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International Symposium on Language and Communication: Research trends and challenges

Dogme Unplugged
Catherine Akca1
1

Kafkas University, Kars, Turkey, cathyakca@hotmail.com

Abstract: The term Dogme was first applied in an ELT context in 2000, when it was used
to advocate the teaching of English as a foreign language in a conversation-driven way,
with minimum reliance on materials, such as course books and technology, and maximum
exploitation of language as it emerged in the classroom. In such an environment, the
students themselves and the teacher would be the primary resources. Over the succeeding
decade, whilst the Dogme approach was embraced by numbers of ELT practitioners in
various parts of the world, it also attracted considerable criticism from other members of
the ELT community. Although the concept has often been discussed at international ELT
conferences and has been the source of fruitful debate in the blogosphere, Dogme appears
to be relatively little known in Turkey, and under-researched in general. This paper seeks to
review the Dogme approach to ELT, to highlight its perceived advantages and
disadvantages, to begin to consider its appropriateness in a Turkish context, and to suggest
that the debate surrounding Dogme ELT should be clarified by academic research.
Keywords: Dogme, Emergent Language, Conversation, ELT, Motivation

1.

Introduction

English Language Teaching (ELT) has become a multi-million pound global industry, a
significant component of which is the flourishing teaching materials sector. In many
language teaching contexts, the coursebook is as inevitable a feature of the classroom
environment as are the teacher and students. Indeed, the coursebook itself is likely to be
supplemented by, at the very least, a workbook and a DVD. Alongside the coursebook, the
student in the classroom may be expected to use a variety of handouts provided by the
teacher and, in the digital era, perhaps engage in activities using laptop computers or
interactive whiteboard technology.
Clearly, the volume of language teaching materials available is proportional to the market
demand for them. Moreover, trends in methodology shape the design of such materials.
Thus, most modern coursebooks purport to adopt a communicative approach to language
teaching, in line with the shift which took place in ELT research and practice in the 1970s
away from grammar-centred methodologies towards a focus on making the classroom an
environment for authentic communication (Richards and Rodgers, 2001, p. 71).
Nonetheless, despite market trends and methodological developments, questions have long
been raised and continue to be raised about the extent to which teaching materials should
be allowed to determine the content of ELT, and about the degree to which such prefabricated materials do actually engender authentic communication.

As early as 1981, Allwright argued that The whole business of the management of
learning is far too complex to be satisfactorily catered for by a pre-packaged set of
decisions embodied in teaching materials (p. 9). He highlighted the restrictive nature of
language teaching materials, which pre-empt many of the decisions learners might be
trained to make for themselves (p. 14), and suggested that ELT content should not simply
consist of knowledge taught to students, but that it should be an emergent phenomenon,
arising out of the interactive nature of classroom events (p. 8). However, although
Allwright was critical of over-reliance upon teaching materials, which he believed reduced
the learners own input into the communicative language learning process, he did not go so
far as to dismiss such materials entirely. Rather, he advocated a switch in emphasis from
teaching materials to learning materials, to be developed in a context of co-operative
language learning management (Allwright, 1981).
In 2000, in similar but much more radical vein, Scott Thornbury published an article which
appeared to challenge the very use of teaching materials in the language classroom.
Thornbury argued that the plethora of teaching resources brought into the contemporary
ELT classroom impeded authentic communication because such materials had no relevance
to the inner lives of the learners themselves. He proposed that Teaching should be done
using only the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom i.e. themselves
and whatever happens to be in the classroom (Thornbury, 2000, p. 2). To reinforce his
argument, Thornbury drew a comparison between the type of teaching he was advocating
and the manifesto of the Dogme 95 Danish film-making collective, which had renounced
technological effects, imported sets and props, genres and artificiality, in favour of a return
to a purer style of film-making, a more traditional emphasis upon story and character, and
an approach rooted in reality (Thornbury, 2000; Von Trier & Vinterberg, 2005, pp.87-88).
Using this analogy, Thornbury called for a Dogme approach to ELT. This would involve
renouncing extraneous materials, technologies, methodologies and contexts, and returning
to a purer form of teaching or rather learning stemming from the communicative
interaction between the teacher and learners in the classroom, and grounded in the real-life
concerns of the participants (Thornbury, 2000).
Thornburys challenge to the materials-driven ethos prevalent in contemporary language
teaching generated interest amongst a number of ELT practitioners and soon resulted in the
establishment of a prolific online discussion group dedicated to Dogme ELT
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme), which was to play a role in the development of
the approach over the subsequent decade:
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 (Thornbury, 2001a).

