Scott Thornbury on the Dogme of Teaching

[quote=“Scott Thornbury”]Is Dogme a dogma? No, I hope not. I think, rather, that Dogme is more like a state of mind, a stance, that inevitably permeates all of one’s classroom practice and one which will (must) adapt to local conditions. In that sense it is not a dogma. It may even be compatible with a coursebook. But the principle - or belief - that must hold true is the foregrounding of the “inner life” of the learner - and teacher for that matter. And if there are rules, they are not so much prescriptive as facilitative: as Lars von Trier said in an interview: “That’s the whole point of these rules - they are a tool to be used freely”.

  1. Teaching should be done using only the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom - i.e. themselves - and whatever happens to be in the classroom. If a particular piece of material is necessary for the lesson, a location must be chosen where that material is to be found (e.g. library, resource centre, bar, students’ club

I looked at the links… thought provoking, I must say. It’s good to be reminded of various teaching approaches and be challenged to make the classes meaningful to the students. I don’t agree that there is only one right method in teaching, but I do agree that we can always use a reminder to be sure that we are truly addressing our students needs and learning styles.

I also checked this out and when I did, it was kind of a revelation to me. Kind of like the first time I read the Communist Manifesto or Chomsky’s political writings or even Maria Montessori on teaching kids. But of course it didn’t last.

The problem with his approach (and Montessori IMO) is that it’s too idealistic. This approach would work great with very motivated/highly intelligent students. But how many kids are going to generate topics or tell the teacher how they want to be evaluated? This doesn’t work even with high school kids IMO and experience.

And if “dogme isn’t a dogma” then why did he list the ten commandments of dogme?

I thought I’d update this thread a little. There’s a new book, Teaching Unplugged, written by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings which gives an overview of the Dogme approach along with around 100 recipes for Dogme teaching. I’ve read the book a couple of times, and see a lot of useful, practical ideas. The authors have left out the original ten commandments, which some have ridiculed. In the book’s introduction, the authors tell about the three major principles of Dogme: language learning that is conversation-driven, materials-light, and focused on emergent language. Follow the link above to read more about the book on the publisher’s website.

Also, here’s a Youtube clip with the authors (the sound is a little noisy, but worth the effort):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyMSeuvShJo

And here are a couple of reviews:

http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/2009/07/back-to-the-magic-of-teaching-unplugged-part-1.html

http://kalinago.blogspot.com/2009/05/dogma-of-dogme.html

I agree that it is important to use activities that appeal to different learning styles such as auditory, visual, kinesthetic learners, etc.

The big problem is addressing students needs. Sometimes it is difficult to meet students needs when they really don’t have a need to learn English or their only need is to pass the university entrance exam.

One major problem is how can Taiwanese children really see the the use of learning English? They do not use it in their daily lives. Excluding some reach people who take their children abroad, one major problem is that English does not have any real world use for Taiwanese under 18 years old.

I believe the late Carneign Mellon professor Randy Pausch who died of cancer said it well, Often the best teaching method is tricking your students into learning what you want them to learn through other means. This is not the exact quote. I no longer have that book. Thus often the best way to teach English is doing interesting things to get students to learn English without realizing they are learning what you want them to learn.

steelersman, I agree with you. I’ve found that approaches such as Dogme, task based learning, and the communicative approach work best with highly motivated students. I’ve had less success with students who are not interested in learning English. Pair work and group work activities are only effective if students do them.

Perhaps this could be a whole new thread, maybe even a sticky - methods, tips and techniques for teaching students with low motivation/lack of interest in learning English. Teachers on this forum could share their success stories (or partial success stories). How did you increase their motivation? Or, how did you do the best you could with a class that showed zero interest the whole time?

Motivation is absolutely key, of course. Without motivation of some sort, little or no acquisition happens. And of course frequently the only motivation is to pass some exam or other, not to actually learn the language because of some communication need.

