TDSIG Unplugged Countdown: “One…”

The 4th principle of OST
The 4th Principle of OST

This mini-series sketches out some of the ideas that I would like to explore at the upcoming TDSIG Unplugged Conference in Barcelona on 21 May 2011.  If any of them chime with you and you would like to explore them as well – or if you would like to work on completely different issues, the conference is there to give you the open space to do just that.  It is never too late to join in, so if you haven’t already, visit and register!

Counting down…1…

When will the voice of Dogme ELT fall silent?

Someone cleverer and more widely cited than me once said something like “The goal of teaching should be to make the teacher redundant”.  Behind this are the concepts autonomy, independence and self-direction.  If learners reach a point where there are no more lessons for which they need a teacher, then this has been reached and we – as teaching individuals and as a professional whole – will have served our purpose.

There has also been talk on the Blogosphere about labels like dogme and teaching unplugged if it’s working, we don’t need to give it a label is the point Sharon Hartle adroitly makes.

So what is the purpose of Dogme?  What is its raison d’être  Its genius?  Without knowing this, we cannot know if it is working; if we don’t know that, how will we know when its voice has simply become our own and its names can be forgotten as it answers now to ours?

If it could speak, what would its voice sound like?

Would it sound like this?

It’s not how new your pencil is, it’s how you write your name;

It’s not about the syllabus, it’s not about the aim;

It’s not how many words you know, but what you choose to say;

It’s not the destination, but the detours on the way .

It’s not the flipcharts, whiteboards, smartboards, VLEs or books,

It’s always been the people and the things they say, the looks

they share, and the things they learn that count;

It’s quality, not quantity; it’s richness, not amount.

It’s not about materials, but what you choose to make;

It’s not about the input, it’s the uptake that’s at stake;

It’s not the timings you should count, It’s meaning you should measure;

It’s not about abstention, it’s the Open Space we treasure.

– Dedicated to Diarmuid Fogarty –

When this voice sounds as familiar to me as my own, then maybe I won’t need the terms dogme ELT or Teaching Unplugged anymore.


I would like to thank everyone who has read any of these posts, commented on them, tweeted about them or talked to me about them.  It really means a lot to me.

Tomorrow by the time the final post leaves the launchpad, I will be sitting in a classroom in Spain, waiting for something very special to happen.  What that “something special” turns out to be depends entirely on you, if you choose to come.

So please, come along, and make the TDSIG Unplugged Conference something truly special.


  1. Candy

    You know when someone says something and you wish so bad that it could have been you who said it….?

    Have a fantastic weekend and BE IN TOUCH.

  2. Pingback: TDSIG Unplugged Countdown: “One…” (via Teacher Training Unplugged) | English learning in Our World
  3. hartle

    Anthony, the Dogme poem sent shivers down my spine. It really captures the truly ineffable nature of powerful learning. 🙂 Thanks, I’ll definitely be following your mini series on the conference.

  4. Mr Darkbloom


    Will anybody actually be filming this event? It would be fantastic (and totally appropriate to your previous comments about spreading awareness…) to have this event taped and on-line.

    • Anthony Gaughan

      There are apparently going to be a couple of roving reporters who will be … err… roving and later reporting (sorry, it’s late…) Quite what form that will take etc is beyond my ken at the moment. Have to see what emerges 😉

  5. Diarmuid

    Flattered to the point of floating. No one’s ever dedicated a poem to me before, and it’s hardly as if I haven’t hinted. But I always thought that poems dedicated to me would be more of the Ozymandias kind. It is with great relief then that I will be able to tell my biographer that the first of the many poems that were written for me was this one – a pleasant rhythm and fine rhyme that eulogised those things that are noble in humanity – indeed, those things that constitute humanity. Because, Snakes on a Plane, the moment that it becomes about how new your pencil is, then we are totally ****ed.

    But what do we say to our detractors who scoff and belittle such thoughts? This is the nagging voice that ocassionally irritates to the point where I can’t concentrate on the poetry. I hasten to add that it is not myvoice. What about those who claim that it very much is the syllabus, the aims, the input, the materials, the resources, the end point?

    Do we even try to convince them? Do we even need to consider them? Perhaps not. We live in a network of realities. We know what is real for us. We live it. We listen out for the cocks crowing in the nearby village and we may even adjust our watches as a result. But our realities are made up of the electrical signals whizzing through our brains. Their realities are also locked away in a black box that we have no access to. We are left with the Maoist cry to let a thousand flowers bloom.

    In any event, I am immensely honoured to be associated with the poem. Just as I am flattered to be associated with Dogme. Dogme contributed overwhelmingly to who I am today and who I want to be tomorrow. That’s how important it was to me. I am also insanely jealous of all of you who managed to go to the Teaching Unplugged conference. Damn your eyes.

    • Anthony Gaughan

      Sadly my access to the Muse falls short of Ozymandias – but I’m glad you enjoyed my meagre effort anyway 😉 I’d have hated it if you thought “pile ‘o’ toss and he’s stck my name on it!”

      What do we say? Good question. Should we even try? I think yes, if only because ours is still a world of Auseinandersetzung (a great German word that seems to conflate the ideas of exchange, involvement with others, conflict and work towards deeper understanding) – even if we were happy to live as if justification were not needed, the rest would not play ball, and as life entails playing with as much as playing against, I think we do need to consider them.

      Whether we need to persuade them is another matter. I would be happy to reach a stage where there was a willingness to accommodate any perspective that held a hope of benefit for learning; at the moment there is perhaps too much easy acceptance of what already suits us and the contents of our black box, and rejection of what doesn’t already fit this world view.

      Jeremy Harmer, for one, has said he is riled less by the fact of dogme than by the passionate advocacy on twitter etc of some of its sympathisers. I think it is unfortunate that he seems to get distracted by the messenger in a way that skews his view of the message but as a messenger I am not really responsible for that. Not getting the word out, however just leaves silence, and others will always find use for such silence: nature (or at least the nature of educational discourse, it seems) abhors a vacuum…

      Thank you for adding your own signature voice to this conversation.

    • Anthony Gaughan

      Hi, I think several people will be reviewing it or posting outcomes – Nicky Hockly already posted their working groups’ Glogster (ask her what that is 😉 ) online. I plan to but am about to head off for 2 weeks without internet access so mine’ll have to wait 🙁

      Scott and Luke did teach a very intersting lesson and the conversation with the learners was fascinating- so keep your eyes peeled!

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