Dogme Is an Elitist Anti-Construct

Dogme, or  as it is pronounced, has become a well-worn term in certain circles of the ELT industry. It is the practice of conducting a class through what is supposed to be free-flowing conversation without the use of books or materials. The idea has gained a bit of momentum but in this post I’m going to pop the balloon of Dogme because underneath the hype, I see it as a vacuous, anti-educational and bourgeois approach to language teaching.

I’m sorry dogme fans if this sounds harsh but I feel it has to be said. I have seen so many teachers fall flat on their faces using the dogme approach. The amount of thinking on your feet makes it just too difficult for most people to do well without any direction or structure. Dogme classes inevitably descend into a lame string of stilted and repetitive teacher-led Q&As and a lot of awkward silences, resulting in an unsure performance by the teacher and sheer boredom on the part of the students. The amount of student talk it generates is inversely proportional to the size of the class and so with larger classes it is nigh on impossible to implement properly, while the teacher always has a propensity to blabber in order to fill the spaces.

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Crash and burn: what happens to most teachers in a dogme class.

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Small talk is an extremely important skill and one that doesn’t come easily to a lot of people. It certainly needs a lot of practice but the weakness of dogme is that students also expect to learn and practice something specific, not just have a coffee chat. Beyond the first fifteen-minute warm-up Dogme is essentially a lazy option. After the warmer, conversational momentum dries up and learners need a more complex class dynamic with a deeper language focus.

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High and dry: dogme is a rudderless approach.

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In the pure form of dogme there are no performances, no role plays, no games, no tasks, no texts, no activities, no exercises, no drills, no challenges, no creativity and often no pre-planned learning points. Just spontaneous and voluntary small talk. This is why I feel dogme needs to be exposed for what it is – a lot of hot air.

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Bodge job: the main use of materials by dogmeists is to paper over the cracks in their own constitution. In other words, covering their derrieres...

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I think dogme was born out of a need by Scott Thornbury to create his ‘big idea’ in the ELT industry. The idea that dogme is in some way special because it deals only with emergent language is a complete fallacy. Dealing with emergent language is what you do, or should be doing, in any class. It’s just a lot easier if you have a structured activity to stimulate that language.

The basic truth is that dogme is a hollow non-method and it does the learner a great disservice over the long run. Learners deserve something more than the teacher coming in without any materials or solid ideas and simply trying to instigate some sort of inductive conversation. Dogme in its pure form is anti-pedagogical, anti-intellectual and at its heart, it’s a cop out.

As bad as course books may be, there is a good reason for their existence. They are there to help people. When people say they don’t like using books, what they really mean is that they don’t like using bad books. Unfortunately, there are too many of those around. But this is just a fact of life – Sturgeon’s Law in effect; a universal rule which states that 90 per cent of everything is rubbish. But this is more the problem with any kind of improv solution to something.

Metaphorically throwing the course book out of the window, unless you are a very experienced extemporaneous teacher is an irresponsible attitude because by doing so you are ignoring educational standards, setting the wrong example to fellow (perhaps less able) teachers and interfering with the students’ needs.

Books, even course books, are not inherently bad, even in light of the communicative approach. They are what took us clear of the dark ages and we would do well to continue to cherish them in educational contexts. The issue I have with books regarding language competency is that over reliance on textual input stunts listening skills but beyond that, they are very much needed especially at, and to achieve, an advanced level.

Where dogme fails (and this is something actually acknowledged by Scott Thornbury recently) is that most of the world’s English teachers are non-native speakers / ESL learners themselves. Most of the world’s teachers haven’t had the benefits of training that comes with living in a first-world country and they usually don’t have the skills to teach without solid materials, solid activities and clear direction at hand.

That’s why dogme is elitist. It is only good for the few who have the means to obtain in-depth training; who work in wealthy organisations (which charge correspondingly high tuition fees) where they are allowed to get away with wasting an hour in a coffee chat, where they reap the benefits of tiny class sizes, and where they have access to and can afford a plentiful supply of native-speaking teachers.

But beyond all this, Dogme is dull. It is difficult and unstructured.  What I want to see instead of endless dogme talk, is a genuine improvement that doesn’t require recourse to textbooks but utilises printed materials and handouts. This is a more rigorous approach that calls for teachers not to go in blind but to occupy an empowering and substantial middle ground where teachers use lesson plans containing scenarios and games which bear fruit in class, which challenge the learner in a competitive situation, which build on the lessons learnt from constructivism and the traditions of language teaching going back to the Direct Method, and which give the students something stimulating to work on and something to show for their study.

Teachers have not just a communicative responsibility but an intellectual as well syllabus/examination-based responsibility. Denying this to students is a recipe for failure. Both teachers and students have to dig a bit deeper into issues, even if that means plenary and set-performance at some points of the discourse. It is this mixture of developing skills and knowledge which makes language classes infinitely more interesting and dare I say it, fun.

So this post is not about a gimmicky non-idea dressed up in the clothes of serious pedagogy. It is a call to common sense, proper standards, better resources and greater purpose. And to that end this blog exists to help teachers enact and execute with real effectiveness.

 

87 Comments

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87 Responses to Dogme Is an Elitist Anti-Construct

  1. Dogmeticians could be guilty of a few serious unfounded generalisations, based on flimsy evidence:

    1. That teachers who use materials and coursebooks do not deal with emerging language and teach pre-selected language items, regardless of their relevance to students’ needs; they don’t work with emerging language.

    2. That they restrict the amount of ‘space’ in the classroom for learners to include their own experiences, their own lives and their own output.

    3. They cram the classroom with materials. Start each lesson with “now let’s turn to page/today we are going to learn”

    4. They impose topics completely distant from students’ lives, thus creating a dull environment in which students are not engaged in learning.

    Now I think it’s fair to say these are quite serious misunderstandings and don’t represent what 90% of professionals in this industry do in their classrooms.

  2. ‘The amount of thinking on your feet makes it just too difficult for most people to do well without any direction or structure.’ I don’t get this. Anyone can make a mess of a lesson, whatever their appproach. The fact that some teachers do something badly doesn’t discredit the approach, it means they haven’t got it right yet and need to work on it.

    • I think it does discredit the approach, Steve. We all need to think on our feet in teaching but we need to do it in different, more strategic ways.

      Dogme doesn’t stretch students (participation is not typically forthcoming) while it unduly stretches the teacher to come up with appropriate conversation topics. Small talk becomes lame and boring after fifteen minutes in a class and it leads to the teacher prattling on.

      • “participation is not typically forthcoming) while it unduly stretches the teacher to come up with appropriate conversation topics.”

