232 comments on “No Dogma for EFL – away from a pedagogy of essential bareness

  1. I’d go along with this, Jeremy.

    My idea about it is a sort of common sense English Language Teaching – use what works for your students, yourself and your context (among other things), vary your approach – as you say above, it’s not a good idea to be beholden to one particular approach, technique, method, technology, whatever. That way you are sure to be missing out for some of our students, like your example of the student who isn’t ready to talk now. Some people aren’t comfortable in the emergent context of what might be a dogme lesson, others may be completely baffled by a keyboard – we have got to look at the learners before we do anything (in my opinion).

    Honestly, I don’t feel it’s necessary or even a good thing to say I’m DOGME or NOT-DOGME, or I’m TECH or NOT TECH, and that’s the only way we are. Among other things, surely you miss out all that’s in between. And, of course, I’m sure that I’m not the only one who sees it like this.

    • Hello Mike,

      of course (based on what i said in the original post), I agree with you! I like very much (can I use that syntax?) your idea of the ‘in-between’. That, of course, was the whole point of my blog. To replace one hegemony (coursebooks) with another (a vow of chastity) seems strange to me. Which is not to say, of course, that there are not wonderful moments when language emerhes with information and talk from stduents – how Dogme is that! – but just that there are a whole lot of routes to learning!

      Jeremy

  2. You’re quite right, Jeremy: Dogme is not for everyone. It’s just one among many options available – and, what’s more, it is easiy accommodated into a communicative approach (under the guise of ‘dogme moments’). It is also cheap, and relatively easy (despite what people might think – but everyone has taught a dogme lesson at some point in their career, if only by accident), so it may be attractive in contexts where teachers feel under-resourced. It was never offered as a ‘method’ – just sound pedagogical sense, and many, many teachers have made good use of it (and told me so). I still stand by the original point – that we needed, and still need, an alternative to the hegemony of the coursebooks and their grammar mcnuggets. Dogme may not be the best alternative… but I’ve yet to hear of a better one!

    • I should have explained, I think, that the reason I finally did this post was because of silly comments I made on Andrew Pickles’ excellent ‘opposite of hot’ blog post, and again on Jason Renshaw’s blog. We have of course talked about this before, but I thought it would be better to be upfront in the blogosphere – and also, I hadn’t actually looked at your original article for a few years so I thought I should revisit it and see how it read/reads now.

      I agree that everyone has taught materials-light, often student-generated (or at least mediated) lessons in their lifetime, and so, as a result we are all in a sense (well in your sense anyway) ‘dogme’ teachers. And of course, therefore, I am too. Yes, I have taught dogme lessons (in your nomenclature)!!! And as you know in my own writing I talked about magic moments and unforseen situations where some of the best teaching takes place. I am not wedded to coursebook use either (as Jason points out, there isn’t a single mention of one in the writing book!

      But that is not the nub of the argument! The real issue is (a) the vow of chastity thing – which I think you have (quite reasonably) retrenched on somewhat over the last 10 years (though correct me if I am wrong) – and (b) the idea that Dogme is ‘an alternative to the hegemony of the coursebooks and the grammar mcnuggets’. Sounds quite like a claim for an approach or a method to me!! And as such, in its exclusivity (it is after all full of a list of what NOT to do/use) I cannot accept it.

      (But then I am not crazy about that hegemony stuff either. In fact hegemonies of all kinds bother the hell out of me in our field!)

      Oh, and of course I wouldn’t have bothered all these years later to talk (again) about this if it wasn’t (in my opinion) worth talking about. That, by the way, is a compliment in case it sounded like something else.

      Jeremy

  3. I’ve followed this discussion over from Jason Renshaw’s blog and it has been a thought-provoking (and entertaining) one!

    I think the best thing about dogme/teaching unplugged has been the discussion it has (and continues to generate). If someone enters a professional development session and says “Let’s consider how best to make use of and supplement our course book” the discussion may be a bit flat. If someone comes in and says “Let’s get rid of uor coursebooks completely!”, a much more lievly discussion is likely to take place and it will (as it has for me) force people to reconsider how they use course books and how they can make better use out of them, do other things with/without them and so on. A dogme cat amongst the course book pigeons if you will!

    DavidD

    • Hi David,

      thanks for reminding us that this is part of a continuing discussion and that my post (long overdue) was prompted in part by discussion and Jason Renshaw’s blog and on Karenne Sylvester’s Dogme challenge.

      I think your ‘cat among the pigeons’ point is absolutely right – and I paid tribute in my original post to Scott’s original article for it had EXACTLY that effect. The whole Dogme thing – which Scott put into motion and which Luke Meddings has played an important role – together with many others – has been a fantastic talking point in our profession for a decade, and for that, if nothing else, we should all be grateful!

      Jeremy

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  5. As a further thought, I think where Jeremy and I might differ at a theoretical level is captured in Jeremy’s statement: “Learning takes place in a learner’s brain”. While this might seem self-evident, there is a fairly well developed learning theory which says, “Well, it might END UP in a learner’s brain, but it is interactively mediated and is jointly constructed through activity”. Or, as the proponents of sociocultural learning theory put it (rather grandly), “The claim is that higher-order mental functions, including voluntary memory, logical thought, learning, and attention, are organised and amplified through the participation in culturally organised activity”. (Lantolf, J., and Thorne, S. 2007. Sociocultural theory and second language acquisition. In VanPatten B., and Williams, J. Theories In Second Language Acquisition: An Introduction. NY: Routledge.)

    If you buy into this theory (and many do), then you have a coherent and principled base for foregrounding the social (rather than the purely cognitive) component of language learning. Which is a central tenet of dogme ELT.

    • Scott,

      yes, I readily admit the theoretical underpinnings to emergent language in a dialogic setting, and yes, you ARE right to point out that potential area of disagreement between us. But in the readings we do we sometimes, I believe, fail to notice the modalities in what is being said. I do not have italics at my disposal here, so forgive me for capitalizing a significant word in the quote you offer, namely “The CLAIM is that higher-order…..participation in culturally-organised activity”. That’s it. It is a claim, a hunch, a strongly-held belief. Oh, and before you wipe me off the map (!) let me say wholeheartedly, that it is a claim I completely agree with as far as I can tell, with the proviso that SOME higher-order mental functions are amplified in this way. It flies in the face of all common sense and possibility to say that all mental function happens this way. On the contrary, much mental function is the result of inner enquiry – the kind of thing you do when you write books. Of course you COULD claim that was ‘participation in culturally organised activity’, but that would be to stretch the concept to an absurdly meaningless extent. What I am trying to say is that there ARE other ways of provoking that higher-order thinking than this, and some of them may be susceptible to a less humanistic reading.

      Jeremy.

    • Scott,

      I think I’ll leave your ‘correction please’ comment in because (a) it is seriously impressive to be an early voice-recognition adopter (you technophile you!) and I think this deserves other kinds of recognition, and (b) as you point out it is an example of emergent language!!

      Jeremy

  6. Hi Jeremy,

    By the way one of the nicest Dogme lessons I ever observed was by your brother Phil at IH Newcastle – he worked with emergent language, made use of scaffolding and still managed to hit the critical “exam criteria” and brilliantly prepare the class for the exams at hand (which they all went on to pass many with top grades)

    It’s not that using a Dogme approach totally bans the use of coursebooks – a text or talking point from a coursebook can be a real springboard into working with emergent language (as Scott mentioned – dogme moments) In some situations a pure dogme approach is really the way to go (I’m thinking 1 to 1 with high flying executive types)

    Regarding Grammar Mc Nuggets I’m not sure how useful they are to students. The problem is they are often presented and practiced in a highly artificial way which doesn’t really reflect the way people actually use them in daily life or the fact that in daily life, spoken and written discourse is not so much a stringing together of Grammar Mc Nuggets as a reproduction of lexical chunks and common collocations.

    Even when the Grammar Mc Nugget can be studied take the passive for example, isn’t it more authentic and useful to look at the passive, its uses etc in context – often newspaper articles than do single sentence active to passive transfer exercises?

    • Hi Steph,

      great of you to mention my brother Philip, a genuinely inspired and inspiring teacher in my totally unbiased opinion! And yes, the kind of lesson of his that you describe is and can be completely satisfying. Of course it can be. And I applaud him for it. As I said in my original post, teaching like that should be celebrated. Though whether all the students in the class got the same thing from it? That’s something that neither you nor I (or even Philip) knows.

      (Oh, and by the way, I am a huge fan of Dogme moments. You would have to be, unless you were crazy!).

      It is, however, the exclusivity of some Dogme conversations that I object to. You see it occurs to me that some grammar teaching and substitution dialogues for example may actually work. They give students easy access, for example, to lexical chunks, easy phrases and grammar that trip off the tongue. And what is happening while students are being made to do this? How do you know? Except that students have learnt and learnt well like that for years (and learnt badly too, by the way!)

      Here’s my challenge to you – well not to you of course, but you know what I mean. How can you be sure that language which is offered in an artificial but perhaps amusing and enjoyable light is less revealing or useful than language that is co-constructed in a dialogic setting (and not necessarily co-constructed equally)? My problem is that while I like the idea of the second type more, I cannot say for certain that its impact is necessarily more effective.

      Can I?

      Jeremy

      • Thanks Jeremy, your post definitely does make me reflect.

        I do agree with what you’re saying about substitution drills and how they might help students internalize lexical chunks better. I suppose what I have always instinctively had trouble with was that in many coursebooks the structures always followed the Grammar Syllabus and tense system.

        In my very first job in Sydney in 1994 I worked at a school where we followed a topic and task based syllabus using a mixture of course book, authentic and teacher/student generated materials.

        For 18 months I didn’t once teach a traditional grammar point (although I’ll be honest with you – back then fresh from the CELTA it was because I didn’t feel comfortable at all with grammar analysis – not because of any kind of learning theory!)

        So I just isolated and taught commonly occurring chunks and functional language in a communicative setting. Students were 90% Korean and Japanese. Although initially they were baffled and asked when are we going to do grammar – they quickly got over it.

        At the end of their stay at the college the feedback from these students was amazing. I’ll never forget one Korean boy who actually started crying. He said, before I couldn’t speak – now I can speak English!

        Along with the highly personal and relevant nature of “dogme” it is also the idea of emergent language that I really feel is effective. This is backed up by those early experiences in Sydney.

        Back in Sydney, the way I would do it was sit at home and do the tasks myself and see what I naturally said, I’d then write those expressions and phrases down. In class after warming up to task, I’d have the students do the task and see how close their language was to the expressions I’d come up with – then I’d just put a few of my expressions up on the board – drill them, and get students to repeat the task.

        About your last point – I’m not sure, I admit, I’m operating mainly on gut feeling here. (not very scientific at all!)

  7. Hi Jeremy,

    Thank you very much for this post.

    It comes at a time when I feel there is a strong “yes coursebook – no coursebook” debate. Well, I think the answer in my case is simple. You like coursebooks? Go ahead and do them. You like Dogme? Go ahead and do it.

    However, in my opinion, coursebooks are there for a reason. I am not saying that all of them are super, but that is a good thing: we can choose which one suits the students, us, the educators and take it from there. I am fortunate enough to teach at a school that does have coursebooks, but allows us to be flexible. I have a reading text for instance, that they liked? Excellent, not just dry reading and answer a,b,c,d, but I can weave it into something for them that they will enjoy doing and learn a whole lot in the process. You can take one thing from a coursebook and do a million with it. The students feel good for “having a book” and it is not just follow-follow-follow until they get bored out of their minds. And you have guidelines which are useful and – it is the truth – time-saving.

    I have never written a coursebook, but I know and am sure that a whole lot of work goes into them. And thank you to all those who write them (well, the good ones!).

    And thank you to Scott for introducing us to Dogme, which can work as well. I do it with students who do not want to do a coursebook!

    Many thanks Jeremy,
    Vicky

    • Wow, and here the debate takes another turn! Thanks for this post Jeremy. I’ll just say that I go with Vicky’s comment above about a polarising of the debate a bit. When it’s a matter of choice then teachers should do what they think is best. But then I think that Scott and Luke had been hinting at this with the “dogme” moments.

      My views on this subject are known, I enjoy writing and using coursebooks but also have time for non-coursebook lessons with input from the learner. But not always one or the other!

      • Hi Lindsay,

        yes the debate has become polarised, inevitably, over the last few years. I believe, personally, that has something to do with the ‘coursebooks are bad’ view of things which is espoused in Dogme-type postings sometimes (but not always). And of course coursebooks can be a bit rubbish sometimes, but I can not say with absolute certainty that working with a courseboook does not allow for co-construction of knowledge and meaningful dialogic interaction. The two things seem to have got mixed up a bit. We say, of course, that looking at a website and discussing it (because the teacher or the students are interested in it), or bringing a student’s experience to a lesson (ditto) may be a fine spur to co-constructed interaction. Fine. But any coursebook page, interestingly accessed, could well do the same, I think.

        Is that heretical?

        Jeremy

    • Hi Vicky,

      thanks so much for commenting.

      Yes I agree with you (of course); coursbooks can be great and when they are used in a creative an inspired way – or even (this may be heretical) when they are not – they provide at least a guarantee of some well-organised input!

      Yes, work goes into coursebooks, and some of it is good, and some less so!!

      But you are right to say ‘thank you’ to Dogme etc. It (the discussion) focuses our minds, makes us thaink back to what we do and why we do it. And that kind of lesson (generated from a teacher’s head and/or teacher-student interaction MAY be fantastic, but of course, like courebook lessons, perhaps, sometimes it isn’t!!

      Jeremy

  8. If I may put in my two cents worth… why should we look at everything in an absolute form? If it’s Absolut Vodka – fine but anything else, it borders on fanaticism. Dogme or not to dogme ? Is that really the question? How about Dogme now, dogme then but not always? While, special effects are great in movie making, can we not see the effects of shooting under natural lights in new zealand (L.O.R.). No coursebook is perfect but coursebooks are not absolute rubbish either. That’s the job of the teacher – pick and choose and adapt and adopt -whatever works. And for those of us, lesser mortals, who have to teach day in and day out, any book with ready made materials, is a help. Goes without saying that the book/s need to go though the teacher’s sieve but that’s easier than spending hours making their own.
    BTW, I’m a BIG fan of both of you.

    • Hi Ron,

      thanks for great comments! I completely agree. I hope I have made it clear (and I certainly have to him on numerous occasions) how much I admire Scott’s contribution to a genuine debate about what constitutes true lesson ‘grist’ – well and all the other knowledge he has helped us to understand. But in case that sounds too sycophantic, I do part company with him on the issue of ‘black-and-white’ philosophising. I see faults in coursebooks, of course, and over-reliance on them seems unattractive to me. But they are FANTASTIC for some teachers and students. And all I have to do is say exactly the same for materials-free lessons. Some FANTASTIC, some (and I have seen many) less so!

      So (to bring it back to films) I agree with you completely; of COURSE shooting in natural light and without artifice can work sometimes….!

      So much to say, so little time….

      Jeremy

  9. Thanks for adding to the discussion we’ve been watching Jeremy. And from what I’ve read in the comments, teachers (at least the ones voicing their opinion here, on Jason’s blog, on Karenne’s challenge posts, etc) see the advantages and disadvantages of coursebooks and of going unplugged. And most importantly, everyone seems to be sensible as to not relying solely on one of them. Having that sensibility is essential. It may be a bit green on new teachers but with some work and practice it can be developed. It just needs to be nurtured.

    I loved David Dodgson’s point of this discussion serving as a great reflection tool for those who are following it. I especially liked his analogy of throwing the dogme cat amongst the coursebook pigeons – look at the stir it’s caused! I find it fascinating!

    Balance seems to be the key when it comes to teaching, over and over. I have to admit some people may find it boring – I’m not really concerned of other people’s opinion. I take balance over extremes in most areas of my life.

    As for my teaching approach, I too do a bit of both (just as Mike, Lindsay, Vicky…). I’ve been trying to learn more about unplugged teaching as something to add to and improve my practice. And so far it has. I had an amazing experience at my first (very successful) unplugged lesson (which you’ve read about) – and the biggest benefit I drew from it was more confidence in my teaching, in my “brain pool of resources”. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be throwing my coursebooks away. That’s not it (and that would probably get me fired as well ;-)). It’s made me re-evaluate and reflect, and now I probably plan my lessons differently. I see this as a positive result.

    There you have it… I guess I wasn’t able to just stand in the audience after all. ;-)

    • Hello Cecilia,

      sense and sensibility, huh? That just about says it all I think!

      I am glad you don’t just stand in the audience.

      Yes, I think teaching ‘unplugged’ can be very satisfying and liberating for both teacher and student alike – as it was for you. I applaud that. And I would guess that you could teach unplugged for some time with great success. But (and of course this is not a comment about you personally, of course not), is there anything to say that your ‘brain pool of resource’ is superior to a coursebook writer’s? It does have ONE advantage of course (and this may be the most important one), namely that you bring it in to your classes in the hope that it will be relevant to those particular classes in a way that a coursebook may not. And in that Scott – and of course Luke Meddings (who has played a major part in the unplugged discussion, quite apart from co-authoring Teaching Unplugged (DELTA publishing) – would be entirely happy with what you did and the advantages of it.

      But that does not mean that artificially created classrooms do not have a function!! Students can and do interact with coursebooks in a thoroughly creative way – which is, I think, what you believe so I have just been going on about nothing!!!

      Jeremy

  10. Couldn’t agree more, Jeremy! Particularly liked your utilitarian “everything – in a classroom – has to be grounded in the expertise of a teacher being able to find the best way of doing things for the benefit of (and with the help and guidance of) the greatest number of students”. Yes, indeed, a sort of (John Stuart) Millsian “greatest happiness principle” for the world of TEFL. Very nice! This numerical consideration is also linked to the interesting point from Steph about dogme being the way to go in 1 to 1 classes.

    Personally, I have always thought that the larger the group, the less appropriate dogme approaches become … although that doesn’t mean they’re not appropriate. In 1 to 1s, an organically developing, student-generated syllabus seems not only desirable but also practicable. In larger groups, there are just too many people and too few opportunities to generate “emergent language”, an undesirable result being that more unplugged approaches may well end up “advantaging the more extrovert, communicative and emotionally intelligent of our students” (as Jeremy suggests).

    What’s more, and I admit this is just intuition, I doubt very much whether a particular student internalises what emerges from another student’s “dialogic interaction” with the teacher any better than they internalise pre-packaged grammar mcnuggets from a coursebook. What “emerges” for the dialogant doesn’t necessarily “emerge” with such force for the non-dialogant / listener.

    Regarding teaching’s pre-method “state of grace”, this is a just a bit too romantic and rose-tinted for my liking. I reckon a pre-method teacher’s life rather than being full of “grace” was in fact “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (forgive my return to liberal philosophy) ;-)

    • Hello Ian,

      I find your comments incredibly refreshing, especially because they mirror some of my own worries about some of the tenets of the unplugged thing.

      If language is co-constructed then yes, yes, yes, a 1-1 teaching situation sounds about ideal – though even here I am not absolutely sure that pre-developed materials have no part to play. But at least in that situation you can say that relevance is the key. But in a class of 60? Far far more difficult.

      I have no desire to return to any pre-lapsarian world. I LIKE the world I live in now with all its technological innovation, making my life easier to live and, often, more fun. But I walked in the Cumbrian hills recently, with my brother and his partner and a dog, and it was just us and the air, and the hills and the great vault of the sky – nature in all its magnificence and splendour and ordinariness – not a cellphone, car, iPad etc in sight. And it was great. Awe-inspiring, Remarkably emotional.

      How wonderful to have both.

      Jeremy

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  12. In my opinion, the cup of coffee I make is better than the one my friend Jon makes. In his opinion, the car stereo he just bought sounds better than mine. That doesn’t mean that I don’t drink the coffee that Jon makes some of the time, or that Jon doesn’t want to listen to music on my car stereo. It just means that we have things which WE think work, sound, look etc better than others so we will do these more often than others. In most of my classes I try and use a ‘stripped-down’ approach to the use of technology whereby I use the tech to facilitate the classroom activities. But every now and again I need to go all out and get the students mediating with the laptops when they are word-processing their essays. I don’t think one way is better than the other, I just do whatever is needed; whatever the interplay between me, the students, the environment and the content calls for.

    In the same way, teaching a lesson unplugged may or may not be the way forward depending on what the situation calls for. Doing one lesson unplugged and the other fully ‘plugged in’ (textbooks, handouts guitars(?) etc) does not make one particularly better than the other, it just means that a choice has been made about how best to conduct that lesson. Dogme is not generally better than other ways of teaching classes and teaching classes in other ways is not generally better than dogme. This is like the reply I gave to a recent post on my blog when someone asked ‘why is pen and paper better than a keyboard and a mouse?’. They aren’t, nor are they worse. Nor should we really compare them. They exist and they exist for a reason. They are just different ways of getting the same thing done.

    I teach ‘unplugged’ sometimes and bring in the books, materials technology etc at others. Like Scott said, we have all done the ‘unplugged’ thing at some time(and probably enjoyed it). Why not do it again sometime?

    Keith

  13. Personally, I think the whole unplugged versus plugged issue has become something of a pseudo-debate, really…

    There are not, in actual fact, very many people at all at either end of the bar arguing that only one way is right/more moral/most effective, etc. Most at-the-chalkface pundits actually appear to be pretty good at pointing out that they can see the good points with both approaches, and many do — I think — use both, or even mix and combine them.

    And even at the Lords of the Armchair level, to be very blunt, all I hear these days are coursebook experts constantly encouraging teachers to adapt and go beyond (or alongside or outside) their coursebooks, and the unplugged/Dogme experts saying hey, unplugged teaching has great benefits, and it CAN work alongside or as an extension out of what you are doing in coursebooks.

    They are all good mates, at the end of the day, saying essentially the same things in the middle, but from different ends of the street…

    =D

    - Jason

    • Ah yes, guitars! I sympathise with you on that totally….

      I like the idea of ‘stripped-down technology’ My own feeling about technology is that (like coursebooks etc) it is never about WHAT you use, it about HOW you use it. So that would allow me to say that using students’ experience etc to shape a lesson is great, depending on how you use that experience.

      Jeremy

  14. Since the discussion is getting a bit happy-clappy, we’re-all-in-the-same-boat- really, why-don’t-we-just-kiss-and-make-up? etc, let me complicate matters by suggesting that there IS a fundamental difference between an approach that is driven by (grammar-based) course books and one (like dogme, like task-based learning, like community language learning, like a lot of one-to-one teaching, like ESP classes…) that is not? That is to say, the choice as to whether to subscribe to a pre-selected agenda of grammar mcnuggets, a la 90% of the coursebooks that are in circulation nowadays, or to follow a more organic, procedural and emergent syllabus, based around learners’ communicative needs, and nourished by their own content, has profound implications on your methodology.

    If, at the end of the day, I have to teach the present perfect continuous, because it’s in the book, on the syllabus, in the exam, am I really (honestly, truly, hand-on-heart) going to respond constructively and helpfully to the communicative needs of the learners (which may be a million miles away from the present perfect continuous) and work with them in their zone of proximal development? Or am I going to ride rough-shod over these needs, because, if I don’t teach them the bloody present perfect continuous, I will somehow have failed them, their parents, my institution, the Cambridge examiner, etc?

    But, you protest, you CAN teach the present perfect continuous AND be a responsive, reactive, ZPD-ish teacher at the same time, can’t you? In theory, perhaps. In practice, unlikely. Where grammar is, grammar rules. Grammar expands to fill the time available for it. And you get the situation whereby the teacher’s message is: “You can say what you like but you have to use the present perfect continuous”. The grammar tail wags the communicative dog.

