you blame someone for the instinctive millisecond decision that his teammate will arrive at such a pace? How was he to know that Defoe had taken a slight knock or was tired enough to arrive a split second slower? If he’d put it in back an inch and Defoe had arrived at his full pelt, would it have been easier for Defoe to adjust and score anyway? It was just one of those things the beautiful game gives us. 

And what was Ledders doing? Just one of those things. Should Balotelli been on the pitch? At full pace in the heat of the moment, difficult to decide he intended to stamp on him. We’re all looking at a slow motion replay and are thinking of all the things Balotelli’s done both on and off the pitch to cloud our judgement. The only thing that’s certain is that Webb wasn’t going to get all controversial on our behalf. As the Argentine summariser said ‘he has his own way of interpreting the regulations’, an eloquent way of admitting he never gives us anything. 

At the end of the day, we’re still looking very good for third. We’re still playing excellent football. We still lack a world class striker that is proving impossible to find within the context we are offering. We still can’t compete on a level playing field without a superduper new stadium. We are still not getting the rub of the green from referees. We’re still Tottenham, super Tottenham, from the lane.





Me is for Method: Comment on Scott Thornbury’s blogpost ‘A is for Approach’

22 01 2012

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/a-is-for-approach/#comment-6497

Many thanks for such a measured and thoughtful rise to the challenge, which really helps me to move closer to my own understanding of what Dogme is and how it can help us to keep improving as ELT teachers. (Although I wish you’d linked back to one of my ‘real posts’ such as ‘Who Needs Dogme?’ rather than my post-run ramblings like ‘Plodding and Pondering’ :) ).

On first reading, your post almost convinced me that perhaps Dogme was, in fact, an Approach, but closer reading, especially of your Richards and Rogers quote, leads me, personally, closer to a conclusion that Dogme is, if anything, a Method. But certainly not ‘just another’ Method, Luke, don’t worry!

In order to be an Approach, Dogme would have to ‘refer to theories about language learning…’. I take this to mean that it suggests theories, or expounds theories, or borrows theories from other areas of academic research and applies them innovatively within the language learning field. As you admit later in your post ‘these theories are not original’, Dogme doesn’t do this.

On the other hand, if we read on and examine Richard’s and Rodgers understanding of Method, we find it…
“…is theoretically related to an approach, is organizationally determined by a design, and is practically realized in procedure” Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T (2001:20).

For example, a behaviourist approach to learning theory helped to pave the way for the Audiolingual method, which then gave rise to such practical techniques as drilling being used in the classroom.

Within this framework, I now feel Dogme is closest to a Method. It is theoretically related to socio-linguistic approaches to learning, communicative approaches to learning and, perhaps it could be argued, emerges from an eclectic approach to language learning.

It is organisationally determined by a design, since it reacts to the ‘overdesign’ of course book dominance of course content and syllabus design and seeks to place the responsibility for design firmly in the laps of the students, perhaps scaffolded by the teacher. Your further comment about Dogme utilising process syllabi is another very helpful suggestion, although it also adds to the feeling that Dogme’s not the most original of methods.

And it is practically realized in procedure, which can be evidenced by all of the mind-opening and technique-honing descriptions of Dogme practice that you so deservedly praise.

Indeed, Bartolomé’s definition of “effective methods” in a given “socio-cultural context” (2003, p. 411) seems particularly close to how I understand Dogme’s raison d’être:

‘‘The informed way in which a teacher implements a method can serve to offset potentially unequal relations and discriminating structures and practices in the classroom and, in doing so, improve the quality of the instructional process for both student and teacher.’’ (2003, p. 412)
And Larsen-Freeman’s assertion that:

‘’As teachers gain experience, they come to understand a particular method differently ‘’ (Larsen-Freeman, 2005b, p.11).

also fits in with your point about the similarities and differences between how teachers implement their understanding of Dogme in the classroom.

Perhaps it’s in the distinction between whether or not Dogme relates to learning theories in an original way, or combines by now ‘unoriginal’ theories into an original method, or does neither, that our views differ (I don’t share Jason’s view that looking at it as all three is very helpful).

