Who needs Dogme?

8 01 2012

Maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones?

This weekend at the IHWO DoS Conference there has been a lot of debate about Dogme and as usual I’ve been on the outside looking in.  While I agree with a lot of the ‘principles’ Dogme and its followers espouse, I just can’t whip up the enthusiasm to cry its benefits from the rooftops and, if anything, I tend to cringe at the evangelicism of it all.

This weekend’s debates, and particularly @jemjemgardner’s response to my above summary of the debate, have made me wonder why I react like this to well-meaning people with sound ideas.  And the conclusion I’ve come to is – maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones.

‘They’ say  90% of the impression we have of someone is made in the first ten seconds of meeting them (at least some such startling fact like this is the basis of reading texts in many course books over many years).  My first meeting with Dogme was Scott at his Borgesian best (lots of clever quotes and little meaty passion) – so perhaps that’s where my rejection comes from?

I also think ‘they’ say that the first year of a baby’s life is even more influential than we give it credit for.  The quality of the nutrition given is paramount for the intellectual and physical development of the child.  The quality of the interaction with the environment, the parents and other humans around is vital for developing socially.  And this makes me think that instead my underwhelming reaction to Dogme goes back to my  initial experiences of teaching 15 years ago (long before Dogme reared its ugly head).

Daniel, my Trinity trainer at Oxford House College in the barmy summer of 97 wasn’t very impressive to be honest (most of his sessions were very much ‘do what I say not what I do’ and he failed one of my mates without any prior warning) but his comment on my final certificate (see pic) ‘Neil needs to ensure that his learners are not too material-based’ has stuck with me throughout my teaching career.  First of all, cos it doesn’t make sense and secondly, because throughout the course we were encouraged to lift the language off the course book page and make it our own through designing our own materials (I was particularly proud of a lesson where the controlled practice was students designing their own ‘Frankie says’-style t-shirts) so it seemed confusingly hypocritical.  But all the same, it was the area of my teaching I felt I needed to work on.

So the day of Princess Diana’s funeral I left London at it most surreal (I think I was the only person without a bouquet of flowers in my hand as I got the tube to Heathrow) and headed out to Prague for my first teaching job at Gymnasium Ceskolipska, a secondary school nestled in the housing estates of North-East Prague.  The next morning I turned up at the English department office to be told I was teaching in 20 minutes.  My first question once I’d recovered from the shear dread I was experiencing was ‘Where are the supplementary materials?’  There weren’t any.  The course book was arriving in a week if we were lucky.  I was teaching six classes of 35 minutes that day with teens ranging from 11 to 17 and Elementary to Advanced.  Needless to say I felt the first lesson was awful and I was ready to run all the way back to grief-stricken England and give up on this TEFL lark before I’d even begun.  But as the day wore on and I fine-tuned the delivery (obviously I did the same two getting to know you materials-free activities with all six classes) my confidence grew and I found out a lot about the kids and they found out a lot about me.  And thankfully they didn’t find me out.

I doubt I dealt with much emergent language during those early days, but hopefully I corrected their errors and told them what I’d say in that situation.  And the kids told me a lot about themselves and a lot about their country and a lot about their future plans etc.  And they asked me a lot about me and my country and my murky past.  And we learnt English together.  And when the course book did finally turn up two weeks later my relief was surprisingly tempered and it was greeted with a groan by most of the kids (and probably their parents who had to fork out a week’s worth of crowns to pay for them).   And so I sought to find a balance between covering the content of the course book and allowing the students space to talk and to ask and to enjoy themselves.  And, to be honest, it didn’t seem so difficult.

Looking back on these early, vital days in my teaching formation, I discover an answer to @jemjemgardner’s question comment on ‘Dogs and Elves’ – ‘Have you used Dogme much? Or had the opportunity to observe it in practice? I’d be interested to know if the reservations you express are because you have experienced them first hand?’  Yes, I have used Dogme much.  I was born using it.  And perhaps that’s why, like a rebellious teenager who reacts against their parents’ best intentions, I am sceptical of the need for Dogme.  And I realise now it’s because I was lucky.  ‘Dogme’-like principles and techniques have always been part of my teaching, and so, like @Harmerj suggested at #IHDOS, I’ve always seen it as ‘Just good teaching’.

Now, I realise there are many other teachers out there who weren’t so lucky in their formative years.  Perhaps they grew up in a prescriptive, test-obsessed environment and know no better?  Perhaps their teaching personae were formed in Tsarist monarchies where course book was king and unquestioning loyalty was demanded at all times?  Perhaps there are teachers out there who needed a Bolshevik revolution to wake them up from their teacher-centred slumber and wrench them away from the misconstrued comforts of published-materials paradise? Perhaps.

But Dogme therefore leaves me feeling like a February revolutionist.  Change was happening long before the Dogme revolution came along.  Teachers were realising course books are fallible, students are at the centre of learning, tangents are learning opportunities, grammar is but one of many important areas of language, making tasks authentic is motivating, fluency leads to accuracy etc. etc. And I see Dogme as a Bolshevik revolution.  And we all know what happened after that.

So my reservations about Dogme come from trying to avoid a cold war.  Trying to avoid a split into camps.  Dogme V Course book.  Luckily for me, I just don’t see the need.  So let’s declare the revolution over.  Let’s do away with the propaganda and the class struggle and the fighting and the stand-offs.  It does none of us any credit and doesn’t help our less lucky colleagues.  Let’s start looking for the middle ground now.  Let’s continue to train our teachers and encourage our colleagues to be eclectic, to teach the context, to use a course book selectively if they and their students / institute want to, to encourage students to negotitate the syllabus and select texts, to structure classes  with logical stages that achieve aims and to leave that structure when the context suggests it, to balance the focus on skills and language, to develop critical thinking skills, to encourage learner autonomy, etc. etc.

Dogme is dead.  Long live Just Good Teaching.




41 responses

8 01 2012

What an emotively written post and a beautiful way with words. It is the blog post I’ve been contemplating but couldn’t bring myself together to write. I’ve always felt there are some teachers who need to get rid of their over-reliance on the textbook and rigid lesson plans. But at the same time, there are many “lucky ones” like you and myself. I also feel that the main tenets of Dogme which aspires to be the ultimate post-method “method”, are basically a rehash of the main tenets of the Communicative language teaching (student at the centre, emphasis on speaking etc). So is it simply CLT revisited with a fancy but elusive term “emergent language” thrown in?

Anyhow, kudos for your courage and trying to shatter the dogma which is Dogme. I see I am the first one commenting but I’m sure your post will provoke a backlash from Dogmeticians.

9 01 2012

Many thanks for the comment and the compliments, Leo. much appreciated.

By the way, I wasn’t actually trying to shatter the Dogme dogma but try and see for myself whether it did have a raison d’etre and was worth treating more kindly. The responses here and on Jemma’s response actually make me less inclined to embrace the need for Dogme, but that’s just me, I guess.

8 01 2012

Thank for such a well-written a leveled post. I think it has great value in the dialogue created about Dogme in the conference/online community. Backlash? I hope such an honest and well-thought-out display doesn’t doesn’t deserve anything of the sort. Although, I have a few points to make in response

1. Reservations about ‘just good teaching’

Whose definition of ‘just good teaching’ are we working under? You expressed a viable opinion of the term in the last paragraph of your post, and I relate to it and value it as a good ‘backbone’ for any teacher, new or experienced.

That said, there are also many other ideas of ‘good teaching’ in the EFL world. In my experience, I’ve worked in good and not-so-good language schools and seen lots of disparity between ideas of what makes ‘good teaching’; are all teachers lucky enough to have such a start in life?

2. Is Dogme just ‘good teaching’?

In my relatively short teaching career, I’ve found the mindset that Dogme gives me more helpful as a basis on which to select good-teaching techniques for my learners, which leads me to think it has more to do with ‘good learning’ than good teaching. Is there a mismatch between the two? No, not in my opinion, but they are divergent enough to merit consideration of both.

What do I mean by good learning? Still trying to figure that one out myself and I have been ever since I was a student in a book-dominated classroom for 6 months. I found that from my later experiences in the real world, controlling discourse and receiving input from native speakers in conversation and texts/videos of my choosing that I learned and retained a lot more.

Is that just communicative language teaching with a fancy name? If a ‘new’ way of teaching has emerged and has been received with so much attention (both positively and negatively), does that not imply that in some way, shape or form, that we lost our way somewhere along the line?