As Dogme ELT gained publicity in this way, and through articles written by Thornbury
and his colleague Luke Meddings (Thornbury, 2000; Thornbury & Meddings, 2001;
Meddings & Thornbury, 2003; Thornbury, 2005), the approach began to be espoused by
teachers in various parts of the world. This is evidenced in the reflective accounts of
classroom practice and experiences which continue to inform the ELT blogosphere (see
Appendix 1 for a list of blogs concerned with Dogme ELT), and to engage the interest and
involvement of teachers. On a different plane, presentations, discussion and indeed hot
debate about Dogme ELT are now perennial features of both national and international
ELT conferences. Elsewhere, the concept of Dogme ELT has, perhaps paradoxically,
begun to be recognised in language teaching methodology books (Hall, 2011). Moreover,
Meddings and Thornbury have recently published the first book devoted entirely to the
principles and practice of Dogme ELT (2009). Entitled Teaching Unplugged, the book
derives its name from an analogy made between musical performances free of electronic
amplification or modification and the notion that Dogme ELT is an approach free ... from
materials, aids and technology (Thornbury, 2001b; Meddings & Thornbury, 2009, p. 7).
Indeed, the phrase teaching unplugged has become synonymous with applying the
Dogme approach to ELT.
Evidently, the Dogme approach to ELT, or teaching unplugged, has gained impetus over
the last decade, at least in the contexts alluded to above. On the other hand, it has also
sparked controversy amongst ELT professionals (see Section 5, below for more detail).
One of the criticisms levelled has been the lack of a sound theoretical basis to underpin the
approach (Harmer, 2010). In response, proponents of the Dogme style of language teaching
have situated it within a rich tradition of alternative, progressive, critical and humanist
educational theory (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009, p.7; Harmer, 2010); related it to
emergent systems theory (p. 19); and associated it to varying degrees, at least on a
philosophical level, with earlier concepts in ELT, such as Communicative Language
Teaching (CLT) and Task-Based Learning (TBL) (see Section 4, below for more detail).
Regardless of the debate about whether or not the approach is sufficiently well-grounded in
theory, few would dispute the fact that Dogme ELT is currently under-researched. As the
above discussion indicates, the available literature consists principally of the published
works of Meddings and Thornbury, supplemented by the online reflections and guidance of
Dogme practitioners, blogged reports of action research, and online material fed back
from ELT conferences. These sources have sought primarily to promote, develop or defend
the approach, rather than to subject it to rigorous academic analysis. Thus, to date, the
outcomes of Dogme learning have often been reported on a relatively anecdotal basis. On
the other hand, one project which did involve qualitative research, aimed at determining the
attitudes of teachers and students in the UK towards the tenets of Dogme ELT, was limited
by the small size of the populations it surveyed, as its author has conceded (Sketchley,
2011). Nonetheless, the lack of research into Dogme ELT is now being addressed. A
collection of research papers, with the working title Researching Dogme, is scheduled for
publication in 2014 (Thornbury, 2011). The eventual completion of this project may
provide answers to some of the questions surrounding Dogme ELT, and therefore help to
validate the approach.

Having traced something of the history and development of the concept, the remainder of
this paper attempts to outline the fundamental principles of Dogme ELT; to look briefly at
the practice of teaching unplugged; to describe how proponents of the approach have
situated it in relation to more general theories of education and of second language
teaching; and to discuss aspects of the debate surrounding the concept. It does so with the
intention of drawing the attention of a wider audience to Dogme ELT. For instance, here in
Turkey, the notion of teaching unplugged may be completely new to many professionals
involved in mainstream English language teaching, whether in state schools or at
universities in the public sector (although this is less likely to be the case in the private
sector). Ultimately, the aim of this paper is to encourage more teachers to try teaching
unplugged and more academics to evaluate the approach in their own local context, thereby
contributing both to the practical development of Dogme ELT and to its theoretical
validation.