But whether Dogme ends up being an approach or a method or something else, and whether it actually matters, as you hint it’s time to move on. Even if we disagree on where Dogme is coming from, we share a vision of where it should be going. As you say, only through continuous experimentation, description, debate and a little bit of debunking (mostly by sheep in wolves clothing such as meself :) ), will it mature into either an approach or a method. And this is where it provides excitement and where we all need to continue experimenting along with our students and trainees in their classrooms and where I’ll get amusing myself on my blog once I’ve had another run…

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bartolomé, L. (2003). Beyond the methods fetish: Toward a humanizing pedagogy. In A. Darder, M. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (pp. 408-439). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Larson-Freeman, D. (2005). On the appropriateness of language teaching methods in language and development. ILI Language Teaching Journal, 1 (2), 1-14.

 Scott Thornbury (19:24:50) :

Thanks, Neil, for coming on board, and in such a measured and well-informed manner.

Thanks also for raising the ‘method’ issue. You may have noted that I carefully avoided the term in my original post, mainly because the term now seems to have out-lived its sell-by date (see my video blog M is for Method for a brief overview). This is because (pace R & R) there seems to me to be no stable, identifiable and autononmous entity on the trajectory from ‘approach’, on the one hand, and the way that that approach is actualised in particuar contexts, on the other. In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook. But, of course, Dogme has no coursebook. It doesn’t even have a syllabus. It is simply an idea that has accreted practices, and out of these practices something recognisably distinctive seems to be emerging. But it’s not a method, any more than CLIL is a method, or task-based language instruction.

As for Dogme’s lack of originality, I wish i could count the times that I’ve said that there is nothing new about Dogme. Except the label. Just as there was nothing new about America. Until Columbus named it that way. ;-)

mcneilmahon (20:31:34) :

I really should be doing other things, Scott, but had to respond to this bit:

‘In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook’

…because in the contexts I’ve worked in over the last 15 years, there has always been a range of methods for teachers to choose from depending on which learning theories they believe in and which approach they therefore take. As I’ve said elsewhere (Who Needs Dogme?) perhaps this is because I’m one of the lucky ones. Encouraged to take an Eclectic Approach, I explore different methods (including Dogme and even a bit of Al or GT when the context suggests it), and practice a range of techniques that have evolved from and outlived those methods.

But I do find the idea of method helpful and persuasive, even if, as Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi puts it in his conclusion to a fascinating article on post-method language teaching:

”Method is a strange concept, old and new, meaningless and meaningful.”

And he goes on to conclude benefits of methods that I imagine all Dogme-gicians would find heart-warming?

”With all systematicity it bears and the order it creates, method swings back and forth from meaninglessness to meaningfulness. At times, it deals with and leads to well-defined patterns as realizations of coherent thoughts and informed practice. There are also times when method equals chaos, especially when in the hands of unimaginative users, unreasonably insisting on sticking to their dogmatic principles. Methodic patterns as they emerge, though, are the quintessence of excellent harmony. However, when dictated and followed blindly, patterns would lose their context-sensitive meaning. Prescription of contextually isolated patterns would, then, impose limitation and this limitation will result in fossilization of practice. Teachers with dynamic minds would never let that happen, struggling to create coherence and meaning as they discover, perceive, interpret, implement and modify methods.”
(Reza Hashemi, ‘(Post)-Methodism: Possibility of the Impossible?’, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 137-145, January 2011

By the way, just in case anyone isn’t sure, I see slavishly sticking to a course book as ‘unimaginative use’ and most Dogme-gicians I know as ‘teachers with dynamic minds’.

And this is why I see Dogme as a method, but not ‘Just another Method’. Because most other methods that are fondly remembered on in-service training courses such as the IH CAM or DELTA, have been outlived by the techniques within in that have been shown to work, while the method itself has been shown to be flawed. Dogme is different in as much as it is alive and vibrant and is showing us at the moment that it can work. The real question is whether or not after a lot more debate and description and debunking it stands the test of time in the way most other methods don’t – it would be very exciting for all of us and our language learners if it does.

