This is Scott Thornbury's second article for TeachingEnglish.

The postmethod condition

The 'postmethod condition' (Kumaravadivelu 2003; Kumaravadivelu 2006) that I described in my previous article, and its rejection of top-down, one-size-fits-all solutions, has suggested, to some scholars, the need for a more socially responsible, even transformative, pedagogy. Pennycook (1989), for example, argues that methods are never “disinterested”, but rather instantiate relations of power: “Method is a prescriptive concept that articulates a positivist, progressivist, and patriarchal understanding of teaching” (p. 589). He urges that “teachers start to oppose those forms of knowledge that are being thrust upon them under the guise of scientific objectivity” (p. 612). Canagarajah (1999), among others, has pointed out how imported materials and methods enshrine postcolonial values, reinforcing the dominance of the Western, more technologically advanced “center” over the “periphery”.

Using locally produced materials might be one way of responding to the threat; another might be for local teachers “to adopt creative and critical instructional practices in order to develop pedagogies suitable for their communities” (p. 122).  And Holliday (1994; 2005) has argued that methodological prescriptions generated in “BANA” contexts (i.e. British, North American and Australian), may have little or no currency in other contexts, and has argued for more contextually sensitive and hence more appropriate methodologies, which are locally generated and validated.

Pedagogies aligned to beliefs such as these are generally labelled “critical” and share the common intent to challenge existing power relations insofar as they impact on education, and, in our particular case, on second language education. Norton and Toohey (2004) define this position:

Advocates of critical approaches to second language teaching are interested in relationships between language learning and social change. From this perspective, language is not simply a means of expression or communication; rather, it is a practice that constructs, and is constructed by, the ways language learners understand themselves, their social surroundings, their histories, and their possibilities for the future” (p. 1).

Critical pedagogy

Critical pedagogy traces its roots back to the Brazilian educational reformer, Paulo Freire, whose Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) is a foundational text. Freire took issue with the prevailing positivist educational paradigm: positivism is the belief that knowledge exists, independently of the learner, as a body of facts that can, and should, be transmitted from teacher (and textbook) to learner. As Freire puts it: “Liberating education consists of acts of cognition, not transferrals of information” (1970, p. 60). Freire contrasts two opposing models of education: on the one hand, the “banking” model in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiqués and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat (p. 53).

As an alternative, Freire advocates a ‘dialogic’ pedagogy, in which the learners become not simply the objects of the teaching process, but agents in their own education:

Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with student-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach (p. 61).

Freire’s dialogic

Freire’s dialogic model grew out of his experience teaching literacy to Brazilian farm-labourers, where it was apparent that the materials imported from the educational “center” lacked any relevance to the lives and needs of the learners. Instead, Freire proposed that the educational process should be grounded in the local needs and concerns of the participants. “Whoever enters into dialogue does so with someone about something; and that something ought to constitute the new content of our proposed education” (Freire, 1973, p. 46).

In challenging the hegemony of coursebooks, especially those written outside of their contexts of use, the Dogme ELT movement (Thornbury, 2000; Meddings and Thornbury, 2009), positions itself in the Freirian tradition.  Moreover, it explicitly identifies itself as having “critical” credentials: Thornbury (2006), for instance, asserts:
Proponents of a Dogme approach argue that they are not so much anti-materials, as pro-learner, and thus align themselves with other forms of learner-centred instruction and critical pedagogy (p. 70).

Is Dogme critical?

But in what sense, if at all, is Dogme truly “critical”? Does the fact that it derives its content from learner language, rather than from coursebooks, make it dialogic, and hence critical?  Probably not. After all, as Pennycook (1999) warns, “a critical approach to TESOL is more than arranging the chairs in a circle and discussing social issues” (p. 338). To answer this question, I extracted and collated a list of criteria from some of the current literature on critical pedagogy (Pennycook, 1999; 2001; Norton and Toohey, 2004). According to these sources, a critical pedagogy

  1. is transformative, and seeks social change
  2. foregrounds social inquiry and critique
  3. challenges the status quo and problematizes ‘givens’
  4. devolves agency to the learner
  5. is participatory and collaborative
  6. is dialogic
  7. is locally-situated, and socially-mediated
  8. is non-essentialist, i.e. it doesn’t reduce learners to stereotypes, but rather legitimizes individual identities
  9. is self-reflexive

In the light of the accumulated postings on the Dogme discussion list and the few articles that have come out describing Dogme theory and practice, it would seem that Dogme scores fairly highly on criteria 3 to 7, and possibly 8. More questionable are its “transformative” credentials: does Dogme have a political agenda, and does it really seek social change?  When I put this question on the Discussion list, the response was varied, and often vociferous. To give you a flavour:

Surely, by embracing the idea that teachers can be learners and that  learners' lives are of much greater value than anything the  publishing houses have to offer, dogme IS transformative and does  seek social change. After all, these things are not typical of most  classrooms. (Gordon)

How, how, how can a different way of teaching/enabling learners to learn EFL possibly bring about social change? EFL, a la dogme or not is too limited an activity to become an engine for social change. To effect social change you've got to get at power structures, the ownership of land, resources and the means of production and control of the police and military. It's clearly mad and daft to suggest dogme can do that.  (Ian)

What takes place in a classroom is taking place within society and is therefore social. When what takes place within a classroom is different than what usually takes place within a classroom, social change is affected. (Gordon)

You may find that some of us have used dogme to bring about a type of social change, for instance radically changing failing teenagers' attitudes to learning as a whole, as well as to learning English. It's a small change at individual classroom level, but it's a significant change for those teenagers involved  (Melissa)

If dogme is to become more of a force for social change within the very small goldfish bowl that we inhabit … it has to nail its colours to the mast.  ….  Is dogme to be more than just a rejection of meaningless tasks and bland stodge from the publishers? (Gordon)

I think dogme is radical within its own context, and the potential application of a dialogic approach within the wider school curriculum and education system is more radical (and challenging) still. But I don't think a specific notion of social change necessarily follows from dogme. … Changing the paradigm for learning doesn't necessarily change the views and concerns of the people in the room. (Terry)

Language learning is part of the educational agenda of the new capitalism, and if dogme doesn't look at how this is true, pick it apart - and DO something about it... well, is another group going to? (Jim)

Any teaching can be social and can bring about social change, only we cannot see the end result from the classroom's window…. But my students sometimes write to me years later and tell how they helped change some stifling or ineffective structures at their universities and they will say: "Partly it was in your classroom that I learnt that what I say and think is of value". (Natasha)


In the end, the point is not whether Dogme itself is critical, half-critical, or not at all critical. Rather it is to raise the question: how exactly would a critical pedagogy manifest itself?  That is to say, if Dogme – with all its ‘anti-establishment’ posturing – is not critical, what is?


Canagarajah, A.S. (1999) Resisting linguistic imperialism in language teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Freire, P. (1973). Education and conscientização. In Freire, P., Education for Critical Consciousness, NY: Continuum,

Holliday, A. (1994). Appropriate Methodology and Social Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Holliday, A. (2005). The Struggle to Teach English as an International Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2003) Beyond Methods: Macrostrategies for language teaching. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2006) Understanding Language Teaching: From method to postmethod. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Meddings, L. and Thornbury, S. (2009)Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching. Peaslake, Surrey: Delta Publishing.

Norton, B. and Toohey, K. (eds.) (2004) Critical pedagogies and language learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pennycook, A. (1989)  The concept of method, interested knowledge, and the politics of language teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 23.

Pennycook, A.(1999) Introduction: Critical approaches to TESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 33.

Pennycook, A. (2001). Critical Applied Linguistics: A Critical Introduction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Thornbury, S. (2000). A Dogma for EFL. IATEFL Issues,153.

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT. Oxford: Macmillan.

Read Scott's first article: 'Methods, post-method, and métodos' 


Submitted by Rob H. on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 05:00

Sorry, I meant to write:

Dogme does not mean conversation-driven, materials lite, scaffolding language learning ONLY.


Submitted by Rob H. on Tue, 06/16/2009 - 22:29

Diarmuid, you write: "Even in Dogme, the role of the teacher appears to be perceived as separate and distinct from the role of the students." 

Have you been reading my recent reports from the classroom? I'm trying, and perhaps only trying, to move away from those perceived roles.

Sara, yes, you're right about Freire and The Frankfurt School's influence on him and his work. I don't claim to know as much about Freire as Diarmuid, you, or Scott. There is a post-modernist critical theory though, isn't there? Does Dogme perhaps fall under that umbrella? Or is Dogme a post-methods/methodology pedagogy which, interpreted through the various lenses of its proponents, takes on a more or less critical approach? My notion of Dogme is that it is inherently critical; Dogme does not mean conversation-driven, materials lite, scaffolding language learning. Admittedly, I feel my view is not shared by the majority of list members, but then, critical pedagogy isn't exactly popular culture, is it? If I understand Scott correctly, he believes that lots of little changes in Dogme classrooms across the world can lead to global shifts in conciousness?

I need to run, sorry, but I'll try to expand on this when I have time. Please look for my thesis, Sara, at the address you've shared.




Read your posts, Rob? You must be joking!


Of course I read them and I think that your contribution to dogme is exemplary. And what you are doing is as close to what I am advocating as anything...but you are the one who draws the salary; I suspect that if you asked the students who their teacher was or whose class they were in, they would refer to Rob Haines. If you asked them what they liked about the class, perhaps one of them (at least!) would say, "The teacher lets us..." Perception is everything (which is something I seem to be writing quite frequently these days) and my point is merely that for education to be truly liberating, I think it has to find its source exclusively in the students: they are the ones who come to gether (if it is social); they are the ones who decide the syllabus; they are the ones who determine the content; they are the ones who determine the methods; they are the ones who control the assessment; they are the ones who etc etc etc. And they do this by actively taking the decision to teach themselves without a teacher. At most, they might opt for having a person nearby to be a regular answerer of questions. And I don't think that dogme has this in its current state. Dogme is always (?) teacher-initiated and often teacher-led.

