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[dogme] methods and syllabuses

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  • Julian Bamford
    Scott wrote that coursebooks are called methods in some countries. That word is insightful, because what is a coursebook but a syllabus with a method?
    Message 1 of 16 , Mar 1, 2002
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      Scott wrote that coursebooks are called "methods" in some countries. That
      word is insightful, because what is a coursebook but a syllabus with a
      method? There are methods and methods, of course. (And syllabuses and
      syllabuses, for that matter.) Sue (2/18) wrote about how teachers in her
      school had used "Innovations, "a coursebook published by LTP, and that
      book--although only used for part of a class, and not particularly loved by
      students and teachers alike--seemed to be the variable that had led to
      remarkable improvements in spoken fluency. She reflected: "it seems that
      part of the positive which came out in all the learners concerned must have
      been due in some part to the book ....?? Or, perhaps, the absence of a book
      in which grammar was highly prioritised? Thus, however subtly, also
      changing the teachers' approach/freeing up their 'conscience'??

      Then, Scott just posted the story of the French teacher who taught without
      knowing a word of the language, and whose student felt her the best of
      their teachers. If you think about it, she could only have used a
      textbook--and surely an un-innovative, grammar-prioritised one--which only
      underlines Scott's point that it's not what you teach but how you "teach"
      it (and who you teach and who is teaching--remembering some of the first
      postings I read in this group.)

      It's not too much of a leap from all this to ask an academic question, "Is
      Dogme a method?" or "Is Dogme the opposite of method?" or, "What is the
      relationship between 'Dogme' and 'method?'"

      And, to get more nitty-gritty: "What is a (the?) Dogme syllabus?" and
      (anticipating the answer that it comes from the nature of language and
      humans) "Is it possible to write the Dogme syllabus down?" At the moment,
      for a vocabulary syllabus (i.e. which of the words that come up in texts
      are worth discussing with students), I supplement intuition with the
      guidance of Cobuild frequency bands; for grammar, I use bitter experience
      of what is and isn't teachable at particular levels. Are there other
      things, existing or to be written, that could act as a syllabus guide for
      me and other teachers?
      Julian
    • Richard Samson
      Julian writes ... I respond to this merely because I interpreted Scott s comments quite differently. It could be as you say, Julian, that the textbook was the
      Message 2 of 16 , Mar 2, 2002
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        Julian writes

        >Then, Scott just posted the story of the French teacher >who taught without
        >knowing a word of the language, and whose student felt >her the best of
        >their teachers. If you think about it, she could only >have used a
        >textbook--and surely an un-innovative, grammar->prioritised one

        I respond to this merely because I interpreted Scott's comments quite
        differently. It could be as you say, Julian, that the textbook was the
        solution, but I think there is another more exciting possibility.

        Is it possible to be a successful teacher without any subject-specialised A
        syllabus (What) and B syllabus (How) knowledge? Such a teacher would only
        have resort to C syllabus skills, that is, general teaching know-how.

        I admit, for the moment, that this is not necessarily a desirable state of
        affairs and that you are unlikely to be offered much employment on such
        terms but it is an interesting thought experiment.

        Imagine for example this situation. It is a monolingual group of, say,
        English mother tongue students. You have to substitute for the German
        teacher who has fallen ill. You know lots of English but no German and
        there is no coursebook or photocopier. Could you make a go of it?

        A social constructivist says "Yes", a very confident affirmative. All the
        resources that as teacher you do not bring to this class are already
        present in the class-group-as-learning-community. You should have no
        difficulty in tapping these resources, through necessity as it happens, and
        the new dynamics might release great energy.

        As teacher here you would be a facilitator much of the time, leading from
        behind, listening, not always understanding, encouraging consensus and
        student-led research projects, etc.

        Of course, you might pick up some German on the way but you certainly
        wouldn't be constantly and desparately mugging up the next A syllabus
        teaching point the night before so that you could seem to be a German
        expert in the morning.

        I think that this is, in reality, a very exciting prospect and an
        experience that would be hugely refreshing for many teachers, if students
        willing to play along could also be found.

        Regards,

        Richard






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      • scott_thornbury
        Richard s scenario (the german class without the german teacher) might draw on CLL techniques - learners jointly constructing and recording a conversation
        Message 3 of 16 , Mar 3, 2002
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          Richard's scenario (the german class without the "german" teacher)
          might draw on CLL techniques - learners jointly constructing and
          recording a conversation which is then available for later analysis -
          but in this instance the analysis is implemented by the learners
          themselves, e.g. using dictionaries and student grammars - the
          teacher's role (amongst many) being to ask the kind of questions that
          might help scaffold their own "research".

          Kumaravadivelu (in the article I referred to previously) argues
          that "postmethod" learners can attempt to develop their "social
          autonomy" by, for instance:

          "seeking their teachers' intervention to get adequate feedback on
          areas of difficulty and to solve problems. Learners do this through
          dialogues and conversations in and outside the class;

          collaborating with other learners to pool information on a specific
          project they are working on. Learners do this by forming small
          groups, dividing the responsibilities of consulting reference
          materials (e.g., dictionaries and encyclopedias) to collect
          information and sharing it with the group;

          taking advantage of opportunities to communicate with competent
          speakers of the language. Learners can achieve this by participating
          in social and cultural events, and engaging in conversations with
          other participants."

          None of these strategies, it seems to me, assumes the need for a
          competent target language speaker teacher, let alone a native one.

          Scott
        • Dennis
          Hang on a minute........ Julian writes: Imagine for example this situation. It is a monolingual group of, say, English mother tongue students. You have to
          Message 4 of 16 , Mar 3, 2002
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            Hang on a minute........


            Julian writes:


            "Imagine for example this situation. It is a monolingual group of,
            say, English mother tongue students. You have to substitute for the
            German teacher who has fallen ill. You know lots of English but no
            German and there is no coursebook or photocopier. Could you make a go
            of it?
            A social constructivist says "Yes", a very confident affirmative."

            Am I being very thick? I find myself recalling a Soviet film I saw
            when I learned Russian as a national service soldier. A pilot ran out
            petrol but managed to fly his plane back to base by a firm belief in
            Marxist-Leninist teachings.

            I can see how all kinds of interesting activities could be carried
            out in the scenario Julian describes, but how in the name of Dogmist-
            Dogminist approaches could a non-German-speaking English teacher
            teach any English pupils German?


            Puzzled of north Germany






            Dennis Newson
            formerly - University of Osnabrueck Germany
            List Manager CETEFL-L

            www.dennisnewson.de
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