2.

The Dogme Approach to ELT

2.1

The Concept of Dogme ELT

The term Dogme ELT is used to describe the teaching of English as a foreign language in a
conversation-driven way, with minimum reliance on materials and maximum exploitation
of the language which emerges in the classroom (Thornbury, 2001; Meddings &
Thornbury, 2009).
The Dogme approach has been called, variously, a pre-method type of teaching,
requiring simply a room, chairs, a board, a teacher and some students (Thornbury, 2001);
a moveable feast: difficult to pin down, endlessly adaptive (Thornbury & Meddings,
cited in Sketchley, 2011, p. 52); and a state of mind (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009, p.
21). Hall has defined Dogme ELT as both a way of teaching and an overt attitude to
teaching (2011, p. 40). As the works cited imply, Dogme is clearly not a language
teaching methodology per se. Rather, Dogme may be defined as a philosophy of teaching,
which is in no way prescriptive, but which is given coherence by the three core principles
outlined below.

2.2

Principles of Dogme ELT

In the decade following the inception of the approach, three key principles underpinning
Dogme ELT were made explicit (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009), as follows.

2.2.1

Conversation-Driven

The content of a Dogme ELT lesson is not pre-planned around a coursebook supplemented
by various printed or technology-based teaching aids. On the contrary, content emerges
from real conversation, which is generated in the classroom and allowed to take its course
(Thornbury, 2000; Thornbury & Meddings, 2001; Meddings & Thornbury, 2009). In other
words, the lesson is shaped at least as much by the students, as by the teacher. Thus,
Dogme ELT involves a shift in the balance of power in the classroom, away from the
paradigm of a dominant teacher who delivers knowledge to students who attempt to learn
it, to a community model in which learning is believed to be co-constructed through the
communicative interaction which takes place between all the participants in the experience

(Meddings & Thornbury, 2003; McCabe, 2005; Meddings & Thornbury, 2009). Moreover,
because the learners become involved in dialogue which is authentic and relevant to their
own lives, interests and needs, it is argued that they engage more thoroughly with the
lesson and the language, and more readily with each other; become more resourceful;
contribute more to the process; and thus learn more effectively (Thornbury & Meddings,
2001; Meddings & Thornbury, 2009; Meddings, 2012).
The conversation-driven ethos of Dogme ELT is based upon several assumptions,
including that the best way to learn how to communicate is by communicating
(Allwright, paraphrased by Meddings & Thornbury, 2009, p. 17); that, in natural language
acquisition, fluency precedes accuracy (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009, p. 9); that
conversation involves the construction of coherent stretches of discourse, which provides a
better foundation for real-life language use than would the production of isolated albeit
grammatically accurate sentences (p. 9); and that the dialogic nature of conversation
facilitates the process termed scaffolding (Bruner, cited in Meddings & Thornbury, 2009,
p.10), whereby the teacher helps the learners to reformulate, repair, or refine the emergent
language, and thus to become more proficient.

2.2.2

Materials-Light

In the article which gave rise to Dogme ELT, Thornbury appeared to advocate a language
classroom entirely free of materials, aids and technology (2000). However, Meddings and
Thornbury subsequently clarified their position, arguing that they were not against
coursebooks, materials or technology in themselves, but that the learners ownership of the
language learning process is impeded by the prevailing culture of mass-produced, shrinkwrapped lessons, and by the notion that the learning of a language runs along a
predetermined route with the regularity and efficiency of a Swiss train (Thornbury &
Meddings, 2001; Meddings & Thornbury, 2003). In other words, since Dogme ELT
assumes that language learning is organic rather than linear, and that learning emerges not
as the product of artificial communicative activities but through the process of teacher and
learners sharing and building knowledge in authentic conversation, coursebooks and other
extraneous teaching aids are regarded as generally obstructive and unnecessary.
On the other hand, materials which belong to, have been prepared by, or are of personal
interest to the learners themselves are to be welcomed, in so far as they are likely to
stimulate real conversation in the classroom. Thus, Dogme has been characterised as
materials-light rather than materials-free teaching (Thornbury & Meddings, 2001;
Meddings & Thornbury, 2009). Dogme-friendly materials might include photos,
newspaper items, original texts written or recorded by the learners, music available on the
learners mobile phones, etc.