In your comments to Sara you write, "Dogme does not mean conversation-driven, materials lite, scaffolding language learning." This sits at odds with what I read in the opening essay of The Book - our codified Essence of Dogme, as seen by our founders ;-). You also write that Dogme is inherently critical...although I feel that my view is not shared by the majority of list members." Does this mean that dogme is something other than the list? Is there something that says something along the lines of "Dogme aims for a better and more equitable world. t hopes to contribute to this by encouraging students and teachers to question the roles that they are forced into and to prompt a more critical evaluation of the powers that control their worlds." We can look for critical inferences in dogme, but I would argue that they can only ever be subjective interpretations because dogme - for whatever reason- tends to shy away from the political.

Finally, you write, "Critical pedagogy isn't exactly popular culture, is it?" To which a critical pedagogue might reply, "Oh. Isn't it?"


PS May I just take some time to curse you all for this thread? I should be reading dull articles for my MA, instead I am here discussing with you and itching to take Augusto Boal, Giroux and Freire with me on the train. Last night I even dreamt that I was taking photos of myself with a giant Fidel Castro...who when I asked him how Raul was, replied, "He's doing well and he's happy, but he watches too much pornography. It's not good."


Am a bit worried bout your dream sequence - u feeling OK today after that!  Why not include Boal, Giroux, Friere and friends in your MA? Take em on the train I would say and ditch the dull articles (unless they are required reading in which case critique them from a Boalian, Girouxian or Frierian perspective). It might make the lives of the people running the MA a bit more interesting to get a bibliography that strays from the familar pathways of the ELT canon and it doesn't happen that often I spect.

You say

"Many of the beneficiaries and the proponents of dogme are either from the non-oppressed or the oppresor class. Is this why dogme cannot really be critical? Too many of us are earning our crust by participating within the very system that we hope to chip away at. Too many of our students have the system to thank for their wealth and privilege. If this is true, perhaps dogme can only ever be limited to a reform movement whereby the inequities of the system are perpetuated by being made easier to bear. By sharing power, we fail to abolish it - we strengthen it by widening its base. By handing over power, we mark it as our possession to be proffered and withdrawn as the fancy takes us. Once again, I seem to be advocating the idea tha a pedagogy can only be really critical if it forces the teacher to act as nothing more than just a participant. And a truly liberating pedagogy is one whereby the teacher's power is wrested from them" 

I think the status/perception of the teachers espousing DOGME (and indeed any theory) is key in how it will be utilised and how they see their position or recognise or admit their privilege. And the same goes for Students.  I suspect there will be differences between those from your non-oppressed and oppressor categories in this respect too as the latter, in my experience, leads to more system blindness than the former?  Assessing privilege has become a relative concept in the sense that it is often calculated with direct reference to those around us rather than with reference to the rest of the world where it then becomes much easier to note exactly how privileged this position is. How many in DOGME (or any part of ELT) really "see" that if they do not first refer to a critical framework.  I think it makes the system more bearable to talk of alternative ways of teaching that improve experience for T and S, but it doesn't do much more than that.  DOGME is not inherently critical and, as you said, many of its proponents deny that teaching is a political act at all and shudder at discussions that enter into that terrain.  It can only really become critical in the hands of a teacher who utlises it to its fullest potential by accepting the complete marginalisation of their own role.

So I would go along with the idea that T should be nothing more than a participnt and the best outcome would be if the Ss actively take the power from the T. Reminds me of a course I did last year on Music and Culture - not very DOGME in the sense that I had to use some technology to play recorded music as it couldn't be produced live (unfortunately) but the deal was that each week a different pair of students brought in their music and played it to us and then talked about why it was important and how it related to their background and then we discussed how we could understand this and locate music in culture and society.  We did this for six of the twelve weeks of the course and for the duration of this part of it I sat, from the start of the lesson, in the body of the students and was a participant among them.  They organised everything from the moment the class begun, even to the extent that I left the register on the front bench and each student filled out their own presence.  Ordinarily there is a big joke in the college about how students try to swipe the register from the teacher to put in a presence and then leave (their presence is assessed) but not a single person abused the register or the situation as it emerged.  The joy of it was that through this part of the course, they almost forgot I was there and the interaction (all in English) took place primarily between them - if there was a technical hitch - one student helped the other.  If there was a language block, they helped each other over it. I "helped" when they asked for my help which they did from time to time. If there were nerves, they urged each other on.  I also let them choose who would do the next lesson rather than imposing it and I never had a shortage of volunteers - they also had the right *not* to participate which two students took up. I found the challenge for me as a teacher liberating and such a relief to just let things "be".  The students clearly enjoyed the experience of being trusted and valued.  It is one of the most vibrant classes I have ever had despite everyone telling me that I had difficult students before I started teaching who would walk all over me with that kind of subject matter.  And we discussed tricky issues around Balkan identities and politics all the time through the medium of music so there was most definitely a critical content in there which sometimes got heated.

Food for thought.


This was a fascinating account of what seems to me was effectively a dogme class (the proscription on 'importing' material hardly applies here, since the material was provided by the learners themselves, a fairly core dogme value). It's interesting that you characterise it as having "critical" qualities because of the political nature of some of the content that emerged. This could equally well happen in a dogme class - and does. But - as we have agreed - this doesn't make dogme a "critical pedagogy", mainly because such content is incidental to the main agenda, which is the provision of language learning affordances (isn't it?).  (As Pennycook said, sitting around in groups talking about social issues doesn't constitute CP) 

Of course, the critically-inclined teacher could prompt/direct the classroom talk towards more programmatic outcomes, e.g. by raising consciousness about the learners' 'oppression', or about the 'oppression' they are complicit in (as in the Akbari - ELT Journal - example). However, attempts to force the agenda could be considered "un-dogmetic".  After all, a default model of a dogme class is the CLL one, where learners choose what to talk about, and how, and the teacher's role is not teacher at all, but (lurking) 'knower'.

There's an interesting example of the teacher deliberately asserting a critical agenda, in the collection of articles whose name I borrowed for a later blog posting: Edge, J. 2006. (Re)locating TESOL in an age of Empire. The article is by Fabrício and Santos (The (re-)framing process as a colaborative locus for change). After describing in somewhat negative terms the dominant EFL paradigm in Brazil, where "TEFL is usually operationalized as a decontextualised process focusing mainly on linguistic practice of the structural components of the target language at phonological, lexical, morphological and syntactic levels and promoting no connections with students' social world" (p. 71 - could be anywhere!), they describe a short intervention in a class of state school secondary students, in which the teacher's aims included guiding the students to "(1) understanding the connection between language and society; (2) seeing themselves as agents in their meaning-making process; (3) challenging unquestioned practices and making them unstable; and (4) being able to read cultural manifestations critically" (p. 74).  These strike me as being echt critical objectives

In order to do this, the teacher brought in some advertising texts in Brazilian Portuguese that were sprinkled with English words and phrases, and she engineered a sequence of questions that served to problematize the use of English, leading to the learners questioning its global dominance.  So, a critical lesson, but hardly a dogme one - in that the teacher's interventions were intentionally and assertively directed at her own agenda, even though this resulted in more spontaneous and contingent talk on the part of the learners, once they realised they had the freedom to discuss the issues that were raised and challenge one another. The writers conclude that "the EFL classroom can be the site of active and creative production of socially relevant meanings regarding the role of English within the new global order" (p. 79) - but they don't offer much advice as to how this kind of "critical" focus could be sustained over the long haul, nor how this focus could be made compatible with the language learning achievements that presumably could or should also be an outcome of their English classes. (It's even conceivable that the students' 'raised consciousness' about the dominance of English might prejudice their language learning success).

Nevertheless, the article is one of the few that sheds even a little light on what "critical" practice might be like in the language program - even though such practice maintains the teacher's central and authoritative role.    

Submitted by Sara Hannam on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 16:38

In reply to by Scott Thornbury

Why thank you Scott for your thoughts about my Music/Culture lesson.  In another course which is the compulsory Academic English Skills 101 module that all students must attend in their first level, I take a slightly more directed role in exploring some of the "reflections on the role of English within the new global order".  As it is compulsory for the Ss to write research papers, and it is our job to teach them to do so effectively (a hugely problematic area for discussion in another forum as what constitutes a good research paper is a wide as the sea), we make the first essay about the role of English in the global landscape.  We ask the question is English a force of freedom or a force of oppression or both? [that is not the precise rubric but that is the essence]. The way we achieve this is first through discussion - as a teaching team we are always amazed by how much our students (from all over the Balkans and beyond) have already considered this issue in some detail and have pretty developed opinions on it [having been language learners and exam takers for most of their lives] - our role as teachers there is to ask prompt qs and then allow the discussion to flow.  We then ask the students to go away and seek out some useful sources on the issue which they bring back and share with one another - they generally collect sources that reflect their viewpoint so in the sharing lesson we get a really good selection from all different perspectives which we explore together by using the abstracts and the key concepts. We get those up into a sort of centralised bibliography - we, as teachers, then sometimes add in a few extra sources which will help the students if they haven't located them themselves which they often have.  We then proceed to look at the writing of the essay itself.  This is all done collaboratively.  What I would say makes the lesson (which runs over several weeks till the essay itself is produced) work is that we don't take a clear "position" as teachers and are accepting and non-judgemental of the views expressed by our Ss.  And that includes in the final paper.  I think they can sense this openess and perhaps then feel more comfortable about going further in their exploration of their own position and desire in relation to English (or investment as Norton would say).  I have a lot of visits outside the class from Ss during the thinking time for this essay, wanting to explore further and for some this is really a key moment when the consider their own educational experience till now - in some cases I would say there have been some real lightbulb moments where students have told me that they never considered English in the ways we have been discussing till now.  Again I take a listening position and ask a few questions but do not intervene with a position unless Ss ask me what I think and then I tell them.  At the end, what I find it always is impressive, is any of the views that I might have cogently expressed in the lesson have already been expressed by one or more of the students themselves.  And this includes the potential for English to entrap (for those who don't pass examinations as gatekeeping devices) or the connection between English and aggression (a big point in the Balkans).  So, the criticality generates from the students, but is guided by us as teachers.  Some Ss are suspicious of our intentions to begin with and ask why we are doing this.  We explain that academic English is not only about how to present a cogent argument at a language level, it is also about why English at this point in time, and how this connects to the social world.   When views are expressed that are sensitive or prejudiced, most of the time they are challenged by other students.  On the whole I would say this part of the course is successful and combines several aims at the same time as well as providing a rich chance for classroom talk in English amongst a multi-lingual student body. 

