I feel as though this post may seem as if I am jumping on the bandwagon. What with all the recent and excellent posts about the ongoing Dogme/unplugged debate, I wonder if there is anything else left to say.
First Chia Suan Chong posted an excellent interview with Dale Coulter http://chiasuanchong.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/devils-advocate-vs-dale-coulter-on-dogme-and-newly-qualified-teachers/ Then Jemma Gardner posted her analysis of what she thinks Dogme is and means. http://unpluggedreflections.wordpress.com/2012/01/07/a-rose-by-any-other-name/ Anthony Gaughn also posted about Dogme. Seeing it as an attitude, first and foremost. http://teachertrainingunplugged.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/on-why-the-unplugged-revolution-will-not-be-televised/ Finally, and if I’ve missed anything I apologise, Neil McMahon posted a thought provoking post to try and find out why so many people seem to be waving the Dogme banner of late; Stating that Dogme is nothing new and we should all just stop getting carried away. http://amuseamuses.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/who-needs-dogme/
So, where to begin? Well, let’s start at the beginning. Dogme for the newly qualified teacher. Is it possible for NQTs to pull off a Dogme lesson straight out of CELTA/Trinity? Will they be able to pick up on the emergent language? Will the lesson just become a conversation?
Above are just some of the questions in the interview with Dale. Another question that I hear and read a lot with regards to Dogme, is the annoying and somewhat tiresome, ” Isn’t Dogme just ‘winging it’ taken to an elevated art form?” (it annoys me just to write it!)
Firstly, Dogme/teaching unplugged is bloody hardwork!! Filling a coursebook-shaped void and teaching the students something useful over a period of 60, 90 or however many minutes with minimal materials leaves you both mentally and physically exhausted, especially if you are a NQT. It certainly keeps you on your toes. Yet, at the same time it can also highlight a NQT’s severe lack of knowledge in areas such as grammar. This can leave the teacher open to criticism and result in a lack of faith from their students, as well as a huge dent in their own personal confidence. Dogme isn’t for the faint-hearted or the lazy. But, I do believe it can be useful and positive for a NQT. It makes you work at your grammar, functional language and all the other aspects of the English language because you know that you won’t have the course-book to fall back onto. You the teacher become the coursebook and the learners decide which particular page they want to learn from. Yes, there is a bigger chance of failure but don’t we learn more from this? Not that I’m suggesting you go out and fail every lesson, but it can lead to a more detailed lesson analysis about where, why and when it went wrong. Despite the greater potential for failure, when a Dogme lesson goes right, there is no better feeling. And, by saying that, I don’t mean that you wouldn’t get the same feeling from doing a lesson from the coursebook, or guided discovery or whatever approach takes you fancy. It’s just something about using a simple question, visual or text and being able to manipulate it and the learner’s input/output into a full on learning megathon! (Mark William Britton, ) For me, a NQT with under a year and a half of experience under my belt, teaching unplugged has been quite the proverbial roller coaster, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I have pushed myself way beyond my comfort zone and at times have wondered why the hell I was putting myself and the students through it all. However, my development as a teacher, observer and, to a certain extent, a learner has been huge and an altogether positive experience.
So am I advocating Dogme for NQTs? Well kind of! Yes because of the reasons above. It will test you, push you and ultimately make you a better teacher, regardless of whether you do it full-time or just every so often. My main advice would be, little by little. I jumped in at the deep end and have just about kept my head above water. This is mostly through hard work and great support from my DoS, Emily Bell, and through the PLN I have built up through using Twitter. What I found really difficult and at times frustrating was the feeling that I was alone in this unplugged world. Yeah, yeah, I know. Anthony Gaughan, Dale Coulter, Oli Beddall and co are all blogging about it. But I only found out about the majority of these blogs after I had started the project. There seemed to be a lack of people writing and documenting their experiences with using Dogme. I had a copy of Teaching Unplugged (Thornbury&Meddings, 2009), which I had practically stolen from my DoS, but other than that no real background info to fall back onto.
While writing this post I had a very short exchange with Ian James (@ij64);
ij64 Ian James
@LukeMeddings) in live unplugged experiment!bit.ly/yOJC25 37 minutes ago Favorite Retweet Reply
Me being silly! But, 4 many (if not most) dogme remains an unproven hypothesis which requires more public dissection 2 convince!
He hits the nail on the head. If Dogme is to be taken seriously and to become a proven approach, solid evidence needs to be built up, more people blogging about their experiences and lessons; good and bad. And, it’s not just the teachers we need to hear from. What about the learners themselves? I did a feedback session recently with my project class and recorded their thoughts and feelings about the course. Combined with their learner diaries, it is clear that they are enjoying the classes and finding the approach enjoyable and learning a great deal. It’s all invaluable evidence, but it’s not enough.
I know that Anthony Gaughan and Jemma Gardner are doing great work in Germany with their teacher training courses. Encouraging the teachers to “Teach from yourself, not from a book. Learn to create lessons from nothing, be critical of materials, the sts are the most important thing in the room.” (Jemma Gardner, 2012) Introducing the concept of teaching unplugged from the very beginning would be extremely helpful to a NQT who wants to continue with this style when they get their first job. The questions are, does this take place anywhere else? Would schools accept it being taught on CELTA courses? Chia Suan Chong is a great advocate of Dogme and gives time to a key factor of the Dogme approach, emergent language. “I don’t explicitly talk about Dogme on my Celta courses but focus a lot on working with emergent language.” (Chia Suan Chong, 2012)
In reality, should we really expect to give time to an approach which is not really established, without hard evidence or research to back it up? Of course not. Which is why it needs to happen now. People need to start stepping up and making it happen. We can debate on twitter, yahoo groups and at conferences until we are blue in the face, but until there is conclusive proof that Dogme is an effective approach it will simply stay in the theatre of twitter and the like and will quite possibly fade out of memory.
2 years from now
Teacher 1: Hey Adam, do you remember when you used to teach dogme.
Me: Yeah, they were the good old days. Exciting, thinking on your feet, pushing boundaries.
Teacher 1: Do want a cup of tea?
Me: Yeah, cheers. No sugar for me.
Teacher 1: What were we talking about?
Me: I can’t remember. Nevermind, couldn’t have been that important.
(A big thank you to Emily Bell for her patience and editing skills)