3. Has Dogme always been done?

No doubt about it. And for the lucky few who have understood the learning process and adapted their teaching to accomodate this it shouldn’t seem like anything new. Do these people feel insulted by the increase in popularity of a set of ideas about teaching that more or less corresponds to what they do?

If you give something a name, you give it status. Status is important, it helps those who share the same ideals espoused by the name feel more empowered, accepted and able to share, communicate and support. They feel part of mainstream ELT rather than pedagogical outcasts. What’s more, a concept is accessible. New teachers who have similar ideas developing in their minds, like me when I became a teacher, find solace in the fact that there is something out there with which to connect.

As long as there are teachers and students feeling empowered, supporting each other, exchanging ideas and sharing under the same guise, I don’t see the idea of Dogme dying in the foreseeable future.

I don’t normally leave essay-length comments, so thanks for provoking so much thought.

As a capitalist and firm believer in meritocracy too, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the Bolshevik/communist comparison. Although that’s just getting person ; )

Thanks again


9 01 2012

Many thanks for the comment, Dale, although I don’t really see where you’re going with the comment about good teaching. Yes, it’s difficult to put a finger on it at times (although as a CELTA and DELTA trainer I have to do it on a daily basis) but so what? It seems to have been even more difficult to define Dogme over the last couple of years since once the backtracking from the original commandments began a lot of different people with a lot of different ideas claim the way they teach is a Dogme way.

Your point about good learning mirrors very much the successes I’ve had with language learning. Very much to do with being immersed in the culture and language and surrounded by speakers and selecting quality input for myself (not that I understood the magic 90?/95? per cent of it I’m supposed to), but again, I don’t see what Dogme has to do with that. I’m sure a lot of good language learners (be it in English-speaking or Non-English Speaking environments) will tell you they prefer to have a course book to refer to and structure their learning and a lot of bad language learners will enjoy Dogmish lessons. It’s swings and roundabouts.

As for your third point, I agree with what you say about status and this a part of the debate I hadn’t considered much before. But where you say:

‘As long as there are teachers and students feeling empowered, supporting each other, exchanging ideas and sharing under the same guise, I don’t see the idea of Dogme dying in the foreseeable future.’

I would say:

‘As long as there are teachers and students feeling empowered, supporting each other, exchanging ideas and sharing under the same guise, I think I’ll carry on working at IH for the foreseeable future.’

My original post was all about finding out for myself why I don’t jump on the Dogme bandwagon and thanks for helping me to realise.

10 01 2012

I also felt slightly uncomfortable about this:

“As long as there are teachers and students feeling empowered, supporting each other, exchanging ideas and sharing under the same guise, I don’t see the idea of Dogme dying in the foreseeable future.”

Surely you don’t mean that students feeling empowered and teachers supporting each other and sharing ideas is the domain of Dogme alone? I think there’s a danger of the approach being seen as too vitriolic if we talk in these terms (although, as you know, I certainly know what you mean!!)

11 01 2012

Hi Oli,

Like you I’m looking forward to Dale’s response here. The vitriol is one of the elements that doesn’t do it for me. Although during a session on lesson planning on my DELTA course yesterday, the eight candidates from all over the world with very different teaching experiences agreed that they started the lesson planning process by deciding what materials they were going to use, then what aims these materials could achieve. I had to elicit the importance of the students from them…

One hand almost being held up…

16 01 2012

Hmm, I don’t think I suggested the idea was exclusive to Dogme alone, merely saying that it gives a channel through which many teachers with similar beliefs can exchange ideas. Sorry if it created any confusion. Apologies as well for the tardiness of the reply too.

8 01 2012
Adam Beale

Hi Neil,

Nice post.

Referring to the comment made by loesel, “I’m sure your post will provoke a backlash from Dogmeticians”, I don’t think it will.
I think what you’ll get is people simply saying your entitled to your opinion, but we’ll happily continue working with a method/approach/attitude that we know works and produces results. Thanks all the same.
I think what dogme/teaching unplugged is making people aware of is that the main reason we teach is the students, therefore make the lesson about them, make the lesson out of them even. It’s not a revolution, it’s more of a reminder or maybe a wake up call. Remember why you teach and who you’re teaching.
Names, tags, labels and movements are dead. Long live good teaching.

10 01 2012

Hi Adam,

No, no need for any backlashing around here. Interesting that Dale talks about the need for status and you suggest no need for labels, perhaps this is another reason why I find so much of the debate superficial. Discussing something that isn’t a method/approach or attitude – I pick reminder, from all your choices (I see it as a reflective tool, if anything) – rather than focussing more on practical ways that we can all improve our teaching.