        “Small talk becomes lame and boring after fifteen minutes in a class and it leads to the teacher prattling on.”

        Could I ask which Dogme classrooms obtained this opinion from?

        • whoops, which classrooms you obtained this opinion from

        • Candy van Olst

          I have found – in my experience, which, although lots and long, really is important here – that in my unplugged classes and in the many unplugged classes that I have observed as an Academic Manager, participation is relentlessly forthcoming. It needs curbing and directing. Why? Because the students are engaged in something that means something to them. And I have no idea why there is this ongoing and irritatingly pervasive myth that a dogme class is “small talk”? Conversation in the unplugged context does not mean “just talking” or endless “small talk”. It means engaging in spoken dialogue, out of which the teacher – yes yes right up there on his/her toes and flying by the seat of his/her pants – notes down, picks up and then works hard on the emergent language, using – yes, really – drills, role plays, exercises, tasks, texts, activities, performances and, man, is it ever creative. It is a pity that for some reason, beyond the best efforts of the fantastically gifted teachers who espouse this so-called “hollow non- method”, such profound misunderstanding still persists.

          • I think you have corrupted / co-opted the true meaning of the word dogme. What you have described there is activity / materials based learning. That ain’t dogme, Candy.

  3. If students are not stretched and don’t participate, whose fault is that? I’ve been teaching and observing trainee teachers for 30 years and believe me, you can underchallenge and bore the pants off students with PPP, Silent Way, Suggestopedia, CLL, take your pick. Success depends on the teacher’s sensitivity to what’s going on in the students’ minds.

    • It’s seems the main opposition to this is coming in the form of ad hominem and appeal to age fallacies. Sorry Steve, but as much as your experience matters to you, it doesn’t have any relevance in this discussion. In fact, you could say that experience is a hindrance because it makes you hidebound and closed to new ways of doing things.

      In answer to the question, I think if students aren’t responding, the approach must be wrong and the teacher needs to try a new one. Teachers are more adaptable than approaches after all.

      • Basic rule of a well-constructed argument – solid evidence ; )

        • I’d have thought Dale’s question absolutely germane: if you are going to trash an approach and by implication the effectiveness of the teachers who espouse it, you really ought to be providing some evidence for what you’re saying. What’s ad hominem in asking for some back-up for your points?

      • I don’t know where you see the ad hominem there. Of course my experience matters to me – I’d have no business commenting on this post if I thought my experience was irrelevant to the matter. My point is that anyone can make a success or a mess of any method, approach or technique, and none of them is foolproof. If you find that students are not responding, yes, by all means change tack. However, you might acknowledge that a lot of teachers have been using the ‘unplugged’ approach for years, long before it was given the rather unfortunate handle of ‘dogme’, and they use it because it works for them and their students. Or do you want to imply that all these people are deluded in imagining themselves successful?

        • Any appeal to authority (in your case experience and in Dale’s, a genetic fallacy) is a form of ad hom.

          Dale, I’m interested to know what conclusions you would make based on where I have done my observations of teaching. My question is, what difference does it make where I have done my observations? What about the points I made?

          • Fine – my experience is irrelevant, therefore I have no business commenting on this or any other matter. What do you base your views on?

          • Fine Steve, your experience is very relevant to you but simply asserting how many years you have been teaching does not add to the merits of the argument. I base my views on facts (specific things I have seen or heard) and reason.

          • Excuse my ignorance, but I am not sure what you’re referring to when you say ‘a genetic fallacy’?

            I don’t know about you, but when in the history of ideas and their application has one been kept in its purest ‘freshly cut’ form? Looking at the contents page of your book, you even have a whole section for the ‘Evolution of Methods’. My question I guess is: why do you feel so strongly about the evolution of Dogme?

            I’m sure your criticism would have a lot more weight in my eyes if it were supported by some concrete classroom observation. As I said in my first comment, both sides of the argument are guilty of making unfounded accusations, based on extreme depictions which are in all honesty misunderstandings; the describe the extreme and rare rather than the norm. What difference it makes is that I would consider your argument to have some validity. No evidence = no argument.

            I’d like to echo Jemma’s offer here and invite you to come and watch me teach.

          • Hi Dale,

            A genetic fallacy is an argument that questions the orgin of the argument rather than point made.

            My argument is certainly based on what I have observed. I haven’t gone into to details because it’s based on a wide range of examples which all share the same characteristics. That is, teacher walks in to a class (varying sizes, ages and socioeconomic levels) and tries to conduct a whole lesson based on spontaneous free talk which doesn’t actually go anywhere. It is painful to watch teachers digging holes for themselves like this and I have often found myself jumping in with an activity to give the class some purpose and direction. But I don’t see why I need to justify my argument with specific cases when I have articulated my thoughts and reasons for this clearly enough.

            Thanks for the invite to come and watch you teach. I would love to take you up on it but I live in China and only get back to the UK once a year. And unfortunately the world’s biggest ELT market is barely represented on the conference circuit.

      • What an unbelievably stupid, patronising response. Teaching experience has no relevance to a discussion on methodology? We’re all lost, then, given that our experience is all any of us has to reflect on!

        • Hang on, you’re trying to invalidate my argument by repeatedly stating how long you’ve been teaching for (as if I’m supposed to be awed by it) and then you call ME patronising. And you call me stupid to boot!

          I hope you can see the irony here.

          • No, I called your remark stupid, not you. And if it is not patronising to say that experience merely makes you hidebound, I don’t know what is.

            I am not in the least interested in trying to impress anyone with my length of experience – why on earth should they be? Everyone I work with has been at it for 30+ years, so it hardly counts as anything exceptional. I was the first to point out on this thread that anyone can screw up any approach, and because I have spent so long training teachers I have seen this happen many times – it isn’t the fault of the approach, but of the teacher who for whatever reason is not implementing it well. (I cannot make the Silent Way work for me, but I know teachers who are amazingly adept at making it fly.) And before the term dogme came into use, I worked with a group of ESP teachers in Greece whose approach was dogme avant la lettre, and they were amazingly effective.

  4. Hi Luan,

    Intriguing and controversial post. I thing you’ve picked up on some very valuable points which do need to be said, addressed and advertised more.

    From researching and experimenting with Scott and Luke’s ideas and countless other people’s who are all under the alleged ‘Dogme gang’ umbrella I do agree with many things you’ve said but they do also. For me, it’s taken a year to get to grips with what really works in Dogme. I went completely back to basics and just started putting students first in all my teaching. That’s it in a nutshell. Here are some examples:

    My corporate classes are 2 hours of intensive conversation, language/grammar work, role plays, writing and intercultural training. All based on what the initial conversation is, what errors, weaknesses or needs appear and match the CEF level needs/job needs of the student. It’s not easy at all but everything is in context and my student learns pretty well. 2 hours covers about 30 words, 2 grammar points + structures.

