[dogme] methods and syllabuses
- 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 writes
>Then, Scott just posted the story of the French teacher >who taught withoutI respond to this merely because I interpreted Scott's comments quite
>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
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.
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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
None of these strategies, it seems to me, assumes the need for a
competent target language speaker teacher, let alone a native one.
- Hang on a minute........
"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
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
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
formerly - University of Osnabrueck Germany
List Manager CETEFL-L