Dale: Unfortunately I had to miss this year’s fun at IATEFL Glasgow. I spent the 5 days glued to my computer screen, feeding on any twitter update that came my way. My good friend and fantastic contributor to this blog, Emi, attended the conference. It seems that one thread stood out to Emi throughout the conference. Is it Dogme? As more people come into contact with the idea, they redefine and rethink their own teaching beliefs, as we’ve seen in the past six months with the emergence of much hot debate on the topic. Emi asks some important questions in her reflections on the conference, and leads me to wonder, now that there’s a name for a set of beliefs and practices that were clearly in existence before being given a title, is the idea itself in expansion? Is this why so many new practices have started falling under Dogme, or just good teaching. Over to Emi,
Oh my God my first IATEFL (Glasgow 2012) is over. What a week. I have no idea where to start. It’s reasonable to think that everyone was talking about Dogme all the time, which of course they weren’t – it’s just who I chose to hang out with and the talks I chose to go to. Have I joined a religion?
It seemed that many people had responses to Dogme embedded into their talks
It seemed that many people had responses to Dogme embedded into their talks. Even people like Michael Swan and Catherine Walker commented on emerging or “pop up” grammar in their talk. Of course Dogme is hardly anything new – been around nearly 12 years now – but it is interesting that it still provokes such a buzz. The talk by Martin Sketchley from British Council Romania on Friday practically ended in a fight and the older lady at the back who was longing for a proper definition of what Dogme is and how it was any different from what she has been doing all the time since she started teaching 20/30 years ago had a very fair point. An argument ensued about whether you should teach “used to” to pre-intermediate learners, i.e. it isn’t in the course books at that level so therefore considered not a good idea to teach it. I say teach whatever the students need or want – don’t patronize them. They know what they want to say so our job is to help them say it in whatever way we can. Not wait until chapter 5 in the course book.
It does help to have this label Dogme – it helps us think if nothing else.
Or maybe the label should just be “good teaching”?.
Was the thread running through everything really just a “we want better teaching” thread? Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill are setting up what they call an alternative movement, Active Intervensionist teaching because, it seems to me, they are sick of seeing bad teaching. They are asking is Dogme really the only alternative? Isn’t there another way? Of course it all depends what your definition of Dogme is in the first place. Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill say that what is important is “teaching in the moment” or going from “it” teaching to “I” teaching as Adrian said in the impromptu talk about “High Demand ELT” on Thursday evening in the bar. Is “High Demand ELT” a reaction to seeing so much bad teaching in the same way that Dogme was a reaction to all the boring course book based lessons a teacher may have taught 12 years ago?
A reaction to seeing so much bad teaching
Day One for me was Wednesday
How arrogant and casual of us to think about throwing them out when some dream of more access to them not less?
First I met Marcos, the winner of the Frank Bell Scholarship from Ivory Coast who has 100 students per class, with 10 classes per week and yes he does have to mark their writing and grade every single one of them. This put things in perspective pretty quickly. He has to teach Dogme style whether he likes it or not. His school can’t afford to buy new books all the time and they have one tape recorder for the whole school. Perhaps course books are well perceived by such students. Perhaps course books represent wealth and success for them? How arrogant and casual of us to think about throwing them out when some dream of more access to them not less?
Diana Laudrillard gave the Plenary session on Wednesday
She presented the idea of the teacher being an “innovative learning designer”. She questioned how sensible it was to have people such as Rupert Murdoch beaming things through technology directly into schools and urged teachers to take control and engage learners with good use of technology – she pointed out that Britain has no e – learning policy – and then listed a number of ways to use technology in a better way. One of the key things she mentioned was Collaboration and she talked about “a shift from class teaching to more personalized teaching” and “less class presentation and more small group work” and a lot about learner autonomy and technology providing opportunities for students to use digital interactive tools and get feedback themselves.
She talked a lot about sharing teaching pedagogy and teachers building on each other’s work which is brilliant if teachers egos don’t get in the way.
The basic premise being that there are a range of pedagogical ways of structuring lessons which are repeated over and over and the same pattern of a lesson can be used with any kind of content
She described her website called “The Pedagogical Patterns Collector” which seemed to me like a very posh version of Dale’s lesson skeletons. The basic premise being that there are a range of pedagogical ways of structuring lessons which are repeated over and over and the same pattern of a lesson can be used with any kind of content. She demonstrated this brilliantly by showing us a lesson plan for a lesson on dentistry and then inserted language lesson content into the same lesson skeleton/pattern. The website looks amazing and I will certainly try use it. It frees the teacher up to focus on the students more and to concentrate on “in the moment, hands on teaching”. A set structure but varying content – Dogme anybody or just good teaching?
Then I saw Bill Harris give a talk on Live Listening
Totally Dogme. Personal – if the teacher is personally engaged then the students are more likely to be. Couldn’t agree more. Organic teaching they call it. The teacher can control the input much more and tailor it, make it relevant for the students he/she is teaching at the moment. Minimal preparation so the teacher can concentrate on other issues more. Communicating with human beings, authentic, real, low tech. Dogme anybody or just good teaching?
What are your students actually trying to say?
Then it was Paul Seligson on the 3 Fs – foster, fluency, faster
There is too much “Teachering.” Among a plethora of other useful things he talked about “spending time correcting what comes from the heart not from the course books”. Not always asking your students to make a sentence “worry less about sentences and more about messages”. What are your students actually trying to say?
He said correct less and give better models. He said we don’t give students time because we are so busy teaching the silly bus (syllabus). “avoid race track English .. don’t rush. Quality not quantity. More conversation driven classes – work more on emergent language. Learner autonomy, Students tape themselves, ask them to judge themselves. Less of the teacher being judge and controller. Positive feedback on language used not just error correction.” Dogme anybody or just good teaching?
