On the last day of the IATEFL Glasgow conference 2012, Martin Sketchley’s talk on Dogme packed the room with friends, PLNers and hard-core Dogmeticians, alongside experienced teachers who have come to try and understand what this phenomenon called Dogme was all about.
Outlining his research project, Martin explained how he differentiated between his Dogme classes and his coursebook-based lessons, and just like any good presentation on Dogme, the beliefs of the audience members were suitably challenged to the point where a heated discussion between the Dogmeticians, the PLNers, the ‘disbelievers’ and ‘coursebook-lovers’ and Martin himself ensued.
Among the topics discussed was the ever-so important definition of Dogme. Because there has yet to be a methodology book that explicitly defines Dogme and states what it is not, and as most of the discussions on Dogme have mainly existed online in the domain of Yahoo groups, Twitter and the blogosphere, it was not surprising that some of the less tech savvy crowd continued to press for clearer definitions during the talk. Martin, like most other Dogmeticians, turned to the three basic tenets of Dogme to clarify his position, defining Dogme as ‘materials-light’, ‘conversation-driven’ and ‘dealing with language as it emerges’. However, even within these three tenets lay a good dose of ambiguity.
How light exactly is materials light? Does it mean ‘materials-less’? Or does it mean ‘coursebook-less but it’s okay to use some non-coursebook materials’? Does conversation-driven necessarily mean fluency-focussed? Or could conversations lead to a substantial focus on accuracy as we deal with the emergent language? How does one deal with the language as it emerges? If published ELT materials had ready made lexicogrammar sections that helped learners to understand and practice these language systems, then why not use them?
In and amongst discussions about how Dogme best suits the way we know language is acquired, i.e. in a non-linear, feedback sensitive manner, as opposed to the linear presentation and practice of ‘Grammar MacNuggets’, one member of the audience surmises the discussion by stating that she had been teaching for a long time and had always adapted the materials and the coursebooks she came across, without following any of them religiously, and asked if she had been doing Dogme all these years. If so, then what was so new about Dogme? Again, the age-old question of ‘Is Dogme simply good teaching?’ resounded in everyone’s minds as the talk came to an end.
Chia Suan Chong is a General English and Business teacher and teacher trainer, with a degree in Communication Studies (Broadcast and Electronic Media) and an MA in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching from King’s College London.
A self-confessed conference addict, she spends a lot of her time tweeting (@chiasuan), Skyping, and writing. You can find out more about her on her blogsite: http://chiasuanchong.com