Is dogme now mainstream?
- In the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (2004) 24, 126-145. CUP, I discovered an article called "Current Developments in Research of the Teaching of Grammar" by Hossein Nassaji and Sandra Fotos (who I'm sure are very nice people), which stated in its abstract:
"With the rise of communicative methodology in the 1970s, the role of grammar instruction in second language learning was downplayed, and it was even suggested that teaching grammar was not only unhelpful but might actually be detrimental. However, recent research has demonstrated the need for formal instruction for learners to attain high levels of accuracy."
What would collocates for 'grammar' in a corpus of ELT/Applied Linguistics literature be? "teaching", "instruction"? The assumption seems to be that grammar must be taught by way of formal instruction. But let's read on...
"While not denying the role for explicit instruction, N. Ellis (2002) suggests that language learning is ultimately implicit in nature, 'the slow acquisition of form-function mappings and the regularities therein. This skill, like others, takes tens of thousands of hours of practice, practice that can not be substituted for by provision of a few declarative rules' (p.175)."
Now we're getting somewhere, aren't we?
"However, this does not mean that grammar instruction is not useful. Rather, what is suggested is that learners must also have opportunities to encounter, process, and use instructed forms in their various form-meaning relationships so that the forms can become part of their interlanguage behavior (see Larsen-Freeman, 2003)."
Uh-huh... wait a minute! Ellis doesn't say anything about using *instructed forms*. To my eyes, it says language learners simply need to practice language in order to acquire it.
"Reviewing recent studies on formal instruction, R. Ellis (2002a) suggests that when grammar instruction is extensive and is sustained over a long period of time (several days or weeks), such instruction contributes to the development of implicit knowledge as measured by performance on free production tasks."
And what did those free production tasks entail, Mr. Ellis? Also, sustained periodontal deep-cleaning over a long period can make my teeth pearly white, but I'd rather go every six months. What did the students think/feel about the grammar instruction mentioned here?
"Instruction also promotes accuracy in the use of difficult forms such as English articles [like the one you're reading now?]. He therefore notes (2001, 2002b, 2003) that current research strongly supports the need for provision of communicative opportunities containing instructed grammar forms, and he recommends a combination of form focused instruction and meaningful communication, suggesting possible intervention points for instruction in a task-based communicative curriculum."
But why not talk with students, listen to them talk with each other and you, then talk about the language everyone is using when that becomes the topic of discussion? Isn't that much less intrusive than 'intervention points'?
"Thus, current research indicates that learners need opportunities to both encounter and produce structures which have been introduced either explicitly through a grammar lesson, or implicitly, through frequent exposure (also see reviews in Gass, Mackey, & Pica, 1998: N. Ellis, R. Ellis, 2001, 2002a, 2000b, 2003; Lightbrown, 2000, 1995, 2002), a consideration raised several decades ago by Swain in her work on learner output (1985, 1995)."
And Dennis thought *he* lived in the land of footnotes.
So if students have opportunities to encounter and produce structures to which they have been introduced implicitly through frequent exposure, that's enough to lead to acquisition? Why the call for formal instruction then? Perhaps the next (and final, I promise) paragraph can enlighten us:
"Pedagogically, focus on form can be achieved in many different ways. For example, Nassaji (1999, 2000) proposed that focus on form can be achieved through *process* or through *design*. focus on form through *process* occurs in the context of natural communication when both the teacher and the learner's primary focus is on meaning."
Primary focus on meaning, like in real communication between people who want to communicate... Can you say, 'Dogme'?
"Focus on form through *design* is deliberate and is achieved through designing tasks which have deliberate explicit focus. Focus on form can also be achieved *reactively* through providing reactional feedback on learners' errors [Scaffolding?] of *preemptively* through discussing grammatical forms irrespective of whether an error has occurred or not (Ellis et al., 2001a, 2001b; Long & Robsinson, 1998)."
But why make a 'preemptive strike' on target language that hasn't emerged in the course of interaction between the folks in the room?