Time, as always, will tell, and it’s high time I was doing something else…





Plodding and Pondering

16 01 2012

http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/142107065

A successful and satisfying 10km yesterday, after a full day’s work, which had begun with lots of blog work, continued with coordinating and finished up with the run and Lorenzo’s OIl.  The run was the first time in a while that I’ve left the security and proximity of the small lake of Palermo and extended my run out to the big lake.  This is my classic 10k route from home out to and round the big lake and then down to and round the small one.   There was actually a lot more pondering than plodding during the hour and pico that I was out as I was going at a pace of 6:30/km for mostof it and managed to keep it going throughout the 10km.  Unbelievably, I managed to distract myself so much with thoughts of blogging and commenting on all things Dogme so much that I missed my turn off and got a little lost around the small lake – ridiculous behaviour.  

The thoughts that distracted me so much were:

Why is it every time I get close to accepting Dogme someone annoys me with their ‘overeagerness’ for the cause?  Is it something about them, the disciples of dogme, the Dogme-gicians as I’ve decided to call them, or is it something about me?  Am I too unforgiving, too eager to criticise, too cynical? 

What is Dogme?  Noone, even among the Dogme-gicians, seem to be able to agree on whether it’s an approach, a method, a technique, a tool, an attitude, a lesson type or an irrelevance.  And does it matter?  I think it matters if people are passing it off as something it’s not (e.g. an approach), at least to me.  I don’t like people exagerrating the cause.   Am I close in my idea of it as a reflection tool? How do I go about deciding?  Discussing each possibility in a blog post?

Which took me onto the last main thought – how do I reply to everyone’s comments while continuing to blog and while doing the rest of my work etc.  Yesterday morning I ‘wasted’ two hours blogging and commenting on various posts, which I should have spent doing my coordinating work.  But it was fun and stimulating and I got my work done eventually.  Perhaps I should settle for using my comments on other blogs as printing press posts on my own blog, and perhaps a post summarising the main criticisms of my recent posts and my reactions to them, although it will have to wait until next weekend…





Comment on ‘There’s no such things as a dragon’ by @alastairjgrant

15 01 2012

Al, you cite me as arguing there’s no such thing as Dogme – I never said any such thing. In my post ‘Who Needs Dogme?’ I was simply asking myself whether Dogme did anything for me and if it didn’t, who was it for? Difficult to do if you think it doesn’t exist.

Then you say:
Well, CELTA, Trinity and whatever other teacher training course we embark upon, teaches us to use a coursebook from the outset. Now that’s what I call dogmatic.

My reply to this is a blogpost of my own called ‘Turning CELTA candidates into Dogme-gicians’ where I remind you CELTA teaches us HOW to use a course book and much much more besides.

You then quote Luke Meddings metaphor:
Despite the name, there’s no dogma to Dogme. Luke’s recent metaphor about the “three tent poles of Dogme” (IH DoS 2012) is a perfect description of why Dogme is so versatile: you can use it anywhere, it adapts to fit the terrain and works in all climates.

As a very amateur camper, I’m not convinced you can use a three-pole tent anywhere. There are different tents that work better in different contexts, just like approaches to English teaching and stories about dragons (Puff the Magic being my fave…).

Never making it clear to your readers which ‘key objection’ I was making in my post, you therefore link my name throughout your posts to doubts about the effectiveness of these three tent poles of Dogme. I don’t doubt any of them , I just doubt Dogme’s need to claim exclusivity on them and I don’t doubt that all three of these fundamentals of good teaching were around long before Scott came down from the mountain.

Whether Dogme needs to exist or not was the question I was asking myself and I’m coming around to the idea that it might, but the manner in which a lot of Dogme-gicians such as yourself here today resort to exaggeration, hyperbole and inaccuracy in order to promote the cause detracts from any fondness I might otherwise have felt for it. But that’s just me.