How this can be sustained over the long haul is another matter.  What I can attest to is that some of my students have told me that they feel more confident about their English once they realise the processes involved in language policy, practice and testing can be open to critique and the subjective nature of "good" language skills, the measurement of which is also socially constructed.  Additionally, discussions around the importance of NNS varieties of English always proves popular and again is something that many of our Ss have already thought about extensively.  I doubt that I could claim all Ss who attend this class are affected to change anything about themselves or their lives, but I believe that some are given the opportunity to either reframe traumatic learning experiences (and exams) of the past, and to value their contribution to communication in English as much as the next person. And for a few, I expect it does change something and provide a spark that may only be seen later down the line as one of many influences that affected their thinking about the world around them.

During the unrest in Greece that you may have seen on the news before Xmas which very much affected Thessaloniki after the shooting of a 15 year old school boy, Alexis, in Athens by the police, I made a decision to suspend the lesson for that day with my class and to discuss the events and how they felt about them. I started simply by asking them how they were.  Many of them were afraid and confused as they were many KMs from home and in a foreign country and suddenly around them the society exploded.  So we spent the lesson talking it through - Greeks and non-Greeks - looking at what was happening and why it had happened.  In this instance, the Ss asked me what I thought as a member of that discussion, and so I told them I had been on demonstrations about the shooting - I had seen some of them there too.  And they listened and we talked further about their futures as the 600E generation as they had become known as in Greece at this time which was a spark for the anger beyond the shooting.  All that studying and no chance of a certain future.  At the end two young women hung back to talk to me and they said thanks to me as noone else in the college had asked them how they were that day or even made reference to the events in the outside world.  This for me is inconceivable so I am really glad that I chose to do something different as this was a rewarding experience for all of us.  We returned to normality during the next lesson, but that was a precious moment that bonded that group for the rest of the semester.

Submitted by Rob H. on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 17:58

In reply to by Scott Thornbury

Just as James Paul Gee (2005) draws a distinction between Discourse (with a big 'D') and discourse (little 'd') to differentiate between "non-language 'stuff' " (Discourse) and "language-in-use" (discourse) (p.7), we might also describe ourselves as Teachers and teachers; as the former (T) we see ourselves as THE authority figure in the room, the latter (t) designates us as a classroom participant, and learner, among others. Of course, as Diarmuid points out, the learners' perceptions of us as (T)eacher might remain intact, regardless of our self-perception as (t)eacher. It's easy to imagine a Teacher deluding oneself into thinking s/he's a teacher --- cue Rob's self-reflection on his current teaching practice. :-)

Aside from being a nuisance to CELTA trainers who, for the sake of convenience, use T and Ss to denote classroom interaction (or lack thereof), the artificial line I've drawn between THE authority figure (T) and what with might call 'a significant Other' (t) is problematic for other reasons, I suppose. That won't stop me from asking you to bear with me, however, to consider Dogme and dogme (big 'D', little 'd') and how dogme-in-use, on-site, co-creates Dogme (big 'D') as 'non-teaching' stuff. Turning back to Gee: "When 'little d' discourse (language-in-use') is melded integrally with non-language 'stuff' to enact specific identities and activities, then I say that 'big D' Discourses are involved. We are all members of many, a great many, different Discourses, Discourses which often influence each other in positive and negative ways, and which sometimes breed with each other to create new hybrids." (p. 7)

Although the rest of page 7 contains concrete examples, I'll stop there, if for no other reason than to give Diarmuid more time to take Sara's sound advice and change his MA work from drip filter to French press. Don't take that the wrong way, Diarmuid, I just mean to agree with Sara (I think): Follow your heart and your head will follow - even when writing academic papers! :-)

So, if we insert Dogme for 'Discourse' and dogme for 'discourse' in the quote above, I think we can describe what is happening with the discussion list, society at large, and our work in classrooms around the world. How so? Well, as I see it from my breakfast table (complete with striped cat and cup of green tea), each of us on the list, and even non-list members, are integrating dogme (ie, dogme-in-use, on-site) with non-classroom stuff to enact identities such as teacher (or Teacher?), parent, motorist, pedestrian, regular at a local pub, etc., along with activities such as letting students sign themselves in as present, scaffolding their responses to other students' questions, and so on. Big 'D' Dogme belongs to Discourse and little 'd' dogme describes what we actually DO in class (although it doesn't necessarily have to happen in a classroom), which, to my mind, cannot be segregated from 'D'ogme, because the latter is comprised of how we see ourselves and our notions of teaching, learning, language acquisition, and all else. 

So, yes, Diarmuid, ELT Dogme is on the scene as it were; however, it is constantly under construction, as you have stated, and dogme continues to be acted out, based on individual conceptions of Dogme, everyday in classrooms (places) across the globe. Each, Dogme and dogme, influences the other. To quote Gee again: "When you 'pull off' .... 'ways of being in the world' .... ways of acting, interacting, feeling, believing, valuing, and using various sorts of objects, symbols, tools, and technologies .... you produce, reproduce, sustain, and transform a given 'form of life' or Discourse. 

I understand that to mean, given the context of our current discussion, that, as goes dogme, so goes Dogme. That is, the interaction between us and learners, and how we talk about it with each other, influences our perceptions of ELT Dogme, which, in turn, will affect our practices. That much is obvious, I suppose, but, in terms of CP, does it imply that we need more books like Teaching Unplugged, more voices from the classroom (like Sara's) on the discussion list, more dogme (in-use, on-site)? Can we say one should take precedence over the others? Can we even separate them? 

I realize I've taken a D/discourse analysis angle on things, but, retuning one last time to Gee: "All life for all of us is just a patchwork of thoughts, words, objects, events, actions, and interactions in Discourses."

It seems that the Discourse of ELT Dogme and the Discourse of Critical Pedagogy are being integrated here, on this blog, by our 'language-in-use' (discourse), just as Sara's work with the Music class, my attempts to shift the power paradigm in my/our class, and countless other efforts (dogme-in-use) are shaping what ELT Dogme means and can mean. 

I'm not sure any of this is relevant to the discussion of 'Is Dogme critical?', but it has helped me reflect on the relationship between critical Dogme and dogme. I hope it has you, too.


Submitted by Nik Peachey on Mon, 06/15/2009 - 06:46

Hi Scott,

One of the things that worries me with dogme as with other communicative methodologies is their ability to be effective with really large classes. These methods seem fine for private language schools where there is often a maximum class size of around 20 and often less, but can you still apply dogme with a class of 30? 50? 80?

If these methodologies break down when applied in what is after all the average class size in most state schools around the world, then can they still be critical?


Nik Peachey | Learning Technology Consultant, Writer, Trainer
Teacher Development:
Student Activities:

[quote=Nik Peachey] One of the things that worries me with dogme as with other communicative methodologies is their ability to be effective with really large classes. [/quote]

Yes this is a point that often comes up with regard to dogme - not so much because it is communicative, but because it learner-centred. This is where the dogme teacher has to be an expert manager - which in turn suggests that dogme teaching might not be suitable for novice teachers, who don't have well-oiled management skills. (That said, two teacher trainers are running a CELTA course in Hamburg right now, where they are using a dogme-inspired approach with pre-service trainees. It will be interesting to find out how well they cope.)

I have run dogme workshops for teachers - doing exactly the same kinds of activities I recommend teachers do with their students - with groups of over 200 people, and on one occasion about 1000! It can be pretty ennervating, but the noise that emergent language makes is deafening! The point I'm making is that the management involved in a group of 200 is not qualitatively different than with a group of 20. Of course, the opportunities that individual students get for teacher feedback and individual scaffolding falls off dramatically. But - of course - that happens in any large class, dogme-ish or not.



Perhaps that (subject line) is a more focused question? I believe the answer is a resounding 'Yes'; however, Dogme list members and other reasonable people can disagree. Dennis, for example, segregates the language learning classroom from the society within which it is embedded. I suppose my (and others') insistence that we can't teach or learn in a vacuum is as bemusing to him as is his claim to me (us). So, Sara, I take your point about critical pedagoy/theory and Dogme, especially when it comes to outcomes, if that's the right word. It doies seem to me that we all pick and choose where to take up a particular theory and where to end, however, as even critical theory can be traced back beyond The Frankfurt School albeit under a different name. As I mentioned in an earlier post, perhaps on another blog, I'd be happy to share my dissertation (thesis) work with you, since that bit of academic research discusses some relevant issuse and how Dogme might be used to counter the new capitalist educational agenda, which, in my view, has been co-opted by conservative elements to promote their agenda.