    The coursebook grammar, I mean, of course. Not the learner’s grammar. If we are going to teach grammar, it is the latter we should be teaching, not the former. As Dave Willis so neatly put it:

    “In helping learners manage their insights into the target language we should be conscious that our starting point is the learner’s grammar of the language. It is the learner who has to make sense of the insights derived from input, and learners can only do this by considering new evidence about the language in the light of their current model of the language. This argues against presenting them with pre-packaged structures and implies that they should be encouraged to process text for themselves so as to reach conclusions which make sense in terms of their own systems”.

    (Dave Willis, A Lexical Approach, in Bygate el al: Grammar and the Language Teacher, 1994)

    When all is said and done, a dogme approach works with the LEARNER’S grammar (and vocabulary, and pronunciation, and discourse), not the courseboook writer’s.

    • All I would say to that, Scott, is that not all coursebooks nowadays are necessarily grammar-driven, and some others are not *as* grammar driven as their predecessors.

      Based on that, just as I am willing to fire a broadside at coursebook advocates who write off unplugged teaching as being deficient or unrealistic about this or that, I’m also willing to point a finger at the Dogmeists who try to reduce the debate to simply a coursebook versus no coursebook debate.

      I wrote coursebooks, dozens of them. They were not driven by a grammar syllabus. They have sold really well and gone global. They don’t represent all coursebook developments everywhere, but they are an indication of change and willingness to change from both publishers and teachers.

      I try my best not to stereotype dogmeists or the notion of unplugged teaching. I think I’ve already shown in rather voluminous detail that I advocate and practice unplugged teaching. But let’s not stereotype the coursebooks too much, either, thanks!

      As for the idea of catastrophes associated with skipping over the present perfect continuous, I think these are inevitable — at least to some extent — in a world where a majority of learners are studying English essentially against their will, and where EAL (English as an Artificial Language) is all that is really being aspired to.

      • Jason, I did say 90%. But even as I wrote that I felt I was being a little generous. Open the contents page of VIRTUALLY any general English course and you will see that the grammar syllabus dominates.

        As evidence can I cite a (1999) study aimed at uncovering the beliefs about language and language learning that inform current EFL practice, in which Helen Basturkman took a selection of best-selling textbooks and subjected their back-cover blurbs to critical analysis. She found that in the seven books she examined ‘75% of the blurbs claimed the work to be based solidly in grammar’ (1999:19). A search of key words revealed that ‘content referring to the language system had a high frequency of occurrence… especially words denoting grammar’ (1999: 27), and she concludes ‘The ELT community views language as a core of grammatical structures and vocabulary’ (1999:32, emphasis in original).

        OK, so the study was done over 10 years ago, but I’m not so sure things have changed significantly.

        Basturkman, H. 1999. A Content Analysis of ELT Textbook Blurbs: Reflections of Theory-in-Use, in RELC Journal 30 (1), 18-38.

      • Okay then, but I would say

        (1) 10 years is a long time in ELT – it is time to take another look at coursebooks rather than basing current assumptions on research from 10 years ago

        (2) Such research — as you quote it — may very well suffer some problems with validity. Back cover blurb as the overwhelming evidence of a grammar-syllabus driven coursebook? Come on! You yourself as a grammar expert acknowledge the fundamental importance of grammar in language, and any mention of grammar + systems/systematic on a back cover blurb should not necessarily be taken to mean it is all grammar syllabus.

        I am not saying you are wrong in asserting that most coursebooks may feature an over-emphasis on grammar and grammar as the underlying organising principle.

        But until a more up-to-date study is done, and one which gets off the back cover blurbs and actually does some critical analysis of actual contents and unit organisation, I am afraid you are at some risk of interpreting computers according to research done on the packaging information provided for typewriters!

        (Okay, have I been wildly optimistic here about how much coursebooks may have changed in the last decade or so? :-)

      • Come on, Jason, get real! Here are some of the top-selling general English coursebooks in the world today (off the top of my head), and all are driven by a grammar syllabus: (New) Headway, (New) Interchange, (New)Cutting Edge, (New) English File, Inside Out, Touchstone, Total English – to which add the newcomers, English Unlimited and Global, for starters. I reckon that lot mops up about 90% of the market. It’s grammar all the way – and – unsurprisingly, the same old grammar, i.e. the so-called tenses. If you really want someone to research this, I’ll happily oblige – but I don’t think you need do more than scan any major ELT publisher’s print catalogue or visit their website.

      • Right then – every coursebook series you have referred to there is an adults coursebook. Let me assure you that YLs and teens account for a lot (even most?) of the world;s English language learners, and let me assure you that the way those younger learners are obtaining their English does not necessarily follow the style or pattern represented in the series you just quoted.

        (Insert obvious exception of public school textbooks, which yes, make up huge numbers, and yes are — on the whole — horribly grammar oriented. May have just shot my own hypothetical argument in the foot here…)

        Anyway, this point reminds me of (what people told me was) a stirring speech I made to the Korea TESOL executive in 2002, urging them to stop crapping on and bickering about what was happening here and now in university classes, and start paying more attention to the tsunami-like wave of YLs and teens about to come crashing down on them. That is where the immediate future lies, and if you do not know what is happening there, you are potentially horribly ill-equipped to make good assumptions and predictions about the immediate future of adults/young adults ELT.

        Digression/rant over!

      • Beating a hasty, panicky retreat here…

        The biggest selling coursebook in Asia is (a sector that leaves your pretty Europe for dead numbers-wise)…

        Lets Go (from OUP)
        A series for YLs

        And erm, ahem, righty then… it is a heavily grammar syllabus driven series.

        Attempt at playing devils advocate finished for this month!

      • @EnglishRaven… with all my respect for your work, I would like to further add that 10 year old research is not necessarily irrelevant, in the same way that the somewhat older pythagorean theorem is not outdated.

        Something Scott’s scholarship often brings up is the resurgence of theories. While the latest gen scholar standing on the shoulders of Littlejohn, Ellis, (…and undoubtably stepping on the face of Chomski..) et al might have nifty stuff to say, I think a history of ESL might be even more interesting and useful for us to look at… and that how long an idea lasts and how often it resurfaces might be a better indication of its overall integrity (even if it is not useful… pruning recurrent bad ideas is a big job…) than how new and sexy it is.

        Nonetheless… enjoying the debate stirred up by jh’s initial post.

    • Hello Scott (again),

      your are absolutely right to break up the mood of ‘we all agree’. Because (hence this post) the original ‘vow of chastity’ article, however tongue in cheek did (and does) say something entirely different to the common coursebook-induced way of doing things. Hell it would not be worth returning to it and discussing it if it did not. Dogme moments? That’s a different matter, to my mind, and has less claim to being ‘different’, though naming it/them has proved entirely useful.

      You quote Davie Willis. My estimation has changed somewhat since the statement in his book with Jane (in Doing Task-based learning) that correction doesn’t work – it only gets two sentences in a whole big book – a statement so grossly counter-intuitive that it makes me doubt a lot of what is said in other places. If Willis X 2 are right then the whole plethora of emergent grammar, noticing, the working out, the testing of hypotheses against what is correct, the being asked to re-think what we are doing…all that goes out of the window, And so does Dogme. Because it IS about thought. Brains. processing.

      Yes, yes, of course we both agree about that. The question is whether the learner’s grammar is always better for them. Well yes, provided they are exercising it. Well yes, provided the teacher knows how to optimize it, how to draw it out, where the ZPD is (if you believe in such a thing – it’s a highly risky concept it seems to me, especially when applied to post puberty), well yes in a class of 5 (and even then how can you be sure of equal access?)

      But the past continuous is useful; you DO learn something about system while you are studying it; the lesson may not/should not just be a crash-through of grammar patterns. Lots of other things happen while grammar is being taught, and the results are not always what we expect (just like, I would venture to suggest, the results of a dogme lesson).

      Let’s be clear: I am not a huge fan of constantly repeated grammar points, and I wish (and have tried to fight against) the slavery of the grammar syllabus. But even when coursebooks are organised like that, that is not all they have (I will return to that when replying to Diarmuid’s various posts below). Nevetherless, coursebooks may well be – to repeat myself – more ‘equal opportunity’ than highly personalised co-construction, where the nature of the ‘co’ is not necessarily beneficial.

      Of COURSE the mature teacher uses a blend. Of course. But that’s not quite the nub of the argument is it!

      Thank you, anyway, for engaging, yet again, with the whole debate. I think it has been (and is) interesting!

      Jeremy

  15. It´s been a good couple of weeks reading the debate over DOGME or non-DOGME and your post brings more insight into the matter.

    I remember vividly the day I read Thornbury´s article in IATEFL (A Dogma for EFL), but I remember better the day I read his article “Grammar, power and bottled water”, (http://www.thornburyscott.com/tu/Power.htm) also published in the IATEFL newsletter, 1998. The promise of a post-grammar revolution was wonderful, the language was strong and called us all up to arms: “What is EFL tap-water like? I’ll leave you to imagine (if you don’t already know) a pedagogy where grammar is deconsecrated, where learners are empowered to make their own meanings, where teachers are emboldened to subvert the dictates of non-teachers, and where teachers and learners together construct a shared discourse of possibility.”
    Wow! How I wanted all that to happen in the classroom and it came at the right moment, when I was doing my DELTA.

    Later, Thornbury made the DOGME analogy and what struck me then, as it still does now, is that in order to reach this state of grace, I rather wondered whether the teacher wouldn’t have to be quite experienced, or at least to feel quite comfortable with several aspects of classroom management. After all, to be able to deconstruct, we need to have seen the other side, right? The DOGME 95 people were certainly in this position.

    From the learner´s perspective, I tend to agree with your point Jeremy: not all students learn through dialogic interaction (and we also need to consider cultural aspects and issues here). Many actually need to resort to something more formal and a good coursebook actually does wonders in this context. A coursebook can provide a very basic framework for the learning process. Teachers can dip in and out of the coursebook and, of course, don´t need to follow it slavishly, neither do we need to focus on grammar as the be all and end all of a coursebook or as the driving force of a lesson.

    Another thing that strikes me, based on Thonrbury´s comment above, Sociocultural theory does indeed base itself on a social dialogic and interactional aspect, this is fundamental. However, at all times, there is a great awareness of the need to provide a framework through which this dialogic interaction can lead to a rich learning experience. What is this framework in ELT?

    So, whilst as a teacher I do enjoy the possibility of teaching a DOGME lesson, I need to think carefully about my learners and this also means that in many lessons I´ll be using a good coursebook and teaching a fairly structured lesson. It´s really about finding the right balance as most people seem to be suggesting.

    Thanks Jeremy for this post and the previous one as well, which certainly got us all thinking. Thanks Thornbury for giving us all a wake up call 10 years ago!

    • Hi Valeria,

      there is a lot of wisdom coming from your post, I think. I share your excitement about the liberating and radical promise of Dogme. I always wanted to go along with it. Throw off your shackles, be free!

      But I did and have enjoyed some coursebooks a lot. Or rather PARTS of them. And there is a reason why students pore over them and mark them, and it is not just because they are blind dupes following some evil master. It is because they are genuinely useful and comforting sometimes.

      But the point you make is a good one. If dialogic framework IS the issue, what is it? How can it be evaluated (either formally or informally? I often hear teachers describe lessons in which students talk a lot and have a good time, and they sound like fabulous lessons. But my question always is ‘yes, but what did the students actually GET out of it?’

      Jeremy

  16. Scott, for the sake of discussion (and perhaps clarification for teachers and perhaps even writers out there!), do you see any fundamental (and favourable) difference between coursebooks that

    (a) are driven (in content) by a pre-existing grammar syllabus

    and

    (b) have a grammar syllabus that derives from (the pre-existing) content?

    That question of grammar driving or being deriving from content is one that intrigues me. In one instance the topics and contents emerge (almost completely artificially) from the grammar, whereas in the other the grammar emerges from the content.

    I think it is more than possible to achieve the second type in coursebook fashion, but according to your principles, is it in fact any different or better?

    Cheers,

    - Jason

  17. It could be. If the grammar was focussed on the smaller more common features (as found in Natural Grammar – author unknown…) and if the approach to grammar (un)covering was one that sought to train students in effective grammar study habits. If the texts were genuine (as opposed to merely authentic), it might also help. If they were varied, it would undoubtedly help.

    I’m tempted to add, “And if they were student generated texts, it would be even better.”

    • Yes, right then. We know that mainstream publishers are never (never say never?) going to allow a coursebook off the press that features (or facilitates) student generated texts as the main input or driving impetus of the units…

      But if, within the ELT coursebook edifice, we might succeed in a change whereby texts and conversations were chosen based on them being reasonably genuine and topic or situation driven, and then have certain *natural* aspects of grammar highlighted in/from them, as well as discovery-based and pattern/rule generation activities (which the students are active in doing rather than being purely receptive), surely this would represent a significant advance forward?

      • Absolutely. But why wait for the ELT publishers if you are sat in a classroom full of potential coursebook writers?

      • Why wait?

        Well, clearly, you and I do not need to wait. We are confident in our ability to get this happening, and handle and facilitate it as it unfolds in the classroom. We may also be fortunate enough to be operating in settings that give us a reasonably free hand with what we do and what we use (materials wise) in our classrooms.

        But other teachers — due to a variety of factors, which I do attempt to challenge and change while being realistic about their presence and current status (think here relative experience and confidence, compulsory use of coursebooks in the schools they are working in, etc. — are waiting for the ELT publishers.

        If we can drive change and model new and better ways of noticing and developing language through coursebooks, we do potentially help a huge number of teachers and their learners — especially if no coursebook simply is not a realistic option for them.

  18. Jeremy wrote, “To suggest that unplugged teaching is necessarily superior in some way is to claim a direct understanding of (and route into) all students’ brains – and none of us have that. Let’s go further; of course I get a lot of my knowledge and understanding through conversation and contact with others in true dogme style. My life and my learning would be barren without it. But I also get a lot of my knowledge from reading books, listening to things, watching movies, going to lectures, finding things on the internet, playing with apps and artifice-driven software and doing it all on my own! The dialogue (probably not a very elevated one I will admit) is with myself and happens in my own brain!”

    Actually, Jeremy, I’d suggest that the dialogue is between your brain and the book/music/movie. Even with apps, you are not doing it on your own as the app will limit what you can do. It may be subject to some modifications in the future, but these tend to emerge from dialogue between the user and the maker.

    I DO subscribe to the Vygotskian notion that ALL knowledge begins as external and becomes internalised through interaction. That is because all knowledge is produced and shared at a given moment in time and acquires its nature from the time and place in which it is produced. Abstract? Maybe, but none less true for that. And let us be clear – Vygosky was writing about the ORIGINS of intelligence and thought and the steps towards becoming a more knowledgeable other. I have yet to come across anything to suggest that this theory is flawed. Through the intial phrases of NEEDING to interact socially in order to learn, one might progress to a stage where one USES the mediational tools acquired through social interaction, such as language, to act more independently.
    Huh? Put simply – when we begin to learn, we need to interact with each other in order for the information to pass into our brain. If there is no interaction, there is no learning. Once that is done and we are operating within our own comfort boundaries, we will have access to such tools as language (which we acquire through interaction) that permit us more independent thought.

    Vygotsky didn’t rule out internal speech – quite the opposite. He merely put forward the argument that it always begins with an external stimulus.

    • Hi Diarmuid,

      you are absolutely right about the dialogue being between the stimulus and my brain. Yes, of course. So some external syllabus? Well often yes. But the power of introspection does not necessarily depend on noticing something out there, does it.

      Social constructivism is all about child learning, I think, and Vygotsky too. Does post-pubertal learning necessarily follow the same track?

      But even if it does, what is to say that dialogic interaction is in some ways a superior external resource than a pre-programmed one?

      Jeremy

      • I don’t think social constructivism is all about children, but a lot of Vygotsky’s contributions were (although he also write on how adolescents gain knowledge). If I had the brains to research the relevance of Vygotsky’s theories to adult learning, I would be doing that right now. Regrettably, my grey matter is only grey because it is lifeless.

        I’m not sure about your last question. Are you asking, “Who’s to say that being able to interact with more knowledgeable others is better than just being told to accept that something is as it is?” If so, there is a very long list of people who would say it. I would venture that even the august Harmer, J. might be one of them.

  19. And as an addendum, I would like to suggest the need for further discussion about whether Vygotsky’s theory about how CHILDREN learn knowledge is relevant to the way that adults learn a second language.

    It seems to me that there is a suggestion contained therein which is that we are doing more than teaching the nuts and bolts of a language, we are engaged in some other, deeper endeavour. L2 learning is not simply a case of mastering grammar and vocabulary. It is more about acquiring/expropriating the semiotic tool of another culture.

    If this is indeed the case, what about the argument that the English language is no longer confined to any one culture. If this IS the case, then perhaps we need to consider the argument that the culture of the English language is the language of global power and global capitalism. How comfortable does that make you feel?!?!

    • Whoah!!

      Two quick thoughts: language may not be JUST about teaching the nuts and bolts. But it is PARTLY about that.

      Global power and capitalism? Well the most interesting thing about English, to me, is the way in which it is being taken and adopted by any one, any communities who want it!

      Jeremy

  20. Huh? Put simply – when we begin to learn, we need to interact with each other in order for the information to pass into our brain. If there is no interaction, there is no learning.

    Or perhaps that we need to interact with SOMETHING and not necessarily SOMEONE, right? Currently reading Pinker (The Language Instinct) and I’m thinking of the children or people who create a language by themselves. But, don’t quote me on it – bear in mind that I’m just beginning to learn here, and am in need of some interaction, ok?

    • This is what I’d like to find out more about. It’s clear to me that we can interact with a book, with a blog, with a film etc. As we question the book, react to the film, respond to the blog, we then carry on reading to se ehow they answer our comments. The book reaffirms its case’ the film confounds our expectations; the blog challenges our long-held beliefs. Would Vygotsky have classified this as a dialogue? I don’t know, but it seems like enough one to me.
      I have never been able to finish a Pinker book which probably says more about me than about his incessant banging on about the cognitive domain. Anyone who is so focussed on ignoring the social aspect of human society can surely not be taken too seriously. And Pinker serves at the Church of the Indignant Noam, and the Great Chomsky has yet to abandon his idea that language develops because of a mysterious black box that lurks inside our brains. I am wrong to be so flippantly dismissive of such great minds, but it’s really the caffeine typing, not me. I’ll be calm again in a couple of hours.
      My point was going to be that I don’t know of any child inventing a language ON ITS OWN. Perhaps you could share a potted summary for those of us who gave away their Pinker books some time ago? Surely the child needed someone to use the language with? In any event, I would be wary of Pinker’s beguiling prose. Essentially, it’s all based around a mechanistic view of the Human Machine. I can’t help but think that one day people will look back at his work and chuckle at how misguided he was. Again, I should recognise that this suspicion is just as likely to reflect my own ignorance as it is anything else.
      Incidentally, I have just checked my bookshelves, and behind the DVDs I have found Pinker’s Language Instinct. I’ll pop it in my bag today and hope I don’t meet anyone I know on the train. That said, perhaps I’m better of starting with “The Stuff of Thought” which I also have located. After all, is Pinker REALLY likely to be saying anything new 15 years later?!

      • Diarmuid,

        I don’t know exactly all about that, and of course, will be taking anything I read with a pinch of salt (as you should reading anything, right?). Only just started the Language Instinct (my first attempt at Pinker), so will be back on mikeharrison.edublogs.org with anything I think I have taken from it.

  21. Jeremy

    How did your posting turn into another opportunity for Scott to take a whack at coursebooks? There are so many opportunities elsewhere, yet he avails himself of every single one.

    Scott and we had a sensible discussion about grammar a couple of weeks ago, and I actually thought we were making a bit of progress, but no, a week later the posting on vocabulary was announced as ‘another failure of coursebooks’ (please forgive me if this is a misquote, but it was something like this).

    Last week on ELTChat, textbook writers were referred to as the ‘the arms dealers of the ELT profession’ for which the person who posted that kindly apologized when I replied I was honest, hard-working and respected my customers.

    Scott’s implication is that 90% of us are not serving our profession honestly and with respect because Dogme is the antediliuvian state of grace in which learning can best take place.

    But many teachers need and enjoy coursebooks, they don’t need to feel devalued as professionals for using them. Many teachers cannot be bothered with ‘faffing around’ finding out about >>the LEARNER’S grammar (and vocabulary, and pronunciation, and discourse), not the courseboook writer’s.<< Give us some credit!

    Twenty-eight years as 'an arms dealer', and with Lindsay, Justin and you, I'm going to defend my branch of the profession. I don't go around dismissing anyone else's work in ELT, I'd just get slaughtered. So why are we good for such a regular kicking?

    Simon

    • Hi Simon,

      yes, I have a bit of a sense-of-humour failure about the ‘arms dealer’ crack too.

      But in the end I don’t really care what people think about coursebook writers. I know they/we are, at best, careful and serious about what they/we do (though at their worst they/we are not always that).

      The issue in the end is whether what comes out of the process has any use. I, of course, think that intermittently it does! Obviously.

      And you point about ‘faffing around’ looking for the learners’ grammar may be a bit combative, but it speaks to my concern about how you do that in an ‘equal opportunites’ way for a large group of students…

      Jeremy

  22. Simon
    I’m not sure that this is about you, or Jeremy, or Lindsay, or Justin. I’m not sure it’s even about Scott. It’s about the books themselves and about the people who commission them and publish them. I thought at the tme that the arms dealer reference was definitely tongue-in-cheek and was bemused when the person who made it then felt the need to apologise. It was reassuring that some people insisted that there was no need; it’s a bit disconcerting that her words are being brought up again.
    I think you read too much into Scott’s implications. He certainly doesn’t seem to be implying any such thing about writers. He does seem to be implying it about the books that you write. But I can see a difference between criticising the book and not the writer. And lest this becomes too personalised, let’s be honest – Scott was not alone in this. The fact that the Dogme list still has around 1000 members and has averaged a 78 postings per month this year is telling. And a lot of the postings on Dogme are about teachers’ unhappiness with their coursebooks. The real Dogme challenge would be to find a piece of writing anywhere in which Dogme devalues teachers as professionals for using coursebooks. The rules would be simple: one would have to look at the posting in its context and it would have to be clear that any excerpts faithfully represented the tone of the whole text. Would you care to take up that challenge?
    As a teacher, I find it worrying that there might be “teachers who cannot be bothered with faffing around finding out about the learner’s grammar.” If this is indeed true, then I would say that courseboks are -at least partly- to blame. And this is – at least partly- why coursebooks (but not their writers) are good for a regular kicking. The grammar that you are required to shove into the coursebook has barely changed since I became a teacher. It is often central to a unit, and yet ignores the fact that an intermediate student has done the same sodding grammar for at least four years and still hasn’t been able to pick it up. The way that writing is treated is usually perfunctory with some nonsense about the need to plan, and write in paragraphs and then a slab of pre-writing discussion and away we go. Reading is almost never (and I am uncertain about why I am bothering to hedge this one) taught. Artificial texts (in the main) are presented with no more than a pre-reading, a while reading and a post-reading activity to accompany them.There’s often a few comprehension questions and then a few vocab questions that seem to highlight vocabulary on its centrality to the text or to the unit, rather than following any good acquisition principles like frequency. Texts for beginners- pre-ints rarely venture past the sentence level or the paragraph level. Listening is perhaps the least well-served skill of all. With listening, coursebooks follow a virtually exclusive pattern of activities that seem to do no more than test listening comprehension rather than develop listening skills. But speaking is also pretty poorly dealt with and the activities that courebooks include rarly progress beyond the more enlightened offering of some gambits. Nothing else. Pronunication is usually looking at some minimal pairs (taking the Shotgun approach by including enough minimal pairs to capture some of the problems of some of the nationalities that may be using the sodding book). Occasionally the teacher will be made to plod through some atrocious focussings on intonation that will stump EVERYONE in the room.

    So, in a class where a teacher is trying to provide purposeful activities that are proven to be beneficial to the language acquisition process, coursebooks are a weight around someone’s neck. Added to that the fact that some teachers are given no choice about whether or not to use them and we have the recipe for a crisis. And if we are to be brutally honest, the people who have LONG been made to feel devalued as professionals are those of us who choose NOT to use a coursebook. It is we who are accused of failing the students, of not taking into account the students’ expectations etc. Yet I choose not to use coursebooks because my experience of the various ones I have used in the last 16 years is that they are bloody terrible.
    I have nothing against coursebook writers (although I have always said that were I to write a coursebook, I would abandon all hopes of ever calling myself an author). In fact, one of the uncomfortable ironies about dogme is that -at least at one time- so many of its members were coursebook/materials writers. People have to earn money in some way. As I replied to the QUESTION (not comment) about whether coursebook writers were the arms dealers of the EFL industry, it seems to me that you are no more than the workers in an arms factory. It may not be the best profession (if, indeed, it is a profession), but it pays the bills and at least YOU’RE not killing anyone(‘s dreams). And I am truly sorry that this seems to be dismissive of your work. My intention is not to offend you or your writer colleagues. I have no doubt that were you to be given the leeway that you would need to write the coursebook that I COULD teach from, your writing skills would clearly demonstrate that YOU were not at fault.

    • Diarmuid, you obviously feel passionate about this and I can understand you don’t mean to offend but I gotta say that the way you expressed that could easily be interpreted as offensive if someone was a writer of materials. Sodding this, bloody that, would never call myself an author if I wrote a coursebook etc I won’t go back and quote it all.
      But what about other people who have had different experiences than you? Are they wrong? In my sixteen years of experience (hey we have done the same time in this ELT joint!) I’ve used books I thought were crap and books I thought were great. I thought the students learned some English when I used these.
      I mean, I guess if I heard a similar tirade against TEACHERS using similar language (they always bloody do this; they only care about their sodding vacations; all are bloody awful) then I’d step up and say that this person had a bad experience but it didn’t mean that teachers are all rotten.
      Just to say that I don’t think I go along with the victimised “we who don’t use a coursebook have been devalued”. I haven’t really come across that rhetoric in methodology books, conferences, blogs or anywhere else. Usually it feels like the opposite (that non-coursebook user teachers are much better) but that could be a good testimony to the strong voices of Dogme advocates on the net especially.
      Anyway, I had promised myself I wouldn’t get into this debate again and yet here I am. Sigh. And now I’ve wasted time on this comment when I should have been perfecting my latest WMD.

      • Hi Lindsay,

        great comments, I think well I would, wouldn’t I!) The thing is that Diarmuid’s rant against coursebook is over-generalised and un-useful. There ARE books that deal with reading well. There ARE books that have great speaking activities. There ARE books that take writing seriously etc etc

        Actually, I think the pro-dogme people are looked on very sympathetically by those of who write and teach methodology. And tis post is just one example of that; a wish to engage with the issues involved in differing views of what the external stimuli should be in language learning.

        Jeremy

    • Yet again, an advocate of unplugged teaching (here) is getting his hackles up about some horribly unfair generalisations about coursebooks and the methods they apply — not to mention their potential motives…

      Sorry Diarmuid. My skills series addresses pretty much every criticism you have documented there, skill by skill in fact.

      More than a million young teenagers around the world have used those books (and I would presume — in hopefully most cases –with the help of dedicated teachers) in just the past two and half years.

      I am not the author of (New) Headway. But a million learners in a couple of years is not insignificant, and a mainstream commercial coursebook series that proves all of those stereotypical claims you have made almost universally incorrect, is not insignificant either.

      For what it is worth, I do not think my own series is better than teaching unplugged. But I do think it is a significant development in coursebook evolution, helping learners and teachers who cannot or will not (or just plain do not have any inclination to) venture into unplugged learning, and comments like yours and some others there are just plain unhelpful. They do not aspire towards or facilitate realistic and attainable progression in the broader sense.

      And yeah, I do rather strongly object to you saying I should be nonchalant about being called an arms dealer or — bless you for such generosity — a worker in an arms factory paying my bills while contributing to a process that actively kills people(s dreams).

  23. I hope that as I become more prolific on this internet thing that people will learn to take my criticisms with a pinch of salt. They are really not worth being offended by. Merely indications of my view that the bombastic life is the only one worth living. One of the strengths of blog postings is that they provide plentiful material against which one can rail.
    Lindsay asks, “But what about other people who have had different experiences than you? Are they wrong?” Those of you who are familiar with my erudite blogging career may be able to preempt my answer – no, they’re not wrong, any more than they are right. Similarly, I am not wrong or right. They are different. And it is the exploration of our differences that moves us forward.
    And it may be that Jason’s books address my criticisms, but I have not had the privilege of working with them. I would agree that any such books would go a long way towards the development of coursebook evolution. I wonder if it is a bit too early to say what may or may not be a helpful contribution along this evolutionary path. It is certainly not for Jason -or Justin- to interpret MY aspirations.
    Incidentally, it is important to underline one fact: nobody “called” anybody an arms dealer. If I remember correctly, the tweet in question said, “ELT Coursebook writers – the arms dealers of the EFL world?” It was a question (asked with tongue-in-cheek). To get upset about that is daft. And to strongly object to my suggestion that this is daft is equally daft! I don’t want to explore the metaphor too deeply because it was frivolous and I don’t want to offend people whom I have a great deal of respect for, but it needn’t be quite as offensive as it may appear.
    Perhaps we should all take this rather less seriously than it is being taken at the moment. This is a conversation that aims at the CONSTRUCTION of knowledge and ideas – not their fossilisation. Let’s continue in the unconditional positive regard that we would offer our students. What looks offensive is not meant to be offensive. Insults are not meant to insult (and are therefore not insults). Let bombast be the order of the day!

    • Well Diarmuid, you may not have MEANT to be offensive, but you did manage the trick of saying ‘it’s not personal’ and then being very personal indeed. For the record I have a sense of humour failure when being compared to arms dealers, however wittily it is or was intended. For the record, I do consider myself to be an author and you have no right to tell me I am not one!!
      But hey, I’m not gnashing my teeth about it. It doesn’t hurt or anything.And yes, I understand the nature and advantages of bombast. It’s all good knockabout fun. Except of course, when it’s written down it’s all a bit different.

      The issue about coursebooks is not THE central issue of Dogme, it seems to me, but let’s just address it again – since it refuses to go away. There is absolutely no reason or need for anyone to use a coursebook. Unless some or all of the following reasons apply: (1) they LIKE coursebooks, (2) their students like coursebooks, (3) they work in impossible situations – such as ridiculous hours [I've met many many of them around the world], (4) they are less than totally confident about their English. Now look me straight i the eyes and tell me that you would force people in those situations to stop using coursebooks. Of course you wouldn’t!

      Jeremy

      • Jeremy
        I’ve looked back through my postings here and the only times when I have been personal have been complimentary. Otherwise I have railed against the books, not the authors. And for the record, I wrote that “were I to write a coursebook, I would abandon all hopes of ever calling myself an author.” This is purely a personal prejudice (and one that no doubt stems from my own conflated sense of ego). Similarly, as I mentioned before, the tweet did NOT compare you or anyone else to an arms dealer – it invited the comparison. You may think that this is nit-picking, but I think it is being objective.

        As you will be well aware it is not when it s “written down” that it all becomes “a bit different”; it is when it is read. And the internet, we are told, lends itself to a very different type of reading, favouring superficial interpretations of perceived ephemera. It is something that I have struggled with in the past and I am sure it will cause problems in the future. But if people took the time to ask questions before responding to what APPEARED to be being said it might not be such a problem. We cannot ever engage in dialogue if the other person is refusing to listen.

        Of course I would never try to force anybody from using a coursebook! My own posts on the issue over the last ten years should bear that out. In fact, my own posts to this blog thread should bear it out. To be honest, I couldn’t give a monkey’s about whether or not people use coursebooks, but I would want to challenge the hegemony that they seem to exert in language teaching institutions. For while I have known users and ex-users, I have never taught in a book free school.

        Like you, the issue of coursebooks is one that I don’t see as central to dogme. What I find absolutely fascinating is the debate about where learning takes place. But Simon stymied that one by bringing up the CB debate. And before I risk alienating myself altogether from Simon Greenall, I should point out that some of the best Dogme activities I have ever used were stolen from Reward and that I know for a fact that the Reward Resource books have helped many a teacher justify, consolidate or simply improve upon their dogme class.

        The writing skills of Simon, Jason, yourself, Lindsay are beyond all question. As Jason himself alluded, the sales figures bear that out. The issue I – and many teachers have – are with the damn books themselves. Now YOU look ME in the eye and tell me that you couldn’t write a better book if you were given an entirely free reign!

      • Actually, Diarmuid (and by the way, I am not personally offended — perhaps out of principle more than anything else!), the sales figures do not bear out my writing ability so much as they bear out that teachers are willing to use skills-based books instead of grammar-driven ones, that they are willing to try books that feature inductive noticing skills, speaking and writing books with no overt grammar syllabus at all (but actual huge open spaces for learners to create their own dialogues together or else write entire texts of their own), patterns and chunks drawn from dialogues that were written first (rather than being composed to demonstrate a piece of a pre-set grammar), and an overall focus on how and why to do things to achieve certain goals (rather than grasping and regurgitating ‘whats’).

        Of course, there are millions more learners not getting these books because their teachers find this approach too new, too upside down for them, and — let’s face it — not driven enough by a clear systematic grammar edifice. I respect their right to choose (and I have total confidence they have the options available that meet their criteria), and delight in the million or so learners who got a chance to do things differently.

        I also delight in the hope that as they get older and move on from this series, even if they don’t outright reject the grammar-driven coursebooks that await them as young adults, at least they will have experienced a different way and will be better placed to let their teachers know what they really prefer to have in an approach/coursebook.

        And once learners become vocal enough, good teachers eventually follow and try to cater to them, and then publishers do the same. That is the direction and pattern of change we have to acknowledge and realistically try to work with/for.

        Things are changing — not everywhere, not at the same speeds or for the same reasons — but changing nonetheless. And I dearly want people like yourself and Scott to acknowledge and encourage that, rather than continuing to lump all coursebooks under the same banner you were 10 years ago…

      • I think I HAVE acknowledged it [glances jealously at the Raven's bold type]. And if I haven’t, allow me to do so here: Coursebooks are not all as bad as they were ten years ago when I was apparently lumping them under a singular banner. Things are changing.

        But I don’t necessarily agree that change will be student-driven, although I like the idea. I suspect that profit will always win the day. And I suspect that the institution of education is unlikely to ever bow its knee and turn its ear to the students. It is more likely to bash them into conformity and tell them that noone gives a fig about what they think. Sad as it may be to resort to realism, schools are not the benevolent institutions of individual development that we would like them to be. They have a hidden agenda, and that is one of sustaining the hierarchies that our society survives on. This is not to be judgemental (although I “secretly” am); it is just the way of all societies.

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  25. I agree 100% with Diarmuid here. The thing that keeps rearing its head regarding course books is that THEY are (in my opinion) a terrible idea. It’s all the reasons Diarmuid pointed out as well as the negative influence they have on the field, students’ mindsets, and teacher development. An extremely small minority of schools use course books as a reference or a tool. That is where the course book’s usefulness lies. However, the vast majority of schools use them as the entire course. This is the conceptual construct that fails teachers and students.

    It is not that the work of course book writers is bad. Given activities found in the books are fine when slotted in right and used appropriately. I don’t think course book writers’ work is being criticized in this respect. However, the way in which course books are now viewed and used is a problem, and a very serious one at that.

    I’m not trying to disparage teachers who use books (although I’d encourage them not to), authors who write them, or even the publishers. I am, however, a very strong advocate of pointing out the massive flaws related to how course books are currently viewed and used in most schools. They do very often have negative impacts on learning. Nonetheless, it’s perfectly OK (and should be encouraged) to criticize such an institution and question its validity.

    To refer back to Jeremy’s original point – do students learn in classes with course books? Yes. Could they learn better in a classroom without them? To that I would also reply with a very emphatic yes. If I didn’t believe that, why would I teach that way?

    For this reason, teachers, students, and schools SHOULD be challenged to think about their use. I am certainly not all for this “do whatever you want and call it eclectic” approach. As a DoS, I need to support my teachers in whatever approach they are using because they must believe in it to succeed in the class. This doesn’t mean that I can’t challenge their approach and encourage them to try something I think is more effective. Isn’t that what development is all about? The idea that we should reflect on our practice and improve it where/when appropriate?

    How many teachers nowadays would advocate full-on grammar translation? Very few I imagine. Why is it OK to criticize and question that approach, but not the use of course books? I wouldn’t say this is a moral choice, as Jeremy implies critics are making the debate out to be, but I would say it is an extremely valid and relevant question on teaching and it needs to be addressed.

    • Hi Nick,

      thank you for our very sensible comments here (though Gavin’s reply is of great interest, I think).

      I respect your opinion completely (that courseboooks are a terrible idea) even though I don’t agree with it. I also think it is entirely reasonable and exciting of you to try and persuade people of your point of view.

      We teach in ways that best suit us. We teach in ways that best suit our personalities, our beliefs, our backgrounds and the situations we find ourselves in. And my suspicion is that in the end it is more a matter of STYLE (the teacher’s style that is) than anything else. What no one really seems to know in circumstances like that is whether it is the students’ style.

      I think it is entirely legitimate to criticize the use of coursebooks and I’ll happily argue with you about it any day! As a Dogme-moment teacher all my life I also reserve the right to criticize a ‘vow of chastity’ – hence this blog. The discussion is sometimes repetitive, but often enlightening. Which all means that i think your attempts to persuade others of your opinion (always depending on how you do it, of course) is part and parcel of being an educator; always questioning, always questing.

      But face it, is your way the right way for everyone?

      Jeremy

      • “Is your way right for everyone?”

        Fantastic question! You’re absolutely right that it’s not. I’ve argued in other places that a focus of dogme is negotiation based in the interactivity of the class. This means that if the students and the teacher have faith in the book, it should be used. I have never and would never force a teacher to teach in a way they didn’t agree with nor would I make a student learn in a way they didn’t agree with.

        On the other hand, as I said above, I would keep that process of negotiation open and challenge held assumptions to move away from the book because I DO believe it leads to better learning. But I can’t make them believe in it and learning in the classroom would suffer if I tried. Instead it’s something I try to show through my teaching or through my words on spaces such as these blogs.

      • jeremyharmer :
        Hi Nick,
        thank you for our very sensible comments here (though Gavin’s reply is of great interest, I think).
        I respect your opinion completely (that courseboooks are a terrible idea) even though I don’t agree with it. I also think it is entirely reasonable and exciting of you to try and persuade people of your point of view.
        We teach in ways that best suit us. We teach in ways that best suit our personalities, our beliefs, our backgrounds and the situations we find ourselves in. And my suspicion is that in the end it is more a matter of STYLE (the teacher’s style that is) than anything else. What no one really seems to know in circumstances like that is whether it is the students’ style.
        I think it is entirely legitimate to criticize the use of coursebooks and I’ll happily argue with you about it any day! As a Dogme-moment teacher all my life I also reserve the right to criticize a ‘vow of chastity’ – hence this blog. The discussion is sometimes repetitive, but often enlightening. Which all means that i think your attempts to persuade others of your opinion (always depending on how you do it, of course) is part and parcel of being an educator; always questioning, always questing.
        But face it, is your way the right way for everyone?
        Jeremy

        I obviously can’t speak for other Dogmeists, but like Nick, I find out that teaching using Dogme principles with my learners IS their style by asking for relevant feedback. If they tell me that they don’t like it, then I change my approach accordingly. But in my (admittedly rather limited) experience, I’ve found that by and large students DO like lessons in which real conversations feature prominently and that also focus on their language, rather than some other language that has been imposed upon them.

        For what it’s worth though, I also think that most students don’t particularly care or not whether they use a coursebook. I also believe that with a critical eye and enough adapting, you can still use coursebooks in a way that is conversation driven and focuses on the students’ language rather than just that of the coursebook. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t legitimate criticisms to be levelled at coursebooks. I don’t think they are a terrible idea by any means but I’m also sure that as a genre, there is definitely room for them to evolve and be improved upon.

        For a start, the name is all wrong. If most people agree (and there does at least appear to be a consensus on this issue) that they are just another tool for learning, then why are they called COURSEbooks? Maybe an English language guidebook or something like that would give a better impression as to how they should be used.

  26. Nick asks:

    “How many teachers nowadays would advocate full-on grammar translation? Very few I imagine.”

    Well, I might – because, you see, it works for me.

    It worked for me at school and it was the method (or teacher) I chose when I tried to learn a fourth language a few years back. When my lovely, rapidly-speaking, board-covering, grammar translation teacher was replaced by someone with some games and ‘activities’ and little conversation prompts, I dropped out. Because to me it felt a little like being at primary school – and frankly I wanted to study the grammar – the conversation and practice I could have with real people elsewhere, in real contexts.

    Who’s to say what method or approach I want or need? That’s why this entire conversation is moot – we’re all casting around in a sea of ‘nobody knows really how anyone learns a language successfully… not really’…

    In that sense, when someone tries to sell me a methodology, an approach, or a ‘state of mind’, I simply wonder what’s in it for them, and what’s in it for me. It’s not just coursebook writers who make money from the profession, after all…

    Gavin

    • As a learner, full-on grammar translation bores me to tears. Although it worked for me when I learnt languages at school by that method, I’ve since discovered ways of learning languages that I enjoy more, and as an adult I wouldn’t choose to sign up for that kind of class to learn a language…

      Having said that, I agree with you that nobody really knows which approach is best; though I’m not that sure myself that it always is a case of somebody selling a methodology. I’m inclined to think that as teachers, we probably gravitate towards teaching in the style that we prefer to learn in – which in my case, tends more often than not to be games and ‘activities’ and little conversation prompts ;-)

      Whatever teaching method you choose to go with though, I imagine that there are always going to be some learners who don’t find it to their taste and who would prefer to be taught in a different way, which is why you need to be willing to vary your approach where necessary, as Mike says.

      Sue

    • Gavin,

      thank you for a great big gust of common sense from the chalkface. You make my point very well, I think. A students (and just because you are ‘Gavin’ it doesn’t stop you being a student!!) finds the external stimulus of grammar-translation the thing that helps his brain get chuntering away to help him learn language no 4. But this shouldn’t be allowed! It isn’t co-constructed! It isn’t dialogic! It’s over-grammared!

      Of course I am being a bit facetious, but the point IS a serious one. There are many ways of doing this. We don’t REALLY know which one is best`. And in the end it often comes down to a teacher’s STYLE and personal preference. But is that ever at the expense of the student’s?

      Jeremy

      • Jeremy,

        Well, the reverse end of the chalk face, in this instance, but I know what you mean…

        My feeling is that a lot of these discussions tend to revolve more around what the ‘teacher’ believes in and wants to do than what the ‘learner’ wants or enjoys.

        As I said on my blog, it’s a high and mighty position to start from, and it seems that all the comfortable talk of ‘listening to learner’ needs often goes out of the windows amidst the fervour of approaches and ‘states of mind’.

        I was asked what kind of lessons I wanted (treated as a thinking adult, which I rather enjoyed) and I went for good old grammar translation because I know I like it, and I know I learn when taught in that fashion.

        Any sense of a teacher forcing me to learn in the way they think best (and which is largely unproven and not measured in many cases) and I would have voted with my feet and hired someone who did listen to my needs.

        It’s that simple for me.

        Gavin

    • Hmmm, okay but to turn it back, it (GT) worked for you and probably plenty of others but not everyone or possibly not even the majority. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, that when we enter students on courses we should perhaps pay more attention to the style of learning/teaching that engages and works for them rather than the level they are at. Students could then go to the GT teacher, the fun and games teacher, the dogme teacher etc. ‘Course its just a thought…

    • Gavin said, “When my lovely, rapidly-speaking, board-covering, grammar translation teacher was replaced by someone with some games and ‘activities’ and little conversation prompts, I dropped out. Because to me it felt a little like being at primary school – and frankly I wanted to study the grammar – the conversation and practice I could have with real people elsewhere, in real contexts.”

      Adding more to this. You preferred real conversation with real contexts. Exactly! That’s what dogme is about. Making the classroom that experience rather than the fake nature of games and conversation gambits.

      I would also ask, if you just went to the classroom, but didn’t have those outside opportunities to converse in real contexts, would you have succeeded? I’d argue it was that ability to really converse that really aided the learning.

      Many students “vote with their feet.” They’re usually the same students I see months or even years later back at a communicative school and, certainly not to my surprise, they still can’t speak a word.

      • Nick,

        See, where we differ is that you can work your way towards considering communication in classrooms as ‘real’ and I can’t.

        I don’t see why it should be – a few strangers thrown together, nothing in common except (in many cases) their own first language, around the same age (in many cases) with the same interests (in many cases) and not necessarily any reason to get on, be interested in each other or, indeed, like each other.

        That may be different in a multicultural classroom in, say, London where people might have an interest in learning about the other countries represented – but that’s not the reality for most teachers around the world. Mostly they are dealing with groups which are extrememly homogeneous.

        There’s someone else in there too – the teacher, trying to turn this fake scenario into something ‘real’, but there are no guarantees.

        For me, in the scenario I described, the real communication was outside the classroom – in the street (and yes, I was lucky to be in that country at the time).

        It could just as easily have been online – in interest groups (or ‘passion communities’ as Gee would have them), in discussion groups, online chats, video conferences or work-related situations. But the thing is, they would have been real and necessary and enjoyable.

        The classroom will never really offer the same experience, dogme or not. It can’t – it’s a fake construct of unwillingly matched participants.

        So, I got my nice grammar translation stuff from the expert, and I went off and put it into practice in very real situations. The only time I voted with my feet was when some well-meaning but unproven ‘methodology’ was thrust on me, much to my displeasure. As with most other services, as client I felt that was well within my remit.

        And no, sorry, you’re not going to find me rushing back to some happy clappy having a chat and a quick game of pelmanism language school anytime in the near future :-) And yes, I can still speak the words I learnt…. As I said, horses for courses…

        Gavin

  27. As an addendum, I muse thusly:

    - coursebooks aren’t going away (like it or not)
    - coursebooks are entirely appropriate in many contexts (like it or not)

    As such, I’d rather have caring individuals like Lindsay, Simon, Jason, etc, writing them and whittling away at older practices. At least I know their heart is in the right place, and what they produce will be the absolute best they can produce, and are permitted to produce…

    Gavin

      • I refer the Honourable Gentleman to a href=”http://jeremyharmer.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/no-dogma-for-efl-away-from-a-pedagogy-of-essential-bareness/#comment-1303″>Jeremy’s answer above in which he gives some very sensible reasons as to why coursebooks are entirely appropriate in many contexts…

    • Hey Gavin, thanks for your counterpoint. You’re right that all methods have their advantages (and I’ve made points about the advantages of translation a number of places before). I think all methods can work for someONE. But, we’ve been down this road before. If full-on grammar-translation was right for the majority, why has it so spectacularly failed for so long for so many students? If it really worked I”d expect the majority of the world would be speaking a number of languages at this point. Pointing out exceptions is not really the basis for good methodology or an effective counterpoint in my opinion.

      • Nick,

        Read my comment carefully – I said it worked for me. I didn’t say it was right for the majority, and you’re wrong to suggest that was the thrust of my comment.

        I suspect, however, I am not the only person in the world who could say that it works for them. We may not even be the exception – unless you can prove otherwise with numbers???

        The exception was not intended as a basis for good methodology – it was intended to highlight the fact that it’s horses for courses in language learning and – if any of the ‘experts’ had any idea of how it really works successfully, they would have cleaned up a long time ago… As such, my comment is very much an effective counterpoint. Even if it’s only for me (which, again, I sincerely doubt).

        It really works for me, you see? And that’s about as good as it gets in terms of my learning. If I’m alone in the world, it doesn’t matter. I want to be taught that way and to learn that way.

        And, to reiterate, it works for me. Therefore you can’t write it off, and neither can the dogmeticians.

        Gavin

  28. Gavin Dudeney :I refer the Honourable Gentleman to a href=”http://jeremyharmer.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/no-dogma-for-efl-away-from-a-pedagogy-of-essential-bareness/#comment-1303″>Jeremy’s answer above in which he gives some very sensible reasons as to why coursebooks are entirely appropriate in many contexts…

    If m’learned friend could put links in properly, I’d be inclined to read them. But, on the assumption that he is referring to Mr Harmer’s claim that “the following reasons [make coursebooks appropriate]: (1) [teachers] LIKE coursebooks, (2) their students like coursebooks, (3) they work in impossible situations – such as ridiculous hours [I've met many many of them around the world], (4) they are less than totally confident about their English,” then, my Lord, it is the prosecution’s case that these criteria do not make the coursebooks appropriate, but that they render them slightly less inappropriate.

    We have no more questions for this witness.

  29. English Raven :

    Beating a hasty, panicky retreat here…

    The biggest selling coursebook in Asia is (a sector that leaves your pretty Europe for dead numbers-wise)…

    Lets Go (from OUP)
    A series for YLs

    And erm, ahem, righty then… it is a heavily grammar syllabus driven series.

    Attempt at playing devils advocate finished for this month!

    z

    English Raven :

    Beating a hasty, panicky retreat here…

    The biggest selling coursebook in Asia is (a sector that leaves your pretty Europe for dead numbers-wise)…

    Lets Go (from OUP)
    A series for YLs

    And erm, ahem, righty then… it is a heavily grammar syllabus driven series.

    Attempt at playing devils advocate finished for this month!

    Now listen here Scott and Jason or Justin or whoever you are!!!

    Yes, the contents of most coursebooks are hung around a grammar syllabus, but to characterise all of them as being just grammar would be wrong. They have a wealth of other riches. The multi-syllabus coursebook is not a new construction!

    Jeremy

  30. jeremyharmer :Hi Lindsay,
    great comments, I think well I would, wouldn’t I!) The thing is that Diarmuid’s rant against coursebook is over-generalised and un-useful. There ARE books that deal with reading well. There ARE books that have great speaking activities. There ARE books that take writing seriously etc etc

    Jeremy

    Now who’s getting personal?! If I don’t over-generalise, I’m going to offend even further, and have my comments REALLY been unhelpful? They’ve provided a point of view that has resonated with at least two people and have provoked the contributions of Gavin, Lindsay, Justin/Jason and your good self. That must make them at least a tad helpful.

    Now, I’d be interested to hear of some titles that treat writing, or reading, or listening, or speaking “well.” I am as open to changing my mind as the next person…[looks around]. Oh! Well, I mean to say that I am open to changing my mind.

    • I willingly withdraw the ‘un-useful’!!!

      What I meant was that the broad-brush criticism is not especially helpful, I think (and come on, it was a BIT of a rant – hell you LIKE bombast!!!)

      Of course your views on coursebooks are interesting and enjoyable (and occasionally like being hit by a concrete wrecking ball!). But we have to get beyond our coursebook discussion into what I think interests you and me more as this conversation goes on: namely what IS the best kind of external stimulus for brain activity to take place, and is it necessarily better when co-constructed?

      (And what’s your favourite film?)

      Jeremy

      • You’ll be delighted to hear that my favourite film is von Trier’s “The Matrix.” Actually, it’s not, although it once was. I don’t know if I have a favourite film any more…I like “Do the Right Thing” very much…

        I think that I’d need to reformulate your question to, “Is amy learning not (natch!) co-constructed. I’m not really arguing that it is superior to any other way; I’m disputing that there exists any other way.

  31. dfogarty :

    Jeremy
    I’ve looked back through my postings here and the only times when I have been personal have been complimentary. Otherwise I have railed against the books, not the authors. And for the record, I wrote that “were I to write a coursebook, I would abandon all hopes of ever calling myself an author.” This is purely a personal prejudice (and one that no doubt stems from my own conflated sense of ego). Similarly, as I mentioned before, the tweet did NOT compare you or anyone else to an arms dealer – it invited the comparison. You may think that this is nit-picking, but I think it is being objective.

    As you will be well aware it is not when it s “written down” that it all becomes “a bit different”; it is when it is read. And the internet, we are told, lends itself to a very different type of reading, favouring superficial interpretations of perceived ephemera. It is something that I have struggled with in the past and I am sure it will cause problems in the future. But if people took the time to ask questions before responding to what APPEARED to be being said it might not be such a problem. We cannot ever engage in dialogue if the other person is refusing to listen.

    Of course I would never try to force anybody from using a coursebook! My own posts on the issue over the last ten years should bear that out. In fact, my own posts to this blog thread should bear it out. To be honest, I couldn’t give a monkey’s about whether or not people use coursebooks, but I would want to challenge the hegemony that they seem to exert in language teaching institutions. For while I have known users and ex-users, I have never taught in a book free school.

    Like you, the issue of coursebooks is one that I don’t see as central to dogme. What I find absolutely fascinating is the debate about where learning takes place. But Simon stymied that one by bringing up the CB debate. And before I risk alienating myself altogether from Simon Greenall, I should point out that some of the best Dogme activities I have ever used were stolen from Reward and that I know for a fact that the Reward Resource books have helped many a teacher justify, consolidate or simply improve upon their dogme class.

    The writing skills of Simon, Jason, yourself, Lindsay are beyond all question. As Jason himself alluded, the sales figures bear that out. The issue I – and many teachers have – are with the damn books themselves. Now YOU look ME in the eye and tell me that you couldn’t write a better book if you were given an entirely free reign!

    OK, this is real eyeball time!! Yes I could write a better book (well could I? You can never be sure) if there wasn’t an insatiable desire for an organising principle (often grammar as Scott rightly points out)from teachers and students out there. People have tried to write ‘freer’ books in the past and they haven’t worked. Part of me thinks people are silly to go on wanting old -grammar-organised’ books; part of me thinks there must be a reason why they are so popular!!

    BUT

    actually I DO think things are going to change fairly soon, because the world of web 2.0 and the whole apps scene and mobile learning may have a much more profound effect on what happens to coursebooks than any Dogme discussion!!

    Jeremy

    • [Thinks]Christ…this Harmer’s a dangerous one! He’s only gone and thrown the f@#%ing grenade

      I agree with you on this one, Jeremy. Web 2.0, apps, portable technology are likely to have an impact on the way that we do things. Over at Scott’s blog, Steve Neufeld has already helped me incorporate wordle, quizlet, lextutor and the Macmillan Online Dictionary into my teaching life.

      The blogs have opened my mind up to huge amounts of things. I now stare yearningly at my books on sociocultural learning, poetry, drama and sociology thanks to recent readings (and writings).

      So, let’s drop the phoney coursebook debate (answer: it all depends on who’s using them) and get back to the locus of learning. In or out or shake it all about?

      • that should be [Thinks]Christ…this Harmer’s a dangerous one! He’s only gone and thrown the f@#%ing techno-grenade.

  32. Excellent! Jeremy, Diarmuid and me all in agreement on mobile and handheld technologies and their potential. The sun peaks out from behind the leaden clouds and nods in approval… As for favourite films, I’ll take Happiness by Tod Solonz :-)

    • I like the idea of sunshine peeking out! Now we are all happy! Except, of course, that the THING still exists between us – the difference in belief about (a) a vow of chastity and a belief that dialogic learner-grammar driven is the best way always to do things versus (b) a belief that not always and it is not verifiable…so…..

    • ..so…I don’t think it is a wrap at all. This is a big question and we need to argue it and argue it so that we don’t start thinking that we (or the other person) has the answer. They don’t and we probably don’t either. So we have to keep searching.

      I like grammar-translation too, by the way. The reason it was so roundly derided is that (a) it was sentence-based and the sentences were pretty rubbish (la plume de ma tante est plus grande que le jardin de mon oncle or something), and (b) the Direct method came along and beat it to pulp. But it’s not a bad way to get brains going, that inner process where things get understood…

      Jeremy

  33. I have been enjoying the ongoing conversation on this blog for the past few days and am feeling rather lurksome. There are wonderful insights from everyone. Thank you.

    As a college/university teacher in Japan whose students have had six years of coursebooks at junior high school and high school (usually repeated versions of false beginner texts) and hours of grammar translation in preparation for university entrance exams, I find coursebooks don’t work in this context. The students often switch off from any kind of resemblance of grammar teaching.

    At our college we have adopted a locally produced textbook from a very small publisher for our communication classes, based around topics, not grammar. I am lucky enough to have very small classed (ten to twenty students). The rest of my classes are content based or ESP classes (Gender Studies, Japanese Culture in English, Hotel English, Business English, British Culture Studies). For these classes I design my own materials and use Japanese publisher’s texts, for example a bilingual dictionary of Japanese culture etc. There are many exciting, new textbooks out there from many different sources, including the cavernous spaces of the web. Some of the publishers are doing things a little differently.

    Interestingly, in the last four days (as this thread has been gaining momentum) I have received the catalogues of the big publishers, including free coursebooks. There was yet another edition of one of the biggies (which has gone digital too!). Flicking through I found a question (in amongst all the beautiful people, looking happy and beautiful and young and engaged and cool etc.) “What are these people famous for?” I had found my ninety minute ‘dogme’ class right there because under the question was a picture of Tiger Woods. My gender studies students will love that one.

    This is all about context. In my context coursebooks don’t work, but textbooks do! As do presentations, web-based tools, co-adapted dialogues, instructional conversations, peer teaching, etc. etc. Oh the joys of poetry and complexity.

    • Hi Joanne,

      thanks for telling us about your time in Japan. And yes, many grammar-driven coursebooks don’t seem to work too well in a Japanese context. But there are coursebooks that COULD and DO work in that context. They just don’t happen to come from Monbosho etc.So yes, the WHOLE POINT of good coursebook use is your example of Tiger Woods (which was your point, I guess).

      Yes, many coursebooks are grammar organised, but they aren’t totally stuffed with grammar. There are lots of other things in there too if the coursebooks are any good, and good teachers know how to use them!

      Lovely japan.

      Mostly!

      Jeremy

  34. I don’t see why it should be – a few strangers thrown together, nothing in common except (in many cases) their own first language, around the same age (in many cases) with the same interests (in many cases) and not necessarily any reason to get on, be interested in each other or, indeed, like each other.
    to turn this fake scenario into something ‘real’, but there are no guarantees.

    For me, in the scenario I described, the real communication was outside the classroom – in the street (and yes, I was lucky to be in that country at the time).

    The classroom will never really offer the same experience, dogme or not. It can’t – it’s a fake construct of unwillingly matched participants.

    This comments fascinated me. Why on earth is the classroom any less real than being in a shop with a group of random people asking for a slice of bread?

    What constitutes real or fake?

    How is sitting with a group of people you barely know (but gradually get to know) any less real or any more fake than sitting with a group of people in a social gathering who you may or may not know?

    You could say every situation is fake unless there is a deep and 100% honest communication happening – that would render most situations fake!.

    People wear various masks and play out various roles in every area of their lives. What about web communication, I don’t know most people on this blog in person at all – does that make this a fake situation?

    I’m really interested in a more precise take on what is fake what is real and why? I think all situations can both be fake and real, depending on the intentions and motivation of the people gathered.

    • Steph,

      In answering Nick I was attempting to say the following:

      I can get all the real language practice I want in real life situations – either f2f if I happen to be in an environment where the language is spoken, or online by means of chat, video conferencing, online events, gaming, email, discussion lists and more.

      As such, I see no reason why I should sit in a classroom, thrown together with people that may not interest me or share anything with me and attempt to pretend that I am indeed interested or having a good time.

      Personally, I learn more from interactions that I choose, that I am genuinely interested in and with people I want to talk to than in any other situation. In that sense, I choose those real interactions over the locked ‘prison like’ interactions which are imposed in the classroom simply because we are in the same place.

      I also (having predominately worked in monolingual situations) find it absurd to get people in the same class talking in English. It’s not natural, it’s not real. People do it because that’s what you do – but that doesn’t make it real.

      I sometimes need bread, and would therefore enter into that real and useful interaction in a bakery. I rarely need to know the weekend adventures of people sitting in a classroom with me. Not because I don’t like people, but because I like to make my own friends and my own conversation and those are not guaranteed in any kind of classroom.

      The real world is out there, not in the classroom. That’s why I prefer to get the nuts and bolts done in the classroom (and hence my penchant for grammar translation) and then choose to put that language into action, in genuine interactions in the kinds of scenarios and circles in which I generally move.

      Gavin

      • Ah thanks Gavin, I do see where you’re coming from now. I tend to agree it feels slightly odd getting a group in a monolingual class to communicate in English. Also I don’t really like the “well what did you do at the weekend” type questions.

        I suppose the problem is, in a monolingual situation, if the students don’t speak English in class then where are they going to speak it?

      • Hmm. There IS a good reason to talk English in a monolingual class because it gives students opportunities to process things they have been learning – to try things out in a safe environment.

        I DO understand your objection to primary-school-like games etc. Some students like it but not all.

        However, I think the classroom is an entirely REAL environment for language learning – but not for a whole lot of other stuff.

        Jeremy

  35. steph :
    I suppose the problem is, in a monolingual situation, if the students don’t speak English in class then where are they going to speak it?

    Online – in all the spaces I mentioned (if, of course, they have access). If not, then I guess they’re stuck with the artifice of the classroom. Nothing wrong with that if it leads to some learning – I just think we’re missing opportunities to point wired people in the direction of meaningful communicative opportunities.

    Gavin

  36. Well I am late and my initial reading of your post was pretty much that er, yes, well of course – I pretty much agree with you…. And it seemed after going through 90% of the comments (prior to my train ride home) that there would be virtually nothing to add.

    Except of course that, very importantly, I think this post (like someone mentioned before me) polarizes the debate yet again –in fact sentences like “I’m not going to throw away my coursebooks or my technology. I am not going to throw away the artifice of teaching” rocks are thrown, knives laid out… and then I realized that this debate on whether or not classrooms should be taught with or without coursebooks, while entertaining, sets dogme back by about 10 years.

    Obviously, as most people who read my blog know, personally I do not like textbooks, especially the modern ones – however that is a personal view (that I admittedly share with my readers but it is not a rallying cry or an attempt to divide teachers into camps).

    It’s always been that I simply do not think that they are bibles to be followed blindly. Anyway, that is another post for another day. My personal feelings about coursebooks are completely irrelevant to the dogme discussion.

    The article you haven chose to feature and focus on, of the very many written, may or may not have been written tongue-in-cheek but when it was released it hit the very same nerve you have now chosen to bring back up.

    And unfortunately what this post completely ignores is that this is a very old argument – it sort of reminds me of a conversation between two friends who after watching Twilight, are now trying to decide if the book was as good as the movie. If you liked one or the other you couldn’t possibly like them both… but actually
    to be more on mark, this debate based on an old article is more like a conversation of whether the hastily scribbled draft was as good as the book.

    For those of us who took part in the yahoo!group (no matter for how many years – I wasn’t there in the beginning) or for those of us who have actually read Teaching Unplugged, we know that TU does not dismiss course-books.

    We also know that this thing.. this style, philosophy, methodology, approach…brand is not about a name. It is not about “what it is called, what category it falls under…” dogme was what name it got, and that’s about all there is.

    We also know that TU was produced out of a very long-running, often passionate, conversation of teaching peers. It emerged, it was conversation driven and the only material in the room was our minds and what we could share with our fingers.

    So while it’s lots of fun to rehash the old argument, I guess, the dogme debate is no longer about whether or not you can teach with a coursebook or not – and as of last year, it is no longer (thankfully!) about whether or not you can remain materials-light when you watch a youtube video in class.

    All this clashing…

    well, it stirs emotions and it provides some with a (new) opportunity for posturing, but it completely and utterly, ignores the principles which drive Dogme and bypasses the core precepts which have ensured that dogme has and will stay alive, and that is this:

    I will repeat

    dogme is:

    -conversation driven
    -materials light
    -focuses on emergent language.

    Last year when it was published, Luke posted a video challenge on the Delta blog and teachers were invited to try things out from the book and feed back on what we do in our classrooms; how we understand dogme however his challenge was for the most part, probably mostly due to timing, (the book had hardly been out at the time) and it was not really taken up, fell slowly and silently to the wayside.

    After I saw your post on Andrew Pickles’ post and the very-old-this-is-not- dogme, it’s what teachers do all the time raised its so-what head again… I remembered Luke’s call for a dogmeic inclusion of global teachers’ voices and thought I’d set it in motion now, now that so many of us are out and out about in the ‘sphere and so many teachers are exploring it as a practice… but I also remembered my own initial confusion when reading such phrases as ‘emergent’ language.

    The dogmeme challenge is not about polarizing, not about dividing teachers into camps of those teachers who do do dogme are obviously wickedly cool and those teachers who don’t are lazy idjets who watch TV at night and say turn to page 65 on a Monday morning, it is NOT about teacher-trainers who harp back to the day when CLT or TBL or whatever didn’t go and get overridden by the dogme movement and my word who is Thornbury to stake a claim on what’s been done for years… (snore) :-) and it’s not about whether or not teachers can use a board marker but don’t dare touch that mouse…(whatever) :-)

    The challenge is, instead, a revival of Luke’s request to share and it is specifically aimed at exploring what dogme ELT really means: the terminology, the concepts, precepts and ideas, the ways of working in the classroom to keep things student-centered and it is about the terminology – the references and phrases that possibly seem natural and normal for those of you at the top of your profession but that can sound pretentious, pompous or too academic to some of us not there and are instead in the classroom on the cutting floor –

    The challenge is aimed at bringing things down to a level where the everyday teacher going off to his classes with a back-pack slung over the shoulder can participate -because he is curious, explorative, a professional enjoying wrapping his heads around thoughts around his professional practice, and can dive in and enjoy the journey ahead.

    And at the end of the day, above all, the challenge is that together, we as a teacher first and foremost – myself and those teachers who fancy it – can socially, dialogically, co-construct our very own way to understanding the upcoming movie.

    Dogme has never been and never will be static nor stagnant. You are invited to read and follow their posts throughout the ‘sphere.

    • Thank you Karenne for your long and thoughtful post.

      I agree entirely that the coursebook boxing match is NOT the issue in this discussion – though it has invaded this blog a bit, as it often does. Nevertheless both Luke and Scott have been (and are) absolutely clear about their views on coursebooks (look no further than this blog for Scott’s comments on the subject). My desire to hold on to them (sometimes, only) and all sorts of other things I like is not an anti-Dogme stance, as you will have seen. On the contrary it is a profound belief that in any multi-student group, where different learning styles and different opportunities exist, I will never rule anything out in the kind of dogmatic (or dogmetic) way that is sometimes suggested.

      I am entirely convinced by the benefits of co-construction in many different spheres (the audience co-constructing a musical experience at a concert, a conversation, a teachers’ workshop, an audience at a film). No problem there at all. I have written admiringly for years about the great co-constructed moments in lessons – which sometimes arrive by accident etc.

      However, this is the real nub of the question. I do NOT believe that all learnt language is co-constructed (unless you include that to mean a student on their own thinking about what they have read or studied on their own – in which case co-construction means something very different from the ‘Dogme’ view of it).

      I hope I NEVER exist in a language classroom that is exclusively materials light. I have a penchant for looking at grammar books, and thinking about printed material (though that may change for a more digitsed delivery). Of course I value co-construction (see above), but I also value interacting ON MY OWN with materials, concepts and facts. And I get a hell of a lot from listening to lectures where there is no chance for any real dialogic interaction. Even when I don’t like them or they bore me. But of course (because you mustn’t understand me on this) I really enjoy talking about them afterwards and, as a result, sometimes changing my view. But that (the talking afterwards) is not NECESSARY condition for my learning and understanding.

      Nobody who admires co-constructed, emergent language, materials-lite teaching as i do has ever said it should not happen or that it is deleterious to students – although there are real questions in my mind about whether all students in a group have equal access to language emergences; but many people who espouse that approach to learning have consistently said that other kinds of teaching (materials heavy etc) are bad for students. That’s why the boxing match goes on, I think.

      You are right to take me to task for my careless comment on Andrew Pickles’ excellent blog post. A cheap shot and unworthy. But I still hold firmly to an entirely libertarian and humane belief (in my not-humble-enough opinion) that a Dogme-style lesson is not a priori a better lesson than one which is materials heavy. Nor is it necessarily more student-centred. It seems to me that a teacher who brings material into class after considerable thought and believing it in the best interests of her students (and being something more of an expert in the theory of language learning than some of the students themselves) has just as strong a claim to student-centredness as someone who creates ‘emergent language co-creation’ opportunites.

      Too long, I apologise.

      Jeremy

  37. Jeremy Harmer :
    I like the idea of sunshine peeking out! Now we are all happy! Except, of course, that the THING still exists between us – the difference in belief about (a) a vow of chastity and a belief that dialogic learner-grammar driven is the best way always to do things versus (b) a belief that not always and it is not verifiable…so…..

    So…now that the hubbub has blown over, are we going to readdress the main point of this article that seems to be to be centred around Jeremy’s misunderstanding of what socioconstructivism and dialogic learning is? Jeremy asks some pretty provocative questions in his original article and it seems that the coursebook-whirlwind has blown them away. Mea culpa!

    Here are some of the questions:
    1. Does learning really take place in the here and now?
    2. Does dialogic learning prejudice those students who prefer to stay schtum and reflect?
    3. Where does learning take place: inside the learner’s head or in the interaction that the learners have with their surroundings?
    4. Do pre-digested grammar exercises serve to level the playing field for the more introverted students?
    5. Was Scott Thornbury really joking when he called for classrooms “where learning was jointly constructed out of the talk that evolved in that simplest and most prototypical of situations?”

    • Hi Diarmuid,

      well yes, those are the questions!! Thought looking at them in your re-irteration 3 need a bit of modality included, e.g.

      1 Does learning always happen in the here and now
      2 Is it possible that dialogic leaning can sometimes prejudice…etc`

      Now those are questions I am happy to have answered!!!

      Jeremy

  38. Jeremy writes: “I do NOT believe that all learnt language is co-constructed (unless you include that to mean a student on their own thinking about what they have read or studied on their own – in which case co-construction means something very different from the ‘Dogme’ view of it).”

