Dogme in transition?
Friday 1 May 2009
Welcome to Teaching Unplugged on the Delta Development Blog.I’m Scott Thornbury, co-author, with Luke Meddings, of Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Teaching. Our book attempts to articulate the theory and practice of the “Dogme ELT” movement, now in its tenth year. (To get a flavour of what Dogme is all about, visit the discussion list. Over the next four weeks, I will be using this blog to review the development of Dogme, and to discuss its present significance, as well as responding to comments and questions that arise. Later in the year, Luke will take over and will continue the dialogue.
First some caveats! Because Dogme has been a collaborative, eclectic and evolving experience, the book represents only a facet of its diversity, and does not pretend to be THE definitive dogme book. In fact, it’s unlikely that such a book will ever materialise. For a start, dogme is not a method, in the sense of being a codified set of practices that purport to be maximally effective in a wide range of contexts. Dogme is more an attitude, or a set of beliefs and values, whose realisation in practice will vary from person to person and from context to context. (In our book, we’ve tried to show how dogme might apply to specific teaching situations, such as teaching one-to-one, exam classes, young learners, and so on. But these are not prescriptions, simply suggestions).
What’s more, dogme – if it is to have any future relevance – will continue to evolve and transform itself. A recent poster on the list asked:
“Is dogme constantly in transition or are we taking what was once a set of basic principles and altering them to fit a new paradigm?”
My answer might be: a bit of both. That is, there is a set of basic principles, but these are being adapted (rather than altered) to fit new contexts and circumstances. A good instance of this is the emergence of the concept of Dogme 2.0, i.e. the fusion of Dogme principles with the kind of technologies that simply weren’t around ten years ago. On this website for a virtual learning environment Howard Vickers reviews some basic Dogme principles, such as
Learning happens most directly through interactivity …
Learning takes place through communication and conversation, through which language emerges…
Content should engage learners to enable learning
and concludes: “…perhaps we are looking here at an opportunity for the Dogme ELT approach to evolve into a “Dogme 2.0”, where the “2.0” tag represents the ability for students to engage, interact and create online.”
I particularly welcome this attempt to map Dogme principles on to online learning, not least because it gives the lie to the (widely held) view that Dogme teachers are unreconstructed Luddites, resistant to innovation and technology. In fact, a very long time ago (in Dogme history) I posted this quote from a paper by Mark Warschauer:
“For electronic learning activities to be most purposeful and effective, it would seem that they should (a) be learner-centred, with students having a fair amount of control over their planning and implementation, (b) be based on authentic communication in ways rhetorically appropriate for the medium, (c) be tied to making some real difference in the world or in the students’ place in it, and (d) provide students an opportunity to explore and express their evolving identity”.
(Warschauer, M. 2000. On-line learning in second language classrooms: An ethnographic study. In Warschauer, M. and Kern, R. (eds) Network-based Language Teaching: Concepts and Practice, CUP, p. 57)
It seems to me that these are all Dogme principles, but they are not always principles that proponents of certain technologies seem to subscribe to. This is why I reject the claims made by proponents of interactive whiteboards (IWBs) for example, the typical use of which seems to fail on all four counts.
So, yes, Dogme is in transition, and always has been – which is, I trust, one of its strengths.
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