To me, it all gets personal, and science, or Scientism, won't save us from that. Dennis will always object to what he sees as discussions that are too far removed from the classroom realities faced by teachers like me everyday although he's not been one of us for years now --- not a fault, just a fact of life. Gavin will feel he has a duty to speak for teachers who want to incorporate Web 2.0 teaching into the classroom but are slighted or marginalized by teachers who've not used such technology or have a knee-jerk response to all things digital. Scott believes in Dogme as a way for people to come together and learn in personalized, meaningful ways without glossing over lessons with materials or technology for the sake of it. And I... well, that's perhaps best stated by those who know me and my posts.

I mean to imply that critical anything remains an ideal, to which we may boldly aspire but never hope to attain. I believe we should always be mindful, and respectful, of mystery and that which captivates our imaginations and hearts but can never be fully understood. That makes for poor science, I suppose, but rich language learning and even richer lives.


Sorry if that's all too preachy for this forum. Then again, no I'm not. :-)


Look forward to more from you all.



Submitted by Osnacantab on Mon, 06/15/2009 - 04:09

To orientate myself, to comment not to criticise, is it fair to say that this impressive discussion has moved away from the classroom and the practising teacher to the university lecture theatre, to the inservice training course, the M.A. in TEFL/TESOL pedagogy?



[quote=Osnacantab]To orientate myself, to comment not to criticise, is it fair to say that this impressive discussion has moved away from the classroom and the practising teacher to the university lecture theatre, to the inservice training course, the M.A. in TEFL/TESOL pedagogy?[/quote]

Yes, Dennis - but the tide has turned around again (see Gavin's and Nik's posts).

Hi Dennis,

Not sure if I am breaching a blog protocol here as this is Scott's blog not mine - so sorry if I shouldn't be the one answering this question that you raise.  But I thought as I have been the other person mainly involved in this dialogue it would be OK to answer and give you some of my own thoughts.  Speaking personally, discussions I have never move that far away from the classroom in my own mind as that is where I see myself beginning, middling and ending so to speak.  So all musings are a way of understanding my role there (and beyond) better.  A lot of the reading and thinking I have done on critical theory etc. was done before I became a teacher and is part of my general interest, rather than something that I started doing when I became more involved in university life and writing where it has become more formalised (perhaps the interest in one led to the other), so I would probably make a very similar contribution whether I were involved in academia or not and sense that there are many ELTers who think about such matters who are not concretely part of the settings you outline but are critcally thinking teachers and are familiar with the literature.

But it is true that this discussion, by virtue of the fact it started by asking questions about critical theory, has drawn on theoretical interpretations of what that means as well as contemporary debates on the nature of thought in general and when one ventures into that world it is good pracice to make sure comments are backed up with existing literature (hence the academic feel) or they tend to become rather polemical and sometimes end up being quite personalised.  Speaking for myself, I want wherever possible to avoid that, and feel a lot more mileage can be gained when standing back a bit from things and discussing them from a little bit of a distance.  I suppose the academic way of argumentation can make this process of considering potentialy charged issues easier to do successfully?  But there is plenty of space for other "ways" and I hope this will not put other people off from getting involved. 


In essence, we have been discussing ways of understanding the world and education, and where DOGME fits in to that. And yes, it is to a large extent a discussion on pedagogy - but pedagogy directly links back to the classroom so I think I would disagree with your posting that it has moved away from that.   I think the crux of it is actually about asking what is the role of the teacher and student in the classroom and beyond in relation to social change and defining what this means in relation to DOGME.  I guess how much you see that as related to the classroom depends on what your relationship is with issues of social change as they can be micro and macro in nature.  It would be great to hear your thoughts on this Dennis if you would like to get involved as widening it out is a sure way of making sure it becomes more diverse in content and less academic if that is what people prefer?  I am open to many ways of expressing ideas and thoughts on this important issue

The original question, as I recall, was "Can DOGME be critical?" - perhaps we could start there again if others want to contribute.

All best wishes

Sara, Greece



Submitted by Sara Hannam on Thu, 06/11/2009 - 10:18

Dear Scott, 


Thanks for this thoughtful piece on critical pedagogy.  It helps outline some of the key thinking that you have been doing in relation to DOGME and criticality which is a very important addition to the debate.  Some time back on another blog you invited me to join you in this discussion, so I will take you up on this offer as Critical Pedagogy is also of interest to me as a researcher and teacher.  So here goes……


 The literature you have consulted is extremely important in defining what is meant by critical pedagogy in ELT and education.  However, I wanted to suggest that the starting point for understanding this lays much further back than Paolo Freire – which is not, by the way, to underestimate the profound effect Friere has had on educational thinking.  However, Critical pedagogy is not in itself a single entity and Freire represents one aspect (and interpretation) of it - as a concept its roots can be traced to what is termed Critical Theory which is seen to have emerged from the Frankfurt School of Marxism in the early 20th Century.  The school, or collective of people such as Adorno and Marcuse, was interested in debating Western Marxism as a set of theoretical ideas from a multi-disciplinary perspective including psychoanalysis, economics, sociology, anthropology and of course education. Of key importance here is noting the differentiation between the ideas being debated and the emergence of Marxist political systems which have been abused the world over in ways that all of us are familiar with, which these thinkers could not have predicted.  Marxist thought as a useful way of understanding the workings of society is not responsible for the ways it has been applied and abused by politicians.  At this time, the Frankfurt School were grappling with the two ideologies of industrial capitalism and fascism and trying to seek ways of refining classical Marxist thought to make better sense of the world around them – in order to change that world by resisting both capitalism and fascism and creating a different and more equable set of conditions through social revolution (for an introduction to this see Wiggerhaus, R. 1995. ‘The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theory and Social Significance).  


For discussions on how these significant theoretical debates relate to Critical Applied Linguistics (CALx), which is why I mention them here, see Pennycook’s work cited in your references list “An Introduction to Critical Applied Linguistics”. He outlines in detail the roots of Critical Theory with great eloquence. He also makes it clear that CALx moves beyond the certainty of Marxist thought and does not seek to present definitive answers, but to question and problematise practice – however, he also cautions that rejecting the clarity that such thought can offer us completely in terms of how power/resources are organised/allocated in society also runs the risk of disappearing into theoretical debates that chase their own tails and cannot really come up with any conclusions of substance.


I mention all this because I think the decision to begin with Freire means that certain stones remain unturned in how you position DOGME within the debate on critical pedagogy and Critical Applied Linguistics (CALx) by ignoring their revolutionary roots.  In relation to Freire you have chosen to focus primarily on the theories developed which relate to classroom interaction i.e. the student as active rather than passive and the notion of “dialogic” pedagogy.  You propose “learners become not simply the objects of the teaching process, but agents in their own education”.  This is something I absolutely agree with, but the missing bit of this sentence, which Freire himself was very clear about, is that students, and teachers, also become agents in bringing about social change outside the classroom in their own lives and in the wider society.  This seems to cause hesitancy in your own thinking regarding your point 1, 2 and 3 gathered from existing researchers who are clearly located in critical pedagogy (Pennycook, Norton, Canagarajah).  Specifically, in relation to “seeks social change” “foregrounds social enquiry” and “challenges the status quo”.  For me, this is where perhaps DOGME potentially parts company with critical pedagogy.  These are fundamental elements in critical pedagogy, they cannot really be done half-heartedly or left as something to return to at a later date – they are the central premise if you like.  


The selection of quotes you have collected present a fascinating insight into various perspectives from people who use DOGME. Most demonstrate mixed reactions to the real belief in agency of either teacher or student, beyond areas that relate directly to the classroom i.e. materials, individual students motivation in the classroom, making the classroom more enjoyable.  However there are those who seem to suggest that there needs to be an element that actually does position DOGME within the necessity for wider structural change to a faulted education system, and by default, a faulted system in society named openly by one as capitalism. I would suggest that the way that these people you have cited all go about their classroom practice must be very different as their overall belief in a critical pedagogy (and by default the belief in the possibility of change at a fundamental systematic level) will influence this.  They seem, from the short quotes you gave us, to represent many different relationships with the notion of social change.  Not unrelated to this is the fact that we are living in times when expressing the belief that revolution is possible is liable to cause widespread condemnation from those around us – the idea of this is the way things are so get used to it has been normalized in a way that was not evident in previous centuries – we are living in an era of adjustment rather than challenge. Does DOGME propose some tinkering with the system to make it more bearable or a concrete alternative to what is on offer?  I wonder how much the ideas expressed in your post from other DOGMErs, and your own ideas, are influenced by this popular belief that real change will never happen?  You have not stated your own position in your blog post, which would be a crucial element of critical pedagogy under the category “self-reflexivity” which you list as your point 8.  I think it would be interesting to know how you view issues of change beyond the classroom architecture in more concrete terms – this is what critical researchers would call your “positionality” - it is a given that we all see the world through subjective lenses which must be explained to those around as this is by no means transparent without explanation. Leaving people to draw their own conclusions is likely to lead to misinterpretation.