8 01 2012
Martin Sketchley

Isn’t best practice a balance of dogme and more prescriptive methods of teaching? Choosing the best method to the situation and needs of the learners?

10 01 2012

I agree with your second statement, Martin. The context approach works for me.

8 01 2012
Luke Meddings

Hi Neil

When you say ‘Change was happening long before the Dogme revolution came along’ it suggests to me that you really were one of the lucky ones – if there was change beyond TBL and the lexical approach (often mistrusted at the chalk-face anyway), it hadn’t filtered down to where I was teaching, or it hadn’t settled in my brain to the extent that I could make sense of it.

Scott’s initial article did help to make sense of it, and since then we’ve (collectively) been trying to make that sense into something usable and helpful to teachers and learners. In fact I think we’ve (hopefully) done that by combining the insights of the lexical approach and TBL with a range of ideas about bottom-up teaching and learning that are still unorthodox, or still largely unapplied.

I agree with Leo that conversation-rich and materials-light (and the implications of pursuing these in the classroom) are not new – but I believe that focusing on emergent language is new, or at least represents a challenge to ELT orthodoxy – and is the most interesting and challenging of the three.

Is abandoning language exponents when planning most of our classroom activity really old hat? I’m not sure it is. Is it incompatible with placing coursebooks as they stand at the heart of classroom life? I think it is, although they may still play a supporting role. If we find the idea of working with emergent language persuasive, are there considerable implications for teaching and teacher training? I believe there are.

I do think dogme involves and potentially even promotes ‘good teaching’, but I also think the latter is too nebulous and subjective a term to be useful in any serious debate on classroom life. Anyway, as I hope I indicated at #ihdos I’m happy to discuss with anyone, any time – and I look forward to continuing the debate!



10 01 2012

Hi Luke,

The more the debate continues the luckier I think I was and am to be honest. I’ve always seen coursebooks more as a provider of useful texts for skills work more than syllabi of language exponents, particularly since most if not all course books describe language inaccurately and over complicate its use unhelpfully. One of the reasons they’ve never stood at the heart of my classroom life. Lucky me.

Perhaps also why I’m struggling to see why the idea of emergent language is so new and particularly why it’s a challenge to ELT orthodoxy. But then I’ve been helping students say what they want to say and feeding in natural language for them since those first tentative days in Prague.

Anyways, the whole point of my original blog post was to try and get away from me and my lack of enthusiasm for dogme and explore why other people hold it so dear. What’s becoming clear is that the movement does crystallise facets of ‘good teaching’ for many people and so good luck to it in this regard as a reflective tool / action research technique.

8 01 2012

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! ; )

10 01 2012

Hi Chia,

Thanks for comment and you’ve helped me shape an idea of who Dogme is for and why it might be for them. Just not a situation I’ve encountered in my experience.

I do feel the need to defend the CELTA system though. I don’t see why it takes the blame for producing teachers who have to stick to the plan and teach the book. Where I train we have five trainers, none of whom are the least bit interested in ‘The Dogme Debate’ (well, except me a tad), but who are always encouraging the trainee teachers to respond to the students first and not to blindly teach their plans. And as the course goes on and they get the hang of basic classroom management they are encouraged to react to the coursebook and either adapt it to the students or do something else instead.

Perhaps there are CELTA trainers out there who insist on plans being followed despite student needs and course books being taught page by page, but I’d say they were bad trainers, not that it’s a bad system.

8 01 2012

Here are my 2 cents worth:

I’ve said a few times here and there that what attracted me to Dogme is that it came from teachers and if you browse through the Yahoo Group and the old blogs you can see that Teaching Unplugged has collated a lot of discussion and ideas from real teachers. Therefore, Dogme does not seem as abstract as many other methods but it is the community around it and the ideas that stand it apart, in my opinion. Someone recently said that the Yahoo group was ‘a secret society of EFL minds’ and I believe that if you want to get to grips with it you do need to start reading about what teachers have been doing and also engage with them about your first steps. In this way Dogme is a living breathing idea that is hard to classify and is old in the sense that it is almost passed down by mouth or online discussion.