    My MA uni courses are on Engineering and are based on topics chosen by students and involve serious discussions, projects and research.

    My exam prep classes are conversation-based and work in other skills all based on what my students need.

    I can honestly say Dogme is not easy, it requires serious research and definitely a teacher who knows his/her stuff and has been around a bit as that person can react to what comes up and develop things. They may plan several things and use all of them or some of them or none of them depending on what happens in the class.

    For anyone thinking that Dogme is just chat or a couple of activities from Scott’s book then read all the unit intro’s and then figure out how those activities developed. Copying someone’s lesson is still copying. Learning skills to help every lesson develop and help your students learn is more interesting AND difficult but makes me look forward to teaching every day.

    • Hi Phil,

      Certainly dogme gets a lot easier if you do a lot of prep and planning but then is that really dogme in its truest meaning? The issue here is that the word has been co-opted to make it mean what people want it to mean, i.e. activity, task and materials based learning. But my understanding is that that stands in opposition to the actual original meaning of dogme.

  5. I would like to invite you to come and watch Dogme in action on a Celta course where the trainees certainly do not crash and burn, fall flat on their faces or any other misguided cliche you would like to apply to it.

    Dogme does require a lot from the teacher, but it certainly doesn’t result in boring Q&A sessions, and it also doesn’t mean you don’t have activities, roleplays, practice and all the other elements you find in a coursebook. The difference is that these elements are introduced into the lesson through the needs and interests of the students at that specific time, rather than decided on by a coursebook writer a few years before. It’s this immediacy to work with what is present in the classroom that makes Dogme by far the most demanding of students attention, and the most interesting and relevant way of teaching I am yet to come across.
    I feel sorry that you haven’t had such good experience with it. Each to their own, and all that. But really, crashing and burning are what normally happens when the students don’t care about the material/topic. If they have driven the construction of the topic, they will never be bored.
    Jem

    • Again this is coming back to the point about dogme having been co-opted for the convenience of practitioners. If you are going to introduce activities at certain points of the discourse then doesn’t this require lesson plans and materials? Or do you expect all teachers to keep a massive repertoire of activities in their heads?

      Jemma, it’s not that I have had a bad experience with Dogme. I did not say that. But I have seen many teachers have bad experiences with it.

      I worry that you say students will never be bored. That’s too strong a word and cannot be based on truth. Candy, actually went as far as to say on her blog she has never once had one bored student in 12 years of teaching! It is incredible that people have the gall to say these things.

    • Is this open to everyone Jem?

      Could you stream or video some. That would be amazing.

      Phil

    • I think Jemma hits the nail on the head. Most lessons I’ve seen flop that are based around conversation are because the teacher initiated the discussion rather than the students, the students weren’t all that interested in the first place, the teacher wasn’t comfortable with 2 seconds of silence while learners gathered their thoughts, or the teacher wasn’t clear on how to guide students to build conversation in class because they were too used to a teacher lead classroom.

  6. Sarah

    ‘I think dogme was born out of a need by Scott Thornbury to create his ‘big idea’ in the ELT industry.’
    ‘Basic rule of debating: attack the point, not the man.’
    Which is it?

  7. I’ve seen many teachers do bad classes with every method possible probably because they were trying to recreate something following strict rules and procedures.

    The best teachers I’ve seen, and who were praised by students, were the ones who got to know and put their students first. Stick what label you want on them, they got results.

    The true sense of Dogme? Well, it started out, I think as a reaction against a situation and now has lots of meanings. I think the 3 pillars in TU are enough for everyone to build around but you shouldn’t narrow your focus. A true teacher takes onboard new things, is constantly improving but is all concerned about his students progress. Call it Dogme if you wish but many people do.

    • I still think of dogme in the purest conversational sense so perhaps I only have a problem with 80% of dogme teaching.

      I’m coming to the conclusion now that the word has certainly become co-opted and distorted beyond its original meaning by eager followers. But I see no reason to persist with the dogme tag just because it has a connotation with widely-held and long-since accepted liberal teaching methods. I’ll stick with student-centred learning.

  8. Candy van Olst

    http://t.co/8YNTZ9sn From the man with the “big idea”

    • I like the fact that Scott has to ask how he should talk about dogme at the conference and Alex replies that he should try hedging his language to make his ideas more palatable. Both the question and the answer show you how much integrity dogme has.

      As if it wasn’t hedged in the most oblique language already …

  9. John

    An interesting, thought-provoking post. From my experience (are we allowed to talk about experience here?), I have always had trouble implementing Dogme with larger classes. However, I have read many posts where it has been used with success. It’s anecdotal evidence but that appears to be de rigeur here.

    I don’t quite see how Dogme can be labelled as a ‘lazy option’ when it requires teachers to think on their feet. Lazy teachers don’t think on their feet and rely, in many classrooms around the world, on worksheets, coursebooks, and other materials to do all the work. It’s not the materials that are lazy but the teachers who use them and how they use them . The same could be said of the teachers you have observed, Luan. It might not be the methodology but how the they executed the lesson. To resort to cliches, a bad workman often blames their tools!

    I agree that students, and teachers, want a more complex class dynamic. Who wouldn’t? But, will they get this from a photocopy? A coursebook? Maybe. Will they get it from a learner-centered classroom where the students actively listen to each other and the teacher is hanging on every word of the students? I think they will. And that’s what you get in a GOOD Dogme lesson – lots of language work based on the learners’ language.

    I don’t understand why you think a Dogme lesson has to be devoid of a deeper language focus. The Dogme lessons that I have taught have always had a language focus, but it’s never really been ‘pre-planned’. Some conversation driven topics that I have started the lesson with lend themselves to, and naturally produce, certain aspects of language, but I think some will take you to task on the notion of ‘pre-planned learning tasks’. I think that should read as ‘pre-planned teaching tasks’.

    I do think that you need to read up a little bit more on Dogme when you say that it has ‘no performances, no role plays, no games, no tasks, no texts, no activities, no exercises, no drills, no challenges, no creativity’. Seriously misconceived. Many of us Dogme teachers even use texts – ones chosen by the students, of course. And I think that still holds true for ‘pure’ Dogme if you want to label things as such. I wouldn’t like to be so prescriptive. I have my interpretation and you, well, have yours.

