Responding to my article, Not Unit 5!, Rob Lewis posted a great question that links to a current thread on the dogme discussion group.

Responding to my article, Not Unit 5!, Rob Lewis posted a great question that links to a current thread on the dogme discussion group

Rob asked what my own thoughts were on the idea of a dogme coursebook. Well, it would need to 'fit' with some of the principles that lie at the heart of dogme: the idea that learning is locally situated, for example, and co-constructed by the people in the room.

Can a coursebook be locally situated – rooted in the lives of the participants and the context in which they live? Yes, in theory – although the economies of scale involved in traditional print publishing make this impractical in all but the largest ‘local’ (as opposed to global) markets. 

E-publishing suggests a potential alternative, as different versions could be tailored to local markets – a framework coursebook might even be franchised to local publishers who would supply the content. But it would have to be very local to come close to the reality of an unplugged classroom where interaction is rooted in (but not confined to) the lives of the people in the room.

Can a coursebook support co-constructed learning – the idea that we create knowledge together, rather it being delivered by a teacher (often working in tandem with a coursebook)? Yes, in principle. But it would almost need to 'unmake' itself as the units went by, perhaps starting with a unit of conventional coursebook material and then gradually showing how the participants might start to create their own content. The last unit would be completely blank! 

If we’re changing the paradigm, however, why would we still want to think in terms of units? Surely we need some other model to capture the flow of language and content in an unplugged class? And aren’t e-portfolios – or their paper equivalents, depending on resources – a more fruitful avenue to explore?

Finally, as well as embodying ideas about teaching and learning, coursebooks represent a business model. The idea of selling something that had increasingly less content from unit to unit, page to page, could be a very hard 'sell' indeed.

Ultimately, it strikes me that a dogme 'coursebook' would be so different to a regular coursebook as to render the term meaningless. Interestingly – and people are still posting to the dogme group as I write this – the discussion there seems to have come full circle, too. No one can quite 'see' it.

I know how they feel. Because the dogme 'coursebook' as I envisage it would gently, gradually but inevitably self-destruct.

What do people here think? Can you 'see' a dogme coursebook? And if so, what does it look like?


The  current thread on the dogme discussion group seems very lively still.I wonder indeed, Luke, if there is a "real" need for a Dogme coursebook and if there is, where does it come from?I think that any coursebook can be used in a Dogme approach as long as it doesn't become the recipe for a lesson or series of lesson, but a resource that can be used when it fits the learners' needs and interests.I am "guilty" of having published coursebooks myself, but the last thing I've ever wanted is teachers to teach "by the book".  

Most teachers would rely on a book to ease their teaching. and most publishers would use their CLICHE "A book is just a tool, teachers are the ones who count" just to keep selling their material. Nevertheless, I do wonder "Is it possible to get rid of meaneless books to teach a language. It certainly appears so. Experience tells me that it can be done. I donn't mean to be the one who destroys the paradigm, but books are over-rated. Local to become global should not be just another cliche, it should really be the opportunity to start meaningful taching in our communities. Once we know everything about ourselves and what surrounds us, then we'll star being Global. as the head of my own language centre, that is what I have been implementing. I do have to say I'm guilty of using the material provided on internet. I do however, grade it to my needs. So the real question is? How willingful are we to try it????

Hi Bruno, many thanks for this. That thread is certainly still going strong - it's almost as if we've got round the idea of a 'coursebook' and are now exploring other possibilities along the lines of your 'resource that can be used when it fits the learners' needs and interests.' I found Fiona's comment this morning particularly interesting. I don't think anyone should feel 'guilty' for publishing or writing coursebooks - many people on the dogme group have done this, after all. (I know you're joking, but I sometimes think people imagine we think like this!) We're all looking for the best ways - maybe not to 'teach', but to support learning. And that shift in emphasis is one that might be handy when it comes to thinking about the role a dogme resource could provide. 'Teaching by the book' does seem to be something that trainers and teacher managers are frustrated by - in fact I wrote about 'Generation H' here!Luke 

Some thoughts to the questions raised about a potential dogme coursebook.Why do we teach / Why do students learn a foreign language? If I answer this question for myself I think that the only valid approach to language teaching should be the dogme approach in an international environment where language is used for real purposes in a meaningful way. A dogme coursebook therefore would be a collection of self-writing books of international learner communities. As such it would be necessarily electronic. I am not sure that it is something new because there are several projects offering a framework for this kind of co-operation, however, the use and methodology may not be extensively developed and teachers may not be trained.Another thing that follows from the purpose of language teaching is that with language teaching we teach culture as well. The question is which culture? And then: How can it be locally situated? For me the answer is again an international learner group.I don't know whether it is a special Hungarian experience or not, but generally it is more and more difficult to ensure that learning takes place in any subject areas if students cannot see the purpose, relevance and value of the things taught. Language teaching is not different. And I have a feeling that change of paradigm is needed in the education as a whole and language teaching methodology have always been a step forward.

