The Dogme Challenge: Introduction

The other day, Jeremy Harmer wrote the following on Andrew Pickle's blog post:

Plug Face - Day 3/365
Nice lesson. Good use of vocabulary and students’ imagination.
Course I don’t want to rile Luke and Scott (again!!) ,but is it Dogme, really? If people were doing this kind of thing before the Swedish film makers published their manifesto, can you still give it that name?
But it does show what can be done successfully with very little.

I've seen this sort of comment before, a lot.  And it's not that Jeremy is wrong, that this sort of "lesson" even with the google-fight (post-manifesto) hasn't been done before, it's that who cares?   If you're teaching dogmeically then there will always be someone, somewhere out there who wants to sagely say, that dogme existed before dogme existed.


it did.

And before the i-phone, smartphones were a-plenty (as were tablets before the i-pad and portable mp3 music devices before the i-pod).  

Before Crocs, garden shoes existed.  Everywhere, only they were green and there weren't a clog with holes nor made of foam and plastic. 

The Kalinago populated and ruled the Caribbean before it was ever named the West of India.
Sunglasses before Ray-bans.
Vacumn cleaners before Hoover.
Anti-Art before Dadaism.

The BRAND name of a thing is not the thing.   Distracts but also adds.  I mean an i-phone is an i-phone after all.  

But this is hardly the point, whether or not (sigh) Dogme is an approach or a methodology or a style or a fad or the fool's way out.... it actually doesn't matter what the thing is called, it was named so by Thornbury  in an apparently uncharacteristic rant against the world of ELT but like all things in life, once a thing has a name it has a life.

Can you imagine students actually giving a crap about what you call the way you teach?   

I think the main point for them is whether or not they walked out of their lessons with you with a higher level of English communicative skills than when they walked in.  And that is the singular goal of conversation-driven teaching.

Andrew Pickles shared with us a great lesson plan for a lesson which no doubt didn't have a plan until he wrote it down and I understand this completely - I had the same problem, recently, when writing a case-study based on a 20 week course with five groups which I'd done in a mix of dogme and dogme 2.0 - the question of how on earth could I lesson-plan backwards in order to extract and tell what occured, what emerged in my classes..?   The mind boggles but I did do it (more on that later).

The thing is that to share the "experience" of dogme sometimes you've got to share the experience.

So, anyway, folks I have an idea...

From tomorrow and every Thursday for the next 10 weeks, I am going to lay down a challenge where we will attempt together to take a deeper look into some of the specific points Meddings and Thornbury have been trying to teach us through their book Teaching Unplugged.  

Perhaps it'll turn into yet another polemic discussion akin to why Acer is better than Apple (any day, hands down) or maybe this time instead we'll focus: unravel the knots, discover the gold, think about what separates a dogme class from a non dogme class, what really matters in the real classroom and teaching practice rather than mere theories of what it couldn't be before it had a brand and we'll attempt to challenge ourselves to teach in ways which are ever more student-centered, regardless of the name(s) we want to use.

You are a blogger:
After each challenge, write a blog post answering the question(s) I put forth.  Then you can  DM or email me (see the side bar) with the specific URL to your own blog post(s) or link back here (the trackback will show up at the bottom of the post) so that we can all travel on to your work in a so-called "dogme blog ring." 
I'll try to provide you with instructions of who to link on to (who was before and after you) but you can also keep track of this through the 'sphere and 'verse.

You are not a blogger but you are part of a forum/ ELT discussion group of any description:
Take my question into your forum and ask your fellow members what they think about each question.   Email me a link to the forum or a summary of what's been said so that we can post responses anonymously (if you/they want to).

You are not a blogger and you don't participate in groups:
Answer the question posed in each post, either in the comments of each blog challenge (if you feel like it) and then visit the blog posts on this subject within the 'sphere and agree or disagree with what the bloggers have written!

Sounds fun?

Talk to you tomorrow,

Blog posts on teaching Dogme
The dogma of Dogme
My own musings and guest-posts from other bloggers
Dogme2.0-style teaching tips

 Other related
Sue Lyon-Jones on Ken Wilson, on teaching the unteachable
Emma Herrod, Failing to plan is planning to fail?
Darren Elliot, an interview with Scott Thornbury

and of course, D is for Dogme by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings, Dogme and Identity

Scott Thornbury on the Myths of Dogme

Co-construction? #1 
It's emergent? #2
The scaffolding #3
Being Light #4 
The Learners' Voice #5
NNESTs vs NESTs #6

ELTchat 20 October 2010
Merchandising gimmicks for dogme teachers by Lindsay Clandfield
And...a little light relief or inspiration

4 Responses to “The Dogme Challenge: Introduction”

  • Lindsay Clandfield says:
    October 07, 2010

    Sounds like fun, but is Acer really better than Apple??? Ok ok, not the place for that conversation but I need to find out more about that.

    Can't guarantee that I will always be able to do a blog post response but will engage when I can!

    October 07, 2010

    :-) always loved a computer maker which doesn't release ahead of schedule, create machines which you have to jailbreak, does a bit more with their technology than create hype with bigger faster flashier and dashier adjectives (but still do the flash and the dash...)

  • Hugh Graham-Marr says:
    October 08, 2010

    Thanks, Karenne, for the link. Not so sure about the Acer/Apple and the other analogies but agree (I think) with the substance of your post... (an aside but now not a good time to be talking to members of our office about Apple).

    Anyway, re. questions of who/what/when, the important thing is that Scott and Luke gave a name to the thing and have been out there advocating what is often a great approach to the classroom and something that gets you thinking about your teaching in a way that has resonance with all your teaching moments. This approach to teaching would never be out there with anything near the impact is has without Scott and the Dogme group. So IMO it's entirely right to associate Dogme with this.

    October 08, 2010


    I often hear some of the methodology authors being really rather peeved that ST and LM get credit for this "brand" development and their arguments usually center around whether or not it is an adaptation of methodology - if it's an approach or not, if it is CLT suped-up, blah...blah...but the basic fact is this: it pulled 1000 of us teachers located in many parts of the world and gave us the chance to pool our knowledge together :)


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