Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Two questions about Dogme that kind of dog me.

Today, I watched Daniel’s interview with Scott Thornbury, which I thought was great, by the way, but it brought up some more questions, especially regarding materials and assessment.


I know that one aspect of Dogme from what I’ve read so far is the provision of materials by students. However, from my own experience students tend not to do what you ask them to do or perhaps they forget, but I remember one time a few years ago, I had asked students to bring their favorite possession to talk about for the next class. Unfortunately, only a handful of students out of a class around 25 or so brought something, which of course resulted in students presenting things such as an eraser, or other school supplies, if my memory serves me well; I could be wrong though as I said this was a few years back. I think some students did use an article of clothing which was OK, but it would have been nice if they had brought something that they chose after careful consideration. I was also probably hoping that if they had brought something they would have prepared some of the English that they would need, although from what I gather, Dogme seems to focus on spontaneous English. Again, I could be wrong. The question then is what can a teacher do in order to be confident that when asked, students bring the necessary materials? Should I dock points if they come unprepared? But is that the best solution? Perhaps, everyone has already experienced the above situation and perhaps it can never be avoided especially in large classrooms, so maybe I shouldn’t lose any sleep over it.


The second concern involves assessment. My main sources of assessment and evaluation come from quizzes, midterm and final exams, attendance, participation and in-class activities usually in the form of worksheets that I collect to mark. Sometimes I also have presentations. Now, I remember in Daniel’s interview that Scott first replied ‘None’ to his question about what kind of testing should be used, but then went on to mention different testing methods, integrative, holistic, skills and how that it was difficult to do, but not impossible, with such tests as the Cambridge proficiency test being available. As I am always curious about how other teachers assess/evaluate their students, I started to think, ‘Well, how would one really evaluate/assess students in such a class?’ Can tests still be incorporated in such a method such as Dogme ELT, or would class-by-class evaluations based on presentations and participation be used, or would portfolios be possible? I would assume that the evaluation would be somewhat subjective, but it would be interesting to hear about other teachers’ evaluation schemes. I’m starting to think that I should buy Scott’s book, Teaching Unplugged, but with all the reading I have to do, especially now that I am in grad school, I am not sure if I would have the time, and besides, what better way to learn about such a method than discussing it with one’s peers, right?


  1. That's Darren, right ; P

    I'd say that students and teachers alike are locked into a system, which dogme messes with. It takes time to get into a new way of thinking. If the teacher is used to giving out all the materials and controlling the direction and content of the lesson, then it is scary to let go (and scary for the students to pick up). "What if they don't bring anything? What if they don't have anything to say?" And of course, the first time you try it, they probably won't. But don't give up too easily! If they find themselves describing an eraser for the third week in a row, they might start looking for something more interesting themselves ; D

    Having said that, I don't necessarily agree with Scott's answer to the question about an optimum dogme context. I think back to my class with six art postgrads at a UK university, or my one-to-one classes with Japanese executives preparing for overseas trips, and I think how much of the content came from the learners. Indeed, to have taught those classes without any hint of dogme-ism would have been inappropriate. But if you want the opposite of a perfect dogme context, first year required English courses with low level learners at a Japanese university is it. It isn't all or nothing, though, and a little more flexibility, a little more leeway, can work it's way into the class here and there. We all have outside obligations to attend to, like tests, but these can be made more dogme.

    You shouldn't do it because you feel obliged to, however. The most difficult teaching experiences come from incongruency - when we mis-fit our teaching style and our core beliefs. It seems to me that you like well planned and organised lessons, that's no bad thing. I would urge you to read Scott (and Luke's) book though - you can get through it in an afternoon, and they have a wonderful knack of crystalizing the essence of some very complex readings. It would be a good grounding for your graduate studies.

  2. Hi eisensei,
    I can't help you much with Dogme, since I'm more or less in your position :) but you might try posting it at the Dogme group here


    I know kalinago posted a previous query of yours there.

    I too have a problem about the apparent insubstantiality of dogme: students like having something to keep and file: How might a dogmetist might keep good notes or a class record or get the students to do it?

  3. Hi Alanamazing,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard about the yahoo Dogme group, but haven’t gotten around to joining yet, but now that you’ve reminded me, I think I’ll do it today.

    I also share the same concerns, and I’m sure the forum and the book Teaching Unplugged will help, although as I wrote yesterday, a demonstration with a large, homogenous class would be perhaps the most helpful. Also, as I’ve heard Darren and Karenne say, Dogme ELT doesn’t have to be THE lesson, but it can be incorporated, although again, a demonstration would be nice. By the way, have you considered using or have you used Dogme ELT, and if you don’t mind me asking, where do you teach?