    I certainly wouldn’t disagree that we need a ‘general improvement’, but I would love to know why you would advocate ‘printed materials and handouts’ over coursebooks. I don’t really understand what you mean by this. How, exactly, will this address any deficiencies in the system. Won’t 90% of them be rubbish as well? However, and more pertinently, it’s a shame that you suggest first that materials will help this ‘general improvement’ and not teacher education. I think that should come first.

    ‘The basic truth is that (…) it [Dogme] does the learner a great disservice over the long run.’ I doubt very much you have any proof for this.

    Finally, Dogme is dull? Hmm! I’ll save that for another day.

    • Hi John,

      A few points to contend with here.

      1. The laziness paradox. I knew that point would confuse some. I meant that dogme is difficult for the teacher to do well. That is, to do properly. But it is very easy for a teacher to coast along in chatting mode with an excessive amount of teacher talk and call that a ‘free talk’ class – which is effectively what the original definition of dogme is. This is what I meant by lazy. Dogme is very susceptible to this abuse.

      2. The definition of dogme and the use of materials. I understand the word has morphed to incorporate task-based and content-based learning. Around 20% has been compromised according to the latest venn diagram. As I wrote in the post, materials in dogme help to paper over the cracks in the weak part of the approach. The weak part being conversation-based learning. You can’t expect teachers to hold a massive repertoire of activities in their heads. Thus there is a need for lesson plans.

      I have done plenty of reading on dogme and if I may draw your attention to the original essay A Dogma for EFL, its first tenet says that “Teaching should be done using only the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom – i.e. themselves”. This is the key stone of dogme is and always will be; conversation-led classes based on what the learners bring to the discourse from their own lives. This I see as the weakness of the approach. Am I being unfair by basing my understanding of dogme on the original definition? I don’t think so. What some have changed dogme into has been around for at least a century and I see no reason to call it by a new and ultimately false name.

      3. Why are lesson plans better than course books? Most course books contain too many exercises and not enough activities. Too much text for the students to read and not enough instructions for the teacher to set up communicative tasks. Course books are for the student, lesson plans are for the teacher – ideally to be studied before class and then used as a reference in class.

      • As for point two, so teachers, students, and methodologies never change? They are forced to remain as they originally came into being? I’m quite sure I’m not the same person I was 5 years ago. The “point of origin” argument is too Western and not based on real life in my eyes.

        • I think you may have a point here, Nick. Since the methodology is so hard to pin down perhaps we are better of referring to dogme as a group of people who like sharing teaching ideas on the internet, rather than a bona fide approach.

  10. John

    In the original text, you advocate ‘printed materials and handouts’ over coursebooks. This is then changed in your reply to ‘lesson plans’. There are many courses out there which come with very good lesson plans. It’s called the Teacher’s book. There are some great Teacher’s books out there which help to supplement the text heavy, exercise overload, dryness of the Student’s book with more communicative, student-centred, tasks. Anyway, we digress.

    Many have called Dogme elitist which is, I think, a real shame. It’s hard to call something which relies heavily on the people in the room, a whiteboard, and a pen as elitist. It’s almost the antipathy of elitism. Advocating that teachers buy resources, books, equipment, IWBs, laptops, and so on, is elitist. If a Dogme teacher can be likened to a peasant tending to his fields with only what nature has provided, then Dogme is as elitist as, well, a peasant in a field.

    Just for the record, whilst I am a native speaker, I received most of my training out of the First World. Good training does not necessarily have to be done in the developed world.

    I do feel it is slightly unfair to criticize Dogme today based on the original idea espoused by Thornbury in 2000. Dogme, like all ideas, has evolved with different teachers interpreting it differently. This is not an inherent weakness in the methodolgy, if you can call it that. Thornbury, as I recall, never really posited it as a methodology. However, like all ‘memes’, it will strive to evolve, to survive. I imagine if Thornbury (or Meddings) were to drop in on a ‘Dogme’ class, the lesson they would witness would be different to how they imagined it back in 2000. That is not to say that it is not Dogme: it will have certain features that relate and unite the two. But identical? I think that would be almost impossible.
    Dogme has ‘mutated’ and taken on different forms and it’s these new ‘strains’ of Dogme that should be analyzed and not the Dogme of old that rose from the primeval soup.
    The ‘Dogme’ lessons that you witnessed were more than likely unsuccesful ‘memes’ of that origninal idea. They will either die out or the teacher will learn from them, tweak them and propogate new, more successful, ‘mutated’ memes. Obviously, the particular lessons that you witnessed were unsuccessful for the environment and teacher.

    • I’m sorry, that just sounds like wishy-washy flannel. I think you are avoiding the crux of the argument here, John.

      Fundamentals are fundamentals. Dogme is defined by the word conversation. That is, non transactional, non performative and totally spontaneous language. I find that a poor way to run a lesson, not to mention a whole course. Dogme began as an antithesis to materials. It changed because it had to. The approach was too weak without materials. Therefore what is now called dogme, is not really dogme. It is materials-based learning, which has been around for yonks.

  11. John

    I wouldn’t entirely agree that Dogme is defined solely as conversation. I think it’s broader than this and encapsulates so much more. That’s my opinion and, as I wrote before, diffferent people naturally interpret things differently. Do things have to be so rigid? An idea was floated and people did what they wanted to do with it. Ignore, reject, embrace, modify. The fact that so many teachers, unfortunately not in your experience, have used it successfully does speak for itself. To attack it based on a limited number of observations seems rahter short-sighted. There are plenty of more successful stories out there which you could have used to balance your argument. Teaching and learning is not black and white, and I think Dogme is one further tool which teachers can use.
    I love course books, materials and photocopiables, but I also understand that we mustn’t rely solely on these. If anything, Dogme is simply about listening to your students.
    I never wrote that Dogme (now or then) was based around materials. Ideas, yes. I can only speak for myself here, and the Dogme lessons that colleagues of mine have given, but I have never had a Dogme lesson that used, nor relied on materials that I had brought into the class.
    I have had Dogme ‘moments’ that have arisen from materials, but I wouldn’t label these, if I must, as Dogme lessons. I would simply call this good teaching practice. This was the best thing Dogme ever taught me. And for that I am gald that it exists and I hope it continues be around to remind other teachers to listen to their students more. I am afraid such outright, hard line rebuttals of Dogme will end up throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    • You’re rejecting much of the objective reasoning that I’ve provided. Instead you are favouring subjective and anecdotal reports from a relatively small amount of teachers to justify your stance. I think I have provided plenty of logic and reason to chew on. These teachers that claim to do well with dogme represent a tiny proportion of English teachers globally and they all seem to be from rich countries, have small classes and largely pre-intermediate-plus students.