I reread your Generation H piece and especially liked your conclusion about Dogme:" It is fundamentally pragmatic, concerned with the substance and the detail of everyday life and language."It is especially that view - which I share, Luke - which makes me believe that there is no need for a Dogme coursebook.If we are looking for another concept, than I'd think in the direction of a kind of a portal site, or database site where teachers can post (links to) interesting and tested materials that could work in other classrooms.By the way, I'm not ashamed about the coursebook series I have written. I have felt embarrassment about what I saw people do with them. 

I find I've been teaching Dogme for many years, I just didn't have that title in my head. And I think I have something that's as near to a Dogme classbook as you could/could want to get. I can share a sample of it with you if you like, but following here is a description of the technique I use to winkle out more speaking from students and more sharing of their experiences and ideas! Richard Hillman Bell Worldwide Actually, the technique is itself a re-treading of a well-trodden path, but this does not diminish its excitement! Furthermore, there is minimal gap-filling involved!   Here’s what is involved in what I like to call ‘Chat Show Game Show’:   The class are divided into two, or three, pairs or groups, and they are given a set of questions, or sentence stems, practising the target language.  The language is given to them, and their job is to come up with an interesting answer or sentence ending. Then comes the competition stage where they share their answers and the teacher gives points according to how ‘interesting’ the answers are. The technique can be used for General English, CPE level, pre-intermediate level, EAP, ESP, Business English, and for practising grammar, vocabulary, collocations, colligations, and many other things! For example, when practising future in the past, the students would be given a set of sentence stems such as: ‘The girl saw that the man was going to throw himself off the bridge and...’ .The group with the most interesting sentence completion would get most points. Or a question from a vocabulary worksheet: ‘Name 2 things that deteriorate in us as we get older’ could lead to a lot of different interesting answers.   How about the awarding of points? Take a question like ‘Who’s the most inspirational person you’ve ever met?’  Obviously this is a personalised question, so each group would nominate the student from their group with the most interesting answer.   One group might say that one of them has met a famous celebrity. That’s definitely worth points. Or their answer could be their religious leader. That’s a serious answer meriting an award of a serious number of points. Then again, another group might say they’ve never met anyone particularly interesting. They can be given points for having high standards and waiting until someone really good comes along. Or a student from another group might say that their father is the most interesting person they’ve met. For personalising their answer, and for having an inspiring father, they should definitely get a lot of points. Yet another answer might be that their EFL teacher is the most interesting person they’ve met. Of course, if this group are already leading in the competition, you might want to deduct points for deliberately flattering the teacher, to put it politely. Alternatively, they might win the jackpot and get massive bonus points!   Furthermore, lots of extra points should be available for students who justify their answer particularly well, or make cogent objections about the teacher’s awarding of points; equally, for correcting another group’s answer, or for answering any follow-up questions that occur to the teacher.     Good Points

  • Ÿ  It’s fun!
  • Ÿ  Students do a lot of speaking
  • Ÿ  They’re combining this speaking with learning and consolidating vocabulary or grammar points, thus making the speaking all the more meaningful and useful
  • Ÿ  The students are engaging intellectually and emotionally with the target language points, thus making learning very effective
  • Ÿ  In fact, students become very creative, and get to play with the language, and have their affective barriers lowered!
  • Ÿ  It extends the students’ facility with how these language items can be used, as they get the chance to test out what works and what doesn’t work
  • Ÿ  Most of the exercises are not of a strictly right or wrong nature, so alternative answers can be accepted, and it’s more of a collaborative comparing of answers. However, the team can’t get their point for that answer until they use the language item correctly, which aids accuracy (in this they can be helped by the teacher, or by other groups for points, as much as is necessary). It takes away some of the pressure of course book-style exercises where the weaker students will only get 60% of the answers correct, if they’re lucky! Here, they can get points for every answer!

An alternative to this procedure is to dispense with the points and the game show, and just have a sharing of the groups’ answers. This makes the activity quicker, acts as a variation if you’ve recently had a game show, and also lends itself better to other types of topics and questions. Either way it’s fun, involves lots of speaking, and is a very useful practice of the target language.

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