This article gives me the impression that dogmetic pedagogy is acceptable to SLA researchers, despite the claim that formal grammar instruction is making a 'comeback'.
NB: If anyone wants more info on the many citation in parentheses listed here, please mail me off-list.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
I thoroughly enjoyed your long summary on the (not) teaching and learning of grammar
- as you can imagine.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, on the one hand we have those who feel compelled
to write in the academically, politically correct fashion - "As Haines (1990b, 1991,
1992c, 1993 (forthcoming), 1994 (with Robinson), 1995 a, b, c, d has argued: " ....a little
bit of what you fancy, does you good." Aren't those conventions alone suspect? Just
who is trying to impress whom?
On the other hand, to take just one illustrative group, there are children and young
people around the world picking up languages to survive in new environments for whom
"grammar" is only part of "school " English/German - whatever - not the real thing.
I still submit that "grammar" is like cigarettes. There are so very many people around
with an invested interest in their continuance that arguments against them bounce like
stones off riot shields.
I notice grammar supporters no longer like the word "correctness" - they talk about
accuracy instead - a prompt for one of my favourite Oscar Wilde quotations:
"Did you hear what I was playing, Laine? I don't play accurately, but I play with great
Give me feelings expressed rather than mere accuracy any day.
- I enjoyed the summary too and it made me think about what I liked
about reading the articles on the dogme site.
No quotes of the hundreds of EL professors
- Rob quotes:
> In the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (2004) 24, 126-145. CUP, Idiscovered an article called "Current Developments in Research of the
Teaching of Grammar" by Hossein Nassaji and Sandra Fotos (who I'm sure are
very nice people), which stated in its abstract:
>grammar instruction in second language learning was downplayed, and it was
> "With the rise of communicative methodology in the 1970s, the role of
even suggested that teaching grammar was not only unhelpful but might
actually be detrimental. However, recent research has demonstrated the need
for formal instruction for learners to attain high levels of accuracy."
But are accuracy & grammar the same thing?
- No it don't.
From: djn@... [mailto:djn@...]
Sent: 05 July 2004 09:46
Subject: Re: [dogme] Is dogme now mainstream?
As Dr. E knows and is reminding us of, 'grammar' means dinfferent
things to different
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Yahoo! Groups Links
- OH YES IT DOES! :-) .....grammar means different (not dinfrent) things to different
people. Seriously, Luke. Why don't you agree?
- It's now time to relax and get ready for conferences and doing
sorting out my life. It is the end of semestre/term.
These last 6 months I have had 2 classes that I think I can say that
I tried to do the dogme. I'm hedging it here. That means no
coursebook involved. While in between the coursebook classes I had
lots of dogme moments.
Of the two dogme classes one was a success and the other not so.
In the one which was not as good as I hoped, I had explained to the
class how the course would go and how the students would bring in
their knowledge and experience into the classroom and we would
develop our classes from there. Everything was going fine when
suddenly one day at the start of a class I could clearly feel the
students sitting back and watching. They seemed to be waiting to be
given things to do and items to study. As I always keep a text or two
up my sleeve this is what we did and suddenly the class changed as
they kept expecting me to give them information to study. I reminded
them of what I had said at the start and off we went again but after
some time they then seemed to expect me to teach the way they had
already been used to.
At these times I went into class with nothing planned to see what
they would do. I would tell them that I had nothing for them and they
started too talk about things but no real coorperation was
forthcoming and classes seemed stale at times. I feel the expectation
was that I am the teacher and should teach and this still came to the
fore in our classes. The students never said this explicitly but it
was obvious by the way they acted at the start of the class.
The other class was completely different. I explained things the same
way as the first but I don't think I planned anything all semestre.