    So, I DO believe that all (language)learning is co-constructed. How can I prove it? I can’t. I’ll just refer you (or anyone who is interested) to these books that have informed my own theory of learning (as laid out in Meddings and Thornbury, 2009. Teaching Unplugged. Delta Publishing):

    Mercer, N. 1995. The Guided Construction of Knowledge. Multilingual Matters.
    Mercer, N. 2000. Words and Minds: How we use language to think together. Routledge.
    Lave, J. and Wenger, E. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. CUP.
    McNaughton, S. 2002. Meeting of Minds. Learning Media.
    Tharp, R. and Gallimore, R. 1988. Rousing Minds to Life: Teaching, learning and schooling in social context. CUP
    Wells, G. 1981. Learning through Interaction: The study of language development. CUP.
    Wells, G. 1987. The Meaning Makers: Children learning language and using language to learn. Hodder and Stoughton.
    Wells, G. 1999. Dialogic Inquiry: Towards a sociocultural practice and theory of education. CUP.
    Lantolf, J. (ed.) 2000. Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning. OUP.
    Lantolf, J., and Thorne, S. 2006. Sociocultural Theory and the Genesis of Second Language Development. OUP.
    van Lier, L. 1996. Interaction in the Language Curriculum: Awareness, Autonomy, and Authenticity. Longman.
    van Lier, L. 2004. The Ecology and semiotics of Language Learning: A Sociocultural perspective. Kluwer Aacademic.

    To give you a flavour of the learning theory that all these writers subscribe to, it is this:

    “Rather than learning by replicating performances of others or by acquiring knowledge transmitted in instruction, we suggest that learning occurs through centripetal participation in the learning curriculum of the ambient community” (Lave and Wenger, 1991, p. 100).

    ‘The ambient community’ can be anything, from a classroom, to an online discussion group, to a craft workshop. ‘A learning curriculum’ “consists of situated opportunities…for the improvisational development of new practice … A learning curriculum is a field of learning resources in everyday practice viewed from the perspective of learners…” A good example of this is John Wade’s experience in New Guinea (described in Teaching Unplugged) in which learnign (in the absence of materials) was improvised out of the affordances offered in the environment. Another good example of how it works is Rob Haines’ latest posting (Dogme Days) on the Dogme Discussion Group list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/message/15630

    You don’t have to believe any of this (and you won’t if you don’t want to). Like every theory, it’s just another claim. But the point I’m trying to make is that I didn’t make it up. Dogme is anchored within a powerful tradition of educational theory and practice.

    • I just wanted to say – because it is becoming difficult to keep up with all these posts! – that whatever your original motivation was for the article that kicked off the whole Dogme discussion (yes, I agree, co-constructed in the 9 years since then), I would not dream of saying that the thinking that characterizes your part in the debate is careless. By which I mean that I completely accept a large body of writing (both academic and otherwise) which posits the a of co-constructed learning. You certainly did not ‘make up’ this view, though whether you were thinking about all of these readings when you caught hold of the Dogme film makers I do not know!!

      But I am not trying to point score, or attack Dogme believers. As you say, it may not be for everyone. Of course I wanted to create a new discussion on the subject (why else the slightly cheeky byline to this post), but it is (to my mind) a genuine discussion and, certainly from my point of view, is done with respect.

      So yes, Dogme is anchored in a powerful tradition. Its practitioners report exhilirating classroom experiences. Its claimants make powerful statements in its defence.

      I repeat, yet again, that I have experienced powerful (what you would call) Dogme events – e.g dialogic & co-constructed – both as a teacher and as a learner.

      But as I have said more than once in this discussion, I have also experienced teaching and learning experiences that have worked for me (yes, I am being anecdotal, but I could claim a long list of supporting articles and books) which could not be classed as dialogic or co-constructed in the sense that tou mean it.

      That’s all there is to it, really. I KNOW you think you have moved on to Dogme 2.0, but the pillar on which this conversation was founded…?

      Jeremy

  39. Gary Motteram :
    <<>>
    I don’t think that this is “stretch[ing] the concept to an absurdly meaningless extent”. Writing a book is engaging in a human-constructed activity, in the same way that pre-literate activity like story-telling also developed human capacity, and as it is argued that digital tools are also changing our ways of seeing and doing.
    On the other hand, I think that Scott’s rejection of the textbook (another cultural artefact) is also a common misrepresentation of sociocultural cultural theory. What Vygotsky argued for was that cultural artefacts (of whatever type) enable humans to develop higher order functions. He saw speech as having primacy, as a key human cultural artefact (don’t forget his work was with children, mostly pre-literate), but he also showed that other tools (games, books, the internet) have a role to play.
    I think that some of the most interesting thinking on ths kind of debate is offered by a mathematician called Anna Sfard who argues that we should take a balanced view of what we do in the classroom: Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher, 27(2), pp. 4-13. If you google her name you can read her article.

    • HI Gary,

      thank you so much for your intervention here. ‘Human-constructed’ as a term is fine for me in the sense that we engage with what we read, hear, see, listen to in our own brains – or, on other occasions, face-to-face in a dialogic interaction. The claim that I have wanted to discuss in this post (and boy I got my wish!!) is that dialogic interaction is in some way the only way for language learning – a claim which Scott, for example, re-iterates. Whereas I see other routes to knowledge as having value too – viz your mention of Vygotsky and cultural artefacts.

      But I especially want to thank you for alerting me to the work of Anna Svard (someone I knew nothing about before). I did indeed download her 1998 article ‘on two metaphors…’ from her homepage at https://www.msu.edu/~sfard/. It was about the metaphors (note that term) of the ACQUISITION MODEL (NOT the Krashenesque version, but similar to my belief that SOME learning can take place in a non participatory setting) and the PARTICIPATION MODELl (analogous to some extent to Dogme – and how PM people tried to reject the AM people. But, she weites:

      “even if we could create an AM-free discourse, we probably shouldn’t. Within the participationist framework, some powerful means of conceptualisation of learning are lost, and certain promising paths towards understanding its mechanisms are barred.” (10)

      I find myself (unsurprisingly) remarkably sympathetic to that point of view!

      Jeremy

  40. Scott,

    As you say, it’s just a theory (and a claim) – the clue is in the use of words such as ‘suggest’, I reckon. And that leaves us back where we started – which is that I can suggest that grammar translation works just fine because it works for me (and others), and other people can claim that dogme works just fine, because they have seen it in action, or taught in that style and perceive it to be working.

    There’s not much evidence that one is better than the other. You yourself once said the following:

    “It would be reassuring if learners were able to confirm our own intuitions that Dogme, if not more effective, is more engaging, more memorable, more motivating – more fun!” [ http://tinyurl.com/r26fc2 ]

    And that strikes me as a very sensible approach, though I’d take issue with it necessarily being more engaging, memorable, motivating and fun than many other things which occur in classrooms around the world – but intuitions are fine, I reckon. I have an intuition that I would like to study Russian using the grammar translation method, and suggest it would work fine for me :-)

    The same article includes the following: “How do we know that conversational interaction, meaning negotiation, output, scaffolding, fluency, and so on, are good for you? This is where a certain leap of faith is required. We still don’t know what are the optimal conditions for language learning.”

    And, as you note, “As Richards (1990) observed, ‘studies of the effectiveness of specific methods have had  a hard time demonstrating that the method itself, rather than other factors, such as the teacher’s enthusiasm, or the novelty of the new method, was the crucial variable’”

    Which is basically what I said further up this comments section. The question is, what does this all mean? Well, as I said, it means that we don’t know what works or even why it works. It’s all claims, no matter how many books one puts in one’s footnotes here.

    Gavin

    • Since you completely missed the point, I’ll repeat myself:

      the point I’m trying to make is that I didn’t make it up. Dogme is anchored within a powerful tradition of educational theory and practice.

  41. Scott,

    I don’t think I missed the point, really – my point was that although you believe that all learning is co-constructed, you hedge in the ways you describe dogme because (as you noted in the article I referenced above) there’s no real way of knowing that it works. What that means is that posts of this nature have a legitimacy when they pick apart the assumptions behind dogme and its purveyors.

    Yes, there is a body of research that suggests that a dogme approach may be valid, but we’re going backwards and forwards over the same thing. Jeremy doesn’t believe that all learning is co-constructed, you do. I don’t, for what it’s worth – and I have evidence from my own experiences in various contexts.

    You gave us a list of books that ‘suggest’ that there is some merit in that opinion – and that’s fine – but your own history of posts suggests that that doesn’t amount to much if we are all to be encouraged to ‘believe’, make ‘leaps of faith’ and go with the flow of ‘intuition’.

    My point was merely to provide some context to the long list of books you posted. This isn’t, as yet, a science – listing numerous publications (especially in the light of my reference to your post) does not a science of dogme make, nor does it provide any proof that there’s anything in it, apart from a list of books.

    So sure, if your only point was to provide a list of books to show some kind of historical basis for your labelling these intuitions ‘dogme’, then maybe I did miss the point. But if the long list of books was even a vague suggestion that dogme is a substantial ‘state of mind’, then I don’t think I did. Does anyone seriously believe you made it all up? I’m not sure they do – I think most people realise you put a pleasant, humorous ‘pop psych’ label on something which has been going on for a long time. And, as Jeremy pointed out, that was timely, ten years ago.

    This is a tricky one, really – because I beieve that people learning together is often a good thing; I’ve done it myself on many occasions, and espouse the same approach on online training courses I run. Our difference (and one I share with Jeremy) is that I believe people can learn on their own or in other ways (hence my original disagreement with Nick on the usefulness of grammar translation).

    I also believe that intelligent human beings should be given the opportunity to have some say in the way they learn – and that if they choose to do that on their own then I am not really in a position to argue with them, nor to suggest that they won’t be successful – given that all this is mere conjecture.

    Gavin

    • Since I am the first to admit that learning theories are all, erm, theories, and that one chooses one’s evidence selectively, why are you throwing this back at me, if not simply to score points? If dogme is not your cup of tea, boo hoo. I can live with that.

      MY point (yawn) is that Dogme is well-grounded – I didn’t find it in a cornflakes packet. If Jeremy has problems with social constructivism, thousands don’t. That’s the point of the book list – how else can I demonstrate its theoretical base, without re-writing the introduction to Teaching Unplugged? And, who knows, there might be someone who’s actually interested in its theoretical base. Unlikely, I know, but at least now they have the references.

      • Let’s knock this one on the head. Social-constructivism, dialogic co-construction, emergent language – all that is WELL GROUNDED!! There can not possibly be any doubt about that. And yes, speaking personally, of course I am interested in the theoretical base. There can be no doubt that a participation model has powerful theoretical and metaphorical antecedents. I am nervous about even questioning it.

        And yet.

        I’m still wrestling with the all-embracing nature of it, though. That’s my only point (well, apart from the coursebook thing and the white elephant thing and the…)

        I enjoyed the article that Gary Motteram referred us to, i this context and will quote from it in my reply to him……

  42. OK, here goes. When Jeremy invited me to get involved, I said I was lurking not shirking – and I’ve really enjoyed reading the blog and the comment. We all care about what we do, which is why we generally get on so well when we meet. But there are one or two points at which critique becomes misrepresentation, and like someone writing to The Times, I feel like saying: ‘Sir, this cannot stand uncorrected.’

    At one point, Jeremy describes dogme as ‘a methodology which advantages the more extrovert, communicative and emotionally intelligent of our students.’ This is a serious misunderstanding – dogme favours conversation, not debate or display, and it is rooted in conversation about everyday stuff. It might go in any direction, but it starts with things everyone in class can relate to and comfortably discuss. This was a big breakthrough for me as a teacher.

    Here’s another – Jeremy: ‘But this [ ] shouldn’t be allowed! It isn’t co-constructed! It isn’t dialogic! It’s over-grammared!’

    This dramatic outburst is so far at odds with the way our ideas are put across in Teaching Unplugged that it needs addressing. Let’s try page 25: the very first of the ‘tips and techniques’ in the book. ‘Trying Dogme isn’t an ‘all or nothing’ moment.” Eh? Sounds reasonable. ‘You can keep using your coursebook as you experiment with these activities, building up the amount of ‘unplugged’ teaching you do as you go along.’ Surely this is enabling rather than proscriptive, taking into account context, experience and – yes – the response of the learners?

    Gavin: ‘My feeling is that a lot of these discussions tend to revolve more around what the ‘teacher’ believes in and wants to do than what the ‘learner’ wants or enjoys.’

    Well, that’s not where these discussions sprang from, not what they’re informed by, and not the way we go about our business. Same page in the book: ‘Explain what you are doing. If your class are used to using published materials all the time, tell them that you are trying something different.’ And then: ‘Always be sensitive to the mood in the room. See the activities you initiate as suggestions rather than instructions … be realistic and good-humoured if an activity isn’t really working. You can always bring it to a close.’ Dogme is at heart a response to learner experience.

    We would never have had the brass neck to co-write a book about a teaching approach that hadn’t been tried and tested over hours and years in the classroom. And neither of us would have got close to it if our initial conversations hadn’t resonated with other people around the world.

    Because look what’s happening. Teachers are, as Karenne says above, co-constructing their own understanding of dogme. Scott’s analogy worked – it’s kept things open, allowed this ongoing process of experiment and comparison to breathe. And the people running with the dogme idea are adapting it as they go along, taking on board – seamlessly, imaginatively – developments such as web 2.0 and now hand-held devices.

    Yesterday I wrote this on Twitter: ‘Dogme has energy. Young teachers taking it up. Bloggers broadcasting it. Teachers being trained in it.’ Karenne’s right – that video plea of mine for people to get involved might have fallen to the wayside (I’d forgotten about it myself!), but her advocacy and that of so many others in the blogosphere and (crucially) in classrooms and on courses means that dogme isn’t going to go away any time soon. As Karenne and Jason have both said, some of the key terms in Teaching Unplugged still aren’t fully understood at the chalk-face. But that’s not going to stop us. There’s work to be done!

    • Dear Sir,

      I read your article in the Times and I am writing to protest….!!!!

      Thanks, Luke, for contributing for this discussion (somewhat more wider-ranging than I had anticipated!). I am entirely happy to acknowledge the more indulgent mood of Teaching Unplugged – I mean indulgent to other views. But that is at odds with some of the statements going around on this blog – and which, to be honest, I wanted to have aired so that i (the needy blogger) could have my views tested and sharpened. You can keep your coursebook while you build up unplugged teaching? Admit it (as you have frequently said i the past); you think coursebooks are rubbish! Plus if I really asked you (not Scott – because his views are explicit) if you believed that all language learning was co-constructed in a dialogic setting would you say ;no, not all’ (my position here) or would you say, yes all language learning is constructed in this way (Scott’s position)? Just asking.

      Sorry about my jocular outburst ‘this shouldn’t be allowed’ comment. It was a rhetorical flourish. Nevertheless if you were to to substitute ‘this is not advisable because….’ would you be happy to accept it?

      But as for for the ‘advantaging and disadvantaging’ comment: I AM serious about that. Can you really say that ALL learners benefit from dialogic co-construction in the same way? However mundane the conversation. Surely, surely, some students get to understanding in different ways. Surely in learning, as in life, some people do conversation better than others. And if you will allow me that, how does this view of ideal language learning fit all learners?

      That (for me) is a genuine question; where I misrepresent what you say (or any other dogmeist) I apologise. It is usually careless and silly of me. But my central question (and reluctance to throw away all sorts of materials) remains….

      Jeremy

  43. There is actually an issue with the notion of co-construction as its being used here, in fact, which I have tried to point out above and it doesn’t mean simply working with someone else.

    The point is that it is working with a cultural artefact created by humans and language as well as texbooks are cultural artefacts. The language or textbook may be mediated by someone else (a teacher or fellow student), or it may be the engagement in the real world that Gavin talked about earlier, it may also be engaging with grammar.

    • Point taken, Gary. But in the realm of Dogme, co-construction is generally (correct me if it is necessary Dogmeists) ellided with dialogic interaction.

      Co-construction with artefacts – well I am much happier to embrace that overarching concept.

      Jeremy

  44. For what it’s worth, in a new relatively higher level class today I had a Brazilian learner and a Chinese learner protest quite vigorously — in class — about my (somewhat) unplugged approach. Why wasn’t the lesson planned out in detail (and shown to them through an introduction or paper with a heading “today we will learn about…”) in advance? Where were the handouts or other materials? How could they possibly learn well? For a course featuring OHS, why did I include some videos from WorkSafe and just watch and chat about them with the class, and get them to chat together about them, rather than introducing the purpose of each video carefully in turn and provide a vocabulary sheet so they could understand every detail in the clips as they happened? (This despite the fact that I had clearly stated we were just going to watch and “get a feel/idea for” some basic issues about work safety in the Australian context).

    (Actually, it was the Brazilian lady who really let loose, and the Chinese guy seconded her observations).

    The underlying tone or sentiment was that I wasn’t all that professional and/or that they were being deprived of an opportunity to learn effectively.

    The other eight learners in the class liked it just fine, or appeared to, and five of them came to me after class to say it was horrible to see two students criticise the teacher like that. They also said the approach made them feel relaxed, without pressure, that it felt more like building a group and relationship first. It’s what they said they wanted, especially in a first class in a new course.

    Personally, I found the whole thing very interesting. Horses for courses and all that… But what happens when you get the opportunity to teach unplugged, but some (even in a minority) aren’t up for it? As potentially embarassing as these public student outbursts were, I saw the value in them. Better to know and think about these issues than to just assume all the students accept and like your approach.

    A small and mischievous part of me thinks “well, you two, suck it up on behalf of the two or more students in classes elsewhere who hate coursebooks but have to cop it because the teacher/school feels it is more effective and appropriate.”

    The larger and more responsible part of me thinks… Mmm, challenge here! How can I potentially maintain an unplugged approach for the majority of the class but do something a little different or supplementary to help those other two feel more confident about the instruction (or cater to their different learning preference/style)? Or how can I perhaps find a more blended method in the middle that keeps everyone reasonably happy?

    • Hi Jason

      I have experienced similar problems in Germany – not having a full set of materials laid out for the next 6 months can also lead to accusations of unprofessionalism.

      My approach has been to create a bank of materials (including for example, grammar crib sheets) which I mail to the learners after the lessons. I note down what cropped up during the lesson and select appropriate documents afterwards.

      • Good suggestion, Olaf, and it was something I used to do while teaching unplugged in a very formal/professional BizEnglish course I taught in Korea a few years ago. That could indeed be a way to give some reassurances to such students, by giving them the documentation they crave — just after the fact rather than before! Might give that a whirl and see what happens…

      • Hi Andy, hi Jason,
        I’m doing that too at the moment with a materials free class. It’s working really well and the students have now started volunteering to provide the emailed notes at the end of the class. Now all I have to do is suggest possible out of class follow up tasks (which involves controlled practice of language structures for those who want it). And of course, give loads of praise and feedback to the self-appointed “secretary”.

    • What good English practice it must have been to articulate those concerns and get feedback (in the form of your responses) on their production.

    • Hi Jason, Olaf, Ceri,

      I’ve had similar experiences with learners from time to time, as well – my workaround was to set up the esolcourses site & develop topic-based quizzes and games that learners can work on in class as an alternative to joining in with group activities, and for practise between lessons… although I always provide paper-based alternatives for students who don’t have computer access at home, if need be.

      A lot of the materials that I’ve added to the publicly shared part of the site over the past couple of years originated via this process.

      Sue

  45. Hi all,

    I am absolutely fascinated in it’s theoretical base Scott and would encourage other teachers to read some of the books Scott suggested.

    I’m afraid of posting for fear of being misunderstood but I think more voices are needed in this conversation. This is a topic very close to my heart. I have just completed my MA dissertation on “instructional conversations” (van Lier, 1996) in the classroom (collaboration between teachers and learners through conversation), based on an analysis of a colleague’s classroom practice.
    Sometimes described as ‘co-constructed’ talk or “collaborative dialogue” (Swain, 2000) it is very dogme-esque. My MA was based on classroom lessons (Communication Skills) and so I won’t comment on the other work I do to provide opportunities for the students to use English outside the classroom (drama, volunteer teachers, volunteer guides, online etc.). I concentrated purely on one kind of ‘speaking’ class (I teach many ESP and content classes too).

    My context is a small, junior college in northern Japan. This is EFL (English as a foreign language, where it is not needed in the local community) and in my particular city most of my students will never use English in their daily lives or in their future jobs (but through having a college education are able to get quite good jobs in this city). It is an academic subject, just like history or philosophy and the students take many other general subjects too. It’s education. The problem with my educational context is that many students have failed with the grammar translation method so beloved (but this is slowly shifting) in Japan. If my (higher level) students had been good at grammar translation they would have been at a four year university and not a junior college. Many feel they failed and others (usually lower level students) state they just like English. This is the situation I teach in.

    I have a job, I get paid to teach English (and a lot more I think) and so do my colleagues. What shocked me more than anything as I looked at the data for my MA was that my colleague (an American man in his fifties) was using many of the teaching techniques I did. My arrogance, born of feeling the ‘flow’ (van Lier 1996) and through the high evaluations from students was shattered as I realized this wasn’t any ‘girl’ thing, it was a way of teaching. It was completely contextualized, it was based on what we both felt was needed by the students. We do use textbooks, but we dogme them to death sometimes. I listened to one brilliant class where two questions from the book formed the entire class. I have evidence, I interviewed the students, I found dogme moments.

    I taught a group of learners today (who have had seven years of English education but couldn’t ask me my name) and at the end of the class they said (after asking for a translation) “I’m getting better at speaking English”. It took ninety minutes and it was a confidence issue, a pronunciation issue, it took dogme – collaboration, co-construction, collaborative dialogue, relevance, flow, adaption, dynamism, and thinking outloud together (Mercer, 2001). I feel free to write these ideas because I think this needs to move out of the old debates that have been happening between certain members of certain communities…blah blah blah and into what is happening in classrooms (yes a lot of us still work in them, with chalk).

    The problem with the global nature of internet blogs (although most on this posting appear to be Europe based – I already imagine Jason jumping in) is that you have no idea about my “Community of Practice” (Wenger, 1998). I’m trying to put a little of it here and hope others will too. I’m not even going to go into the complexity theory base I used to look at classrooms. Not here, not now.

    Mercer, N. (2000) Words and Minds: How We Use Language To Think Together. Routledge.

    Swain, M (2000) ‘The output hypothesis and beyond: Mediating acquisition through collaborative dialogue’ in Lantolf, J.P. Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning (97-114).

    van Lier, L. (1996) Interaction in the Language Classroom: Awareness, Authenticity and Authenticity. Harlow, England: Longman.

    Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge University Press.

    • Hello Joanne,

      I was really inspired by this post – and as must be clear from everything I have said on this blog – I entirely approve, sympathise with, and view entirely happily the kind of lessons you are describing. Of course language learning can be collaboratively arrived at like this. But no one – that is no one on this blog – has been able to say with any conviction that co-constructed dialgogic moments are equally good for all stduents in a group. No one – but no one – has been able to show that a student interacting with an artefact such as a grammar or a coursebook is in some way disadvantaged. Yet that IS the claim. People ONLY learn, Scott claims, in this way and while I have no quarrel with the idea that some learning is socially co-constructed, not a single person can show that this is the only say learning happens.