2.2.3

Focused on Emergent Language

Perhaps the most interesting of the core tenets of Dogme ELT is the idea that the language
content of a lesson should emerge from the conversation which takes place between the
participants involved (Thornbury & Meddings, 2001). Since the direction which any
conversation may take is unpredictable, it follows that there can be no rigid adherence to a
pre-ordained functional or grammatical syllabus in such a context. On the other hand, while

a Dogme approach to ELT is of its nature conversation-driven, this does not mean that a
Dogme lesson is equivalent to a speaking lesson. On the contrary, the language which
emerges in the course of classroom interaction to become the focus of the lesson may be
developed in a variety of ways, using diverse language skills and a range of techniques (see
Section 3, below for more detail).
The crucial point here is that the attention of the learners should be drawn to the language
that emerges in the course of the lesson. In other words, the teacher should mediate the
learning process through scaffolding. That is, by reinforcing and refining the learners
efforts to engage with the emergent language, the teacher helps them to gain competence,
until they no longer require support here, but may be encouraged to engage with more
challenging language, again assisted by scaffolding (Thornbury, 2005; Meddings &
Thornbury, 2009).
Having outlined the core principles of Dogme ELT, the question arises as to how teachers
may scaffold the language which emerges, in practice, in an unplugged classroom.

3.

Dogme ELT in Practice

For language teachers who are used to planning lessons in advance and to relying upon
coursebooks and/or other materials, the idea of stepping into a classroom with only the
germ of an idea to stimulate conversation may seem like a leap into the unknown.
Moreover, some may question their own capacity to react immediately and effectively to
the language which emerges there.
Nonetheless, guidance for the novice Dogme practitioner is available in various forms:
reflective accounts of unplugged lessons are regularly published online by teachers
working in various parts of the world (see Appendix 1 for a list of blogs); video recordings
of seminars about Dogme ELT are also available online (Meddings, 2011); and a bank of
starter activities and strategies is presented in Teaching Unplugged (Meddings &
Thornbury, 2009). Elsewhere, Thornbury and Meddings describe how a teacher might use
the language which emerges in an unplugged classroom to generate learning:
The important thing ... is to capture text, whether sentences, bits of talk or whole
conversations, and then put this captured text to work, improving it, rehearsing it,
performing it, re-formulating it in another mode (speech to writing, or writing to
speech) or register (formal, public or informal, private). And there must be some
focused attention on the language but not just on the weaknesses, also on the
strengths. And there must be some kind of summarising activity, for the record.
This is what is meant by a reactive focus on learner language one in which the
learners language is as much the process as the product of instruction (2001).
Thus, although a Dogme ELT lesson requires little pre-planning or preparation, beyond the
selection of a stimulus to get the conversation started, considerable effort is required on the
part of the teacher during the lesson itself. The teacher in a Dogme classroom must be able
to capture emergent language and use it to create learning opportunities, either by
scaffolding it immediately, or by noting it for retrieval later in the lesson. In other words,
the teacher must ensure that features or patterns of emergent language are noticed,

repeated, refined, recorded, reworked, recycled, reviewed and gradually assimilated by the
learners (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009). In working with the emergent language, any of
the techniques used in the conventional ELT classroom may be employed, as appropriate:
pair work, group work, drills, role play, brainstorming, grammar clarification, etc. Effective
use of the board by the teacher is particularly important in terms of helping learners to
focus upon emergent language. It is worth noting that, although the teacher will be
proactive in scaffolding emergent language, the interactive nature of the Dogme classroom
means that learners may also scaffold language for their peers (Donato, 1994).
Dogme ELT also demands considerable flexibility on the part of the teacher, in terms of
being able to generate appropriate activities spontaneously, as language emerges during a
lesson; of being able to change track quickly should an activity fail to engage interest; of
being able to go with the flow should the conversation move in an unexpected direction;
and of being able to direct the language learning process along more challenging lines
where appropriate (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009).
Finally, the unplugged classroom presupposes a social environment conducive to
conversation. The teacher must help to facilitate this, by being a friendly, interested,
encouraging, and above all supportive participant in the dialogue which occurs.

4.

Dogme ELT and Educational Theory

While some critics of Dogme ELT have suggested that it lacks a solid theoretical basis, its
proponents argue otherwise, claiming that the approach may be validated with reference to
communicative approaches to language learning; emergent systems theory; sociocultural
theory; and humanistic educational theory, including theories of learner autonomy, identity
and motivation (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009; Harmer, 2010; Thornbury 2012).
Although it dismisses communicative coursebooks as an impediment to real
communication, the principle that Dogme ELT should be conversation-driven is entirely
consistent with the theories which gave rise to Communicative Language Teaching (CLT)
and its derivative Task-Based Learning (TBL) in the 1970s and 1980s, namely that
language learning is best achieved through authentic communication in the target language,
and that formal linguistic proficiency emerges out of communicative competence (Nunan,
1991; J.C. Richards, 2004). However, whereas in TBL, the communicative interaction
required to complete a task is believed to facilitate language learning, Dogme ELT asserts
that the language which emerges in normal conversation about matters of interest to the
participants provides sufficient opportunity for language development (Meddings &
Thornbury, 2009).
The central place which Dogme ELT gives to conversation relevant to the lives of the
learners reflects the pedagogical theory of Paulo Freire, who contended that the needs and
concerns of learners should shape the education process, and that this new content would
emerge out of dialogue: Education is communication and dialogue. It is not the
transference of knowledge (Freire, cited in Meddings & Thornbury, 2009, p.7). Thus,
learners become agents in their own education.

The degree of agency given to learners in Dogme ELT, evidenced in the extent to which
content is personalised in the unplugged classroom, may also be related to theories of
motivation and identity. Van Lier (2007) asserts that learning a second language involves
a struggle to forge a new identity that is true to the self (p.47 ) and that this process
demands personal investment and engagement, things to do that make sense, and ways of
doing them that are challenging, interesting, supported and satisfying (p. 62). The fact that
content in the unplugged classroom derives principally from the real lives of the learners
means that interaction in the Dogme classroom is oriented to the transportable identities of
the participants, that is to identities that are assignable or claimable on the basis of
physical or culturally based insignia (Zimmerman, cited in K. Richards, 2006, p. 15),
rather than to situated identities as teacher and student. Richards has shown that interaction
oriented towards their transportable identities increases the engagement and involvement of
learners in L2 interaction (K. Richards, 2006). In other words, real conversation, which is
of its nature true to the self of the learners, enhances their intrinsic motivation to learn
the language.
The granting of agency to learners does not remove the need for support. The language
which emerges in the Dogme classroom is scaffolded by the teacher, enabling the learners
to develop communicative competence in the foreign language. Thus, the dialogic,
interactive nature of conversation provides a framework within which learning may be
jointly constructed by the teacher and learners. The teacher does not front classroom talk in
the L2 but, rather, assists its development. This approach has its roots in the sociocultural
theory propounded by Lev Vygotsky, who asserted that all cognitive development stems
from social interaction. During dialogic interaction, the more knowledgeable participant
guides and shapes the behaviour of the less experienced individual until the latter
internalises the new processes and assistance is no longer required (Vygotsky cited in
Donato, 1994). The term scaffolding was first applied to this process by Bruner in L1
research, and eventually also used in relation to L2 learning (Donato, 1994).
Meddings and Thornbury have suggested that the Dogme approach to ELT may also be
validated with reference to emergent systems theory (2009). Emergent systems theory, the
idea that multiple interactions between many simpler systems give rise to more complex
systems whose emergent properties may not be predictable from the original components,
has recently been applied to the study of language (Ellis, Larsen-Freeman & Cameron,
2008). It is suggested that the development of language, including the internal language
system - interlanguage - of the L2 learner, is an emergent phenomenon: learning is a nonlinear process that emerges in often unpredictable ways from meaningful activity in the
L2 (Larsen-Freeman, cited in van Lier, 2007, p. 46); Changes in the system are
engendered by agents adaptation to their environment (van Lier 2004), often including the
reciprocal feedback that they receive as a result of their joint activities (Ellis & LarsenFreeman, 2006, p.576). Thus, every episode of dialogic interaction between the participants
in a Dogme classroom exposes the learners to the sound and sequence patterns of the target
language. Assisted by feedback, in the form of the scaffolding provided by the teacher and
fellow learners, the learners interlanguage systems come to recognise, associate and
assimilate these patterns. These processes culminate in the emergence and use of language
at a new and sometimes unexpected level of complexity (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009)

5.