These learners started to come early and sit outside of the class
talking to each other in their L1 and then come into class and talk
about the same thing again. I would sit there and listen to them as
they help each other through correction and reacting to what is being
said. I participate as one of them. We talked about the films we had
seen so many times we even decided to see one film over a weekend so
we could all talk about it the following class (Elephant by Gis Van
Sometimes they would ask me something about grammar or ask for a word
and the conversation would continue. If I saw a constant mistake that
seems to interfere with what was being said I would just usually
repeat it the way I see it should be said. (it is sometimes
impossible not to fall into a teaching role). The student would
usually say "öh what did I say?" and ask me to repeat it. Sometimes
they would realise their mistake and carry on or ask me to tell them
what I thought was not right. Other times the group would listen and
we would discuss this point and we'd expand on it further. Then
continue once again with the conversation. Most of the time when I
sorrected this way they would do nothing nd just go on talking far
too interested in what the subject was.
This group decided to give talks about their work or things they
liked, we learnt about London, sending legal documents over the
internet, optical illusions, Machado de Assis and Sesame Street.
During the time together we create a new city, brought objects of
personal value to discuss, exchanged ideas of the internet, talked
about their favourite sites, brought in music and video to discuss.
They asked me to bring in some texts about the country that had been
in the news and only once said "we're are tired let's do nothing", so
we watched a video".
With the first group I had to pull them through things some classes
were great and other times they just wanted to be spoon fed with
information. While I tried to allow them to take more control it was
at times hard.
The second group of course was great. I saw them develop their
interests and ideas together and along with it they improved their
spoken English without noticing much effort. There was far less
evidence of this with the first.
As I observed this second group became much more fluent than the
other, they needed very minimal input from me and most of the
mistakes they made seemed to filter out as they had opportunities to
practice them. The group grew closer and studied together supporting
each other during the class. There was no "love" involved but
certainly they were very motivated and enthusiastic towards each
other. They apologised if they had to miss a class. It was a joy to
be a passenger on this ride.
I'm trying to figure out why the first group wasn't as successful and
the other so dynamic. Maybe the students of the first are so used to
having things given to them and not being allowed to think that it is
difficult to think things will change in one semestre.
PS If you got to this end of my message and you are going to the Braz-
Tesol in Belo Horizonte in a few weeks let me know off line and
perhaps we can meet up and chat.
- I did read all of your thoughts on your Dogme Semester and found them to be
very interesting. If dogme works with a group, it is a great way to go. If it
doesnt' work it is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Maybe.
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- Shaun's posting also reminded me of a point Dr E made the other
>In fact I think Dogme is 'up' on reacting to students and not justAnd in some ways, Shaun had to be more 'dogmetic' with the group who were
>following a preset plan (whether in a coursebook or just in the teachers
less dynamic and generative??
- Dear Shaun,
Thankyou so much for your end of year reflection. I really valued the
honesty of your reflection. All of what you wrote resonated one way or
another and I definitely have the T-shirt! You described quite a lot and at
our most worn out time of the year, and though I don't have the answers, I'm
happy to feed back on what I think you said, and maybe re-frame some of it
from my own perceptions and experience, because I think there are clues to
your own answers in what you are saying.
Your more "cooperative" group sounded just lovely. Even doing "nothing" was
creative for them! You described how improving their spoken language even
seemed to be a by-product of all their collaboration together. There are
enormous skills required in creating and sustaining that environment - I
would have loved to have been a fly on your wall or even "passenger on that
ride." So thankyou.
In comparing the groups' responses though, you used the words "success" and
"failure," and "cooperation" (lack of)
This makes me feel that the learning process in the difficult group was not
altogether a shared process, and yet what you describe of the other group
tells me clearly that your approaches/methods are indeed of a collaborative
So why did it happen that way with them? If dogme is about a collaborative
process, and the learners help set the agenda, then perhaps to talk about
"success" and "failure" is to create an inappropriate dichotomy. Perhaps
then you didn't fail, but rather together you chose the experience you had !
(It may be valuable to reflect for yourself on at what point in the process
you perhaps felt something was not a "success?" What exactly happened around
that moment? And did what you did next in some way reflect your
judgement-feeling? That's worth reflecting on. I think.) There may be some
clues in what you say next.