Turning CELTA candidates into Dogme-gicians

15 01 2012

Commenting on my post  ‘Who Needs Dogme‘, @alastairjamesgrant, IH’s very own Dogme-gician, asks me:

Be it Trinity, CELTA or whatever, we have all learnt our initial teacher training tools through the use of course books. Are they therefore essential? 

My reply got too long and took too long to write (when I should have been doing other things today) to leave as a comment, so it’s become a blog post.  Here it be: 

No we haven’t, Al. We’ve learnt our initial teaching techniques (which is what I presume you meant to say?) by teaching and getting feedback on our classes from our peers and our tutors. Course books are most often involved in this process, but the continued insistence of a lot of Dogme-gicians such as yourself to lump all the blame for ‘bad teaching’ on course books is the lazy argument that makes my Dogme-friendliness dwindle.

CELTA courses are about so much more than course books and there’s plenty of room for even a pure (i.e. all ten commandments) Dogme lesson within the CELTA framework if candidates want to teach that way. On our course at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training we show candidates different lesson frameworks: a receptive skills lesson, a test-teach-test lesson, a text-based guided discovery lesson and sometimes a situational presentation, as well as showing videos of a TBL lesson and a functions dialogue build.  Two of these six involve course book texts, but there’s no need for them to and I’ll change them for authentic texts my past students have brought to class if you like.

The candidates are given a coursebook to work with and supporting notes from us about how to adapt the course book to these lesson frameworks and make them more communicative and student-centred at the same time.  We see this support as essential for candidates to be able to focus on certain aspects of their teaching at a time (I hope even the most Dogmatic Dogme-gician would agree doing a Dogme-esque lesson in week one of a CELTA without being able to give clear instructions, monitor or give useful feedback is a recipe for disaster).  By week three they are encouraged to become more independent and react to the course book materials with their students in mind, adapting or supplementing or rejecting them as they see fit (with tutor guidance where required) and in week four the candidates are choosing what to teach and how to teach it all by themselves.  If we added a loop input Dogme style session in to complement the other lesson-types and changed those two course book texts for more authentic ones then we’d have a very Dogme friendly CELTA course – and I’m working on it.

Why do CELTA courses get so much blame?  There is no criteria on a CELTA course that says you need to show good techniques with course books.  If you look at the CELTA syllabus, course books aren’t mentioned once and only three points even come close:

4.4 The selection, adaptation and evaluation of materials and resources in planning (including computer and other technology based resources)
4.5 Knowledge of commercially produced resources and non-published materials and classroom resources for teaching English to adult learners
5.4 The use of teaching materials and resources

That’s three points out of a total of 45 (if we include the skills breakdown points).  And the point that comes closest to mentioning course books (4.5) also discusses ‘classroom resources’, which may well mean a CD player or IWB if you’re (un)lucky enough, but aren’t classroom resources also what Dogme-gicians are meant to be using instead of course books?

CELTA is all about giving candidates the tools and techniques to teach in the classroom.  All Dogme-gicians use these tools, so please stop criticising the CELTA.  Criticise CELTA courses or CELTA trainers who put the course book before the student in their teaching practice if you want, but it’s simply not CELTA’s fault.  It’s not even course books fault that some teachers don’t put their learners at the centre of their classes, but I’ll save that for another day as I have work to do.





Comment on ‘The Dogme revolution needs to be televised’ by @bealer81

15 01 2012

On Five Against One, @bealer81 commented:

 ‘It seems that Dogme certainly allows for a greater degree of connection. Both, the teacher and more importantly the learner. By making the lessons about the learner’s lives the emotional component is enhanced and creates a more personalised feeling about the class.

This is the kind of claim that I was also referring to in ‘Who Needs Dogme?’, Adam. Making the lessons about the learner’s lives is not exclusive to Dogme, it’s the basis of good teaching and is much more prominent on the CELTA courses I train on that any course book is. Dogme allows for a greater connection than what? Bad teaching? I am trying to come around to the idea that Dogme as an attitude / reflective tool has an important role to play in increasing the amount of ‘just good teaching’ that goes on around the world, but then the hyperbole slaps me in the face again and asks me what I’m thinking…