And then they ask why the Taiwanese can’t speak English despite studying it for 6-10 years. And then they insist on all sorts of new gatekeeping proficiency tests, so that the students become even more test focused, and even less likely to learn communicative English, than they were in the first place. Proficiency tests may work for Europeans, but not for Asians, not at all; quite pointless.

Tricking the students into learning without realizing is probably the way ahead. Content-based instruction: give them interesting content so they’re learning something through the language, rather than learning about the language. But then you have to deal with the “Teacher, is this English class or music/art/computer class?” flak. Also, they then claim in the all-important surveys that they haven’t been “taught” enough.

[quote]
Tricking the students into learning without realizing is probably the way ahead. Content-based instruction: give them interesting content so they’re learning something through the language, rather than learning about the language. But then you have to deal with the “Teacher, is this English class or music/art/computer class?” flak. Also, they then claim in the all-important surveys that they haven’t been “taught” enough[/quote]

One of the buxibans with the students who could speak English the best mainly focused on discussing interesting children’s books with their students.

Furthermore, I believe an approach in which reading and discussion is used is much more successful then the books which are use a Kid Castle, HESS, and other buxibans.

didn’t scott thornbury write all those “teach…” books?

[quote=“smithsgj”]Motivation is absolutely key, of course. Without motivation of some sort, little or no acquisition happens. And of course frequently the only motivation is to pass some exam or other, not to actually learn the language because of some communication need.

And then they ask why the Taiwanese can’t speak English despite studying it for 6-10 years. And then they insist on all sorts of new gatekeeping proficiency tests, so that the students become even more test focused, and even less likely to learn communicative English, than they were in the first place. Proficiency tests may work for Europeans, but not for Asians, not at all; quite pointless.

Tricking the students into learning without realizing is probably the way ahead. Content-based instruction: give them interesting content so they’re learning something through the language, rather than learning about the language. But then you have to deal with the “Teacher, is this English class or music/art/computer class?” flak. Also, they then claim in the all-important surveys that they haven’t been “taught” enough.[/quote]

While I don’t disagree with your recommendation for treatment, I do strongly disagree with your diagnosis of the problem.

Motivation is way overrated as a predictor of final proficiency attainment. There are many Asians who achieve an extremely high level of proficiency. The majority of them live in Singapore, Hong Kong and The Philippines. The important difference between English proficient Singaporean Chinese and Taiwanese students would not be their level of language learner motivation. It would not even be their level of instrumental motivation, since most of the students we’re talking about started learning English at a young age.

Probably most people in the world are naturally bi- or multilingual, as are most Taiwanese. I have no meaningful data on this, but I think it would be hard to argue that the most meaningful difference between between the groups I’m talking about is just sheer amount of high quality input.

I have said this many times; there is no reason to believe the final English proficiency attainment of most Taiwanese is not reasonable given the amount and quality of input they have to deal with. I have always said that the level of proficiency attainment here isn’t much worse - and certainly not meaningfully worse - than most places where English is taught as a foreign language - but here I do have data if you want to see it.

Oh… interesting. We’ve had a lot of discussions on this kind of topic before, Scott, but perhaps not specifically on motivation. I’m slightly taken aback by your post.

In sg, ph and to a lesser extent hk, there are large numbers of non-immigrant native English speakers. English has an official status. Many kids are educated in English and talk English at home. There are English TV channels. In Singapore and the Phils English is used between locals who are members of different linguistic groups.

You must be conceding this point, otherwise what is the input that you say living in these states offers that Taiwan lacks?

Why does the obvious importance of English for daily life in the 3 states not count as a motivation force?

(Your sig line says your name is Scott Sommer by the way) :smiley:

Lindsay Clandfield has posted this video, a tribute to Scott Thornbury and DOGME:

Any Given Dogme - Tribute to S.Thornbury & DogmeELT
http://tiny.cc/dogmeST

It captures the main concepts of Dogme, while being extremely funny. Enjoy!