by Zeynep Eda Alpsoy, FLE senior student, 2015
DOGME in TEACHING
The Dogme approach, which opened a new perspective in ELT and came to light as a reaction to the over-emphasis on technology and the artificial environment created by non-genuine materials in the ELT settings, is an important concept that every skilled English teacher should know and implement at times. As the use of technology and the intensity of the materials dominated the ELT settings, the teachers became considerably dependent on these tools and they started to replace their individual teaching effort. Therefore, I regard the Dogme approach as a way for teachers to obtain independence and self-confidence in their classes. That is, if one wants to be an effective teacher, who can teach under different circumstances without relying on nothing but his/her own teaching skills, the Dogme approach would be a good point to start. However, considering the facts and academic discussions about the ELT settings and learners, it is obvious that a number of questions arise when questioning the effectiveness of the approach.
To start with, the Dogme approach criticizes the artificial materials, and thus focuses on activities which hardly necessitate the use of materials. However, instead, focusing on the non-realistic parts in those materials, improving them and using in the improved way could be another and better option. To elaborate, moving from the exercises in the book “Teaching Unplugged”, it can be said that there is an emphasis on the students’ immediate environment and themselves. I think, although this might prove to be effective in the initial stages, the students might start to get uninterested to these topics after a while or/and their learning experience might be inhibited. To clarify, a language classroom should be able to teach the students beyond the language itself, because language is a broad term and is in interaction with culture, society, history and so on. That is, if the teacher uses only what is available to him/her in the immediate environment, the language teaching process will lose its quality.
Second point to be raised when evaluating the Dogme approach is the emphasis put on the communicative aspect of the language teaching. Both the theoretical explanations and the activities created with the approach use listening and speaking skills excessively, and ignores the teaching of reading and writing skills. It is argued that speaking is the core function of the language and the L2 learners feel cheated when the emphasis is largely on grammar and vocabulary, and when they see that they cannot communicate using the language at all. However, this does not mean that we should put the majority of the focus on speaking and the rest should develop by on their own. It is an obvious fact that reading and writing are also mediums for communication, and it would be difficult for a language learner to achieve proficiency if each of these skills is not supported at least to a certain extent and if metalinguistic knowledge is not taught in the classroom. Therefore, it could be said that Dogme approach lacks the explanations for how to teach reading and writing without using much technology and other materials. Another point that lacks the theoretical explanation is the profile of the learners and the applicability of Dogme in different age and proficiency groups. For instance, we do not know how we can apply it with young learners who just started their language learning adventure or how the proficiency of the learners would affect the flow of the activities and how these activities could be adjusted accordingly. It is also unclear what the language of the instruction will be. However, I also think that the teacher instincts could be helpful at this point to guide the process, but then we will have to question the effectiveness and practicality of the approach. The last point that I want to reflect on Dogme is the input process. As it is known to all of us output is produced after the learners acquired the necessary input. That is, instruction is needed before implementing the activities provided in the book. However, there is an extensive emphasis on output, especially oral, while there is not a clear guideline on how to teach a topic with the Dogme approach.
All in all, teaching without being bound to technology and materials is a skill that every teacher should have, and I believe that is what distinguishes us from the other teachers who did not study to be a teacher but still teach and who thinks that everyone who speaks English can teach it. Having a large repertoire of Dogme activities is useful for teachers to come up with ideas in the classroom settings where abruptness is a matter of fact. However, it should also be accepted that teaching a language is a long and detailed process where many approaches should be blended in order to achieve a desired experience, so materials and technology should also be included at reasonable amounts and their quality and effect should be questioned and developed by the teacher, if necessary.