      Jeremy

  46. I have followed this discussion with surprising (to me) interest and attention… itself a sure sign of the strength and validity of all the different viewpoints and interpretations expressed here. Thanks so much to Jeremy, Scott and all those who contributed…

    It occurs to me, as somebody who has spent over 20 years in the ELT context in Brazil, that one of the most important potential contributions of the DOGME debate (by that I mean both camps on the issue)… stems from the fact that the vast majority of public sector teachers in Brazil, catering for about 85% of all school students in this continental state of 200 million people, teach in textbook-free classrooms with zero technology beyond a blackboard and their own creativity (plus the rich resource presented by Ss’ own input).

    If these teachers can be supported in their work by training resulting from research and practical ideas generated by DOGME (remember they usually only have 45mins per week to teach English, including time for taking the register!) then we may be able to significantly improve the quality of those classes.

    It is a commonly-held belief in Brazil that it is impossible to learn English at school, so classes are generally taught entirely in L1, with Ts filling-up blackboards with Grammar McNuggets (their backs to the class). Of course, there are exceptions, but we should remember that for a large portion of state school English students around the world, technology and communicative language teaching in the classroom are about as real as the ‘blue giants’ of Avatar… mentioned at the very beginning of this thread!

    • Hi Graeme,

      nice to hear from you!

      What you describe sounds remarkably like the pre-lapsarian paradise that Scott yearned for in his original article 10 years ago. Students. A teacher. A board.

      I completely agree with you that teacher training is they key to improving standards in the public sector in Brazil – well, anywhere. If there is money and outreach and follow-up and financial incentive for teachers to train then that is the way forward.

      Of course, one way of improving, at a stroke, the teaching while training budgets are prepared is to give everyone a coursebook that the teachers and the students can handle. I know that is a heretical view (and let’s be clear, I am not suggesting some gravy train for a publisher here; such coursebooks can be not-for-profit) – but everyone would be a damn sight better off (in the short term) than they are now.

      But that is only ONE part (and a short-term solution part) of what could be done. But the very situation you describe causes me to doubt the overall adoption of materials-lite teaching.

      Jeremy

  47. Joanne, you say, “We do use textbooks, but we dogme them to death sometimes.” That line really struck a chord with me, and I think that hits on the crucial point that for many teachers the important question is not whether or not to use textbooks, but HOW to use them. For me textbooks are wonderful things if they provide useful language, ideas, stories, topics etc to work with, without dictating exactly what the teacher and students will do during the lesson, and in what order. There are many books out there that do that very well. For example, with my first-year medical students I use a video-based textbook on “Natural Remedies” by a mainstream publisher. It gets them thinking about a range of relevant topics, and is a catalyst for no end of debates, presentations, compositions, etc. That’s very, very different from a grammar-based coursebook that dictates what students are to say, when they are to say it, and how they are to say it. That, unfortunately, is what most of the bestselling textbooks out there seem to do, and is why I generally avoid them.

    • Thank you James for making clear a point that I, personally have been making for years. It’s not what you’ve got that is crucial, it’s how you use them.

      But I’m a little taken aback by the concept (not yours) of ‘dogme-ing’ a book to death. What on earth does that mean? Why is that so special? (By the way, as I said above, I really like the kind of lesson Joanne. describes above) Trainers have ALWAYS talked about the best way to use coursebook, treating them as artefacts, finding ways of helping students to engage with them in a myriad of ways. That’s not ‘dogme-ing’ a coursebook. It’s just USING a coursebook. Nothing to do with Dogme at all!!! If you go back years and years and look at the literature you will find all the methodology writers I admire talking about how to use materials in a creative and adaptive way, just like that.

      One other claim has to be moderated. YES, many coursebooks (most coursebooks) are grammatically organised. But look at them. Look beyond that. I mean just LOOK at the best ones. They have so much more to offer. Many of them DO offer decent writing, funs speaking activities, interesting texts, and a whole wealth of artefactal material which teachers and stduents can exploit in whatever way they want. If tyou want to call any such exploitation ‘dogmeing’ then everything is dogmeing, and that makes the term fairly meaningless, I think!!

      Sorry, I’ve gone on a bit, and am answering more than just your comments. The fact is that books like you “natural remedies” are extremely useful, and teachers like you will exploit them in a variety of different ways. Yet Dogme and the whole ‘unplugged’ discussion is all about ‘materials light’ – the fewer materials the better. I have real problems with that and wonder how lite ‘natural remedies’ is!!

      Jeremy

  48. When I learnt to walk my mother held my hands, this was not authentic walking, it was practice. After that I slowly, occasionally with help from other people, began to walk on my own. But at first I needed that practice.

    Sometimes, often, learners need help from whichever resources and activities, in order to help them understand, then practice, and finally to become independent and produce the authentic, emergent language that most satisfies us and them and is a sign of them having learnt.

    Sometimes those initial activities or resources may seem somewhat artificial or contrived. So be it. Doesn’t bother me when my hardest to reach learner walks out of the class spontaneously announcing “Education is better here than in my country,” after thirty minutes practising the comparative.

    “First you imitate, then you innovate.” – Miles Davis

    • Hi David,

      thanks for those metaphors (especially the difference between practice and improvisation).

      They are not necessarily comfortable with a view of pure emergence, I think.

      Oh, and by the way, there is a huge value in controlled music (an orchestra playing written down music) just as there is in wild folk and jazz improvisation.

      I have had to spend years trying to get even slightly good at viola playing. This has involved hours and hours of me-constructed knowledge, and some hours of co-constructed (but VERY materials-heavy) orchestral playing.

      Learning an instrument is not quite like learning a language, but it is a little bit like learning a language. And solo practice, an engagement with the text, ON YOUR OWN, is the basic key to becoming any good.

      I think that has something to say about this discussion.

      Jeremy

  49. I’ve read about half of the comments made so far and have noticed that little has been said about the way culture seems to affect the degree to which coursebooks facilitate learning.
    I will begin with the assumption that most kids in Scandinavia and Germany use coursebooks in school. I KNOW that Spanish students do.
    Why is it then that so many Scandinavian and German students leave school with a reasonable (and I said, reasonable) level of English whereas so few Spaniards do? The only Spaniard with a reasonable level of English that you are likely to meet is one whose family had the money to send them (often over and over and over again) on spells in English speaking countries. On the other hand, Scandinavians and Germans are able to achieve similar levels of competence without having gone through repeated bouts of immersion.
    For those of us who live in the south of Europe, this is THE issue. Why, when all students are exposed to the same grammar-based coursebooks, is there an inverse relationship between the quality of language learning and proximity to the Mediterranean?

    • Hi Glennie,

      I too teach in Spain, and taught for years in Italy. IMO the south European status quo exists because:

      a) the state-school teachers are often neither competent nor confident in English themselves, so

      b) they like grammar because it’s easy to teach, so

      c) students come to believe that language equals grammar, so

      d) you know the rest.

      PS Having spent years doing summer school work in the UK, I’m convinced that is often a waste of (lots of) money too.

    • Folks,
      A good friend of mine sent me the link to this debate today, and I’ve read all the posts more or less efficiently. It seems strange that a 10 year-old article should still be the starting point of a loooong debate. A bit like asking if we think TV will catch on. Even Scott himself has passed on the Dogme baton, as far as the yahoogroup is concerned (and the yahoogroup is really the pulsating heart of Dogme).

      As I think Karenne points out, and Luke develops, dogme has moved on since that article in 2000. It is an organic concept at the best of times, emerging from the ongoing debate on the yahoo list, and doesn’t bear THAT much resemblance to the original ‘down with coursebooks’ thing. Obviously, again as Karenne has said, it still refers to materials-light, conversation driven etc teaching, but it isn’t a fixed text, it’s a group of people negotiating what they think works. In certain contexts and situations. Wouldn’t it make more sense to debate dogme as it is now? A sort of blend of grassroots dogme and dogme 2.0, entirely context dependent as most approaches/methodologies should be.

      On the coursebook subject, I’m a dogmeist – it works for me, particularly with ‘difficult teens’ – and I’ve been part of dogme for 9 of the 10 years…. and I’m also a materials and coursebook writer. It’s what pays the mortgage (according to the tax office, I’m an artisan or craftsperson, somewhat more pleasant than an arms dealer). I use some of the things I’ve learned in dogme classes in my books. The way teens tick, avoiding things they really don’t want to talk about, trying to make the syllabus (imposed by The Authorities) accessible and of some interest and relevance, amongst other things. Providing relevant support for writing and speaking etc etc etc I’ve also ‘been allowed’ to give dogme tips in teachers books.
      In any case, as a dogmeist, my whinge isn’t with books (well, perhaps some), it’s with how they’re used. Open your books at page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4′…… The belief that students aren’t at the level of the book etc etc. So many teachers teach like this.
      I reckon teachers have the moral obligation to know their materials inside out and be willing to use them to suit their students, not vice versa. As a coursebook writer, I’d rather the students enjoyed my books while learning, rather than ploughed through every exercise and got bored with the same ol’ book everyday. If they just ‘do the book’, how wide, how ‘complete’ is the teacher’s role? Where teachers argue that there isn’t time to do stuff that isn’t in the book, well, make the books shorter ;-)
      A coursebook should be an efficient, inspiring launchpad preferably with blank spaces in the workbook for students to write what they want and bits in the teachers book on learner-centred teaching, student-made materials etc etc. A teacher should be in charge of making the launchpad work. Providing the personalised colour scheme.

      Books or no books, grammar syllabus or no grammar syllabus? Depends on your context, but how many of you have had a negative learning experience in an L2 exclusively because of the BOOK? Surely it’s more often the teacher or an inappropriate methodology? Ineffective ‘establishment’ teacher training is far more dangerous than a book (see Glennie’s query about Spain versus the Scandinavian countries…)

      I’ve wandered from the point, sorry, but the debate has caused a lot of ticking in my brain, particularly regarding the relevance ‘ten years on’.
      Interesting, though.

      • I meant to write “a bit like asking if we think digital TV will catch on”… oops.

      • Hi Fiona,

        thanks for joining in and making my points for me, I think.

        I hope writing books is not ONLY for paying the mortgage. I hope there’s passion and commitment there too!

        But the fact is that you DO like all the Dogme stuff (so do I) but you see a role for books too. Yes, Scott may have passed on the baton (sort of) but as Karenne points out Dogme 2.0 (what a curious metaphor) is still committed to ‘materials-lite’ lessons. Luke, above, allows readers of Teaching Unplugged to keep using coursebooks while they build up their Dogme lessons – (quoted by him from their book, above). In other words, developing for the great moment when they can throw away their materials – that IS the implication.

        (And I think that is crazy – see ‘using coursebooks’ above in my replies to David)

        As a writer, how do you feel about that?

        Jeremy

  50. Hi Glennie – not sure about the Germans but I used to live in Denmark and I think the fact that the never dub their English TV (Subtitles only) has a tremendous effect on the level of language amongst the Danes.

    • I’d agree with Steph here; I think the fact that they dub every foreign language film into Castillian Spanish in Spain is a big factor in the comparative lack of (English) language skills.

      It might also be psychological – I recall a number of times adult students telling me during my time in Spain that the fact they weren’t very good at English was because they were Spanish.

    • Can the question of dubbing or not dubbing movies be so crucial? Perhaps.

      Maybe, too, the average Danish teacher of English has more of an eye for Dogme moments.

      • Glennie,

        Spanish secondary school teachers have very little teacher training, they know English grammar inside-out, and lots about James Joyce, Mark Twain, The Scarlet Letter and other gems they’ll never need, but they have no training (unless they’re very lucky and coincide with wonderful university teachers like Jane Arnold) in motivation, student-centred learning or actual ‘teaching’. They also tend to be terrified of questions (no training in how to cope with the unexpected or even in how to plan a class) and of ‘new ideas’. There are, of course, some truly inspired teachers in Spain, but they are in spite of the system not thanks to it.

  51. Forgive me if this is too simplistic here:

    I’m going to assume that we all (more or less) agree that we all learn in different ways (the exact how and why of this is for a different discussion, I think). I think following any one approach slavishly (whether it be teaching dogme or with coursebooks or using only postcards!) is going to mean we are missing out for some of the learners.

    Approaches like dogme may be attractive for some teachers and students, not least for the way in which the teaching and learning is for the most part negotiated. Likewise if you are teaching/learning by use of a coursebook. You may disagree, but the way the grammar, vocab, etc is presented may be just the way some learners need it for them to internalise and learn from it.

    The classroom may be a constructed environment, but that is ok – it may be the only place that learners can practise the language they learn. Yes it’s not totally ‘real’ to chat about your weekend’s activities with people in a classroom, but it might be the only place the learners are going to actually use the language. Think about countries where English is not a first or official language – are learners going to find many opportunities to use their English? Some don’t even make the most of it when they live in an English-speaking country! Gavin mentioned the use of technology and the internet to get the necessary practice after his grammar-focused language lessons. I know we all here more and more ‘oh we are more connected, there are more homes with internet than ever before’ – we’ve got to remember that this is not the case for EVERYONE. Low income, migrant workers, asylum seekers, other refugees are not all going to have these devices. The classroom is perhaps the only place where they are going to actually use English.

    My main point I guess is that we can’t really dedicate ourselves to just one way of teaching, and knocking spots off a particular way of doing things isn’t to my mind wholey constructive. Discussion like this here, however, is of tremendous benefit to any teacher watching/reading (as long as they’ve time to navigate it all) as you can see the vast richness there is to teaching English (or any language).

    Am I looking at this too simply?

    • Hi Mike,

      I don’t think that is simplistic and unsurprisingly I find myself largely in agreement with what you say.

      But the thing is that we are NOT all in agreement. Scott and others are quite clear in their belief that ALL learning (I am quoting from this blog) is co-constructed in a dialogic setting. That is so profoundly different from my position (not all; there are other routes) that agreement seems unlikely to be reached!!! Though as I keep saying, lots of learning is arrived at in this way.

      Jeremy

  52. It’s interesting to read two authors who I respect and admire highly, (Scott Thornbury and Gavin Dudeney) going at it hammer and tongs. More please!

    Unlike many who have posted here, I am a full-time ESL/EFL teacher, working for IH in Almaty KZ (great place btw). We use New English File here which I personally find far too ‘grammatical’. Having used many different coursebooks over the course of my relatively short career I endorse Scott’s point that the majority of syllabuses today are ‘grammar syllabuses’. Certainly the majority of the ones I have seen are grammatical (i.e. organised around grammatical structures).

    Jeremy Harmer wonders if learners are slightly naive in demanding that they be taught grammar, buying grammar books etc, or if there is a good reason for why they do it. In my opinion and based on my own personal experience it is the former. A few weeks ago a lady brushed past me in an English book shop here reaching for a copy of Murphy’s Grammmar in Use. When I tried to start up a conversation she couldn’t say anything to me at all.

    It seems to me that grammar can sometimes become a ‘safety net’ for not only students and teachers, but also coursebook writers and publishers. That is why I believe that the work of Scott etc, fighting against the overuse of grammar mcnuggets and tired old deductive pedagogical grammars in our field is so important.

    • Hi Thomas,

      I do understand the ‘too much grammar’ point you are making (and yes, the safety net ‘do what we’ve always done’ approach can be tiresome).

      I think my question would be whether there was anything in English File that you CAN use. How, if at al, do you use it?

      Jeremy

  53. Mike Harrison :
    Gavin mentioned the use of technology and the internet to get the necessary practice after his grammar-focused language lessons. I know we all here more and more ‘oh we are more connected, there are more homes with internet than ever before’ – we’ve got to remember that this is not the case for EVERYONE. Low income, migrant workers, asylum seekers, other refugees are not all going to have these devices. The classroom is perhaps the only place where they are going to actually use English.

    Mike,

    Correct – that’s why I pointed that out in my original comment.

    However, it’s useful to bear in mind that our assumptions about who has access to technology are not necessarily based in fact, particularly when it comes to talking about the constituents you mention – although they would presumably have little need for the technology because they will all (in the cases you mention) be living immersed in the target language?

    Talking to an Indian guy (involved in one of the mLearning projects) at the mobile conference the other day, he was quick to point out that mobile phones with Net access are seen right through the different strata of Indian society because they are a relatively cheap status symbol – a sign of having arrived and made it (in much the same way as people in Spain buy flat screen TVs the size of Belgium and a third car with an amusing ‘my other car is a…’ sticker).

    The Plan Ceibal report (http://edutechdebate.org/olpc-in-south-america/olpc-in-uruguay-impressions-of-plan-ceibal/) is worth reading as another demonstration of access to computers on a countrywide scale. In most of Latin America it’s hard to move more than one block without finding a cheap Internet cafe. In Krakow, Vilnius and countless other places in Central and Eastern Europe there’s free wifi in the city centre. Libraries in the UK give anyone access to a computer and some connectivity, etc.

    I think there’s a general assumption (and I’m certainly not suggesting that you’re making such an assumption) that gadgets and Internet access are mostly limited to the middle classes and beyond in predominately wealthy or ‘developed’ countries and I think it’s healthy to challenge that assumption.

    Only two days ago a colleague working in Burkina Faso told me that a mobile learning project was being considered there…. the times they are a’changing.

    Gavin

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply to me, Gavin, and I agree with you. The material elements are getting cheaper and more widely available.

      Education is still the key though, and computer/technological/digital literacy is not always a given. I’m reminded of an evening class with a middle-aged lady from Brazil, who works as a cleaner, in my elementary/pre-intermediate evening class. Sat in front of the computer, she was completely flummoxed!

      Totally agree that we live in changing times, and I’m certainly quite interested and excited to see what’s around the corner. Will check out that link to Plan Ceibal soon.

  54. Fiona Mauchline :
    Glennie,
    Spanish secondary school teachers have very little teacher training, they know English grammar inside-out, and lots about James Joyce, Mark Twain, The Scarlet Letter and other gems they’ll never need, but they have no training (unless they’re very lucky and coincide with wonderful university teachers like Jane Arnold) in motivation, student-centred learning or actual ‘teaching’. They also tend to be terrified of questions (no training in how to cope with the unexpected or even in how to plan a class) and of ‘new ideas’. There are, of course, some truly inspired teachers in Spain, but they are in spite of the system not thanks to it.

    And all of that will, I guess, mean that, understandably, they seek refuge in …the coursebook.

  55. Truly fascinating stuff.

    I copied and pasted this entire comment thread into MS Word in order to search for a term I had read yesterday, and the thing came to 72 pages. It then struck me: I can’t remember the last time I was more gripped, educated—entertained even—by 72 consecutive pages of any journal.

    So how is this for emergent dialogue, huh?

    No really, I mean, how is *this very thread* as an analogy for what good, inspired, dogme-like learning is, and how it could perhaps emerge in the classroom as well? Yes, yes, there will be time to read the journals that one reads, as there is always time for vocabulary flashcards and self-study, but what’s happening right *here* as the core guiding principle for how education should work—well, do we really not agree on that much at least? ‘Cause that’s really the core argument for dogme, isn’t it? What is this discussion, if not participant-negotiated, emergent, materials free, yadda yadda yadda?

    But then again, is this dogme or a dogme moment, as per Jeremy’s interesting distinction? Fascinating stuff, I say again, with my brain swimming with possibilities after 72 pages.

    And I should add: As an analogy, this-thread-as-dogme-lesson also raises an equally interesting meta issue: Here we are, a bunch of educators having a dialogue on education, just as it sometimes happens that a class of L2 learners enter a dialogue on L2 learning, perhaps to discuss grammar even… And hey, wouldn’t that be at its core a grammar-based course if it happened often enough? And what if those learners then got excited enough about translating grammar forms back and forth that they started doing it all the time… maybe even competing with each other to create the most convoluted constructions to stump each other with… crazy Mon plume est plus grande que ton jardin kind of stuff?

    You see where I’m heading here: Grammar-Translation, unplugged!

    I’ve mentioned to Scott privately that dogme strikes me more as an “approach to approaches”, that is, an orientation towards pedagogy that is compatible with any particular method because it is more like a set of core beliefs than specific set of instructions or characteristics. Well, he nodded politely and didn’t immediately call me a misinformed cretin, so I’m gonna try to run with it again here and see what happens…

    To illustrate, TBL is characterized as being about the task. You can’t “do” TBL and G-T at the same time because their defining characteristics are fundamentally at odds with each other. They are clearly separate methods. TBL instruction is to the task, not to the language point, as TBL assessment is of the task, and not the language point; there’s no getting around that.

    However, how a task focus is achieved in TBL could be more or less materials dependent, more or less dialogic, more or less restrictive of emergent language (ie: “open”, “closed”, “focused” or “unfocused” tasks, etc). And interestingly, a G-T language point can be approached the same way: It can be emergent, dealt with dialogically, and be from a grammar syllabus or not.

    So that is what I mean when I ask if dogme is not in fact an approach to approaches rather than an approach on its own. Because if it were the former, then there wouldn’t be much ground for argument left here, right?

    Just saying, is all. ;-)

    Marcos

    • Hi Marcos,

      thanks for a great post. I love dogme-ed grammar translation!

      But your main point is EXACTLY that I believe. The whole Dogme conversation is about orientation – about style and metaphor, based, yes, maybe, on a body of academic writing and deeply-held beliefs.

      But it is not science, it is art. It is a way of looking at things. The metaphors we live by.

      Fashion.

      I think anyone who says (about anything) that it is ALWAYS this way(but this is belief) is in danger of becoming a religious fundamentalist (that’s a metaphor by the way and is not meant to refer to any life-threatening practices, but rather to monotheism).

      No one has converted me yet!

      Jeremy

  56. Can’t add much after Marcos’s inspired wrap-up, but this caught my eye just now: a posting from the IATEFL TTEd SIG Discussion List Moderator, Martin McMorrow, in NZ:

    We’ve just had our Language Teachers’ Conference here in New Zealand – and it was notable how far sociocultural learning theory has come to dominate our discourses – it was pretty much acquisition OUT and participation IN. Is this being reflected in our Teacher Education I wondered?

    Probably not, I’d say, except where dogme rules!

    • Hello Scott,

      there you go again! We always quote the people whose views accord with our own (well I do anyway!)

      But the question that occurs to me is to ask Martin McMorrow who is the ‘we’ in ‘OUR discourses’?

      And come on! Of COURSE it is reflected in teacher education. Read good-selling methodology books (including yours). Participation has been around for years!

      Acquisition out? What a nonsense.

      Anyway, watch this space. Remember the Lexical Approach?

      Jeremy

      • I’m not sure what the question about the Lexical Approach is meant to imply. If it’s that all ‘methods’ are ephemeral, the Lexical Approach is perhaps the wrong choice, since the influence, at least, of Michael Lewis on coursebooks still continues to play out (see L is for (Michael) Lewis on my blog), and, moreover, developments in lexicography, corpus linguistics, and usage-based learning theories, suggest that the basic tenets of the LA are as theoretically respectable today as they were in the early 90s. If Dogme survives half as long it will be doing quite nicely, thanks (and this thread suggests that it still has some puff!)

  57. Ceri :
    Hi Andy, hi Jason,
    I’m doing that too at the moment with a materials free class. It’s working really well and the students have now started volunteering to provide the emailed notes at the end of the class. Now all I have to do is suggest possible out of class follow up tasks (which involves controlled practice of language structures for those who want it). And of course, give loads of praise and feedback to the self-appointed “secretary”.

    Hi Ceri, Jason, Olaf,

    yes and then you collect all these materials,and then, obviously, if you are sensible, your re-cycle them and sooner or later someone wants to publish them and then you’ve got….?

    Seriously I think these kinds of post-lesson materials are absolutely wonderful.

    Jeremy

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  59. 1. I hope writing books is not ONLY for paying the mortgage. I hope there’s passion and commitment there too!

