TDSIG Unplugged Countdown: “Four…”

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…4…

How can we share academic knowledge effectively to help the first Dr. Dogme emerge?”

Image: "If an untidy desk signifies an untidy mind, what does an empty desk signify?" - A. Einstein -
"If an untidy desk signifies an untidy mind, what does an empty desk signify?" - A. Einstein -

In an earlier “wish list” entry, I suggested that gathering some kind of formal evidence base was one way of building a case for teaching unplugged that would possibly help convince those who are – understandably – still somewhat skeptical of its superiority to all other approaches to teaching languages (ahem…)

And there does seem to be real interest in Dogme ELT as an area of serious academic study. Scott Thornbury (for one) has mentioned on occasion and other bloggers have also been throwing around the idea of exploring unplugged methodology and principles at MA level (though for the life of me I can’t find the references right now – and if you see my desk in the picture, you’ll understand why…) the search for the first Dr. Dogme, and frankly, after ten years, one could reasonably question why this person hasn’t already emerged.

One reason might be the ongoing perceived lack of academic definition as to what teaching unplugged actually is: is it an approach?  A method?  A critique?  Or, my favorite term, is it simply an attitude, a “way of thinking” about teaching and learning?

Fools rush in where …

This lack of definition – combined with some news that others wiser than I am have discarded the idea of writing on this – has persuaded me to request a shift in focus for my MA dissertation to address this question.

So my interest in exploring ways of enabling a Dr. Dogme to emerge are partly social, but to a great extent self-centred!  That said, I am prepared to put in spadework, and I am prepared to share, so this is what I would propose…

Setting up a form of spreadsheet or database (for example, in Google Docs) wherein can be catalogued all instances (OK, as many as we can find…) of articles or references to Dogme ELT/teaching unplugged.  These could be journal entries, articles, books, discussion forums (and their posts), twitter streams, blog posts/comments etc.

Google Docs can be embedded so we could hard-wire it into our blogs and thereby increase overall ease of access – like keeping a fridge full of communal beer at everyone’s house.

We, the People, Bequeath this unto the Nation…

The database would be open for everyone to make a contribution or to use for their own research purposes: a kind of Unplugged Public Library.

I know that there are archives or collections of Dogme-related stuff out there already, but from what I’ve seen they lack the academic organisation to make them easily useful as a research tool.  Of course, if you have access to an academic library and are good at boolean searches, you can find this all out yourself alone, but it all takes time and access.

With a little more APA organisation and a lot of crowdsourcing, our shared literature awareness as a community could become a very powerful resource.

Anyone else interested in helping future generations to stand on the shoulders of giants?  Maybe we can see a Dr. Dogme by the time this decade ticks over?  Won’t be me, though, if my desk is anything to go by…

Get in touch via this blog by adding a comment or visit the TDSIG discussion list, or form a working group in Barcelona on Saturday 21st 🙂


  • Great idea – the dogme data base, Anthony. I have been assembling my own list of print articles about dogme over the years, in the event that someone might need a bibliography, and am very happy to make it available.

    • Thanks Scott, that would be very generous of you. I’ll definitely set up somewhere to make it available if you send it to me.

    • Hi Candy, Let’s see what ideas (if any) come out on Saturday, but even if the only people interested are me and Scott, I’ll still try to get something up and running 🙂

  • If I were in the position where I could do a Phd. Dogme and teaching unplugged would be what I’d want to research. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could undertake this type of research? It’s only a matter of time…..

    • I feel the same way – anyone willing to give me 4 years off and pay my rent? I’ll dedicate the first binding to you, promise… 😉

  • Sounds like a fabbo idea, Anthony. I’d certainly make use of such a body of material. If I could help in any way (however small) with indexing/collecting links and references, I would definitely be interested =)

  • If you want to add a section for the impact of this approach on learners with special needs, I’ll let you know what I find.
    For now, though I’m the only one I have found so far posting about children officialy defined as special-needs learners, on the blog Magpie Moments Anna has been describing fascinating unplugged English lessons with adults who are illiterate in their mother tongue.
    I think that certainly falls into the category of special needs!

    • Thanks Scott, that’s really useful. I’ve also created a GoogleDoc and have checked it can be embedded (works!) so I’ll add some entries and invite a couple of people for Beta Testing (just listen to me! Quite the IT bod…)

      My hope is to get something spreadsheet-wise that makes lifting references for bibliographies easy, as well as being a useful tool for collating quotes, notes and so on.

      PS: any idea who set up Reservoir Dogme? 😕

  • I’ve been asked if I can teach speaking oriented classes with few resources but incorporating grammar and language by at least 3 schools this month. 1 then asked if I know anyone who could train teachers to teach like this. In each case I mentioned Dogme and Scott Thornbury and was met with 1 “sounds familiar'”. The people had wither heard of the idea of Dogme or had come to the conclusion that an approach with the same principles was needed.

    I think this says a lot.

    • I think it says a lot too. It’s increasingly obvious that awareness of dogme/teaching unplugged is increasing – I’m interested in how to drive this further, for example through training (and the next time someone asks about training, send them our way 😉 )

  • English Salon, English corner, English club, English ‘conversation’ workshops, Summer schools.

    Take your pick. Dogme is perfect.

    The time is very much NOW I think.

    In Asia there was/still is CRAZY ENGLISH which has made lots of money. It has a couple of principles for turning introvert young kids into speaking masters through speaking workshops devivered to huge crowds:

    1) Shout
    2) Speak fast
    3) Don’t stress about grammar

    You can see kids practising in parks at 5 am BUT it stresses repetition and memorisation. It does work with many students and makes them confident and LOUD.

    A DOGME approach would then work even better but may have problems getting students to share opinions. At the end of a 2 term speaking course an Asian student said to me “I can make my own opinions now and I feel Ok to tell other people”.

    Any ideas how we could speed this process up?

    • Mmm, I tend to agree that there are lots of movements and ways of thinking coming into alignment these days (dare I use the word Zeitgeist?) – a return to the human scale. What’s interesting is the way that this is presented depending on which side of the fence you are on: if you’re anti, then this is a rejection, a “throwing valuable toys out of the pram”; if you’re pro, it’s a freeing and enlarging step into space: who is right, I wonder? 😉

  • Anthony,
    Can you let me know when you have anything (anything!) about this at a stage you can start sharing and accepting contribution?

    I thought about something like that a while ago, but the main downer I found was that journal articles for example have sturdy gate-keepers, so although a reference list is already very helpful I really wanted to find a way to jailbreak academic papers so we can get to the point of really SHARING academic work.

    I can’t wait for an ELT-NAPSTER, I was half-way to have the balls to say ‘hell’ to copyright and do it, but then… well I didn’t.

    So, keep in touch – and count on me!

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