It is this issue of “reflexivity” that I would now like to turn to as my understanding of it is the way in which Bourdieu (French Sociologist – see “Language and Symbolic Power”) theorises it – as the ability to see one’s own blind spots, and one’s own stake in challenging the status quo and how far one is embedded in the status quo.  For Bourdieu, this was not an individualised navel-gazing activity aimed at making people feel uncomfortable, and I want to stress that that is not my intention here either. This is not a personal attack on you, it is a line of questioning and clarification to a blog post you have released into the public space and should be tempered with the knowledge that I admire your commitment to doing things differently and questioning how ELT is, but have some reservations about how far DOGME will allow you to go.  For Bourdieu reflexivity is first and foremost an exercise in making sure that all individuals continually link themselves back to the wider circumstances of their field (and history) in order to change it for the better.  And as you have opened up the dialogue on critical pedagogy, it seems appropriate to mention this now.  It is true that not using widely published materials is one way out of part of the commercialisation impasse, but how does this square with books that you yourself have produced on DOGME and other areas of ELT, which presumably you hope people will read which are distributed through the same publication channels?  I raise this as an issue of interest that we all might potentially have to struggle with to a lesser or greater degree. I think another interesting area in this issue of reflexivity might be looking more closely at some of the issues raised by people on the use of technology and DOGME that need some answers – there have been many dialogues on this of late which have not developed in ways that clarify things to a wider audience.  I think engaging in critical pedagogy is about being able to answer these questions clearly and in a way that people understand, as well as recognising the contradictions in ourselves if they exist (which they do in all of us) –  perhaps we do not have the answers to everything or are still thinking things through – it doesn’t need to be about being right -  but awareness surely means that we will all evolve our thoughts and actions and the process of explaining is extremely important in challenging our own blind spots.  I would like to know how you address the issues I have raised to ensure I do not develop my own possibly faulted belief (and blind spot) on what the answers might be in the absence of your input.


My final thought on this is related to the choice of DOGME as a title for this movement.  The DOGME film movement from which you have taken your framework (and idea of chastity) was very concerned with disrupting social “reality” and making audiences feel uncomfortable with the alienation of their own lives – Van Trier’s commitment to how this aesthetic movement fits in with real social change beyond film making has always been hazy.  Indeed, for precisely this reason, the radical elements of his films can often have disturbingly reactionary and conservative undertones i.e. the representation of women in “Dancing in the Dark” and “Dogsville” is something that from a feminist point of view leaves much to be critiqued (but that is another discussion). Some would argue that there is too much attention to style and not enough to content.  That the lack of a robust, committed framework means that despite the DOGME films being a very interesting experiment in moving away from the over-commercialisation of Hollywood, they do not really achieve the “anti” in their outcome, but only in their filming technique.  It might be worth thinking about how your own conscious choice of these roots is affecting the ability to really answer this question regarding DOGME’s position in critical pedagogy.  Does the vow of chastity perhaps present restriction rather than liberation in some respects?  I found your conclusion a bit brief in terms of the argumentation you had been building up to and it seems (and I could be wrong here) that you don’t really want to make a commitment either way – you end by asking another question.  I think you need to pin it down Scott at some point, especially if you enter into the literature base that you have outlined in your references list which, in a sense, forces your hand.  The fact that you have done this shows that you are committed to examining DOGME from all points of view and I think this is great, but perhaps that needs to be done more thoroughly and needs to navigate some of the stormy waters I have outlined above rather than avoiding them.


I will also end by asking you a question – where do you think DOGME fits into the following view of criticality, as expressed by Friere  (your chosen source) when he said:


“One of the basic questions we need to look at is how to convert merely rebellious ideas into revolutionary ones in the process of the radical transformation of society.  Merely rebellious attitudes or actions are insufficient, though they are an indispensable response to legitimate anger.  It is necessary to go beyond rebellious attitudes to a more critical and revolutionary position, which in fact is not a position simply of denouncing injustice but of announcing a new utopia.  Transformation of the world implies a dialectic between the two actions: denouncing the process of dehumanization and announcing the dream of a new society” (Freire, 1998 “Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy and Civic Courage”) *this text was published after his death in 1997)


He says – change is difficult, but possible.  Thoughts?


Thanks for the chat!





Submitted by Scott Thornbury on Fri, 06/12/2009 - 19:17

In reply to by Sara Hannam

Thank you, Sara, for your full and well argued response to my article – a better crafted and more coherent response than the original article itself! I shall try to do it justice, but I suspect I’m going to disappoint you. My question “Is Dogme critical?” is not asked disingenuously: I honestly don’t know the answer. But I care enough about education, and language education in particular, to want some assurance that Dogme ELT is more than simply an exercise in coursebook-bashing. The momentum that it has gathered and maintained over nearly ten years of discussion and workshops (just look at how busy the discussion list is at the moment) suggests that there is more going on there than was ever predicted in Dogme’s humble beginnings (a snook cocked at over-resourced classrooms).  At the same time, I am not the spokesperson for the group, and anything I might have to say is purely my own opinion: the quotes I posted in my article attempted to demonstrate the range of opinions that sit fairly comfortably under the Dogme umbrella. This is not, I hope, an attempt to wriggle out of a firm commitment to a position: it’s just a consequence of the very organic, diverse, and I think democratic (if I can dare to use that word) nature of this group (or collective, perhaps, is the better term).


Now, to get down to some of the issues you raise: thanks for situating critical pedagogy in its pre-Freirian, Frankfurt School roots. I don’t feel qualified enough to comment, except to say that the Marxist perspective is one that has not had much explicit coverage in the Dogme discussion, except in the very early days (if you’re interested, look at David Kellogg [dk]’s postings way back near the beginning).  So, if I am in fact ignoring the revolutionary roots of critical pedagogy it’s maybe because I don’t really see Dogme as being committed to a Marxist revolutionary position, or even aligned to that educational tradition – and that’s one reason I didn’t tick the first two boxes in my list of critical factors. At the same time, I don’t think it’s untenable to espouse Friere’s pedagogy while not taking on board the Marxist agenda underpinning it. If this results in a sort of decaffeinated Freire, well, so be it. Better decaffeinated Freire than none at all.   And, after all, a great deal of educational theory has been filtered and re-configured so as to suit different times, contexts and purposes – Vygotskan social-cultural theory, for starters. Surely postmodernism means that the notion of a correct line, a single truth, or a grand narrative has been discredited?


This position, of course, helps clear my conscience when it comes to using the capitalist system of global publishing to publicise my views. (Just as Naomi Klein does, or Noam Chomsky, for that matter). Critics of Dogme have gotten a lot of mileage out of these perceived inconsistencies (there was some pub-style guffawing on Twitter last week when I said I was taking a plane, for example!)  When “Teaching Unplugged” (the book) was mooted, even some members of the Dogme discussion list thought they were being either witty or incisive, or both, when they posted comments of the order “A book about Dogme? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?”   Comments like these seem to me to suggest a mis-reading of the basic principles of Dogme, and a failure to accept the validity of using the established power structures (of publishing, for example) to promote the anti-establishment  message – in the interests of the message getting out (and, besides, Delta Publishing, who published “Teaching Unplugged”, are hardly in the juggernaut class). Likewise, using a technology like the internet to foster discussion between like-minded individuals about the inherent risks of a reliance on technology in language teaching does not seem to me to be hypocritical.  You can rail against obesity without having to give up food, or against a culture of consumerism without having to give up shopping.  (On the other hand, it’s a source of pride to me to be able to do a workshop about Dogme without using a single handout or powerpoint slide – if only to demonstrate the point that less doesn’t necessarily mean loss).


As for the connection between Dogme ELT and Dogme 95 (the film movement), I wouldn’t read too much into this: it was an analogy that I sketched out in a  short two-page article in 2000, simply to underscore the point that I was trying to make in my teacher training: that an embarrassment of riches was obscuring the fact that language learning requires nothing more than language use. The analogy became a label, and we have been stuck with it ever since. Even so, there ARE some interesting parallels with the way that the Dogme 95 movement evolved, to the extent, even, of disowning some of its more extreme (or deliberately provocative) prescriptions. Perhaps all counter-cultural movements follow a similar trajectory? And one of the best films of the genre, Italian for Beginners, is actually about a language class that is run, as it happens, on Dogme ELT principles.


As for your final question, Sara (does/can Dogme herald a new utopia?) let me quote from two papers in a book I just happen to be reading at the moment: Edge, J. (ed.) 2006. (Re)locating TESOL in an age of Empire. In an article on critical literacy, Sarah Benesch cites Giroux to the effect  that:


by attending to both ‘dominant and subordinate forms of power’, critical teaching can go beyond a ‘language of critique’ to promote ‘a language of possibility’. Critique is necessary for an understanding of power relations, but it is insufficient. Critique alone leads to cynicism. A language of possibility offers hope and strategies for engagement, leading, sometimes to change. As expressed by Janks and Ivanic (1992), ‘Awareness needs to be turned into action’  (pp 51-52).


In some small way, I think Dogme achieves this. There is – as we speak – a teacher training initiative, following Dogme lines, being instigated in Hamburg and reported on in the Discussion list. This innovation may not change society, but it certainly has the potential of suggesting ‘strategies of engagement’ with the power structures within the teacher training establishment (e.g. as represented by Cambridge ESOL) that dominate a good deal of our professional lives. This to me represents a shift from a language of critique to one of possibility.


In the same collection, Chris Brumfit asks the question, “as ELT practitioners what must we do if we are to be coherent and principled?” (p. 46) These are some of his suggestions:


  • We must start from where we are.
  • We must act as responsible individuals, but we cannot take responsibility personally for anything we could not have influenced personally.
  • We must retain idealism, and if where we find ourselves is English teaching, we must discover how to carry that out in an idealistic way.
  • We must be realistic; that is, the goals must be idealistic, but the starting point must be realistic and the procedures pragmatic…
  • We must not … retreat into technical wizardry and a refusal to be concerned with values at all

(p 46-47, emphasis added)


This might not be a critical agenda, but to me it suggests “strategies of engagement” and represents a pedagogy of possibility, while being firmly grounded in practicalities. It is also consistent (I believe) with Dogme principles; you start from where you are. hat is, you don’t try to impose a dogme-style in a context where there would be massive resistance. But you don’t lose your idealism, in the hope that – through “Dogme moments” - small effects might catalyse big changes.