      “I never wrote that Dogme (now or then) was based around materials.”

      But can’t you see that language teaching ultimately has to be based around materials? It’s not fair on teachers to make them run off the top of their heads day in day out in every class. There must be more to teaching and learning than that. Teachers need lesson plans – written ones. Conversation has its limits and you can’t expect people to permanently store a thousand activities in their heads. Using materials before you go into class is still using materials. Isn’t the whole point of dogme that it’s spontaneous, i.e. the teacher doesn’t bring prior resources or planned tasks into the room but instead draws on the students’ own lives for conversational fodder?

      • You seem to be rejecting all the contradictory evidence to your original posting simply because you aren’t willing to entertain it. You’ve come to a conclusion and have closed out other arguments. Most of the arguments you post in reply ring hollow as if they are simply there to a support a point that was misapplied in the first place. I say step back, seriously critique your original post in light of all the comments, be open to the fact that you, in all statistical probability, are not 100% right, and try commenting again.

        Maybe rather than arguing, it’s better to challenge you to answer questions with valid evidence. Why do teachers need lesson plans? Do all teachers need them? If some teachers feel better with them or if they improve their teaching, does it invalidate those who use a different tact? Does starting with the students mean you have to eschew planning? If ideas are built upon other ideas, does the fact that dogme is built upon predecessors invalidate it?

  12. John

    ‘It’s not fair on teachers to make them run off the top of their heads day in day out in class.’

    Then don’t!

    But ceertainly give it a go and see how it feels for you and your students. If it doesn’t work, then move on – but, learn from it.

    • Odd comment. Do you think I have never tried dogme, John? Do you think I am a complete novice? Do you know that almost all of my teaching is extemporaneous and deals with emergent language? Just because I can do it off the cuff, have the experience and take a lot of pride in it, doesn’t mean other people can, do or should have to teach without materials.

  13. Candy

    http://tinyurl.com/6vnwdnw
    for a measured, mature, reasoned and ultimately sensible response to this: based on experience, which may or may not – unfortunately – be acceptable.

    • Another emotional response. I’ve obviously upset him by not giving enough respect for the tremendous amount of experience that he so much likes to brag about. C’est la vie.

      • Candy

        You are not upsetting anyone at all of any kind. Experience has long taught us older teachers that at the end of the day, students – especially rich, elitist, pre-intermediate plus Business English students and poor disenfranchised, homeless refugees and enormous classes of pre-sessional University students prefer experienced, empathic, self-reflective teachers. Go figure.

      • I think if you read it more carefully you will see that I am not in the least upset, merely surprised that someone as intelligent as you could come up with a post as ill-considered, unfair and wrong-headed as this. You are the one who’s harping on about my experience and how I am supposed to be so proud of it – I only mentioned it because it gave weight to my point about how we all can so frequently screw up.

  14. John

    Apologies for any confusion. It wasn’t aimed at you. I was not attacking the man. It was aimed at people who might be reading this and be put off experimenting with Dogme. The last thing we want is more closed, set-in-their-ways teachers.
    Would it matter whether you were a novice or not? I thought experience was irrelevant in this discussion as experience is a hindrance and closes teachers to new ways of doing things.
    I completely agree that others do not have to do it. No one is forcing them to do it. And teachers should be made aware of Dogme’s pitfalls, or potential pitfalls. Some of those you mention are surmountable, but I would hate to lapse into more anecdotal evidence.
    I just disagree with this polemic discusion. It’s either full, pure Dogme or full, materials-driven teaching. Do we have to choose?

    • Just putting you right, John. Telling me to “try it and learn from it” seems like a woefully misplaced sentiment given the discussion we’ve had.

      Re polarising, yes I think it’s an issue which has to be addressed. Where do you draw the lines between using materials and not, between being conversation-based and task-based? Dogme practitioners do not sing from the same hymn sheet on this so I think it’s only right to call them on it if dogme is to be considered as a proper and credible approach. At the root of it, there’s not enough honesty about what dogme is and what it isn’t.

  15. John

    I think, like many, that the beauty of Dogme lies in how it has been acted on by so many people – and not just in rich, Western countries – each having their own idea of what Dogme is. Thornbury’s original article was controversial, but it did force people to step back and reexamine the current state of ELT to which we should be grateful.
    I don’t think it’s about ‘honesty’. If you follow the Dogme Yahoo group (and I’m sure you do), then it’s quite clear that what constitutes Dogme is left to the individual. There isn’t anyone prescribing what it is. Dogme has grown organically. I know that you felt my earlier post was wishy-washy flannel, but I still stand by it. I rather liked it. Oh well.
    Where do I draw the line on materials / materials free? Depends on the the materials, the class, me, the weather, any any number of other variables. That’s why I am completely against any methodology, approach, etc. being forced upon people. Every classroom is different and the teacher, and students, have to make their own call.

    • Yes, John. I’ve just mentioned this earlier in the comments. I think we should reject the idea that dogme is an approach and instead see it for what it is; a group of teachers on the internet who like sharing ideas. I think it’s a much more useful and accurate definition.

  16. 100% complete rubbish if you’ve ever actually used a dogme approach or implemented it school-wide as I have.
    - In my experience, without fail, Dogme gets stellar results for students whose goal is to be able to communicate well.
    - When dogme (or as you are putting it in the simplest of terms, conversation-driven lessons) fail, it is because of a lack of know-how or experience on the teacher’s part, not because of the method. As a teacher trainer, I’ve seen tons of lessons fail due to the teacher-lead Q & A dead end regardless of the method used.
    - All teachers can teach this approach whether they have a teaching background and loads of experience or not. I’ve seen it work in different schools, different cultures, with different ages, and with teachers from all backgrounds.
    - Dogme works for non-natives just as well. I’ve seen it and I’ve done it myself as a non-native language teacher.
    - Dogme is not an excuse to go in without a plan. That’s just an excuse for those who don’t bother to actually learn about the method.
    - How does a handout make a lesson more “rigorous”, but a conversation doesn’t? Is talking using the past simple less rigorous than filling in gaps using it?
    -

  17. Great post Luan. It’s good to hear these very valid criticisms of Dogme.

    • Thanks Jonathan.

