In the Interests of Clarity
- Hi everybody.
Recently, I posted the message below. In the interests of fair play, I
would like to point out that this is a message from David Hogg which I
posted on his behalf. It seems, that although can receive all the Dogme
postings, his access to post messages has been denied. So, in the
interests of free speech, and acknowledging a valid contribution to the
list, especially in the light of recent postings, I agreed to his
request to post it on his behalf.
Bye the way, it is my understanding, and apologies if this is incorrect,
other members of the list were also asked, but, sadly, did not even
afford David the courtesy of a reply.
Twocents has his finger on the pulse, as is his wont. He asks (in #8994)
the important question of where our list should go from here. Quite so.
Perhaps back to its roots (for instance, just re-read message #2; this
important snippet seems to me to be crucial: <<<"We have to recognise
that there are many institutions that will not abandon coursebooks, but
at least the mania to supplement what is already in a sense superfluous
might be kerbed: this is our problem here in IH barcelona - teachers
meetings are nothing but materials PRODUCTION workshops, when they
should be materials REduction workshops...">>>. The bit about "allowing"
cassette players into class is important, too, of course, but the
principle of materials-reduction is one that's still hard to argue
against, and probably always will
Message #49 (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/message/49) is also
informative, relevant and current, especially the bit where Jeremy says:
"<<<I absolutely admire teachers who can put together coherent,
genuinely interactive and involving programmes without coursebooks (for
example), but is that necessarily a great virtue - unless you're
passionately committed to
it? I think good teachers use all and anything they can to make classes
interesting, involving and *real*. That's why I'm a huge fan of 'live
listening' but also enjoy using taped material because of its variety
and the fact that it's often interesting a/o funny.
Right, I think I'll put on my helmet and flame-proof garments and hope
you don't all blow me up too spectacularly!>>>". Jeremy seemed there to
be committed to principled eclecticism in reco! gnising the value both
of live listening and of pre-recorded extra-mural voices.
And so much has been said, often, on our list about dogme being an
"attitude" or "state of mind" rather than an "approach" or a "method".
(I'm paraphrasing from memory now, so please feel free to correct me if
I'm very wrong about any of this). Seen in that light, Jeremy's attitude
seems very "dogme" to me: it seems that Jeremy has a "good" attitude, to
use the layteacher's vernacular.
Any teacher with such an attitude would only ever "allow" pre-recorded,
disembodied voices into the classroom when doing so addresses a need
that the teacher in question has identified in the learners in question.
Such a teacher, obviously, has no need whatsoever to join Scott and
"sign a vow of EFL Chastity...".
(http://www.teaching-unplugged.com/dogmaarticle.html )What on earth -one
might ask- would be the benefit for any such teacher (or, importantly,
for her/his students) of signing up to Vows of Chastity? Surreal.
Here's my point: if a teacher has the right attitude (a "good" attitude,
or a "dogme" attitude, or whatever else you might want to label it),
then dogme per se -whatever that is, or was, or would've been- is as
superfluous as are all the "...videos, CD-ROMs, photocopiable resource
packs, pull-out word lists, [...] web-sites, [...] standard workbook,
teacher's book, and classroom and home study cassettes [...] the vast
battery of supplementary materials [...] the authentic material easily
downloadable from the Internet or illegally photocopied from more
conventional sources. [...] the best-selling self-study grammar books,
personal vocabulary organisers, phrasal verb dictionaries, concordancing
software packages [...] " (ibid.).
And when one considers that the population of the dogmelist seems
nowadays to be top-heavy with good-attituded (or "dogme-attituded", if
ya like!) teachers who have no intention whatsoever (and no need
whatsoever) to commit to any Vows of Chastity, then one wonders what the
point would be in continuing to look "for ways of exploiting the
learning opportunities offered by the raw material of the classroom,
that is the language that emerges from the needs, interests, concerns
and desires of the people in the room."
Because, a perusal of dogmelist messages over recent months demonstrates
amply -don't you think?- that that particular investigation has run its
useful course, and that if anything new is to be DIScovered (or
UNcovered, or REcovered, or even -dare I suggest it?!- merely covered!!)
here about language teaching and language learning, then it has more
chance of being discovered (...etc!) by our opening up the the debate
and *explicitly stating* that it's absolutely cool to "break" all and
any of the Vows, because what we're all *really* interested in is *good
practice* rather than the very narrow (and too often misinformed)
objective of mere materials reduction for materials reduction's sake.
And let's go back further than the dogmelist's origins, too.
