How Dogme Are We?

Here’s something our trainees made earlier…

We have been very excited by the fact that several readers have come to see what we have been doing on our courses, but we are a little concerned that, at some point, after we have described what we are doing and what our trainees end up doing in their lessons, some of you might turn round and say “What?  That’s it?! That’s not Dogme?

We were worried about this for a few different reasons:

  • Firstly, while we are very excited about what we are doing and about how many benefits and challenges it is bringing us, this does not mean that it is anything ground-breaking for the world in general.  Perhaps we are simply reinventing a wheel already familiar to many of you.
  • Secondly, we were worried about how we were presenting our developments and ideas.  Could we be presenting an inflated sense of what was actually going on?
  • Finally, we were worried that our understanding of what we are doing and how it relates to Dogme would not be shared by visitors.

So we have decided to try to state clearly what relationship we see between Dogme and what we are doing on our courses these days.

Our view of Dogme

For us, the core interest in Dogme is in its capacity to place learners and their teacher in a simple, unobstructed relationship.  Simple here means with as few components as necessary to achieve a working relationship, and unobstructed here means with no elements which may impede effective work together.

We believe that lessons which involve direct communication between teacher and learners about topics and issues which are of direct human relevance to them without unnecessary mediation through other media are more satisfying and effective lessons for both teachers and learners.  We believe that these lessons succeed because they allow more space for each participant to be come a true contributor, rather than a task processor.

We base this belief on a purely subjective evaluation of the 500 or so lessons we observe each year by both beginning teachers on initial training courses and by experienced teachers as part of routine observation.

In our next post we will describe our attitude towards coursebooks.


  • I like your idea of Dogme as a combined principle of decluttering and refocussing. I wonder how your notion of a student as a contributor rather than a processor fits with the idea of a silent period. As 26 Letters points out on his blog, some approaches identify a silent period as long as two years as the most efficient way to reach at least an approximation of fluency. In any case, individual students can be more or less silent – is there space for that in your Dogme approach?

    • The idea of a silent period in first and second language acquisition is interesting and its extension to teacher training and teacher learning is very suggestive. If we accept for now that something like a silent period occurs/would be beneficial for beginning teachers, then first we should define what this would be like. Two definitions come to mind initially: “the trainee does not need to teach until they feel ready” and “the trainee need not contribute ideas to conversations about teaching until they feel ready.”

      Now, catering to the first one is made difficult by the time-limited nature of a training course like CELTA; trainees simply need to start teaching early and keep at it for logistical reasons.

      The other interpretation (which I guess you were thinking of) is easier to take account of: naturally, trainees who wish to listen rather than contribute in larger conversations can choose to do so; several trainees have noticeably done this but then in TP shown through their approach that something in the group sessions had an impact and they were experimenting with it. Obviously, when asking trainees to discuss in pairs or small groups, there is much less space for being silent! However, this was the case previously anyway.

      I’m not sure that the idea of a silent period in this second sense is valid or, at least helpful. My reasoning is that for language learners, the challenge is mastering a language system and producing language of necessity requires use of that system: keeping silent until enough of it has fallen into place makes sense. However, with teaching (or more precisely, talking about ideas of teaching), this doesn’t apply.

      However, our asking trainees to try things out on their peers in group sessions as a form of rehearsal before TP is a different matter. This may well be asking trainees to run before they feel happy about walking and I do recall one trainee who stood up to rehearse something, then stated point-blank that she wasn’t ready to do it and sat down. This was OK and we moved on.

      Does this respond adequately to your question? If not, let me know!

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