      ‘When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do.’ ~ William Blake

  18. Alex Ding

    Hi all,
    Much of the discussion here seems to revolve around the legitimacy of using experience as a means of validating dogme or not. I think it would be foolish to dismiss the enthusiasm of the many teachers who have experimented with dogme (and I am not especially aligned to it) and their experiences of it, as well as those who have found it wanting, seem valuable in itself. Experience of teaching is a valid way of discussing and arguing, it is what gives approaches, methods, methodologies their practical credibility. Of course, anecdotal experience tells us only so much about dogme. What dogme needs to do now is provide a much more substantial research base to provide substance to the claims. It also needs to incorporate students’ voices much more in the accounts of dogme.
    I am somewhat agnostic, but very interested in dogme, and Luan, I really don’t know why you have such a hostile stance towards it. In fact, it seems one of the few approaches to teaching that must just be available to all experienced teachers regardless of their first language and regardless of where they might have been trained.
    As for suggesting the need for Scott to create his big idea, assigning this motivation to him seems to miss the point entirely as the relative success of dogme depends much more on teachers than it does on Scott. It also suggest, perhaps, a certain cynical attitude towards Scott, for which there is no evidence. If he has received praise, attention and status for having promoted dogme, he has also received criticism too. I have no idea of scott’s motives and neither do you. His motives matter very little, as it dogme, it’s values and appropriacy that are key. Not Scott.
    Alex

    • “Experience of teaching is a valid way of discussing and arguing, it is what gives approaches, methods, methodologies their practical credibility.”

      As long as you talk about specifics rather than resorting to the word as an attempt to invalidate an argument.

      “Luan, I really don’t know why you have such a hostile stance towards it.”

      Alex, please refer to the reasons why I don’t like it. I thought I was quite clear on this. Do I really need to explain it again?

      Perhaps I was being a bit unfair on Scott, but it’s just conjecture – and not much of a leap of the imagination or personal slight to suggest that it was his ‘big idea’.

      I think people are being way too sensitive here.

  19. Lyle

    Good for you, Luan, having a tilt at the Dogme wind-farm. I’m amazed how much flak you’ve managed to draw!

    I must say, though, I do really wonder how much Dogme is really going on, out in the real world, away from the blogosphere and twitterscape. For example, as a business English teacher I have just been reading through this year’s BESIG Conference schedule, and I didn’t come across anything on Dogme or Teaching Unplugged.

    • John

      I wonder if it’s becuase many of the speakers are materials writers and are appearing ‘on behalf of’ a publishing company, school, or exam board. Not a criticism, just an observation.

      • John, Occam’s Razor would suggest that it’s not some conspiracy but it’s because dogme is not considered a credible approach by most people in the profession. If you can use materials in dogme, why wouldn’t publishers capitalize on it?

        The denial that you guys demonstrate in the face of reason is staggering.

        • John

          I was never suggesting that it was a conspiracy. As I said, it was an observation – nothing more and nothing less.
          Perhaps, you can use materials in a Dogme class. I don’t know, and I frankly don’t care. There is no one, that I am aware of in the Dogme group, who seems interested in taking such a hardline approach over such matters. It seems only to be you. I find your lack of flexibilty staggering.
          However, if you are only interested in discussing Dogme in its ‘purist form’, then of course you can use materials. There are all manner of texts that we can use. A text that a student has brought in. A poster on a wall. A newspaper found in the bin. A student’s mobile phone. A receipt from a resturant. The letter in my pocket. Graffiti. But how, exactly, will a publisher capitalize on this?

          • This is a simple and fundamental question about how much material you can get away with in a dogme class. It’s not unreasonable to seek clarification. You are indicating that dogme has lost its principles and I would agree with that.

            You say that in the pure form, you can only use materials you find in the room. Then why do people go to such lengths to make dogme lesson plans i.e. materials? If you can make dogme lesson plans – which is only fair for teachers – then surely publishers would want to do that. But they don’t. They don’t see dogme as a serious method.

  20. Dogme was an avant-garde approach to film making that relied on on using what you found at the scene when shooting your film. No lighting equipment, special effects or fancy editing are allowed.

    This was applied to the ELT classroom by saying we shouldn’t have a pile of photocopies, coursebook activities or pre-prepared exercises.

    If people are saying that they can use activities and exercises then they are not following a dogme class.They may say ‘But it has evolved’, but the problem is they fail to complete their sentence. They should be saying ‘But is has evolved into something else’.

    If people still use the word Dogme then it is a waste of time. Concept stretch meand the concept of Dogme is meaningless if we cannot agree on what it means.

    There are some important lessons to be taken from the ideas behind Dogme, such as allowing students to direct the class/topic, not relying on piles of photocopies, using student generate material. But these lesons can, and probably should, be incorporated into each individual’s own methodology base don their own experiences and beliefs about teaching.

    As far I am concerned, I am happy to let ‘Dogme moments’ appear in my classes. Occasionally these moments’ can last the whole class, but to have a whole semestre based around Dogme is far too much to even contemplate.

  21. Pingback: Dogme Is an Elitist Anti-Construct | Dogme ELT | Scoop.it

  22. John

    I would completely agree with you that a whole semester based around Dogme is far too much to even contemplate. To me that sounds like Hell. That’s just way too much thinking on my feet. For me, that IS difficult and would be far from the lazy option. Just because I couldn’t do it does not make it wrong or bad. If a teacher can make it work for an entire semester, then I am truly in awe (not only of their teaching skills, but also their stamina).
    Is a course book bad just becuase I don’t want to use that for an entire semester? No, of course not. Why are we applying double standards to Dogme? The criticisms that are being levelled at Dogme are not sound and rational, but personal opinions based on one’s on teaching style and preferences. If it doesn’t work for you, then don’t do it. And that is true for almost any approach (I’m avoiding ‘in my experience’). It is that simple. But to dismiss the whole approach because YOU can’t make it work is simply …. This is what really gets my goat about this blog. It’s such a horribly one-sided view of it. Black or white. Elsewhere on this site I found that more ‘directionless play’ is needed, then to criticise Dogme for being unstructured is bizarre.

    • You’re clutching at straw men now, John.

      “This is what really gets my goat about this blog. It’s such a horribly one-sided view of it. Black or white. ”

      I think it’s good to have the courage of your convictions. The old saying goes that if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything. I’d say that’s rather apt in a discussion on dogme.