Yes, these teachers may be talking about good teaching or rather teaching in a way that worked and benefitted their students but over the 10 yrs+ I think that the Yahoo groupers came to see the similarities between their teacher and this is what Luke and Scott solidified in TU and also made accessible. Yet this is only part of the puzzle, you need to see their presentations, talks and read people’s blogs to see what works and then try it. Is this good teaching? I think it is but I also think we needed a wake up call and to be brought back to what is important ie our students. Yes, resources are useful but when I’ve gone to class with 5 books for one lesson something is wrong.

To discuss good teaching you have to define good and bad but this depends on situations. For myself, using 5 books in a class, teaching a subject just because I have to and not working on my students needs is definitely bad.

10 01 2012

Sorry, Phil, wife’s home, dinner on the table and all that so on my last sentence of the night, but why exaggerate about using 5 books in class – this protesting too much really doesn’t help win me over (were you to want to 🙂 ).

11 01 2012

One class using five different books is no exaggeration in my experience! My students currently make use of a course book, accompanying work book (some may count those as one book rather than two, I know), a supplementary grammar book, a picture dictionary (with extra activities), a book to be used in ‘conversation’ lessons and three readers. On top of that, I’m currently resisting attempts to bring in another book of practicve materils for the Cambridge Flyers exam!

So that’s 5 books & 3 readers with another book currently being considered and I haven’t even got started on the handouts and photocopies that are produced yet!

Way too much – luckily I’m the conversation teacher and therefore only have to deal with one book and the readers. 🙂

18 01 2012

No exaggeration. I used to have student book, teacher book, practice book, test book, DVD book, extra reading book and online stuff and my students always wanted MORE than just their book which they often filled in at home. This meant lots of copying and juggling materials.

Same for most uni courses as by law you can only copy…% so you have to use various sources.

18 01 2012

Oh I’ve been involved in many courses where all these book can be involved, but you wouldn’t try and use them all in the same lesson, would you?

9 01 2012

A very thought-provoking post, thank you. As you say, Dogme-esque principles have of course been around for donkey’s years. Had I never had any training, I would probably teach in a Dogme style because that’s what worked for me in my own language learning. So I’d probably count myself in the same ‘lucky’ category as you, if for slightly different reasons.

The discussion on who are ‘the lucky ones’ is fascinating and seems to be highly pertinent to the Dogme debate. If I take a cold hard look at my own teaching context, I’m surrounded by both consummate professionals and newish teachers, both of whom use materials as the backbone of their teaching. The pros do it because it’s what they know – I feel there’s a belief that it makes their teaching professional (“come to the British Council, you’ll have the flashiest materials in town”). The newish teachers do it because the pros do it, and who doesn’t want to fit in? Common to both groups is the approach to teaching that means when you have a class to cover last-minute, your first question is “has anyone got any materials/a lesson I can use with them?”

It’s not at all my intention to criticise this – to each his own – but against this backdrop I don’t believe the Dogme position is so extreme, rather a proportional counter position. Remembering that Dogme does not advocate throwing out coursebooks (as is sometimes suggested), it seems to me that it’s valuable function is to give representation to a way of teaching that puts learners first, in a world dominated by coursebooks, used by teachers who are not ‘the lucky ones’. And by having a tangible ‘status’ as a teaching approach it makes it easier to be taken seriously by trainees and teachers who might otherwise feel it’s irresponsible or unprofessional to not do what is commonplace.

Oversimplifying? Maybe, but 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.

Thanks again

9 01 2012
What the Dickens! « Jeremy Harmer's Blog

[…] have written on the subject. You can read follow-ups and comments about all this from @mcneilmahon here and from @jemjemgardner […]

10 01 2012

Dam you all and your well-written and interesting posts sucking me into the Dogme debate and feeding my addiction. I’ve gone from ‘who cares about the bloody D word’ to reading everything I can get my hands on and have even been tempted to explore the YL-Dogme thing (only lack of time is stopping me).

I’m going back to bed with Harry Potter before you turn me! 😉


11 01 2012
David Avram

I’ve always seen coursebooks more as a provider of useful texts for skills work more than syllabi of language exponents, particularly since most if not all course books describe language inaccurately and over complicate its use unhelpfully. One of the reasons they’ve never stood at the heart of my classroom life.

But, honestly, how long did it take you to understand all this?

Just from my impressions, I am inclined to think the vast majority of language taechers (certainly in the first few years) really don’t have anything like this kind of insight, let alone why emergent language should have a central role in their classroom!