Dear Scott,

Firstly thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my posting.  And no I was not disappointed as the purpose of our dialogue is not, I think, for either of us to expect the other to change fundamentally.  I like discussing issues with people who have different viewpoints precisely because its a bad idea to surround yourself with like-minded folk all the time!  And that is how I try to keep an open mind. I found the points you made clarified a lot of stuff for me about DOGME and your position so this will be a little summary of things that I think are important having read your more detailed analysis. Forgive the fact that in my home office I don't have access to the usual books/articles base that I have at work so the referencing in this contribution might be a bit less rigorous : )  I also wanted to say I totally understand (and respect) the fact that you are not speaking on behalf of the DOGME movement, any more than I am speaking on behalf of the critical movement.  But we are expressing viewpoints that more or less fit into those two world views, albeit with our own personal interpretations woven into them.  From a critical perspective the whole idea of representing a larger group than oneself is problematic, and I tend to adhere to this too.  I hope some of the other people on your list will join this discussion as it would be great to hear other viewpoints.

A couple of clarifications - I wasn't really asking you whether DOGME is attached to a revolutionary Marxist perspective - I had gathered that it is not from my own reading - I am also not sure what that would really mean in its purest sense and it is not what I am presenting as my own position on education (will clarify this further later).  I think what I was asking (and didn't make clear enough) was whether the revolutionary roots of the critical movement had been taken into account in your contribution on critical pedagogies.  The roots are important because they remind us of where these ideas came from and despite what we may now be confronted with regarding the likelihood of fundamental systemic change, making those roots clear implies a different trajectory to ignoring them all together - it informs the way we see the world now too and the ways we react to situations around us - what questions we ask, how we relate to people, etc.  What I think would be a safer bet for you (and DOGME) when talking about Friere, for example, is to state explicitly that the way you are using the ideas is from the perspective of certain applications in the classroom and ways of viewing students/teachers, rather than an alternative educational project in a different sort of transformed world. That will sort out for the reader the ways in which you utilise the ideas - as you put it - a decaffeinated Freire.  I am not sure about the decaffeinated idea - but I know what you mean - and I think that as long as you state openly what the ideas mean for you and how you are theorising them, then that is your interpretative right. And yes, to an extent, it is better to use bits of the ideas, than none of them at all - as long as it is recognised that the "base" of the theory is missing.  I would argue this changes everything of course, but that is one of our differences perhaps : ) 

This takes me to your comment about postmodernism when you say "Surely postmodernism means that the notion of a correct line, a single truth, or a grand narrative has been discredited?".  There is a danger in this line of argument which I think needs some deconstructing (of course, this is postmodernism after all!!).  Critical Pedagogy ala Pennycook (see Critical Applied Linguistics) offers a good example of how to see this continuum.  Pennycook argues that post-structural ideas enable us to get a better grasp on the nuances of human experience that cannot be understood through the rigid rationality present in a classical Marxist position (all experience is economically determined).  This is limiting in its scope as well as potentially disempowering for the subject.  The postmodern enables us to see in the gaps of human experience and understand that every individual has their own agency and subjectivity.  This is very liberating as an idea and certainly one I go along with - I always found classical Marxism to be lacking in that respect.  Plus I believe that no theory can possibly offer all the answers.  However, Pennycook also cautions that when postmodernism moves too far into believing that there is no "truth", it becomes de-historicised and de-politicised to an extent that it relinquishes responsibility for taking any sort of position - and disregards class and privilege completely as factors shaping either subjective responses to situations or actions.  The conditions in the outside world of inequality have not ceased to exist.  Simply the person responding to those conditions has chosen not to see them using the get out of jail free card "the end of grand-narratives".  So what is required, in a sense, is a politicised form of postmodernism which remembers its roots and takes the best from both worlds - this would be where I position myself. Marxist thought, which if course has evolved over the years to become more nuanced, currently offers one of the most accurate ways of understanding the "credit crunch" - to the extent that many mainstream economists have turned back to a Marxist analysis to make sense of what is going on in the world.  What Marxist thought was never very good at, is seeing the identities that people have beyond their economic class - gender,race,sexuality,ability etc etc and how these shape experience and desire.  As well as the ways people express their agency every day in a multitude of ways by subverting and transgressing the power structures around them.  For me both macro and micro power are essential elements in understanding the world.  Callinicos ("Against Postmodernism") argues that the ideas of Postmodernism emerged after the 68 generation failed to sustain the events in Paris, and also expresses their devastated feelings of an ending and giving up.  That generation of intellectuals, spearheaded by Foucault, became disillusioned with left politics and looked elsewhere for their answers - another movement is born.  So I think it is also important to historically situation postmodernism as a westernised, localised way of responding to the world.  How much relevance that has in other parts of the world is always in question for me as perhaps when conditions are more brutal, people react in more revolutionary ways because they have to and don't have the luxury to ponder such matters.  Something to think about. 

I take your point about using established chains of communication to spread an anti-establishment message.  And I agree with that.  I am not sure, however, that DOGME is anti-establishment in the true sense of the word as it can operate very effectively and is flourishing within the existing arrangement.  I think perhaps it fits in as one of those key ideas that will be tolerated within the field and seen as a bit quirky and different, will incite emotional outbursts of criticism from some, but does it really pose any serious threat to the way things are done?  It may in some years be considered as a mainstream alternative - perhaps it already is?  It can, after all, be used by a range of people with different world views - as you said a collective of like-minded people.  It reminds me in some ways of the ecology movement.  The shared links start more from the specifics than the generalities and the discussion may not need to get to the outlook on change beyond the classroom as the classroom is the major space of negotiation. It seems like it would be perfectly possible for someone who believes, for example, that native speaker is best and other language varieties are inferior to still practice DOGME and see its advantages whilst never considering how their view on language models is recycling dominant power structures within the classroom - they might still respond to their student's different varieties in a negative way - does DOGME really open a space for that kind of thinking?? You probably know better than I about this.  I would like to hear your views on this.

What I am confused by is why you do not apply the same standard you use for publishers to technology.  It is fine to use technology to discuss the danger of technology, but I was thinking of something all together different.  Technology is also potentially a massive way of tapping into and bringing about change. It is a major communication platform for people all over the world to exchange ideas and has immense transformative potential.  Look at digital music, digital communication, digital language - to reject this, for me, is like rejecting one of the most effective "weapons" we have for linking together with other people across time and space.  I think the DOGME focus on whether it should be used in the classroom is in danger of missing the boat on a much larger and more important issue of global communication. Our students are already passengers on that boat (means, location allowing) and so isn't it a shame to ignore its existence. 

I take your points about the DOGME film movement being a passing comment that stuck. But all metaphors we choose reveal something about how we see things.  I don't think the DOGME metaphor is at all out of place.  I still think the missing (and perhaps more deeply challenging) robust framework does mean, as you said, that it is not possible to really answer the question "is DOGME teaching critical" - any more than it was possible to answer the question "Do DOGME films attempt to bring about social change?".  They are not theories, they are collectives.  But out of interest, what are the more provocative areas in DOGME teaching that you feel the movement has rejected as it has matured? (If I have understood you correctly).  I found this interesting.

Thanks for the quotes that you close with.  I love that edited collection - one of my favourite papers is by Marnie Holborow (you will not be surprised to hear) - she examines that ways in which economics and language teaching walk hand in hand in this modern world of ours - a very grand narrative - but so very powerful : ) Benesch's quote is indeed moving, but I sense that what she was driving at was precisely what I have tried, perhaps unsuccessfully, to outline above.  The point is that you need both.  Critique and possibility.  Which goes full circle back to Friere's quote in my previous posting - is rebelliousness enough? Hope is essential, but hope for what? To change the classroom, or to change the world?  Big questions - no easy answers.  But surely questions we must be asking as educators. 

**btw, for a very interesting reaction to this edited collection from "status quo" ELT, see Alan Walters review of it in ELTJ (62/1) if you haven't already. 

OK, that's it from me.  Now need to get back to being a mum as it is Saturday and that is the hat I wear at weekends!

Thanks again Scott for your time, and effort, in continuing to talk to me.






Thanks, again, Sara for a wonderfully lucid and thought-provoking comment. Or commentary. I'm glad you mentioned Alan Waters, because I was planning to weave his writings (including a critique of CDLx in the latest Applied Linguistics (March 2009)) into a future blog posting, and may still do so. And yes, I did read his (very critical) review of the Edge collection, which partly induced me to buy it!

I'm not going to reply at length right now (my list of chores to finish this weekend seems longer than it did on Friday - I'm to the States in a week's time for two months MA teaching) but I do need to defend myself against the charge of being anti-technology. To save time here, I'll simply refer you to a posting on another site, in which I consider ways that technology could be made to serve a sort of Dogme 2.0 approach. It's here:

What I do resist, however, is the wholesale embrace of new technologies in the absence of any coherent theory of learning or of education, so that the technology is in danger of becoming the tail that wags the dog. Because I have dared to question this somewhat breathless enthusiasm, I've been typecast as an unreconstructed Luddite. But I've been teaching long enough now to have acquired a certain cynicism in the face of extravagant claims for this or that method and this or that teaching aid. My experiences with language labs, video, the "internet room" and the self-access centre have all left me with a sense of big investment-small returns, i.e. they tend to involve a degree of organisation, disruption, training (of both teachers and learners) and cost out of all proportion to their learning potential (when compared with the alternative: people in a room, under a tree, etc). This is not Luddism: I don't see my job being threatened by an iPod. Nor am I in the business of depriving learners of what is rightfully theirs - I would encourage my learners to use any and every means to access English, and to communicate in English, outside the classroom. But my view of learning - essentially a sociocultural one - sees the optimal learning context as being the affordances offered in interactive, socially-situated activity with a better-other. Now, you can create that interactive socially-situated activity using digital technology. Super. But you don't have to. The default version (the classroom, the tree) is easier, cheaper, greener and as effective. Everything else, e.g. Second Life, is - as the name suggests - a substitute.

