Monday, January 9, 2012

Exploring Dogme ELT / Teaching Unplugged

This is the first in a series of entries about Dogme ELT / Teaching Unplugged. More to come. 

Recently, I have been very intrigued by the concept of Dogme ELT, a.k.a. Teaching Unplugged (as I mentioned in a previous blog entry). I saw the term floating around a few times in the Twitter world (follow me!), but it wasn't until I read MartinSketchley's dissertation summary that I started to develop an idea of what it was.

So, with my interest piqued, I read some more. The obvious place to start would have been the “master plan” of Dogme ELT, Teaching Unplugged. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of it, yet. Even more unfortunate, in my opinion, is the lack of research and writing in academic journals regarding Dogme/Teaching Unplugged (I will call it just "Dogme ELT" from here on, for simplicity). However, there is a wealth of information available in the blogosphere, and that is where I went.

What is it?

One of the first things I noticed in my reading was a sense of conflict surrounding the idea of Dogme ELT. The biggest complaint was a feeling that some practitioners of Dogme are self-righteous and ...if you will... “Dogmatic.” I imagine that this conflict stems from a varied interpretation of what Dogme ELT is – not what its principles and ideas are, but what, exactly, its function in pedagogy is. Is it a new method? Is it an approach? Jemma Gardner at Unplugged Reflections calls it both a method and an attitude; it's a method because it defines a way to teach, and it's an attitude because it brings a different way of thinking to the teacher. In the comments of Jemma's article, Adam Simpson likens Dogme ELT to a “lens through which to view any particular methodological approach: you can have more or less control based on what you perceive your role to be." In an article at TeachingEnglish.Org, Jo Bertrand calls it a “teaching philosophy”.

Whatever you call it, the point still exists: the concept is there to enable better teaching--the teaching is not supposed to enable a better concept. As Jemma Gardner pointed out in the above-mentioned article
Surely, just as a teacher using Desuggestopedia may decide not to use posters on the wall that make the room conducive to that method’s beliefs about learning, a Dogmetician can enter the room with some paper once in a while? If not, why not? Who says?...Shouldn’t we be intent on providing the best we can for our students, in their context, with their needs, rather than jumping around pigeon-holing things to the point that good teachers become worried about what it is they are doing?
Worrying too much about the label defeats the purpose of trying to implement any new teaching strategy. Maybe the best way to approach Dogme ELT is to watch and learn, as this comment points out:
observing and joining the debate has made me a better teacher. I am now happy to go with the flow in class whether it is what was intended beforehand or not and see such unplugged moments as learning opportunities rather than distracting tangents.