Saturday, February 18, 2012

eBook Review - Dogme ELT: Promoting Authentic Interaction in ELT

Dogme ELT: Promoting Authentic Interaction in ELT (2012), a FREE just-published eBook by Martin Sketchley (click here to see it on his blog), is a quick guide to the theory and practice of Dogme ELT in the classroom, as well as a brief summary of the results of Sketchley's survey research on the application of and attitudes towards this language teaching approach/method/attitude.

In Chapter One, Back to the Basics, Sketchley gives an introduction to Dogme ELT. Dogme ELT is a response to the current situation of language teaching materials, in which “much of the material that is developed by many publishers focus[es] on communication but not on authentic conversation.” He then outlines and explains the three key principles of Dogme ELT: Conversation Driven, Emergent Language, and Materials Light. The chapter ends with a recorded Dogme lesson, which provides a nice summary to the explanation. Chapter Two, Incorporating Dogme ELT into the Classroom, offers ten material-light, lesson activities in the style of Dogme ELT. The lessons include information about the level of the students, suggested words/phrases, and notes about the proper setting. My favorites were lessons three and four (“My Weekend” and “What Happened Next?”). In the last chapter, Classroom Best Practice of Dogme ELT (sic), Sketchley discusses the similarity of Dogme ELT as described by Meddings and Thornbury in Teaching Unplugged (2009) to other approaches/attitudes/methods that have been suggested in the past. Next, he discusses the results of his survey research about the three key principles and teacher and students attitudes. Sketchley concludes the eBook with a call to a balanced approach to teaching, noting that it “would offer EFL teachers the best of both worlds: the prospect of structured lessons or the opportunity to incorporate more exploratory or experimental teaching techniques, dependent upon classroom expectations” (22).

As with any teaching method/approach/attitude, Dogme ELT inspires a lot of criticism for its anti-establishment position and its non-traditional view of all learning materials. While many classroom materials (and teaching activities!) neither improve teaching nor promote authentic language, the (nearly) complete lack of materials called for by some “Dogme-purists” can be just as negative for teaching and learning. Sketchley takes a middle-ground approach to this problem, and by suggesting the Balanced Approach, he creates a bridge to Dogme for many who would have otherwise been unlikely to try it. I also appreciate that Sketchley brings some of the first actual research content into the Dogme ELT field with his applications and attitudes survey. As Dogme is a relatively new teaching trend, there is not an abundance of available research. He does a nice job of summarizing the results of the research without boring the practically-minded reader.

Despite my interest in the Dogme ELT approach, I would like to see this eBook developed into a cleaner, more detailed introduction to the Balanced Approach that Sketchley describes at the end. The combination of the Dogme ELT history, the practical applications, and the research summary makes this eBook a beautiful foundation for a call that could make Dogme ELT accessible to teachers who otherwise would not be willing to try it.

However, even with out that, this eBook is concise, instructive, and informative. It is a helpful resource for the classroom teacher who is interested in experimenting with Dogme ELT. It provides both a basic theoretical foundation and a practical guide to applying the theory, and I recommend it as a starting point on the path to more authentic and communicative teaching.