    2 But the fact is that you DO like all the Dogme stuff (so do I) but you see a role for books too. Yes, Scott may have passed on the baton (sort of) but as Karenne points out Dogme 2.0 (what a curious metaphor) is still committed to ‘materials-lite’ lessons.

    3 Luke, above, allows readers of Teaching Unplugged to keep using coursebooks while they build up their Dogme lessons – (quoted by him from their book, above). In other words, developing for the great moment when they can throw away their materials – that IS the implication.

    4 (And I think that is crazy – see ‘using coursebooks’ above in my replies to David)
    As a writer, how do you feel about that?

    Jeremy

    Answer 1: Passion, commitment, dedication almost to the point of obsession and enjoyment in large doses …. but that’s another story. What I mean is it’s my job.

    Answer 2: Dogme 2.0 is a sort of hybrid that certain dogmeists have decided to incorporate into their toolbox. Some like it, some don’t, but if what you have in the room, apart from students chairs etc is an IWB, computers, or whatever, then I guess why not. Certainly makes the classic ‘computer room class’ a bit more directed and meaningful, even if the direction emerges rather than being pre-planned.

    Answer 3: But IS it? Does he say anything about throwing away books for good? In all your classes forever and ever, amen. And does he allow or does he suggest? As if often mentioned, dogme is often criticised for being only for highly experienced teachers, an argument I don’t agree with at all, having spent the first 15 months of my teaching career working for a school that didn’t use any coursebooks at all (I remember the day they bought a copy of Headway Intermediate, which had not long come out. One copy.). dogme is for teachers who can think on their feet, that’s for sure, and it’s more tiring than using a coursebook, ‘riskier’, but I suspect Luke might have just been suggesting a way of building up risk-taking confidence in some teachers. I don’t know, so don’t quote me on that ;-)

    Answer 4: As a writer, but moreover as a teacher and teacher trainer, which are my other true passions, if some teachers get better results without a coursebook, then by all means. It’s entirely dependent on the class, I think, or if not entirely, then 70%.
    What do I mean?
    If you have a class that just don’t seem to learn from books – in my case this typically means kids of around 14-17 who react against the book as a sort of weird authority figure and deem it ‘object to be graffitied, crumpled and left at home’ – and you’re willing to give dogme a go, go ahead. If you have a class that respond to a book, but it works better if you take the Rayuela/Hopscotch approach and use it in a different order than the one it’s been stuck together in, so that as you realise from, say, the group’s writing journals, that their present continuous is not a problem but their comparatives are non existent and you feel that they might be more useful where your students are right now, then teach unit 5 before unit 2 or whatever. I’ve taught several courses where the topic (ie not the grammar) that emerges at the start of the class/week decides the unit we use, when I’ve had to use a book. I must point out that my ‘specialities’ are pre-writers ie the under 7s, and the ‘grotty teens’, especially the failers, aged 14-19. I remember a small group of 15 year olds who were still failing 1st year secondary English (12-13 year olds)responding pretty well to one of the Cutting Edge books. In one of our first classes, a student was trying to tell me her hobby was painting, so I asked if they’d like to look at art for a week. Yep. So I took in a Hockney painting (alas, not the original) and the unit in their book on describing people – not the first unit in the book. The students saw that we were using the book to meet their needs, not to follow an agenda and the shot ahead, motivation tally-ho.
    Obviously, as a writer, as I said, I hope that students and teachers enjoy using my books (and if they don’t, I’ll blame the editor ;-)) and I know that not everyone is going to burn their books, so I’ll keep trying to provide them with great, good material. It takes all sorts in this world, some barbecue, some use a traditional oven, some microwave, some prepare sushi – the best cooks and the ones who really enjoy cooking, probably do all four depending on the situation and the people in the (dining)room. Don’t you think?

    Bon appetit
    Fiona
    I really don’t subscribe to ‘one approach fits all’, and I don’t think we should diss any technique just because it doesn’t match our handbag

    • I think I need to dust my keyboard! I cut the last two ‘handbag’ lines, but they’ve repasted themselves… apologies.

    • Hi Fiona,

      I think you and I agree – i.e. I don;t subscribe to ‘one size fits all’ And that’s really why I wrote this blog in the first place. Because there is a view (articulated in the comments) that ALL learning happens in a particular way, and it is because I just can’t get my head round that that I felt like having a go.

      Of course writing books pay the bills. It is a job I am proud of, as I am sure you are (and many other people who have contributed to this blog); as jobs go it’s not a bad one to have. But the more mercenary my aims the less attractive (and maybe creative) the job becomes for me. It’s a fine old tussle. But then writers are no different from people in other professions. Sometimes a book takes off (and good luck to the writers; I feel no resentment for those who have done really really really financially well in this business), lots of time we fail. We do our best!!

      But what we produce (in coursebook terms) is, as I have said elsewhere, a ‘proposal for action’. It’s up to the teacher to decide if they want to ‘rayuela’ it or not, extract what they want, adapt, omit, replace etc. IAs I said above, I don’t think you can ‘dogme a coursebook to death’; what teachers can do is find what is in the coursebook and then facilitate contact with it for your students so that you and they get the most out of it that they can.

      I don’t think teaching unplugged is necessarily for ‘elitist’ teachers, no. It IS for imaginative and creative teachers with some confidence in their language abilities, however. I am unsure how appropriate it is (even when there is no alternative) for the kinds of teachers that Graeme Hodgson describes in his post above. TIt is no surprise to me that it is the more resourceful, creative, engaged and out-of-the-box teachers who have so embraced the Dogme flag, and found uses for everything around them – that is the D 2.0 crowd including computers, IWBs (interactive white elephants I remember them being villified as, but that objection seems to have disappeared!!).

      But in the end I am glad when coursebooks are written by people who are keen to find ways of getting students right into the process; who care passionately about trying to find engaging, thought-provoking content; who write for the ‘classrooms in their minds’; doing it, as I suspect you do, with the same degree of passion and commitment as a good teacher takes into their lessons.

      Jeremy

  60. Funnily enough… I just posted about how Lindsay Clandfield and his Global coursebook has been really helpful to me in terms of unplugged language teaching:

    http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/2010/10/how-coursebooks-can-help-you-to-teach-unplugged.html

    And by the way, I think this post of yours Jeremy may just have set a record for most number of comments for a single ELT blog post!

    An indication of just how prevalent this issue has become? Or just an example of how copiously a small number of us like to argue? I would like to believe it is more indicative of the former… ;-)

  61. Finally found time to get back here. There’s a number of important issues that came up in various places in the comments above that I’d like to look at. The first is the idea that all theories of learning are simply some kind of guess based on experience. Come’on! So this whole discussion, taking training courses, getting an MA, even the books Jeremy writes are simply a waste of time? Do any of us really believe that? It’s about as correct as saying evolution is “just a theory.” As I’ve complained before, the blogosphere can be a bit too wishywashy as people simply don’t want to step on toes. Social etiquette overrides any real critique sometimes. Sure we should be open to new or alternative ideas, but let’s not shy away from taking a stand, holding our ground, and being practical.

    It is safe to say that some practices are simply better than others (which is why this debate is taking place) and that there is a lot we do know about teaching and learning. A student that does not speak in class or outside it will not be able to speak in real life. A class that never does listenings in English will create a class that can’t understand English when spoken too. Sure, grammar translation might have helped Gavin, but we KNOW it would have failed if he hadn’t had other means of gaining the necessary skill sets for live communication.

    We have so much evidence and research advocating one method over another. Let’s not take exceptions to be rules. Some students will always learn IN SPITE OF the methodology or find alternative means outside the class to become proficient in what they need to accomplish. This doesn’t mean ineffective methodologies are somehow more tenable.

  62. Another mistake that seems to be being made is that happy students = learning students. Motivation and the affective filter are important, but that is certainly not the whole story. I remember a couple years back talking to Ken Wilson after a drama workshop he gave. Being a big advocate of drama myself, I asked, “What if your students don’t see the value in it?” To which he responded along the lines of, “Maybe your students are just happy having a native teacher and listening to you talk away is all they’re looking for, so that’s enough.” This response didn’t and still doesn’t sit well with me. I also remember a talk Luke Prodomo gave where he gave 2 examples of teachers at a school he visited. One was considered to be really good and the other terrible. Turns out, according to the principle and students, the good teacher was the one who had the students sit in rows, do worksheets, answer only when spoken to, etc. The same mistake is being made here – the assumption that happy students = learning. Obviously the classroom management was good and the students were comfortable with that teaching style, but were they really learning how to effectively use English in the real world? I think not. Could the lessons have been more effective if the learners’ desires were taken into account and taken further so they actually used it to co-construct meaning in the class room. I think yes.

    At first, many of my students are incredibly content to do nothing more than listen to the teacher talk and plow through their book. However, I strongly believe this is not the most effective way to help them learn. Sure, work with their beliefs, but guide those beliefs and negotiate the course until better learning is occurring.

    We are the teachers and that often seems to be forgotten. We have the training, education, and years of experience. The student may think they know what works for them, but, more than likely, they’ve never even tried anything else. As Jeremy mentioned above, it is very open to debate if learners always know how best to learn. In my experience, they usually do not. The trick is to work with what they believe and then show them better ways to do it. It’s striking that balance between motivation stemming from what learners believe to be effective and guiding them to best learning practice.

    In my own career, I have observed countless classes where students reported extreme satisfaction with their teacher due to the teacher’s style or simply attitude in the class. I have also seen many of those same classes emerge after 120 hours with very little to show for it.

    Another point on this issue is the actual ability of the teacher to adapt to ALL the students’ needs. We’ve talked about this before with MI. It’s well nigh impossible and simply impractical to expect a teacher to adapt to 30 or more different students. However, it is entirely reasonable and infinitely more practical to expect each student to adapt to one teacher. If this is indeed the case, then it would make sense that the most effective teaching approach would be best because all learners are going to need to adapt to it. The teacher can structure lessons in such a way as to try and include different learner desires and needs, but ultimately the students will be adapting to the teacher. This is why I advocate a dogme approach. I feel that it is the best environment in which to learn for all the reasons we’ve previously mentioned. I’ve seen it time and time again where students who may not be the most comfortable with the approach, slowly adapt through patience and encouragement and eventually blossom.

    Additionally, as I’ve mentioned before, teaching should be about more than just English. Unless preparing for state exams, gap-fills are useless (however, I’d say it’s important to teach that way if that’s what you’re preparing your students for), but learning to communicate with other human beings is not. As a teacher, I want to develop my students’ weaknesses as well as play to their strengths. Does dogme favor students who are more extroverted? To a degree I’d say yes. Are the skills and behaviors extroverts possess something a student will need to participate in not only their community, but the global one where the English they are learning is the primary form of communication? The answer is most certainly yes, so I want to foster that development as much as I can in my classrooms. Come out from the shell, open up to the world. Let’s learn about ourselves, the world, and each other together. This is why language is used after all.

    • True: happy students not necessarily = learning students
      BUT also even truer: BORED, DISENGAGED STUDENTS do not = learning students – it’s more likely to = students wondering what’s for lunch or why the teacher’s wearing odd socks.
      As for me, when Jeremy asked how, as a writer, I feel about what had been said previously, I replied that if students are happy WHILE LEARNING, then even better. I didn’t say anything about ‘hey, I hope they’re happy, regardless of whether they’re learning or not’. Did anyone else say that? I must have missed it. I’ll look again later.

      By the way, ‘happy’ to me doesn’t imply cheesy grins and oh what fun. It means quietly content while engaged, truly engaged. ‘oh what fun’ = mildly amused.

      F

      • Hi Fiona, just an FYI, I didn’t actually have your comments in mind in regards to mine. I just got the impression from your comment that you felt that way.

        My comments are more regarding a general impression I’ve gotten from some comments above and from many other conversations I’ve had. I would agree with you, if students are happy while learning, even better.

      • Fiona,

        I couldn’t have put it better myself!

        (Which is why I go on a lot about engagement – though that’s nothing special; so do lots of other people)

        Of course the thing to wonder about it is whether engagement means something really different for different cultures, different types of student…

        Jeremy

    • Nick,

      thank you for your two comments. There’s lots in there to talk about.

      I do NOT think (and i am sorry if I have just given that impression) that everything is just a ‘guess’. That would make everything we do, say or write about completely pointless. And it isn’t. But that doesn’t stop any of us challenging others’ wisdom however passionately or widely shared it is. I think (and scientific discovery is based on this very concept) that the challenges are a vital part of expanding and broadening knowledge and helping us to achieve greater and great understanding (see, I’m a co-constructiionist really!). Hey but meditation helps too!!

      But on one point I think we agree a lot. Many teachers have described to me recently (because I have asked them to) lessons which have been successful. I love hearing about these lessons, and the engagement and fun they engender. But I do sometimes ask myself what students actually GOT OUT OF IT. We need to have a more exacting measure than enjoyment. Indeed enjoying a lessons (I prioritise ‘engagement’ a lot in much of my writing) may not be so important for some educational cultures as it is for our (= largely western…excuse the generalization) view of things.

      As for fostering development…well, yes. Of course.

      Jeremy

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  64. Jeremy

    I would say New English File has many good things in it. There is a lot of good material around which to build speaking tasks for example.

    However, there are an awful lot of boring old explicit, deductive grammar tasks accompanied by misleading pedagogical grammar rules etc etc which I am expected to teach. Students get a bit worried if we don’t cover this. For some reason most adult students in my teaching context believe that learning this pedagogical grammar using decontextualised examples etc is essential to learning English. They believe that if they were somehow able to swallow the contents of Murphy’s Grammar in Use they would be able to speak English perfectly.

    What I am trying to do is supplement what I am obliged to teach with my own tasks, giving students contextualised examples, noticing exercises etc etc. Fortunately this approach seems to work quite well.

  65. I’m also using NEF and feel exactly the same.

    You almost have the feeling when you go through the grammar sections (if you can bring yourself to inflict them on yourself and the students) that the writers took off their creative hats and put on their ‘let’s give ‘em the bit of grammar they’ll be expecting’ hats. A bit like going through the motions so that the punters get what they will be expecting, or the teachers get something they can put into a test to assess learning (ha! ha!)

    • Hi Thomas and Glennie,

      yes I do understand the criticism of grammar in coursebooks – and English File is not alone in that, of course. But there are ways to finesses all that grammar surely, ways to make those exercises meaningful so that some of that grammar becomes second nature, so that the learning of it (and the doing of those exercises) can be engaging and act as springboards for other things??

      Yes, I understand (and enjoyed) the idea of swallowing Murphy! Of course a lot of grammar teaching actually teaches other things as well!! But I can’t help thinking that doing endless repetition can sometimes help students to automatize language chunks for example (and some grammar teaching inadvertently, perhaps) promotes this.

      Something that is currently engaging my interest is the analogy with music practice. When I practise I can, sometimes, play the same phrase again and again, but nothing happens because something in my brain wasn’t wired up or connected when i did it. But at other times the connections ARE there, the wires are hooked up, and then the whole thing really works!!

      Jeremy

  66. Scott Thornbury :
    I’m not sure what the question about the Lexical Approach is meant to imply. If it’s that all ‘methods’ are ephemeral, the Lexical Approach is perhaps the wrong choice, since the influence, at least, of Michael Lewis on coursebooks still continues to play out (see L is for (Michael) Lewis on my blog), and, moreover, developments in lexicography, corpus linguistics, and usage-based learning theories, suggest that the basic tenets of the LA are as theoretically respectable today as they were in the early 90s. If Dogme survives half as long it will be doing quite nicely, thanks (and this thread suggests that it still has some puff!)

    Ah yes, The Lexical Approach, something you called (in another felicitous phrase, and this time I agreed with you completely) “all chunks and no pineapple”. You may say it (I mean “The Lexical Approach” in inverted commas) is surviving, but I would dispute that. The fact that more attention is now paid to vocabulary, and especially to collocations and phrases, well that is certainly true, but/and that is a reality influenced partly by The”Lexical Approach’; but also by many other factors such as corpus linguistics etc and much other research has a claim to have influenced our views on grammar, vocabulary and the relationship between the two etc. Don’t misunderstand me here, please (!); I am not belittling Michael Lewis’ contribution, but when was the last time you heard “The Lexical Approach” mentioned at a conference. It flowered, blossomed and was in full bloom, it seems to me, for only a short time. I hope Natural Grammar does and will continue to well for years and years….

    For what it’s worth I think Dogme and discussions about Dogme – unplugged teaching – will be around for longer than “The Lexical Approach”`. But I also believe that teaching and learning moves with fashion, and though no one will ever stop talking about participation in some form or other, still other matters will absorb interests sooner or later. So that’s why I mentioned the Lexical Approach.

    But that’s all unimportant, really. What matters (and this particular conversation may well have run its course) is the nature of learning and best ways of promoting it. Nothing I have read on this blog or anywhere else has made me doubt the desirability of what you and Luke call unplugged lessons. Some of the best lessons I have seen (and many – probably indifferent ones – that I have taught) have been of this type. But learning comes in many guises and anyone who claims to know how ALL learning takes place, excluding ranges of possibility outside their own particular view of things (however widely supported) risks, it seems to me, the very real danger of getting stuck in the wood and never being able to get out.

    But, to be personal just for a second – I don’t think you are that kind of person, and I would find much of your own writing difficult to squeeze into the learning model you have so assiduously promoted in response to this post! But maybe that’s my problem, and shows my lack of understanding rather than anything else….

    Jeremy

  67. Jeremy and all,

    I am back 15 days after reading the post… and after reading most of the comments here´s my take.

    As somebody who has recently written about moving away from coursebooks and embracing project-based learning, I would like to add my views.

    I am the EFL coordinator and teacher in a private school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and this year we decided to stop using coursebooks with students from grade 6 onwards (age 11+). The reasons, as I explained in some blog posts, were the feeling that the coursebooks did not reflect our students´ needs and interests, the fact that teachers were too dependent on coursebooks and the evidence that students were losing interest and therefore more effective opportunities for learning.

    However, I do not consider myself a Dogmeist (although I have been contacted by some people in this regard) nor am I against coursebooks. The fact is that grades 1 to 5 in my school still use coursebooks because we feel they benefit from the structure and safety that coursebooks provide.

    It is also worth pointing out that not using a coursebook does not equal Dogme, at least in my opinion. I still create my projects around certain linguistic abilities or topics I want the students to learn, develop or master at certain stages. The language is not introduced or pointed out unless there´s a need from students to learn it in order to express themselves. So what I try to do is to make sure that the materials and projects will make the knowledge of this particular language ability essential.

    So, am I a Dogmeist because I do not use coursebooks? I do not think so, because I still use lots of (authentic) materials and technology to “slyly” prompt specific language. I simply do not use coursebooks because my educational context, which is certainly not all schools in my country, has allowed me to move in this direction in the hope of providing or creating a more efficient language learning experience. I must confess I still do grammar when I feel my students need it and I find it very difficult not to organize the learning around grammar. I think I have just found a different way of doing it, that´s all.

    • Hi Vicky,

      much much ‘better late than never!”. Thanks for some great comments. And yes, you have put your finger on this. The Dogme ‘debate’ is often about coursebooks (I ma partly responsible for this of course; but it was a founding tenet of the whole thing, after all). But it is about much more than this, as all the comments on this blog have suggested.

      I agree that your planning – using whatever materials come to hand – does not sit well with some of the Dogme discourse. For if language ‘emerges’, then planning ‘specific language’ lessons surely does not fit. Yes D 2.0 is happy to use technology etc, but the dialogic con-constructed model would surely be unhappy about ‘slyly’ – or even explicitly provoking the use of language…

      As for using or not using coursebooks – well I have always always been admiringly supportive of teachers who can provide coherent and useful programmes of study without them. And based on that wonderful presentation you gave in FAAPI Cordoba a few weeks ago, I am pretty much in admiration of the work that you do at your school!

      Jeremy

  68. Vicky Saumell :
    So, am I a Dogmeist because I do not use coursebooks? I do not think so, because I still use lots of (authentic) materials and technology to “slyly” prompt specific language.

    Maybe not a Dogmeist, I don’t know, but certainly a ‘textbook perfect’ TBLT practitioner, from your description!

  69. Hi after initially adding my two cents, I thought I’d just soak up all the knowledge flowing freely from every corner – which I did. However, couldn’t resist adding another 2 cents. Someone mentioned that coursebooks are not Bibles. I’d say of course not. In fact, those who possess free thinking, question the Bible itself. The point is, what happens after the analyses of the coursebook? Most ‘everyday’ teachers are not afforded the luxury of that choice between dogme and CBs. But a free thinking teacher, one that’s not burnt out yet, one that wants stds to speak the language, will bring all his experience, knowledge, even intuition to arrive at an educated decision – how much CB and how much DM – a bit like Granny’s recipes. Those teachers may not be famous stars in the ELT world, they may not have their blogs and most certainly not well-known authors. But just like granny who never showed off her skills at 5 star hotels for presidents, and yet made the most delicious of food, those ‘small teachers’ do a wonderful job. I have met a lot of those teachers and their students. And as they say, the proof is in … :) I have spoken to those students, sometimes again after a period of time and have been genuinely impressed by their progress. The point, I was trying to make is that both CB and DM are important – to an extent that one is incomplete without the other – of course in the context of actual teaching, day in and day out.

    • Hi Ron,

      thanks for celebrating the great mass of teachers around the world who work both with and sometimes without the coursebook. Of COURSE that’s what a lot of teachers do – bring their coursebooks along and use them creatively. Because in the end (I am like an old broken record here) it’s not WHAT you use, it’s HOW you use it.

      I think your bible analogy is a good one, however. For even those who follow the Bible take different messages from it and use it to justify a whole lot of inimical practices – and I sometimes think with ELT methodology that what starts out as a clear statement of pedagogic principle becomes ‘biblified’ and then it’s open house on how people want to interpret it.

      Of course, without clear statements of pedagogic principles to shake us all out of our complacency we’d have nothing to talk about.

      And meanwhile teachers get on with it and work away (as so many commentators on this blog do) doing the best they can with what they have got….

      Jeremy

  70. Dear Jeremy
    This is a fascinating debate, and I’d like to throw my hat in the ring.
    I had the privilege of judging, and voting for Scott and Luke’s book for the British Council ELTons last year.
    A recurring theme throughout this discussion seems to be the importance of how a coursebook is used, or how a teacher is able to generate and maintain interest in a materials-light Dogme lesson. Do you have any views on how to visually present and record this language? It would be interesting to see what common ground there is.
    Theories that focus on collocations have profoundly influenced my teaching, most notably in helping me to organise my rather messy whiteboard, and encouraging my students to produce notebooks that don’t consist solely of lists of isolated words with no context or co-text. I would like to hear your opinion on the revision and recycling of language, which coursebooks are so good at doing. What about learner-generated language?
    To me, this is an area that is often neglected. In my own teaching, I have had great successes with language plants. English Raven’s recent post on writing in wavy lines http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/2010/10/global-wave-meets-wandrous-whiteboard.html complements my work, and I envisage coursebooks with a lot of white space to allow learners to record the language they produce in the discussion activities that, as you say, have been a staple for many years. Do you see a way to bridge the gap between the two views?
    David

    • Hi David,

      thanks for your great comments.

      I absolutely agree with the idea of coursbooks with white space for students recording. Or, as we get more and more comfortable with technology mediated lessons, tablets etc with organising software to help students categorize things successfully.