      • John

        There’s absolutely nothing wrong in having the courage of your convictions. But, there is also a lot to be said for being open-minded and seeing that something, whilst not being perfect, can still have many good qualities. Is anything perfect? I’m not. Are you? We digress, attack the argument and not the man. Sorry! So … just to recap. You believe that:
        1. Pre-planned teaching aims result in learning. Hmm! Read around on that one, Luan.
        2. Directionless play is good.
        3. Dogme is unstructured and bad. Contradictory?
        4. Experience is worthless. How, exactly, did you gather some of your research? Didn’t you observe teachers? Would this not count as experience?
        5. Dogme in the long term is bad. This might well be true but you haven’t shown any proof for this and I haven’t the foggiest.
        6. Dogme is a lazy option.
        7. Dogme is difficult. I think this kind of contradicts 7 and suggests that most teachers are incompetent and/or stupid.
        9. Non-native speakers are incapable of teaching without materials as they need direction and support. Hmm! Look at the Dogme Group for examples of NNSs using Dogme successfully.
        10. Ideas, methodology, approaches, styles, etc. should not evolve. Coursebooks haven’t changed at all, have they?
        11. Students don’t participate in Dogme classrooms. Have you read any of the posts on the Yahoo Dogme group. Sorry, they are talking about their experience. It doesn’t count.
        12. Teachers are incapable of teaching without a lesson plan.
        13. There’s no language focus in Dogme. Again, read some of the posts on the Yahoo Dogme Group.
        14. Dogme is only about small talk. Read the Dogme Yahoo Group .
        15. Good training only exists in Western countries. Ouch!
        16. Dogme only works in rich organisations. Sorry, I forgot you need access to all those materials.
        17. Dogme classes inevitably end up as meaningless, dull, Q and A sessions and completely teacher led. Read the Dogme Yahoo group discussion.
        18. Teachers should be discouraged from attempting something different because you don’t like it.
        19. Dogme is difficult in large classes. From my own experience, I would agree with you. But, look at the Dogme Yahoo …
        20. Coursebooks aren’t bad. Unbelievably, I will agree with you.
        21. All teachers must adopt the same approach. Teachers are not allowed to develop their own style. Teachers are not allowed to adapt methodologies, approaches, etc. that are given to them.
        22. Materials add structure. I will half agree with you. Materials can add structure.
        23. Materials are good. Yes, they are. Well, depends on how you use them.
        24. Giving teachers materials is more important than training. Give a man a fish and …
        Time for a beer now …

        • John, you are totally misrepresenting me here. This is sheer intellectual dishonesty on your part.

          • John

            And that, Luan, is my problem with some of the content here. You are more than entitled to your views. However, I feel that you have misrepresented Dogme and seem unwilling to accept that there are other sides to it, choosing only to focus on the negatives. I will admit that there are obstacles to be overcome with Dogme – large classes, strain on the teacher, the danger of descending into endless ‘coffee chat’ with lack of focus, etc. But, these are not insurmountable. You claim to be well read on Dogme and have clearly been following discussions on other sites, but failed to include any of the positives to balance your negative experiences.
            If the teachers you had been watching were using a coursebook badly, would you have told them to throw away the book and start using the Silent Way? I think most people would have worked with the teacher to help them improve their technique and learn lessons from their mistakes rather than dismissing the whole approach.
            It’s not about the Dogme.

  23. John

    To such lengths ? I have no idea where that has sprung from.
    My last Dogme ‘lesson plan’ consisted of me walking into the room and just listening to what people were talking about. I engaged in some talk. I reformulated some of the things people wanted to say. I put some language on the board. We developed the language together by looking at collocations, etc., this sparked some more conversation which was followed by more reformulation, more vocabulary work, and so on. We wrote the language down. I made a mental note to review the language the next day, and the next. The only material that I used was the whiteboard. Oh and a pen. I imagine a book with the lesson plan – walk into the room, listen, react, repeat stages 1,2 and 3 – will be a best-seller. Go for it, Luan.
    Anyway, what has fairness got to do with it? If teachers do not feel comfortable with this style of teaching, then don’t do it. Again, it’s that simple.
    As for principles, well …

  24. Alex Ding

    Dogme has generated a great deal of interest and heated debate. That, in itself, is a good thing I think. The challenge for dogme is to provide some research-based evidence as a viable approach to language education. I have already stated that the voices of students and learners are somewhat absent from discussions and analyses of dogme. Scott has initiated the publication of a book that will be based on research findings. This will, possibly and hopefully, add some weight to claims made about dogme. And this is to be welcomed.
    I suppose the same challenge goes to you too. If you are so certain of your views and all the evidence you have gathered from your observations of teachers points to the redundancy of dogme as a viable pedagogy then writing this up as an article and publishing it in a peer reviewed journal would be very useful indeed.
    My intuition is that dogme has quite a lot going for it, but if the evidence is to the contrary I’ll follow the evidence….
    Alex

    • I agree with you Alex and I read your post on Scott’s blog with interest. It does seem odd that we almost never hear of student testimonials in dogme teaching.

      It would be great to conduct research, if only I had the time. I have a lot of creative projects on the go and so research doesn’t really have a huge appeal for me. But I do have faith that people will eventually examine the approach in a hype-free and unbiased way and likely come to the same conclusions that I have with ad hoc observation and principled reasoning.

  25. Sally

    Long debate on the definition of Dogme in ELT. Is it necessary to coin a new word to refer to what most of you define by Dogme in ELT?
    If not, I would stand with the point that Dogme is an ” Elitist” . Most of the opponents against the argument actually neglect the student side. For a quick and advanced learner any approaches, even non-approach, will work more or less. But do you guys that claims Dogme doesn’t cost much have known well about how much money, time and energy that would cost before one could be a good or an upper-intermediate learner in a Dogme language class, regardless of the cost a learner paid for bad teaching? If good teachers accounts for the most teachers in the world, then most of the learners will always meet more good teachers than bad ones, but the fact is the opposite.
    When all you discuss the success you have achieved in your teaching, I suspect if you have the same criteria for SUCCESS. One’s successful teaching might be a failure in another one’s eye. The standard of a success differs from people’s criteria after all.

    • Well said, Sally. Dogmeists would do well to heed the words of Shakespeare when he said, ‘There is not one wise man in twenty that will praise himself.’ There’s a lot of subjective backslapping among dogme teachers but I almost zero peer-led critical analysis.

      • Sally

        After reading all these threads, I am just under such an impression that the polemic is based on a very hilarious premise.
        When people find something works effectively, they only see the strength of it, so the worship seems nothing more than cliche. Whatever a good way it is, there is must be some limits it exists with. When people tell the shortcomings of it, that doesn’t mean they don’t see the strength; on the contrary the limits have been found. From my observation of the debate, many teachers here unconsciously or not have acknowledged the limit of Dogme. Most of the arguments above are tangled up on why there is no compliment for Dogme in the original post. But when the merits have been seen by most people, to back up it again were not cliche then what.
        Take my learning experience as a limited evidence, I was the same person attending an ESL class and an French class (both classes are in small size and both teachers conducted conversation as well as materials learning) but I had two comments for conversation-based class. At the beginner level in French, I just felt too much conversation didn’t work well for me as my language couldn’t support the thoughts I was going to express, even though the teacher occasionally offered some language points. I have only one mind in learning French at a beginner level, it is not very easy for me to work out a complete meaningful sentence with most grammar correct. If I had my mind worked on the grammar and vocabulary, then I had no mind for thinking and vice versa. And moreover, if the topic is too much led by the indirect conversation then learner will inevitably need some complicated or less frequently used words and sentences structure that above his or her current level. When the teacher occasionally corrected the mistakes in my utterance than I my thoughts was often interrupted. As to the conversation-based ESL class, it worked well for me but I didn’t go on to attend any more course. Why? I just found such a conversation-oriented class could be taken place by a chat for free on skype no matter the people is a language teacher or not. It’s even more communicative and student-centered.