Thanks Scott - I read your blog post on technology and this has made things clearer on that issue. I too support thoughtful use of technology, not use of technology for the sake of it.  But I do think it has a space in the classroom too and it would be good to expand on this in another forum.  I think that a really detailed discussion of the "hows" and "whys" with some web 2.0 users from twitter and beyond, as well as some DOGMErs would be a great discussion/debate either online or live in a conference somewhere.  There is clearly a lot to be learned from all sides.  That might help clear up some of the misunderstandings you refer to above which seem to have become unnecessarily polarised of late. 

On the other issues, when you have time, let me know and we can continue (if you want to).  I am still interested in your thoughts on DOGME approaches and language ideology as raised in my post and also further musings on critical DOGME in the face of postmodernism etc, as well as whether it is possible to answer the question "is DOGME critical?" when looking at it in a framework of critical pedagogy.

Hoping to hear from you soon and when you have time in your busy schedule - either here or on another blog/e-space.

Until then!





I was reading this exchange aloud to my mate, who used to teach in the same institution as I did. He was able to confirm my own negative memories of the "internet room". He recalls taking his teen class there to do the "Xmas Quiz" ("Who got what on the 3rd day of Xmas?" etc) and how truculent and unresponsive they became, in the face of so much cultural and linguistic obscurity. The person in charge, in an attempt to jolly them along, said "C'mon guys, this is supposed to be fun!" . That, to me, kind of sums it up. 

Submitted by Gavin Dudeney on Mon, 06/15/2009 - 05:54

In reply to by Scott Thornbury

At 4GBP per hour for an Internet connection here, this is going to be brief…

With regard to your colleague who used to teach in the same centre as you (and, I suspect, me) I think there are a few things I’d like to add to the discussion about ‘doing the Christmas quiz in the Internet room’…

1) I’ve been very open in recent exchanges regarding talking about teaching in saying that I no longer actively teach, but rather teacher train. As such, I think it’s very difficult for me to comment on teaching in any kind of personal terms beyond my memory of having done it for years and the reflections I garner from trainee teachers – though I will concede this is not the same as actually doing it full time. I’m not sure if you actually teach English classes on a regular basis anymore, but those of us who don’t, need to maintain some sort of balanced view of what we suspect may be happening in the classes of those who do, and not apply rose – or black-tinted spectacles to that view.

2) ‘Doing the Christmas quiz’ is certainly the kind of thing I used to do when I was teaching. Those were, after all, the old days of Web 1.0, the ‘read’ web. These days we have the ‘read write web’ and anyone ‘doing the Christmas quiz’ really ought to be thinking about their approach to technology. In the days of Web 2.0 rather than ‘going’ to a ‘computer room’ to ‘do a quiz’ they should be leveraging the technologies to allow their learners to express what they think about (if they have to ‘do’ it) Christmas or anything else. Having a mad person standing at the front telling them they should be having fun would not be necessary if the teacher actually put them in a position whereby they would be having fun – and learning – by making a decent use of technology. Again, I blame the teacher, not the tool. And I think that’s where we differ. You seem to blame the tool too often. I wonder if you do the same with teachers not using technology?

3) And that brings me to the last point. Those of us who have espoused technology have certainly made some mistakes over the years, especially in that early Web 1.0 era (and I suspect many such mistakes have been made in the field of language teaching over the years, in all sorts of directions) but as the web and communications have matured, so have we – and that’s why I now find myself in Cyprus teacher training a more ‘wholesome’ approach to technology in which teachers no longer need to cajole their learners to have fun, they simply have fun whilst they’re communicating with others around the world, creating, mixing, producing, etc. Talking to people they actually want to talk  to (outside the room, people their age, their interests – rather than the teacher…)

Your reliance on discrete (and, dare I say, out of date) examples of bad technology ignores thousands of good examples of the use of technology which you could easily find (if you really wanted to) by searching the archives of an online group other than the DOGME one. You might like to try the Webheads one as one example of this. I think it’s unfair to pull a dull Web 1.0 example and equate it to modern practice by creative teachers.

And if we’re to talk of bygone eras, let us not forget that when the dogme manifesto was published by you in 2000, both of us were part-owners of an online language school that produced online textbooks for online delivery. I suspect that this was largely web 1.0. I have written extensively since on my rejection of that model of internet use and I wonder how you feel about that now? More importantly if I were to adopt your attack approach of pulling out discrete, negative examples of bad technology practice and apply it to dogme – how do you square the call to arms in the original dogme article with running a very old-school online language centre with very little communication, no chat between the learners and precious little creative ‘language in the room’?


Submitted by Scott Thornbury on Mon, 06/15/2009 - 09:21

In reply to by Gavin Dudeney

Thanks for that. You are quite right in making the point about the "Christmas Quiz" approach being out-dated (one hopes), and I applaud your promoting of "a more ‘wholesome’ approach to technology in which teachers no longer need to cajole their learners to have fun, they simply have fun whilst they’re communicating with others around the world". But I don't "blame the tool" as much as you think. Rather I question the value of the tool, and the claims made by some (but not you) that web 2.0 technologies are better than, and will replace,  classroom 1.0 affordances. In an ideal world, learners should have the opportunity to blend the two "modes". Wouldn't you agree?

As for my experience in designing on-line language courses, I don't regret it (I learnt a lot about on-line learning that has stood me in good stead - witness the on-line MA courses I now design and teach) but it quickly became apparent that as a means of mediating language learning, it was less than ideal (for the reasons you identify). Hence the experience partly contributed to the long germination of the "Dogme" philosophy. That said, many students don't want to - or can't - attend face-to-face classes, so online learning at least offered them an alternative. And, as a courtesy to my former employers and colleagues, I'm not going to knock it! 

Submitted by Diarmuid on Tue, 06/16/2009 - 06:21

In reply to by Sara Hannam

Well...I guess it turns on what is meant by critical. If we are using it in the sense of Freirean/Girouxian/Pennycookian pedagogies, I suspect/regret that dogme is nothing! That it draws on the sexier parts of critical pedagogy might be the case, but is it critical in its outlook...well, I guess not.

I would argue that critical intent is lacking within dogme. My understanding of critical pedagogy, as Sara has already said, is that it is more about just empowering the learner. That is more in keeping with the European trend towards individualism and the individual being the locus of all rationality. Critical pedagogy is about empowering - or helping them to empower themselves-  sections of society who are oppressed by the powerful social institutions with the intent that these institutions are challenged and their hegemony is ended. It seems to me that dogme fails to have this intent. A lot of dogme contributors would even dispute the political nature of education. 

It could be argued that dogme attempts to challenge the hegemony of the coursebook and the publishers, but it does this half-heartedly at times and when it does so apparently in earnest, it resorts back to the tongue-in-cheek defence. It is populated with coursebook writers and publishers' star talents. I can see the objections to "the book" as valid. Dogme should have been about more than a package of ideas and activities that can be taken off a shelf and used to fill a few spare hours. That was clearly not the intent and the opening essay is as fine a piece of writing as any from either author. But the Teachers' Resource book is a resource that is often used without reading introductions - just fished out and opened up. The medium is the message...

However, my "objection" to the book is that it could reinforce the idea of dogme as the intellectual property of Messrs Thornbury and Meddings when I think it is probably fairer to say that dogme is an evolving, emerging creature that belongs to nobody. My concern is that Scott/Luke are considered to be the authoritative voices behind dogme when I think that the list is a much more attractive (metaphorically speaking, I hasten to add) voice. It may be messier and it may be less clear cut, but that's no bad thing.

When political matters have been raised on the dogme list, there is much brouhaha and recrimination about what is acceptable on such a list. "What's this got to do with materials-lite teaching?" is a common response. Does this sound critical?

I signed up for dogme because it provided me with a framework within which I could explore my rejection of the coursebook and my unease with the idea that language could be planned and packaged. I didn't sign up because dogme offered a chance to change the world - for that I read Freire and Giroux. Dogme is not critical, say I, but it is not nothing either. It is probably how many critical EFL teachers might want to teach, but I don't think that a teacher teaching a la dogme would automatically become critical.

As far as Marxist education goes, well...I don't find much in the way of liberating thought coming from many Marxist schools. If I was to criticise Freire, it would be for those parts of POTO where he praises the Marxist cult of leaders and the need for vanguards to drive human progress forward. His practice had volunteers descending into communities of oppressed and deciding what to focus in on before shooting off to prepare materials etc. Sara has recently twittered a great quotation: ""the Other who is presented in the text is always a version of the researcher's (writer's) self" (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994). Really liberating education is that which has no teachers other than the students. Rather than Freire's "teacher-students" and "student/teachers" there would only be one classification. Even in Dogme, the role of the teacher appears to be perceived as separate and distinct from the role of the students. 


Thanks Rob and Diarmuid for your contributions.

