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.

About these ads

Actions

Information

5 responses

15 01 2012
Stephen Greene

I couldn’t agree more.

On any CELTA course that I have been involved in there has been encouragement not to use the book and to think of different ways of delivering classes. Trainees are always told to design the class from the students’ point of view, and after the week one exhortations to talk less, improve instructions and check for understanding, this becomes a regular refrain.

I think that Dogme (like so many other approaches to teaching) offers a number of insights into how we should, and should not, teach, but can’t be viewed as offering all the answers to all the problems in every teaching context.

Stephen Greene
http://www.tmenglish.org

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

[...] 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 [...]

24 01 2012
Alastair Grant

Back from holidays and ready to face your CELTA-challenge here. :)

To no doubt shock you (and maybe take the wind out of the sales of your final paragraph just a tad!), I am happy to reveal that I have nothing against CELTA and have never said that I did.

For me, CELTA was a perfect springboard into the world of teaching and I have nothing but praise for my tutors, admiration for the course structure and gratitude for the teacher training tools (I mean what I said!) that I gained from the course. I told anyone who’d listen at the time that CELTA was the hardest work and the most fun I’d had in a long time. This means that perhaps I need to get out more but also proves that I think it’s an ace course.

This is why I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick re. my criticisms. It’s not about CELTA, more about the delivery. With that in mind, let’s look at the points you raise:

1. “lump(ing) all the blame for ‘bad teaching’ on course books is the lazy argument”

…and is not one I’ve ever made. Coursebooks are useful, educational and can push the teacher as well as the student to excel. It’s not their fault… there are just alternatives. That’s what Dogme and I argue. No more.

2. “a pure (i.e. all ten commandments) Dogme lesson”

I think there’s a misunderstanding here. As I said in my blog post, the 10 Commandments were always tongue-in-cheek. I think this might have backfired on Scott et al slightly though, as it did put people off rather. I think most would now agree that Dogme is materials-light, conversation-driven and focuses on emergent language. Let’s not worry about the rest of it!

3. “we show candidates different lesson frameworks… two of these six involve course book texts”

Ok, same on my CELTA – but how do they then deliver their TP classes…? With coursebooks, right?

4. “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.”

This sounds fantastic – a great idea and one which I bet works for them really well. Just a shame it’s all about the adapting isn’t it? Do you see what I mean? It’s as though the coursebook is taken as a “given” as you either adapt or die! There are other ways to teach and the way CELTA can be delivered doesn’t seem to take this into account.

5. “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.”
Absolutely, but no one ever suggested this, did they..? As Dogme is an approach to teaching, I think it needs working into the CELTA delivery as a great option for teachers and students alike.

6. “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.”

This sounds excellent – a wonderful idea to allow students to bring their lives into the classrooms like this. All joking apart, I’d love to be involved!
Neil, I know I have a somewhat evangelistic (and perhaps rather glib) style when I write, but I hope you can see that it’s not about blaming CELTA, coursebooks or anyone.

What it is about, is allowing teachers to see that there are alternatives to using the coursebooks and giving them the tools to do so in class, from the start of their teaching career, if they so choose. As Dale will tell you, it’s challenging but possible.

http://languagemoments.wordpress.com/category/dogme-voices/

As responsible teacher-trainers, I think we need to drop our weapons against Dogme or any other non-traditional teaching approach and start to think about how it can help our teachers. Because it really can – and both they and the students get a hell of a lot out of it.

29 01 2012
mcneilmahon

Al, I don’t see the point in going through your points one by one because I’ll just end up repeating my point. You have taken points I’ve made as a personal points when I was simply answering wider criticisms in a response to your points. Get my point?

As I’ve said elsewhere, what Dogme needs now is people trying to agree on what it is and where it might take us. People seem to be agreeing it’s conversation-driven (although Luke manages to move the goalposts again at the IH Dos Conference in his 321 talk (www.ihworld.com)), materials-light and focuses on emergent language. Whether or not that’s new, original, an approach or a method in a post-method world, demands status or is just good teaching isn’t worth arguing about anymore, since it’s history that will finally decide.

What needs to be done is a defining of and descriptions of how to work with emergent language, particularly for new teachers and at low levels, since these seem to raise the biggest doubts. For example, I’d love to hear much more about your Dogme-style course at IH San Isidro last year and less point by point pointedness :).

11 06 2012
Rachael Roberts

Neil, don’t think there’s much to add..but thank you for your cogent arguments. It’s good for people to realise that CELTA is a course built round a set of pretty uncontentious criteria (such as being able to clarify language for students), and that the actual content can vary quite a bit. As you say, there is nothing saying you have to use coursebooks, or do PPP lessons, or any of the other charges often levelled. (I realise this isn’t what Alistair was saying, but it is a common refrain)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,950 other followers

%d bloggers like this: