Hey David, Richard, Luke – I did it! We now have our own discussion group!
Let me know if you have any trouble getting in. Invite other members on board.
For a pedagogy of bare essentials
The above message was posted ten years ago next week (March 9th, 2000), thereby inaugurating the Dogme ELT discussion list, and, by extension, the Dogme ELT “movement”. Prior to that date, an article I’d written for the IATEFL newsletter (which you can read here) attracted the attention of a handul of like-minded teachers (of whom Luke Meddings was one) and we started exchanging e-mails. It was David French’s idea to start up an online discussion group. The rest, as they say, is history. In ten years, the list has never been dormant for more than a few days, clocking up over 15,000 postings from several hundred members (although the number of regular posters is considerably fewer), all more or less dedicated to the topic of “materials-light” teaching. In the words of the discussion list masthead:
We are a mix of teachers, trainers and writers working in a wide range of contexts, who are committed to a belief that language learning is both socially motivated and socially constructed, and to this end we are seeking alternatives to models of instruction that are mediated primarily through materials and whose objective is the delivery of “grammar mcnuggets”. We are looking for ways of exploiting the learning opportunities offered by the raw material of the classroom, that is the language that emerges from the needs, interests, concerns and desires of the people in the room.
As evidence of the way that “dogme” has pervaded current thinking about ELT methodology, you only have to see how the term itself is used without, apparently, the need for any explanation or definition. As an example, I was at a conference presentation recently, in which the speaker made constant reference to dogme without any of the 30 or so participants at any time asking what he was talking about! And in a recent blog post, Nick Jaworski, a teacher in Turkey, describes how he has introduced dogme principles into his school, as if they were a valid curricular option. Dogme now has a wikipedia entry, an archive of early postings, and, of course, a book.
All of which suggests that now might be as good a time as any to draw a line in the sand, and put the discussion list to rest. Apart from anything, the exponential growth in educational technologies since 2000 represents a challenge to dogme that might be best met in new venues and with a different audience. And, in line with developments in technology, the dogme community itself has begun to migrate away from its original ‘home’, and its concerns are now more actively debated elsewhere, on other discussion forums and websites, and on a number of institutional and personal blogs (such as this recent posting by Mark Andrews), as well as in the more conventional print media. As dogme disperses, the home site has become a platform for agendas that sit uncomfortably with the core dogme principles, and the sense of a collaborative project has been side-lined. As one disaffected member recently commented before unsubscribing: “I just don’t feel like the discussions are leading anywhere these days.”
Accordingly, I have posted a message on the Dogme discussion group website, announcing its imminent demise as a discussion, although it will continue to remain available as an archive. The fact that the site is closing as a discussion group does not, of course, betoken the end of dogme. Rather, the fact that it no longer needs a home is testimony to its vigour. Nevertheless, this hasn’t been an easy decision, and I am grateful to Luke Meddings and Rob Haines for their support. The dogme site for a long time was one of the most lively forums for teacher development on offer, and I am enormously grateful to all who contributed so generously to helping make it so. But it’s time to move on.