Rob, I don't know much about the familar styles/contributions on the DOGME list, so sorry if I didn't pick up on this in my postings.  And I don't know what your usual style is, but I certainly enjoyed your posting, so if that is what it usually is, then that is fine by me. I really was coming in from the perspective of a "newbie".  But I would very much like to read the thesis you mention.  I have no doubt that elements of DOGME stand in sharp contrast to neo-liberal educational goals but the question is how far will they really challenge the roots of those goals and will they ultimately still be tolerated? As I said before, are they tinkering with the system or proposing an alternative?  You are right that critical theory is a new name for an old concept.  However, I think in terms of Freire, it is fair to say that his major influences can be located in the Frankfurt School, in terms of how they were looking at Western Marxist thought through new lenses - a tradition he clearly bases himself in.  So that wasn't perhaps quite the subjectively specific choice of timeline on my part that you infer.  There wasn't really time to go much further back and as it is I have been likened (on twitter) to a "mile long blog poster"!!!  That's OK. However, my point there was more what the dangers might be of removing Freire from his revolutionary roots and drifting into the defence of a vague position on social matters through post-modernism and the end of grand-narratives (I am still hoping when Scott has time he might reply to my question on this). Revolutionary ideas are not owned by Marxists - indeed there are many others who espouse these ideas who often don't get a look in who most definitely should. The broad spectrum of anarchist ideas, esp. anarcho-syndicalism has so much to offer on thoughts about equalising education too.  I am not sure I have understood your conclusion - that we all react from a subjective point of view (true), but also that there is not much hope of really changing anything beyond the classroom so we should celebrate the richness to be found there (have I got that wrong?).  Can you expand if you have time.

Diarmuid - I am in agreement with much of what you said and how you said it.  The ownership of ideas is always problematic.  Scott has made it clear that DOGME does not belong to him, but it is associated with him nevertheless - and it also attached to a publication and publicity chain that confuses things for those who wish it to be something more critical than that which the mainstream has to offer.  That is why I don't think it is really anti-establishment unless in the hands of someone who has a pre-existing critical framework.  Most people's focus goes on the supply chain just because the ELT marketing machine is such a beast and its presence is ever more felt at every conference, every Teachers' Association events etc. the world over.  But clearly DOGME exists beyond that as an independent entity with a wide range of voices talking about its pros/cons.

What I thought was spot on in your comment and helped clear up something for me was when you said

"I signed up for dogme because it provided me with a framework within which I could explore my rejection of the coursebook and my unease with the idea that language could be planned and packaged. I didn't sign up because dogme offered a chance to change the world - for that I read Freire and Giroux. Dogme is not critical, say I, but it is not nothing either. It is probably how many critical EFL teachers might want to teach, but I don't think that a teacher teaching a la dogme would automatically become critical"

The last sentence is probably also what attracted me to DOGME - it is (in part) how I want to teach but what worries me is how teachers might use it who are not at all interested in a critical agenda.  That is another question that I asked Scott that I am hoping he will answer at some later date.  What does the collective do when someone is amongst its 'supporters' who, for example, has strong belief in the superiority of the native speaker and the inferiority of the models produced by their students and who wields their power in the classroom by making their S's feel crap about that in their approach. A theory which is not deeply questioning of power is likely to mean that someone who embraces it, as you said, will not automatically become critical.

I also agree with the limitations you point out about Marxist thought and the focus on a new "vanguard" or leadership which has elitist overtones regarding the role of the teacher.  I know the ills of Marxism very well, but I think it still has something to offer in terms of an economic analysis and way of understanding the supremely important position of economic class and privilege (amongst other factors) in an era when we are told that class doesn't count anymore by western business people and academics who have chosen to buy in, lock stock and barrel, to a consumerist life style.  But this is always tempered with the fact that it is, by its very nature, proposing the formation of a new leadership which is destined to reproduce other inequality.  This has always been problematic for me and continues to be so.  However, we also live in times when attacks on Marxist thought are not always about the thinking or the way politicians have misappropriated it, they are about the "right" to see the world in a different way.  So sometimes what I am defending is the belief that another world is possible (to nick a slogan from the anti-globalisation movement).  I hope that clarifies.  With the left in such a mess, it is perhaps wise to think about the "balance" regarding support as the worry is that it will cease to exist altogether. I would rather there be leftists from different traditions to debate and argue with, than there be no leftists at all. Especially with the worrying trend in the election of openly fascist candidates in the recent EU elections.  You may feel different, and I would be really interested in your ideas here (off list if this element of discussion is going too far away from the central concerns of this blog topic).






In turn, Sara, I agree with (I think) all of what you have written so far! One of the dangers of broad churches is that the "respectable" voices (ie the non-revolutionary ones) have a louder shout. The CNT in Spain is open to non-anarchists who believe in the principles of revolutionary syndicalism. As a result, some anarchist proposals are argued against vigorously by those who are anarcosyndicalist, but not anarchist. And dogmetics argue vigorously against ideas that rock the boat a bit too much. This is obviously a disappointment to those who want the boat capsized, but there is a silver lining in that broad churches also provide dissent and critical voices.

I too would not want to be part of something that spoke with one voice and side with Errico Malatesta in that we should work together where possible but make our differences known. This goes as much for the antifascists as it does for those who believe our goals are as "innocent" as helping people learn language more effectively.

Having sung the praises of dogme for many years, an observation occurs to me now that is more critical in itself. Namely, if I were to let the students take control of the topics and the content, we might never stray much further than the blandest of the bland: either shopping or IELTS. In pure dogme courses that I have taught on, we ended p debating the rights and wrongs of abortion, religion and the death penalty. But we also spent a long time looking at such things as getting your haircut and the differences between calendars in different parts of the world. Arguably, the first was empowering because it enabled students to do something that they had struggled with before; and the second might be critical because it raises awareness of the world's diversity and the tendency to allow the hegemon to assert its way of measuring time over all others. But I don't think this would fool many!

When we have looked at topics such as the threat of English to other languages, it has been using materials that I brought into class. Perhaps a quasi-Freirean approach? The point being that my students are from the non-oppressed...possibly even from within the oppressor class. If I recall correctly (my copy is at work), Freire pretty much gives up on the chance that the oppressors can side with the oppressed. There are too many interests at stake. A question that really interests me is whether or not there really can be a pedagogy of the non-oppressed (I have a book with that title, but have yet to read it...). And what about a pedagogy of the oppressors? Is that what reeducation camps were about?

Many of the beneficiaries and the proponents of dogme are either from the non-oppressed or the oppresor class. Is this why dogme cannot really be critical? Too many of us are earning our crust by participating within the very system that we hope to chip away at. Too many of our students have the system to thank for their wealth and privilege. If this is true, perhaps dogme can only ever be limited to a reform movement whereby the inequities of the system are perpetuated by being made easier to bear. By sharing power, we fail to abolish it - we strengthen it by widening its base. By handing over power, we mark it as our possession to be proffered and withdrawn as the fancy takes us. Once again, I seem to be advocating the idea tha a pedagogy can only be really critical if it forces the teacher to act as nothing more than just a participant. And a truly liberating pedagogy is one whereby the teacher's power is wrested from them. 

This is still thinking out loud , so I will wait to see how that idea goes down before I alienate myself completely from one and all! Just one final word: I do like the way that dogme resists classification - and hope that The Book does not change that. There is room for a thousand and one different dogmes - although I would like to see a hardening of the position that dogme rejects all prepublished material! There is a marked difference from the provocative commandments and the more refrained "materials lite" position that currently seems to stalk the yard.

Lots of food for thought, Diarmuid. Thanks. (It's interesting that this debate is taking place under the aegis of the British Council, rather than - as it has done in  the past - that of Google. What this means I have no idea, except that - if Dogme were truly revolutionary - it would not have been tolerated here and/or would have found its voice in a different medium. Or is this further evidence of how postmodern power structures dilute dissent by ingesting it?).

Anyway, I just wanted to pick up on one thing. You said: "Once again, I seem to be advocating the idea that a pedagogy can only be really critical if it forces the teacher to act as nothing more than just a participant. And a truly liberating pedagogy is one whereby the teacher's power is wrested from them."

How does this square with the Vygotsyan notion of the teacher being a "better other" who has the skills to scaffold and co-construct learning, skills that are recognised, even sought, by the learner, thereby investing the teacher with a degree of authority, authority in the least malign sense of "someone who knows a lot about a subject and whose knowledge and opinions are greatly respected" (hence the derivation "authoritative") rather than the sense of "the power you have because of your official position" (hence the derivation "authoritarian")(both definitions from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English)?  Or would you argue that the one inevitably leads to the other?    Or, conversely, if the teacher's power were wrested from them, would their authority (= defintion 1), and hence their capacity to co-construct learning, be diminished? I.e. can you be authoritative without being authoritarian? I would argue that you can - parents and other caregivers are. Why not teachers?

I suspect that we agree with each other, but I am not as good as expressing myself as I would like to be. Master V's "better other" is how I see things, but what I was trying to get at is that while the authoritative source is located within the construct of "the teacher", truly liberating pedagogy is not achievable. It needs to be located in "an" other, rather that "the" other. My suspicion is that while there is a teacher-construct, there will be a student-construct and the power-relationship will not be critically affected.

This holds true for the privileged position of such a consummate and prolific writer such as yourself. I would suggest that you are -perhaps quite unwittingly- being painted into a construct of "EFL guru" because of your high profile, your provocative ideas and your eminently accessible, yet satisfyingly nourishing, texts. The same happened to Freire. His ideas became canonised and now people pick and choose the tasty bits of them that attract. Even dogme may be guilty of this by focusing on his learner-centredness whilst wrinkling its nose up at the revolutionary purpose that they underlay.

Rob's work holds a lot of promise. Can he authoritatively destroy the teacher-construct by gradually making it redundant? Can he, with time, create a situation where he is really seen as "another" by the students?

As a (rather poor) parent of three, I am not convinced that parents are non-authoritarian sources of authoritativeness. Can one's authority over another ever be benign? Well, now we're in the world of ideology where anything goes - I'd better go before my boss wonders what I'm doing!

Research and insight

Browse fascinating case studies, research papers, publications and books by researchers and ELT experts from around the world.

See our publications, research and insight