Panel Discussion – British Council ELT
80% of education projects fail. They must be more bottom – up. The stakeholders (i.e. teachers and students) must be consulted and collaborated with all the way right from the start if any educational project is going to be successful. The stake-holders must have a sense of ownership. “Focus on the people not the policy” A bottom up approach is recommended for success. Dogme anyone or just good management?
Then sin of sins I went to the Macmillan publishers party. We are obviously not so against course books that we can’t accept an invitation to the publishers party!. On a boat, a ceilidh. Really good fun. Got to meet all. Scott Thornbury, Luke Meddings, Chia – particularly enjoyed singing along to the Proclaimers with Anthony Gaughan. After a few beers I think I did suggest to Scott Thornbury that he should get together with Jim Scrivener and Adrian Underhill and they could sort it all out together. Dogme anyone or methodology revolution?
Day Two – Thursday
Amazing plenary from Steve Thorne called “Awareness, appropriacy and living language use” where he shared with us his amazing research into language generated through the motivation of computer games. How we cannot ignore this medium as so many people play them and produce tons and tons of ENGLISH via them. Check out these amazing statistics – “Approximately 20 million players have spent 17 billion hours on Xbox Live. That’s more than 2 hours for every person on the planet.”. He gave amazing examples of texts generated by non-English speakers while playing the game. So he is promoting the idea of students learning through their own game playing, chosen by them, controlled by them. They create their own fiction and their own characters and their own texts. Dogme anyone or just learner autonomy?-
Adam Beale and Emily Bell – Dogme and blogging in three social spaces: classroom, staffroom and chat room
There were yellow cards stuck on the walls with things like “winging it, no planning, easy and other things commonly associated with Dogme”. We were asked to put them on two walls – one Dogme wall and one non Dogme wall – we argued, we disagreed, we kept moving the cards back and forth. So many misconceptions. Adam asked “What research needs to be done to validate Dogme?” He said “Take a leap of faith – experiment. Every class should be a surprise! “. He presented his findings, videos of students describing their Dogme experiences.
Take a leap of faith – experiment. Every class should be a surprise!
Scott Thornbury was there and he said at the end “every good teacher should be doing this sort of reflection”. Dogme anyone or just good CPD?
Then Niall Lloyd from The Anglo Mexican Foundation gave a talk called Dogme – learning without the pressure of technology
He began by saying “I don’t like Dogme because Dogme has rules and I don’t like rules” ! When I told Scott Thornbury this later in the coffee shop he said “Oh yes, everyone is always so worried about the rules. Can’t they see things change?”
Niall Lloyd talked about the idea of Dogme plus which is Dogme + using computers, materials and anything else you want. Sounds a lot like Chia’ Suan Chong’s “improvised principled eclecticism”. Chaz Puglieze said “it (i.e. the course book system) doesn’t work like that. Lesson plans are just teaching by numbers”
Dogme anyone or just good teaching?
Then I had an interesting discussion with Richard Hillman, one of the teachers I work with in London who said “Dogme can be just as restrictive as using course books because students are restrained by their own lack of language and that of other students”. Food for thought.
I don’t like Dogme because Dogme has rules and I don’t like rules
Michael Swan and Catherine Walker
Not all grammar “pops up” – continuing on from what Richard said, Swan and Walker said sometimes you need to impose the language on the students. They said not all students need the same grammar at the same time. Very true. TBL is not enough sometimes. Students need “explicit teaching”. The moment when a grammar point does “pop up” , this is the moment for a pause (Luke Meddings) , or a “grammar focus”, which is very often a teacher led grammar presentation. Catherine Walker said that there is evidence that grammar presentation works and referred to guided discovery, examples, texts, short texts with relevant examples. Students make up their own grammar gap fills, personalize at all costs . Dogme anyone or just good grammar teaching ?
Then it was time for Renata Franco and Melanies talk “Who is a legitimate English speaker?”
They talked about power structures and students own communities. They talked about rethinking the traditional power structure of ELT. I thought about course books so rooted in western British culture – whose culture? – while I was listening to them. They focused specifically on delayed feedback to encourage confidence, “creating empathy is key” they said, giving students control over their own material, recording themselves. Student centred lessons. Dogme anyone or just culturally aware teaching?
I thought about course books so rooted in western British culture – whose culture?
Even the eminent Neuroscientist James Zull , the plenary speaker on Friday, said,in his talk “A brain-based model for human learning” that the most important thing for learning is “ownership”, “stimulation” and “practice”. He also talked about learning by forgetting, abandoning things that don’t work”. Dogme anyone or just understanding learning?
Someone said to me later that day and I’m sorry I can’t remember who, that although he didn’t agree with everything connected to Dogme, he, “liked the buzz around it. The slightly dangerous edge which is evident even now in 2012”…. twelve years later. I know what he means.
He liked the buzz around Dogme. The slightly dangerous edge which is evident even now in 2012
So is the word Dogme just being bandied about to describe good teaching, good management, free thinking, quality teacher training, sensitive response to students, intelligent syllabus design and so on? Is it a one-size fits all word? which anyone can use to describe whatever stage they are at in their teaching life ? Is it as Jim Scrivener says just “an attempt to answer everything?”. Or is it (or has it become) a kind of trigger word much like “hippy” or “champagne socialist” or “facebook” or “cunt” or “coffee coloured” or “fat” or “born again” … words which are sure to provoke a reaction and get a discussion going whether positive or negative?. It’s twelve years on and we still haven’t stopped talking about it …… people are still arguing about it. A bit like religion really.