      What students take away from a lesson will depend on how they are constructing their own understanding of what is happening (that is Co-construction? Hmm. I think different people construct reality in different ways actually). I can see great uses for IWB software (and the tablet computers etc) in helping students do summarising work on what has happened.

      It is surely the skill of the teacher to help students organise their summarising thoughts – and to give them space to do it in a way that best suits their own style.

      Jeremy

  71. 190 posts! There has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing about what works and what doesn’t, about what is good and what is bad, about the extent to which learning is co-constructed, the extent to which learning takes place in the here and now, a lot of talk of you and me, and some good old ranting. Perhaps it is time to consider what hasn’t been said, time to play ‘spot the doxa’ – the unspoken, agreed assumptions behind all this discourse?
    The most striking assumption in all the posts, I think, is that what we do in the classroom is all about learning, language learning. But classrooms are complex, socially constructed phenomena, and serve many functions besides learning. The socialisation of young people, the reproduction of ideologies, child-minding, exam training …. It might be nice to believe that language classrooms (outside the private, adult sector) are primarily about language learning, but sadly this isn’t often the case, whatever teachers and students might think.
    Scott & Luke’s DOGME isn’t, I think, just about pedagogical issues, although it often pretends that it is. It contains a fairly transparent socio-political agenda, and Scott’s attacks on grammar teaching and coursebooks have, on occasion in the past, been explicitly political. So rather than questioning whether or not DOGME ‘works’, perhaps we would be better off considering its appropriacy in particular political and social contexts … the extent to which it contributes to or could contribute to its libertarian objectives. And, of course, whether we share those objectives.

    • Hi Philip,

      great to have you along.

      Yes, of course this is socio-political! Classrooms, as you point out, are microcosms of the socio-political reality that surrounds them. or rather, what happens inside a classroom is ALWAYS deeply political and reflects a pervasive ideology not just of learning but also of behaving, hierarchy, structure etc. Why else, after all, do Freire and Illich etc still captivate us with their call for a different emergent view of learning. Thornbury/Meddings fit well into a libertarian view of learning, and it would be very difficult to criticise that viewpoint if you are in any way a ‘liberal’

      I think the problem arises when you have groups working together for an educational purpose which can be specifically identified (yes, a language classroom is much much more than just a LANGUAGE classroom – I entirely agree with that); does an ideological view of what happens sit well with all the individuals in that room? Is the same socio-political reality appropriate for everyone there?

      If you take, as I do, the view that learning is a mixture of discovery, input, individual thinking and study and some collective action leading to insight and development, what kind of a socio-political view is that? Pluralistic? Wishy-washy?

      Teaching is political. So what, then, is everyone’s politics? There IS a danger of elliding approaches like Dogme with libertarian progressive politics. It is an attractive connection to make. Yet within itself it may well include another form of prescriptivism on the part of the teacher –> this is how it’s done, this is how you will do it. But is the TEACHER’S view necessarily the one that should prevail.

      I have no answers to this. It just worries me the whole time!!!

      Jeremy

      • It strikes me that the liberals are the ones who call for principled eclecticism and, more often than not, really just mean cherry picking. I think that dogme, as a movement, has shown far more concern for the principled part than it necessarily has for the eclectic.

        I don’t share your preoccupation with the transfer of the political into the classroom. I don’t think it has to sit well with everyone in the room. In fact, I don’t think it can become “the same socio-political reality” for everyone.

        I go into the classroom (full of young people from immensely rich families) and teach, confident that education is about helping people change their realities. Ultimately, my hope is that by helping people to see that they are the rulers of their own lives, we inch closer towards a sociopolitical setting which is more egalitarian, more democratic and more in keeping with the anarchist principles that attract me most. But IN the classroom, my principal aim isn’t world revolution. After all, most of my students would be up against the wall! My principal aim is to help the students learn without a teacher. To hlp the students question the need for a teacher/a course/a book/a school etc. Because if they can realise that they can learn independently, they are already a bit more free than they were at the start and any learning that they do is likely to be a damn sight more effective.
        Your view of learning is not necessarily wishy-washy or pluralistic. It is, as you present it here, incomplete because you don’t include any information about your view of the purpose of education. If it is learning for the sake of learning, then I would argue that it is a rather elitist view of learning and one that forgets the context in which the majority of the world are obliged to learn. But I don’t think that you are a Learning For The Sake of Learning type of chap.

        A last comment before I hop into my car and pollute the streets of Manchester: no. It is not the teacher’s view which should prevail; nor is it the learner’s view. The view which shoud prevail is the view that wins most support. In my classroom, as far as learning goes, it is often the case that the teacher is the only one with a view and it is inevitable that this becomes the default view of the class. But the teacher then needs to encourage a critical questioning of the view which can be done through evaluations etc. And of course, the learners get the last say: if they don’t conform to that view, they tend to withhold their labour. Homework doesn’t get done, classes aren’t attended, classrooms are full of whispered messages. Hmmm…students as striking heroes…an interesting metaphor that I shall ponder as I sit in queues of traffic.

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  73. Successful change happens when people begin to question their attitude, or change their behaviour and this requires them to adopt new working practices, one tool at a time.

    The reason many coursebooks front a traditional grammar syllabus is simple. It is the syllabus which many teachers, and many students still expect and demand. However, as Jeremy says, there are other things going on in a good coursebook nowadays. And there are other things going on in good classrooms. And as long as people are happy to experiment with different ideas, and stay open to the possibility that they will work, then we are on the road to change. McDonald’s now sells salads, as well as grammar Mcnuggets.

    Antonia

    • Hi Antonia,

      great to have you along!

      Yes, McDonald’s now sells salads. I wouldn’t especially want to eat their burgers, however. But I don’t think grammar is packaged in the way (msnuggets) Scott described. Or rather, those mcnuggets probably have greater nutritional value than the chicken ones!

      But in general I completely agree…question, examine, think, retrench, go forward….a constant cycle of reappraisal. And meanwhile good coursebooks have good side dishes and salads and all sorts of sweets and antipasti (sorry, I’m in Rome!)

      It’s a rich and enjoyable world out there; I don’t want any restrictions!

      Jeremy

      • Ahh…Rome…perhaps rather than chicken mcnuggets we should be thinking of these grammar nuggets as Italian antipasti – smoked salmon parcels filled with crab, spinach and ricotta in filo pastry, tomato slices with basil and mozzarella – a small but valuable part of the feast which is a language lesson, or a coursebook page. Tasty chunks. Much better than swallowing Murphy. Buon Appetito!

  74. There is so much to learn from these comments. I only wish I could “listen to” the dogme debate in a podcast. Maybe you could all record your parts and we could package it together into a nice program that I could listen to while making dinner?

    • Great idea Tara! We could get some good background noises too – e.g. coliseum roaring, swords clashing on swords, booing…
      Or maybe make it into a kind of remix song? With a catchy chorus?
      Just kidding. It would be nice to have this kind of thing in audio, but it would not be as developed I think.

      • Now then, Lindsay, less of the levity if you don’t mind. This is a SERIOUS blog!!!!

        Seriously, Tara’s idea is of course a great one. A properly filmed or recorded Dogme discussion. Methodology audio chunks. Now why didn’t I think of that?

        I have now!

        Jeremy

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  78. To keep the idea of teacher’s predilections and their approriacy in the language classroom, I came across this:

    “Jonathan Shaw’s … (Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand) “Experiential Learning and Epistemological Beliefs: A Case Study of Vietnamese Graduate Students”, also used Schommer’s framework of epistemological beliefs to examine what happens to students’ conceptualizations of teaching and learning when they encounter an educational approach radically different from any in their previous educational experiences. One of Shaw’s conclusions – that students do not necessarily subscribe to the values that define a system in which they succeed, but rather adopt a pragmatic understanding of what is expected by their teachers – raises interesting questions about the relationship between beliefs and achievement.”

    If I have understood this correctly, Shaw says that the teacher can go in with all the best intentions in the world, but the students will not be able to get past their image of the teacher as The Authority Who Must Be Pleased.

    • Yes, and that is a frequent barrier when you get a mix of teaching and learning ideology in a classroom (see my reply to your last comments).

      I am convinced (sorry to repeat myself) that teaching and learning should involve some kind of bargain between the two ‘camps’, where the teacher brings his or her practices into the classroom but modifies them on the basis on where he or she is and on the predilections of the students. That way the encounter becomes a leearning experience for both!

      Thanks for great comments!

      Jeremy

  79. dfogarty :

    It strikes me that the liberals are the ones who call for principled eclecticism and, more often than not, really just mean cherry picking. I think that dogme, as a movement, has shown far more concern for the principled part than it necessarily has for the eclectic.

    I don’t share your preoccupation with the transfer of the political into the classroom. I don’t think it has to sit well with everyone in the room. In fact, I don’t think it can become “the same socio-political reality” for everyone.

    I go into the classroom (full of young people from immensely rich families) and teach, confident that education is about helping people change their realities. Ultimately, my hope is that by helping people to see that they are the rulers of their own lives, we inch closer towards a sociopolitical setting which is more egalitarian, more democratic and more in keeping with the anarchist principles that attract me most. But IN the classroom, my principal aim isn’t world revolution. After all, most of my students would be up against the wall! My principal aim is to help the students learn without a teacher. To hlp the students question the need for a teacher/a course/a book/a school etc. Because if they can realise that they can learn independently, they are already a bit more free than they were at the start and any learning that they do is likely to be a damn sight more effective.
    Your view of learning is not necessarily wishy-washy or pluralistic. It is, as you present it here, incomplete because you don’t include any information about your view of the purpose of education. If it is learning for the sake of learning, then I would argue that it is a rather elitist view of learning and one that forgets the context in which the majority of the world are obliged to learn. But I don’t think that you are a Learning For The Sake of Learning type of chap.

    A last comment before I hop into my car and pollute the streets of Manchester: no. It is not the teacher’s view which should prevail; nor is it the learner’s view. The view which shoud prevail is the view that wins most support. In my classroom, as far as learning goes, it is often the case that the teacher is the only one with a view and it is inevitable that this becomes the default view of the class. But the teacher then needs to encourage a critical questioning of the view which can be done through evaluations etc. And of course, the learners get the last say: if they don’t conform to that view, they tend to withhold their labour. Homework doesn’t get done, classes aren’t attended, classrooms are full of whispered messages. Hmmm…students as striking heroes…an interesting metaphor that I shall ponder as I sit in queues of traffic.

    Thanks Diarmuid for your thoughts, beautifully expressed.

    I am not preoccupied with the ‘political’ nature of classrooms – or rather I should clarify what I mean. Classrooms ARE political spaces always. There is the politics of the relationship between teacher and students, and between students. There is the politics of education itself and the systems that were referred to in an earlier post. There is the politics of learning etc etc etc

    Yes, the teacher usually has more of a theory of learning than the students – because we have thought about it and analysed what we do (well some of us – the ones on this blog for starters!). In that contexct? What I believe?

    I believe that teachers should try and engage students in their views about learning and where possible promote a kind of learning auto-sufficiency that will help them take charge of what they are doing. I should promote that but not expect it to work in all cases. Why? Because some students do not WANT to, or they are happier to have things done for them? Are they bad? I don’t think so. But saying ‘You WILL be autonomous whether you like it or not’ seems to me to make the very same mistakes as ‘You WILL do everything I say in lockstep and drill till you drop’. As I have said elsewhere (and frequently) teaching and learning is a bargain between us and them, between them and them. And that IS political!!

    Which is why although (as I keep saying) I admire Dogme practitioning and theorising, I cannot adopt it as the overriding principle of my methodological life over and above other beliefs that I have. For I do NOT believe that students get nothing out of coursebooks. No, check. Rephrase. I do not believe that it is the case that NO students get ANYTHING from coursebooks. I do NOT believe that it is the case that NO students get anything from transmission teaching – and that for some of them this may well be an ideal way of learning.

    I think my central criticism of ‘Dogme is IT” (remember I am not not not against the Dogme ideal) is a fundamental mix-up (as ever) between input and intake – e.g. because we do it this way it will happen in that way. No. Learners’ brains process what they receive in different ways.

    That’s it, I think.

    Jeremy

  80. Hello Jeremy,

    This one (the D. debate) has certainly run and run, as they say.

    I still think Dogme’s really about the social interaction and perception of roles in the relationship “teacher”, “learner” and “the stuff” (learning to speak English, bricklaying or playing the piano).

    Because this dicussion takes place among teachers, who are paid for teaching; teacher trainers; ELT book writers; and other ELT professionals, in my view it is always too heavily skewed towards the importance of the teacher in the process.

    I don’t think learners really learn because of having or going to lessons.

    Having a teacher or being taught is only a part of it, as John Holt always stressed – or doesn’t even have to be part of it at all.

    I probably said all this the first time around :)

    Hello to the other contributors,

    David

    • Hi David,

      thanks for this comment. You are absolutely right that we tend to talk about ourselves all the time (we = teachers, I mean).

      I have said many times before that my belief is that Dogme teaching is a matter sometimes of teacher style rather than learner substance!

      Nevertheless teachers do have to do SOMETHING, and whilst I entirely subscribe to the idea that getting learners to do it for themselves – provoking the kind of auto-enquiry that leads to genuine learning – is what teachers are for, it may depend to a large extent on the class size, learner type and learning culture in which learning takes place. What is possible in a small group with sophisticated IT resources may not be so easy to accomplish in a large secondary school class. In one of my talks I quote a revered teacher from the UNAM in Mexico (now deceased) who got beginner students to recite the romantic poets perfectly even when they didn’t have an idea what they wwere saying. One of his claims about this is that in the groups where this took place the drop-put rate was significantly lower than in other groups.

      Crazy? Probably. But IF the dropout statistic is/was true then he may have had more influence on their English learning (through engagement etc) than any type of learner-agented activity might have done!

      For my part I think that the best thing that teachers can do is to put themselves in their learners’ shoes, mix that with their own hunches and beliefs about language learning, and see what comes out at the end!

      Jeremy

  81. Hi Jeremy,

    I just wanted to let you know that we picked up this blog entry on ELTNEWS.com, a website for English teachers in Japan. If you like our site it would be great if you could list it on your blog roll. In any case, I hope we will be able meet the next time you are in Japan, as I would very much like to conduct an interview with you, if you have the time.

    Best wishes,

    Russell Willis
    Founder,ELTNEWS.com

    • Hi Russell,

      that’s quite a site you have there. Really impressive.

      Do you run it/own it?

      I’ll get round to listing it in a few days or so. And yes,let’s do an interview!

      Best wishes,

      Jeremy

  82. I wish I had read this long, detailed, and illuminating exchange of views before I ever set foot in an English classroom!

    Thank you for a quick primer on the Dogme philosophy, applications, and limitations. As somebody who has taught many successful and a few unsuccessful Dogme-style classes, I find myself increasingly attracted to quality, learner-focused textbooks that include significant, authentic material.

    Context and purposes matter most. For instance, I currently use “Giving Academic Presentations”, a University of Michigan Press title, in an advanced oral skills class. The international graduate students appreciate the explicit structure, practical tasks, and detailed presentation checklists. Even for the conversation activities, I also find it advantageous to provide worksheets and excerpts from a conversation textbook to both provide vocabulary support and create broader context. Students seem to speak more when more context is provided so you can have a richer, deeper dialogue. Dogme seems to work best in my classrooms in small, unexpected, and isolated teachable moments.

    • Hi Eric,

      how interesting to hear you say that you are attracted to good coursebooks. Me too. But they do have to be good!

      And even the best coursebooks have some ‘dreck’in them (that’s Charles’ word – see below) and I like it!

      I think coursebooks often have more organisational structure (and the context you talk about) than some weaker Dogme-style lessons. Some students find this very reassuring. Others are less keen, perhaps.

      I am certainly a fan of ‘magic moments’- “unexpected and isolated teachable moments” in your words. In one sense I guess they are ‘Dogme’ moments (if we have to use that nomenclature). I have just never bought into that type of teaching as a way of doing everything – as some kind of naturally superior ‘approach’. That’s why I wrote this post originally!!

      Jeremy

  83. I don’t make much of ‘dogme’ as propounded by ST, and think he is very much an ELT dogmatist himself, in his own way or ways. However, the movement goes way beyond his little article and I believe it has much more to do with the way the textbook industry churns out dreck. Effective teachers have to get around that dreck in many ways, and this movement captures a lot of that thinking and teaching.

    • Hi Charles,

      well I think it was a bit mean of me to quote a short article from ten years ago. Things have moved on a lot since then, both in Scott’s thinking, in the work that he and Luke Meddings (http://lukemeddings.posterous.com/)have done, and in the work of many other Dogme enthusiasts. I think Scott in particular (though I should not presume to speak for him) is more relaxed about it all than once was!!)

      I am not sure I would agree 100% with the ‘dreck’ comment though I enjoyed it a lot!(and see Eric’s comments above). But I do agree completely with the idea that many teachers are more creative than ever when they think about how to use coursebooks and supplementary material in the best and most appropriate way for their students. It’s great to watch!

      Jeremy

  84. Dear Jeremy,
    I am writing to ask you something. In September I attended the Fischer Conference in Bucharest and I saw a material in your workshop related to reading. I would like to have it or to have the site where it was from. I am talking about the material in which the cavemen find a book and they try to figure it out what to do with it. It is funny and I want to play it to my students.
    Thank you very much

  85. Textbooks remind me of the first book I bought (with my lunch money) and read on my own, in first grade. It was a Scholastic publication called ‘Stone Soup’. The story remains in my memory. It’s about a guy who travels from village to village and manages to bum a meal of ‘stone soup’ everywhere he goes. He only carries a stone. But he gets the villagers to bring him all sorts of things to put in the pot (because he is going to show them how to make that delicious stone soup). So everyone enjoys a meal of stone soup with him and think him wonderful. Now, is the guy an exploitative parasite? He doesn’t really contribute anything to the soup–maybe a few trace minerals with his stone. On the other hand, he taught the village how to cooperate to make soup together, to share what they had for everyone’s benefit.

    So the good side of textbooks is that they are like that guy’s stone.

    However, once you have learned the tricks and trades of language teaching, we can put that stone in our pocket and get on with the soup.

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  89. To textbook or not to textbook? My first teaching experience in China commenced with “Oh, there is no textbook. Just create your own class.” 3 days later I found myself in front of a class of about 50 students expecting to learn “conversational” English. Since then I have realized that teaching is mostly about contradictions: mixed-level classes that require different approaches, levels of teaching, and tactics; the extreme difficulty of finding good textbooks; the pressures of teaching toward standardized tests (IELTS, etc.) versus encouraging students’ communicative ability; and the conflict between American-style communicative learning vs. Chinese-style rote memorization and recitation. As others have mentioned, a combination of methods in the classroom works best. As a Chinese language learner myself, I constantly evaluate what works for me and why, and what might work better for my students. I learn best n a quiet, introspective, questioning way. Group or interactive methods would not work for me. I also can’t teach a Dogme-style purely experiential class, because I need the safety net of good teaching materials just as my students do. Even when teaching classes where no textbook is provided, I find that students sit with open textbooks in front of them – any book in English will do – as “safety blankets.” I appreciate your post and all the comments; they have clarified many points regarding teaching methods.

  90. I think there’s a strange paradox at operation at the heart of Dogme. Its intention is to be student-centred but the problem is it’s becoming utterly method and teacher-centred. Teachers debate whether or not what they are doing is Dogme or not. They self-identify with the group identity and examine all their teaching in the light of Dogme credentials. I almost never hear anything about the people in the classroom because they seem to have disappeared. How many Dogme teachers ask themselves what it would feel like to be in a Dogme lesson? While there are no doubt those Dogme lessons which work magnificently well there must also be lessons in which students feel uncertainty, frustration and perhaps boredom too.

    The teacher I admire most, is a British secondary teacher called Phil Beadle who won a teacher of the year award back in 2004. His work is based on some very sound pedagogical principles chief among which is an unconditional belief in the potential of all his students and an incredible ability to be utterly authentic as a human being in the classroom. Students seems to like his teaching a lot. I await the Dogme version of Mr Beadle with interest. All I’ve got for now are a few scratchy looking lessons in which teachers write up some stuff on the board in response to what students have said. And I should get excited because … ?

    When you contrast the brilliance of this kind of teacher with Dogme some interesting thoughts arise. The leading teaching practitioners working within educational frameworks are not being brilliant by ditching everything and trying to return to a ‘state of grace’. They are brilliant because they have worked extremely hard on their trade and in Phil Beadle’s case creating their own lessons that are not on the national curriculum but have been designed to reach out to every learner and captivate their imagination and desire to learn. There are no shortcuts to that I’m afraid.

    This is a level of teaching which requires talent, skill, rigour and perhaps the right kind of personality too. In my view, Dogme is light years behind this kind of teaching. Dogme appears to be radical, it’s true but only when it is set alongside the conservative world of traditional ELT approaches out of which it originated. Set alongside Headway, Dogme looks radical. Set alongside nationally recognized, award-winning teaching, it looks like well-intentioned pseudery. Sorry.

    • With respect Jonathan, you seem to be somewhat confused as to what Dogme is; and you also seem to be equating teacher development discussion amongst peers with what goes on in classroom situations, which I very much doubt applies; in my case, it certainly doesn’t.

      Equally, If you think that Dogme is about ditching everything and trying to return to ‘a state of grace’ then you have seriously misunderstood the main thrust of what dogme is… and if all you have found so far are a few scratchy looking lessons, then you need to invest in the book and cast your reading net more widely, as there is a good deal out there to get your teeth into.

      If you are genuinely interested in finding out more about dogme, I’ve pulled together a list of links over on scoop.it that might make be a good starting point, here:

      Dogme ELT on Scoop.it

      Speaking personally, I’d say that the fact that Phil Beadle is a great teacher is unlikely to have any relevance to whether he is or isn’t a dogmeist, although what I will say is that many of the things that you admire him for are very much in tune with dogme principles. In my experience, people with his attitude and approach tend to turn out to be brilliant teachers, regardless. There are many great teachers around the world who work extremely hard at their craft and go the extra mile or two for their students. A handful of them attract attention because they are put forward for awards or write books and front tv series, but most of them just turn up to work every day and just quietly get on with doing the best that they can for their learners.

      Sue

  91. It’s wonderful to see such a long stream of comments where folks are trying to find “truth” and the best for their students.

    I’m going to add something very simple. I thought some of Jonathan’s comments were interesting— how we hear little about students in this debate on dogme. And then I see Sue’s return volley. Impressive as well.

    I recently commented that I wasn’t impressed with IWBs on Gavin D’s blog and was met with smart returns that I hadn’t used them and had been mislead by sales demonstrations. This might be true, but my feeling stays intact that they just don’t seem worth the investment, and that it is a passing trend (or really something that will be improved upon so much so that it will be well beyond what it is today).

    What I’m saying is we often give opinions on something because of hunches, and not so based on personal experience. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, it simply diminishes the weight of our perspective. For this reason, I’m not going to say any more about Dogme until I’ve read the books, and tried it out in class, EVEN if I think it’s this or that, and I love the core themes.

    Cheers to all for their comments, and Jeremy for getting this going (awhile back).

  92. Pingback: There’s no such thing as a dragon! (or Dogme fires up the IH DoS Conference 2012) « Reflective Teaching

  93. This is the perfect site for everyone who wants to understand this topic. You know a whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa). You certainly put a brand new spin on a subject that’s been written about for decades. Great stuff, just great!

  94. Pingback: Playing Word Games Course Books - Letters to a CELTA Graduate

  95. Pingback: Course Books - Letters to a CELTA Graduate

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