11 01 2012

At the risk of boring people with the mantra (Dogme-stylie), I guess I’m one of the lucky ones….

I’d studied about ten different languages before I became an English teacher, which helped me be very aware of my own native language. In my second year of teaching I did the IH Language Awareness Course, which helped me develop my critiquing skills when it came to course book descritptions of language no end and in my third year of teaching I did the Delta and among other things read ‘The English Verb’ by Michael Lewis, which, once read, will ensure you always take course book grammar references with a big pinch of salt.

11 01 2012

I’d have thought VYL was perfect for ‘Dogme’ lessons Kylie – ‘So kids, what shall we make up a song about today?’

(Tongue only half in cheek..)

11 01 2012

I’m considering making my own remix version and calling in doggyme 😉

BTW I’ve been meaning to respond to Dale : Language emerges in the YL classroom all the time. I once discussed different ways of saying ‘poo’ after one boy was taking a really long time and the kids took a great interest in specualting about what he may or may not be doing. We’d also never covered modals of speculation. Although they’d probably never needed them before that point 😉 Can we go as far as to call this Dog(gy)me?

11 01 2012

A song might be pushing it but made-up ’emergent’ chants do work!

15 01 2012
María emma

The Language Awareness Course is appalling from the theoretical point of view. Gives people no real knowledge about grammar, just what people question about the traditional explanations, but the traditional explanations should be studied before getting Celta-qualified teachers to question them. I wanted to kill my partners when I heard them criticise the way modals were taught without having read anything about modals in their entire life!!!!

15 01 2012

Hi Maria Emma,

Your comment is very welcome and very interesting but I don’t understand where you’re coming from, since you don’t give any examples. The language awareness course gives excellent ideas about how to teach different grammatical structures and makes teachers question the dross that passes for language analysis in most course books. I’m not sure what you mean by traditional explanations either, but if you mean things that end up represented as ‘the second conditional’ and ‘the future tense’ then better that the teachers haven’t done lots of reading beforehand…

11 01 2012
12 01 2012
On Why The (Unplugged) Revolution Will Not Be Televised « Teacher Training Unplugged

[…] In a later post replying to Jemma’s post (itself a response to Neil – are you keeping up with this?), Neil considered whether his resistance to Dogme was basically down to the fact that he didn’t need it – that he had evolved as a teacher within an environment where this kind of student-centred, resource efficient teaching was the norm. He suggested that he may simply be “one of the lucky ones” who didn’t “need” dogme. […]

13 01 2012
The (unplugged) revolution needs to be televised! | Five against one: Teaching against the odds.

[…] First Chia Suan Chong posted an excellent interview with Dale Coulter http://chiasuanchong.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/devils-advocate-vs-dale-coulter-on-dogme-and-newly-qualified-teachers/ Then Jemma Gardner posted her analysis of what she thinks Dogme is and means. http://unpluggedreflections.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/a-rose-by-any-other-name/  Anthony Gaughn also posted about Dogme. Seeing it as an attitude, first and foremost. http://teachertrainingunplugged.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/on-why-the-unplugged-revolution-will-not-be-televised/ Finally, and if I’ve missed anything I apologise, Neil McMahon posted a thought provoking post to try and find out why so many people seem to be waving the Dogme banner of late; Stating that Dogme is nothing new and we should all just stop getting carried away. https://amuseamuses.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/who-needs-dogme/ […]

14 01 2012
Alastair Grant

Neil! Great to see you acknowledging the massive impact that Dogme has had on ELT with your post 😉

And joking apart, it´s great to have a balanced, rather than vitriolic comment about Dogme teaching to get our teeth into.

As a response, I’d like to begin with the issue that has been raised about CELTA tuition using a coursebook. You metion, that, understandably, you felt “sheer dread” at the idea of teaching a class last-minute and without a coursebook. I would’ve been petrified. Chapeau, sir.

Be it Trinity, CELTA or whatever, we have all learnt our initial teacher training tools through the use of coursebooks. Are they therefore essential? As you yourself discovered, nope! You and your students must have gained more knowledge of each other on those few weeks than you would have done if you´d had to use a coursebook.

It must have been scary though. Without a coursebook, I honestly don’t know how I would have coped with a class on my first day on the job. But that was only because I’d been training to teaching using a corusebook – no other alternative was presented.