        • Totally understand and agree with you, Sally. Dogme is good if you go outside and do something like a language exchange, a visit somewhere, a cooking class, trip to the supermarket or something. But in a room its dull. I’ve been talking with students about it and they say that you don’t really learn anything. They just see the style as a break and a bit of easy practice.

          • Sally

            I guess you are also referring to the ESP classroom where learners (usually higher than beginner level?) gather together with somewhat similar professional background and almost the same goal for picking up some specific language points and skills, which are the fundamental cause of the success of the so-called Dogme, I presume. But, I am afraid, in classrooms where people gather together according to their levels but with different education and professional backgrounds and even different values, very likely pure conversations are usually directionless and make people feel lost rather than contribute to effective language learning.

  26. Hi
    I think just as many teachers may fall flat on their face using rigid structured approaches as the ‘anti-construct’ of dogme. Is not teaching as an art something more? The dogme approache (among others!) can be useful in prompting us to think more carefully about language, literacy and language acquistion. My slant is a sort of ‘structured dogme’ and is available as a demo online course is at http://manxman.ch/moodle2/course/view.php?id=16 . It would still need an enthusiatic and talented teacher though.

    Regards

  27. It’s just another branding term for a handful of well-connected teacher trainers–along with a term they use more and more, ‘unplugged’. Both are looking rather long-in-the-tooth 90s TEFLinglish.

    It’s hard to pin ‘dogme’ down but its advocates do tend to be anti-coursebook and some still opt for a ‘found approach’ to materials.

    The whole movement is not really, at its top, well established in academia at a PhD level, but it will play itself influentially on certificate courses and in teacher training seminars in Europe and ESL Asia (e.g., Singapore). The connectedness of Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings guarantee that. I highly doubt though that in terms of experiences where they count–teaching–that these people actually share in the life-world of the teachers who contact the dogme yahoogroup and write of implementing dogme lessons.

    • Exactly right. For there to be proper research, there’ll need to be a solution the internal contradiction of dogme being both conversation-led and materials-led – or ‘materials light’, whatever that means in quantifiable terms.

      • mattledding

        Luan, let me try to make a half assed model of the conversation (student produced dialogue and content- from inside to outside) versus materials (commercially produced dialogue or language fragments – from outside to inside.) so that you can get some proper research happening.

        1. if we imagine the learner as the main part of the lever, I think the teacher works as the fulcrum, by being the point that veers towards student produced output or mass produced input (the infamous “grammer McNuggets”) , giving mechanical advantage to one side or the other and making it easier. (The quality of the teacher gives the height of the fulcrum,and facilitates the MA, the quality of the student is the length of the lever that determines the actual work accomplished.)

        Which is better? I would say that depends. Certain “teach for the test” situations demand materials, (and little tricks, and sleight of hand, that might be irrelevent in everyday communication… how many Native Speakers would fail Proficiency use of grammar?) If you are looking at creating fluency, and on communication, then focus on getting the contents FROM the students is important.

        The educational standards you talk about defending may indicate that you lean more towards an exams and standards type approach. That is fine and perhaps you learn better that way, but not everyone is the same.

        The question of l-learning as a convergent (get first certificate) or divergent (explore the language) is ultimately up to the student to choose. The work that Scott and Luke have done, and the very non-elitist approach of an A-Z of teaching blog, provided free, in Scott’s own time without a paywall has done much to open up divergent paths in teaching.

        In the second case, the divergency in opinions in “dogme” is not a bug, but a feature. Dogme can operate very much like a genetic algorithm: reactive based on results. In a VERY elitist conference that I snuck in through the back door recently, Bernardo Hernandez (Global Product Marketer, Google) pointed out that in certain divergent problems, reactive is far more effective than proactive. Anti-intuitive, but true.

        So context is king, and like quantum physics, the observer effects (affects?) the research. It might be inconceivable for you to imagine it working. (“inconceivable!” Andre the giant: ” I don’t think that word means what you think it means…” – The Princess Bride.)

        Whatever you seem to think dogme is… well, it seems to be bad, so I can imagine what your research would find. I would suggest that instead of trying to knock other people’s (very interesting, and relevent) work as “hot air”, you work on your divergent or convergent path. There is enough space in ELT to build without trying to burn down other people’s houses.

        As a last point, I think it is important to note that the exercise of Dogme isn’t just for highly trained elitist. I think it trains an elite teacher, in the best sense of the word, if done sincerely, who can be a better fulcrum to either divergent or convergent aimed students.

        • I think the best way to approach research would be to firstly use the amount of student talk generated as an important yardstick for measuring the quality of a class. Then you could see how much student talk is thrown up by varying amounts of materials. It would also be good to measure how well students retain the language / learning points from classes with varying amounts of materials.

          Secondly you would have to look at and measure student and teacher motivation, anxiety and performance levels. Thirdly, how class sizes affect student talk levels and fourthly how students of different levels respond to dogme.

          Then you would have to compare all of this with pure task-based learning, as well as PPP and purely book-based learning.

          As I say, all this is a little bit prosaic for me. I find it much more worthwhile to create than to analyse. I believe teaching is more about art than science.

  28. Douglas Lerner

    Did you actually read any texts on dogme methodology? Scott Thornbury very specifically states that the essence of dogme is capturing emergent language and using it as a basis for exercises and activities, there is supposed to be a structure to the lesson, it’s just that the structure is adapted to the specific situation, it’s not predefined. I’m really not sure where you got the idea that dogme is merely randomly making small talk for an hour.

    • That’s not true Douglas. Dogme is purposefully vague on structure, activities and methodology. The whole basic premise is that it’s based on natural emerging conversation and materials should be kept to a minimum – originally, not even brought into class. Now if a teacher is expected to enact activities and exercises in dogme a class, do you expect him or her to somehow keep a massive repertoire of activities stored in their minds at all time?

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