The Dogme Debate

While supporters of Dogme ELT assert that teaching unplugged is liberating and
productive in terms of language development, a number of criticisms of the approach have
been made online, in print and at conferences. Amongst other things, Dogme ELT has been
labelled bad teaching, lazy teaching, even winging it elevated to an art form (Meddings
& Thornbury, 2003). Criticisms include the apparent lack of structure in a Dogme ELT
classroom; the contention that conversation may end up being directed by the teacher; the
assertion that outright rejection of good materials means denying yourself a potentially
valuable resource; and a reminder that in some parts of the world teachers and students
may only dream of being in the position of having materials to reject (Gill, 2003; Wade,
2005). Questions raised include whether the Dogme approach is suitable for: beginners and
low-level learners, who have little or no L2 to work with; young learners; very large
classes, which may be difficult to manage along Dogme lines, and where it may be difficult
to cater to the needs and desires of so many different students; one-to-one teaching; exam
classes, which will be tested against a set syllabus; classes of monolingual learners, who
may be tempted to converse in L1; shy students, who may feel less exposed using a
coursebook; English for special purposes classes, in which specific lexical areas must be
covered; and likewise, university classes; institutions which insist upon the use of a
coursebook; traditionalist and/or non-Eurocentric contexts, where students (or their
parents) may expect coursebooks to be used; and lessons taught by inexperienced or nonnative English teachers, who may feel threatened by the unpredictability inherent in
teaching (Gill, 2003; McCabe, 2005; Wade, 2009; Harmer, 2010; Harmer, 2012)
On a practical level, Meddings and Thornbury and other supporters of Dogme ELT argue
that the experiences of people teaching unplugged in various parts of the world have given
positive answers to most of the questions raised above; they also offer guidance, based
upon these experiences, for would-be Dogme practitioners who find themselves in similar
situations (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009; Wade, 2012) (see also the weblogs listed in
Appendix 1).
In response to the criticism that Dogme ELT is not well-grounded in theory, it is claimed
that humanistic educational theories, communicative approaches to language teaching and
contemporary research into the development of language as an emergent system all help to
validate the approach (as discussed in Section 4 above).

6.

Research into Dogme ELT

Given the ongoing debate about Dogme ELT, it would be useful to supplement the
available anecdotal evidence and reflective accounts of teaching unplugged with more
rigorous academic research directed specifically at the approach, its outcomes and the
issues raised by critics. Thornbury himself has acknowledged this argument, and taken
action accordingly. Thus, a collection of research papers, Researching Dogme, is scheduled
for publication in 2014 (Thornbury, 2011). The collection is expected to include research in
the areas of curriculum negotiation, course design, reactive teaching, classroom
interaction, learner and teacher autonomy, teacher education, motivation and other
affective factors, language emergence, ESP, critical pedagogy and situated learning, using

a variety of research methodologies, including action research, interaction analysis,


ethnographic and narrative enquiry, and curriculum evaluation (Thornbury, 2011). The
emphasis upon qualitative research methodologies here is consistent with LarsenFreemans argument that the understanding of the development of language as a complex
system is better served by studying real people in their human contexts and interactions,
rather than aggregating and averaging across individuals as happens in experimental and
quantitative studies (2008, p. 206). The eventual publication of Researching Dogme may
provide answers to some of the questions surrounding teaching unplugged, and therefore
help to validate the approach. On the other hand, it will no doubt also raise new questions,
thereby stimulating further research. Most importantly, the ultimate value of this type of
academic research will be determined by the extent to which its outcomes are relayed back
to teachers and teacher trainees, and thus into the practice of teaching itself.

7.

Dogme ELT in Turkey

Here in Turkey, in the state education sector at least, the concept of Dogme ELT is
generally unfamiliar. The ultimate goal of English teachers working in the state system is
to enable pupils to achieve success in the foreign language component of the Turkish
University Entrance Examination, a multiple choice test which measures the candidates
grammatical and lexical knowledge, and their reading comprehension and translation skills.
The knock-on effect of this is that, in English Language Departments or on English
Language courses at state universities, many students lack English speaking skills, or lack
confidence in their ability to speak English. On the other hand, in the private sector, which
is able to devote more resources to ELT, teachers aim to promote a high level of
communicative proficiency in their students, as well the ability to pass examinations.
Kavanoz has reported that for state school teachers in Turkey, learner-centredness means
making the students active by having them do grammar-focused exercises with worksheets,
whereas private school teachers define the concept as learning by doing (Kavanoz, cited in
European Commission, 2006). Thus, one would expect the private sector to be more
proactive than the state sector, in terms of trying to understand and to engage with such a
radical communicative approach to teaching English as Dogme. Indeed this proves to be
the case at primary, secondary and tertiary levels in the private sector, as well as in private
language schools, based upon evidence from blogs and conferences that Dogme ELT is
being experimented with and discussed in these spheres. Thus, there might be scope for
academic research to be carried out in relation to the development of Dogme ELT in this
arena.
At every level of the state ELT sector in Turkey, issues arise which might seem to obviate
against experimenting with Dogme ELT: large class sizes; exam pressures; traditionalist
expectations about course delivery, design and the use of materials; and teachers whose
own communicative skills in English may fall some way short of their grammatical and
lexical competence. On the other hand, the poor rank achieved by Turkey, 43rd out of 44
countries, in the EF English Proficiency Index (Education First, 2011) suggests that a
change of approach in the teaching of English may be warranted here. This is not to
suggest that the state sector in Turkey should switch to Dogme overnight, but rather that
action research into Dogme might be carried out by suitably trained teachers in local
contexts at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, with potential for feedback into national

or international academic research projects, such as Researching Dogme, and ultimately


into planning for the future of ELT in the Turkish state sector.

8.

Conclusions

This paper has described the concept and theoretical bases of Dogme ELT, outlined its core
principles, highlighted some of the questions raised by critics, and noted that there is
currently a lack of academic research to validate anecdotal and reflective accounts of the
approach in practice. It concluded by noting that Dogme has made some inroads into the
private ELT sector in Turkey, but that the status quo in the state sector makes it appear to
be an unlikely candidate for experiments with teaching unplugged. Nonetheless, the paper
recommends that the presence in the state sector of many of the elements which critics of
the approach highlight as problematic for Dogme ELT, such as large classes; exam
pressures; traditionalist expectations; and teachers who may be insecure about their own
communication skills in English, might make it a fruitful field for research into the
feasibility and impact of applying a Dogme approach under such conditions.

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APPENDIX 1
Some Blogs Concerned with Dogme ELT
An Experiment with Dogme: http://olibeddall.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/dogmecookbook/
Chiasuanchong: http://chiasuanchong.wordpress.com
Classrooms on the Danube: http://markandrews.edublogs.org/tag/dogme/
EFL Thoughts and Reflections:
http://eflthoughtsandreflections.wordpress.com/category/dogme/
ELT Experiences: http://www.eltexperiences.com/search/label/Dogme
ELT Reflections: http://eltreflection.wordpress.com/
English Raven: http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/the-road-toteaching-unplugged-ongoing-archive.html
fiveagainstone: http://fiveagainstone.wordpress.com/?s=dogme&submit=Search
Kalinago English: http://kalinago.blogspot.com/
languagemoments: http://languagemoments.wordpress.com/?s=dogme
onefortywords: http://lukemeddings.wordpress.com/
Reflective Teaching: http://alastairjamesgrant.wordpress.com
Teacher Training Unplugged: http://teachertrainingunplugged.wordpress.com/
Teaching Unplugged: http://www.thornburyscott.com/tu/portal.htm
The Dogme Diaries: http://dogmediaries.wordpress.com/
The Unplugged Index: http://lukemeddings.posterous.com/
Turkish TEFL: http://turklishtefl.com/?s=dogme
Unplugged Reflections: http://unpluggedreflections.wordpress.com/delta-experimentalpractice/