Who among us could not sympathise with Scott's and Neil's exasperation
as expressed here: http://www.teaching-unplugged.com/dogmaarticle.html
<<<"For several years now, my fellow Diploma teacher trainer, Neil
Forrest, and I have been waging war on materials-driven lessons. The
plaintive cry of an ex-student ("Our teacher never talked to us") cut
straight to the quick. Too many observed lessons, we realized, were
being hi-jacked, either by materials overload, or by Obsessive Grammar
Syndrome (OGS). We laid down some rules: if the language lesson didn't
include real language use, then we questioned its usefulness.
Photocopies were proscribed; the OHP was banished. Grammar presentations
had to be squeezed into 5 minutes. Real talk, usually relegated to the
bookends of the lesson proper, had to form the lesson core. And the
teacher had to talk - not ! at the students or even to them - but with
them. No posturing was allowed">>> ?
The very worthwhile solution that Scott and Neil got down to work on
(applying -unwittingly!- Adrian Underhill's important insights from over
a decade earlier) seems to me to have been a valid response to a very
specific problem that they wanted to address. The problem was teachers
whose attitude was un-dogme (ie, not very good!), and who needed (but
REALLY, REALLY NEEDED!!) some help re-thinking what they should be
trying to achieve for their clientele.
But just because several dozen teachers who pass through IH Barcelona's
DELTA program each year need that kind of help does not seem to me to
lead along a direct path to the conclusion that "ELT dogme" is the way
to go for the whole profession!
I wonder how many among you agree with me, and would agree also to
changing the list's name to something more representative of our
membership and our aims; something like "ELT Good Practice". All in
favour say "Aye!".
Because it seems to me that the pursuit of whatever-it-might-be that
constitutes Good Practice, in one language-learning context or another,
is precisely what the dogmelist is about these days, with or without
materials; with or without "gr***ar"; with or without pre-planning.
Even one prominent, eloquent, enlightened member of that (realtively
shrunken) breed among us -the successful, committed dogmetic- was moved
recently to contribute these important comments to our list: <<<" Dennis
asks if any of us have done any dogmetic teaching lately...
I haven't, and the students seem to be enjoying it, because the less
dogmetic approach meets their expectations of what it means to learn
English. Sure, I've planned --- yes, planned --- some of this term's
activities around the students' interests as expressed in letters they
wrote to me. Those interests were general, however, and haven't really
changed much since the class began: pronunciation, grammar, spelling,
conversations, listening, reading, writing... One student just came out
and told me (in her letter) that I am a good teacher
but need to change my methodology. I appreciated the honesty. Of course,
there are those who liked the class discussi! ons we used to have, the
scaffolding, the spontaneous exploration of grammar point X in the
middle of it all, but the dogme crowd tends to be a minority as far as
I've seen. It has a lot to do with motivation; many learners want to be
taken by the hand, not asked to lead the
way, which is easy to understand.
It's possible that dogme has served those of us who were looking for a
group hug among like-minded colleagues in cyberspace. Regardless, I
think the real power behind teaching-unplugged as I understand it, still
resides in materials-lite pedagogy.
We might ask ourselves whether it is most effective to fight fire with
fire by publishing more dogmetic materials (perhaps heresy in itself),
or if we are simply a small band of merry men and women, content with
covert operations, 'good deeds', and living deep in the woods."
The dogmelist seems to have matured in many ways, since its misguided,
(too) narrow-focused (unnecessarily) over-ambitious beginnings. The
dogmelist has evolved. The dogmelist has become bigger than dogme itself
(whatever that would've been). The dogmelist has become something it
never could've imagined itself becoming at its inception. All of which
has a certain poetry about it: what could possibly be more *dogmetic*
than for the dogmelist to have ended up in this place, so very far from
where it originally seemed to have been headed?!!
I've sometimes been referred to (affectionately and less so!) as the
"Kiss of Death to the dogmelist". Fair dues!: anyone who knows me knows
how much I enjoy the notoriety of that label. But it ain't the truth. I
never set out to be the Kiss of Death to the dogmelist, and I don't see
myself as having become it by merely posting this new manifesto here.
Rather, what I'm trying to do here (and I hope even the tiny minority of
cynics -perhaps less than 0.162% of our membership, but as far as I'm
concerned no less important for that- can see that now) is to *breathe
life* into a dogmelist which has -even after five (and-a-bit) whole
years!- failed so far to notice that the problems it was originally
trying to solve are not at all global ones; and that the global problems
that *do* need to be solved in our profession require an open-minded
approach instead of a dogmatic one (albeit a "tongue-in-cheek",
"metaphorical", dogmatic one). Moreover, dogme has done a fine job in
solving those very local problems; it achieved that years ago.
So, that's about it, I guess. I've said my bit. I'd like to hear what
y'all make of it.
Who'll join me in tearing up the Vows of Chastity? Say "Aye".