I was delighted to find out that Dale managed it though – http://languagemoments.wordpress.com/

A bit of balance on CELTA would be nice, no?

A quick, cheap stab, by the way:

“And I see Dogme as a Bolshevik revolution. And we all know what happened after that.”

Actually, I don’t.

I could if I looked it up on Google. But that’s the point – inducing students to study topics that aren’t always relevent to their lives is just the problem. As the great man (not Scott, this time, Morrissey) once said, this kind of thing “says nothing to me about my life”.

Dogme does – always. Relevent, engaging and useful. Coursebooks can be too… sometimes… if you get lucky… but as I mentioned on the DoS conference – it’s always kinda the “square peg in a round hole” scenario.

And there’s something missing in this debate (as usual in ELT…) – what do the students think? Having run a Dogme-style course at my institute for a year, the feedback I have had on what they all called “a new way to learn” has been overwhelmingly positive: increased confidence in speaking, increased class interaction and increased interest in each others’ lives and increased interest in langauge learning itself.

So who needs Dogme?

Well, my students don´t “need” it, but they’ve been getting a lot from it. More than from a coursebook? They think so.

Well then; to misquote one of Scott´s references, “there’s life in the old dog yet” – Dogme is far from dead – my year of teaching Dogme, the IHDoS conference and indeed your post itself, show that it is alive, kicking and the students are loving it.

15 01 2012
There’s no such thing as a dragon! (or Dogme fires up the IH DoS Conference 2012) « Reflective Teaching

[…] cite Jeremy Harmer’s and Neil McMahon’s posts as exhibits “A” in this debacle. The crux of both arguments seems to be, […]

15 01 2012

You need to read my post again Al!

24 01 2012
Alastair Grant

Ok I did!

Now do I get a reply? 😉

I’m writing a reply to your CELTA-based post too.

15 01 2012
Turning CELTA candidates into Dogme-gicians « A Muse Amuses

[…] on my post  ‘Who Needs Dogme‘, @alastairjamesgrant, IH’s very own Dogme-gician, asks […]

15 01 2012
Comment on ‘There’s no such things as a dragon’ by @alastairjgrant « A Muse Amuses

[…] 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? […]

16 01 2012

What an interesting discussion!
In fact, having never heard of ‘Dogme’ after 12 years of teaching, I had to look it up on Wiki. There, I discover it’s what most more experienced teachers do naturally, whilst often having to side-step the decrees of materials based DOS’s/ training managers/ language company directors. Yes, who hasn’t been told in advance what unit of what book to teach, which may have little relevence and interest to the students – and then tried to find a mid-path to please both? Glad I’m now independent and out of that game.
So, it does seem strange to put a name to what might otherwise be described as just ‘going with the flow’, within a lesson. Whoever thought of doing that? Someone needing an ‘intellectual’ raison d’être to retort to a boss’s criticism that they were just ‘blagging it’. Well, good for them I guess. Stranger still, then, that such inflexibility itself gets quantified and qualified, and put in a box with a label – whilst books are written and lectures held on the subject. Good Lord! I mean, I don’t mean to be vulgar, but it does seem exceedingly ‘anal’. Just get on with the job and enjoy it. You can learn so much from teaching.

11 06 2012

Great, “hearty” post I enjoyed immensely. (and you have my sympathy about your first teaching experience in the CR – I was there many years before and went through the same thing – you must have loved those dirty rags and grey buckets of water for rubbing down the board!).

I’m not one to get too polemic when it comes to teaching. You can reach the same end, many different ways. That’s why your post is refreshing and why I agree, dogme is just good teaching (in a particular context).

One peeve I have is that ELT in general is very ill informed about what is best practice in education. Much of what we think so groundbreaking in ELT was just borrowed from wider educational practices and we should be honest about that. Learn from that. I see dogme as an idea/philosophy as a branch of social reconstructivism, no more, no less. Of the late 60s/early 70s. Texts are evil and have an evil agenda. Dialogue is sacred and the teacher is on the level of the students. Language is emergent and from the world/life/concerns of the students.

I think the value of dogme is that it has been a valuable lens and way for teachers to develop language in which to frame and articulate best practices and discuss important issues. But it shouldn’t be a revolutionary creed and us vs them. As you state – we know what came about with Bolshevism and we can also add earlier, the Jacobins.

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