I read how you inadvertantly set up conflicting messages: firstly by setting
out clearly your methodology and expectations; but then agreeing to teach
"from the front" and producing the texts; and then afterwards trying again
to get them to engage with a process you had set out, by putting the
responsibility squarely on them and providing them with nothing.
Though they did talk at this point , they just did not/could not/would not
point and it all felt "stale." Moreover the to-ing and fro-ing somehow
seemed to reinforce their perception of things. What you describe here
sounds like a kind of passive resistance with a measure of resentment. This
felt very disappointing particularly as you had had lots of "dogme moments"
even with the course book classes.
You were somehow between two paradigms yourself, and if you can become more
aware of that for yourself it gets easier to make a choice!
Perhaps dogme moments with a difficult group is a clue. These could be used
as touchstones for development. If we can shift our thinking/inner
disposition away from the success/failure paradigm to a paradigm of
collaboration, then perhaps the dogme moments will prove to be more
significant in an unfolding process than even we may realise!!
By building some structured reflection (awareness awareness) into the
learning process, students are hopefully self-empowered and may
begin to awaken to the value and benefit of collaborative learning methods.
Maybe by inviting students to reflect on what was learned/ how it was
what was helpful/interesting, and not-so-helpful/-interesting gives them a
share of the power - ("power" as opposed to "control") and they can really
begin to recognise and own and take responsibility for their learning and
the dogme moments too! Especially if they can then say what it is they want
to do next.
Within an action / reflection framework we can also tell our ss.in so many
ways that there is something really special/important to do today (...and in
a minute someone here is going to give us a clue!!! - the maps and guides
idea you mention in a subsequent message) I think of it as our sealed
orders for the day/week which are just waiting to emerge! And it's important
to believe that for ourselves.
In my understanding and experience, this reflection business is quite key to
a deepening of awareness, and to an ongoing critical engagement as part of
the learning cycle. It could be said that in effect there are two educations
going on in tandem: the one that teaches us how to pass exams and make a
living and the one that teaches how to live. We will argue forever about the
value and benefit of each, but what we may agree more on is the fact that
each education depends upon the other.
You mention that the students never made their expectations (of you to "Be
The Teacher") explicit but it was obvious the way they acted. Could dogme
moments and structured reflection have been a way out of this ? And you are
so right about giving people Time - to see things in their own
time (awareness / awareness) and allow real growth to take place.
You mention at the end of your reflection, "Maybe the students ...
are so used to having things given to them and not being allowed to think
that it is difficult to think how things will change in a semestre." I
think that's really worth exploring too. There are so many questions around
how to engage students with very different cultural/educational backgrounds.
At the very least we have to allow for a sort of cultural blindness - even
in ourselves, when we invite individuals to process in a different way to
the one they've grown up with or got used to. It's taken me ages to find
ways of empowering a group of Asian women to express themselves in ways that
allow us all to get to grips with some language. And I'm left feeling I
still get it wrong on some days. It's been as much out of sensing what not
to do that I've
discovered what was possible.They didn't need their hands holding, but
rather they required a particular kind of space - more to be who they need
to be. And they don't need me to show them the way. Far from it , for they
are far more spacious than I. By which I mean that they have a kind of
spacious quality which we have all but lost in the "West."
What you wrote also promts me to think again about the need to recognise
that we are all in a mixed up time in which our understanding of authority
has/is shifting : from hierarchies to flatter models (like this network).
We are caught up in a great paradigm shift which touches on all our
institutions and relationships. The old landmarks are vanishing, and even if
we can grasp the emerging ones it's still a confusing time. I'm writing
broad brush and this merits a separate discussion. But the point is, for
many of us including our students, the old reference points are well
engrained in our patterns and the teacher remains a significant authority -
even when they dont like us sometimes! Power sharing is an "uneasy" thing.
Well now I'm rambling.... Back to what you
told us - about setting out clearly your expectations at the start. Would
you do that differently now?
Thankyou again for offering your reflection. I've tried to reflect back by
e-mail. I'm aware this is a delayed response -and I would always prefer to
chat at a conference, but I too am off - to the hills... to let life sort me