Dogme ELT

At our meeting last month, I mentioned Dogme ELT and people wanted to know more about it. As I understand and use it, it’s less a method than a philosophy: always put learning and learners first. The Dogme ELT “movement” started as a reaction to what Scott Thornbury felt were overprepared lessons, where teachers had so many materials and photocopies that there wasn’t any room left for the students. Here are the main principles (copied from the Wikipedia page):

  1. Interactivity: the most direct route to learning is to be found in the interactivity between teachers and students and amongst the students themselves.
  2. Engagement: students are most engaged by content they have created themselves
  3. Dialogic processes: learning is social and dialogic, where knowledge is co-constructed
  4. Scaffolded conversations: learning takes place through conversations, where the learner and teacher co-construct the knowledge and skills
  5. Emergence: language and grammar emerge from the learning process. This is seen as distinct from the ‘acquisition’ of language.
  6. Affordances: the teacher’s role is to optimize language learning affordances through directing attention to emergent language.
  7. Voice: the learner’s voice is given recognition along with the learner’s beliefs and knowledge.
  8. Empowerment: students and teachers are empowered by freeing the classroom of published materials and textbooks.
  9. Relevance: materials (e.g. texts, audios and videos) should have relevance for the learners
  10. Critical use: teachers and students should use published materials and textbooks in a critical way that recognizes their cultural and ideological biases.

Initially, Dogme started with a “vow of chastity”, where teachers promised not to use any pre-prepared materials at all but only what students brought in with them. This led to some negative reactions and I don’t think it’s necessary to reject materials to use it. Rather, I try to give learners and their questions and input at least as much value as the materials that we’re using–I really try never to interrupt someone’s story just for the sake of completing a few more exercises.

Dogme ELT has an active web community and there’s also a book explaining how to incorporate Dogme into your classroom.


3 thoughts on “Dogme ELT

  1. Betsy Melliger says:

    Thanks for this information Ben. It conjures up all those lovely ideas and principles in the course text books I had to read for my degree all those years ago!
    Useful to be reminded from time to time.


  2. davidkaufher says:

    I like this post because it reminds me how Dogme plays such an important role in conversation classes, which was the topic of last month’s get-together. The students who choose a conversation class don’t want the structure and strict expectations of a standard course, they want something where interactivity, engagement, scaffolding, dialog, and relevance. But at the same time, they do want concrete outcomes and focus on certain items of language that they need. They want the teacher to be the facilitator and draw attention to language issues that emerge.

    If you teach a conversation class for long enough, and pay attention, Dogme principles emerge naturally in your needs analysis for the class. Here, it helps to see them succinctly described. And I can recommend Scott Thornbury. It’s great to read his work or see him speak.

    Thanks Ben, for the post!


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