Dogme is against 'resource heavy' teaching, arguing that if learners are not interested they will not learn and therefore all material should be generated by the learners and the lessons directed by them, rather than the teacher. Another way of regarding it would be "materials light".
It may very easily be integrated into one-to-one teaching.
Breaking down barriers
An important aspect to be taken into consideration is the student's pre-conceived ideas and previous learning experiences. Much in the same way that an artist like Picasso was "permitted" to do what he wanted because he had already demonstrated that he excelled at the standard way of doing things, teachers basing their teaching on dogme may have to demonstrate that they really do know what they're on about in order to take their students beyond the traditional ways of teaching English.
There are a number of key philosophies in Dogme.
- Teaching should focus on the learner's needs and objectives - conversely it should not be driven by external resources such as coursebooks.
- As far as possible, resources should be provided by or generated by the students or whatever happens to be in the classroom or to hand at the moment.
- If you want to do a lesson on trees then go outside, a lesson on cars then go to the car park.
- The teacher should be simply one more participant in the process at the same level as the student.
- Real language and communication should be used at all times. There should be an actual need to communicate something of interest between all the parties.
- Grammar explanations should arise naturally out of the lesson and not be the reason for the lesson.
Students could also bring to class items from "English literature" - poetry, plays, novels, films, or even current television or radio programmes. Again, the teacher will engage them in the process of understanding not only the grammar, but also the idioms and cultural references used.
In a business environment the most natural thing is for the student(s) to talk about the issues facing the company. If there is company material which has been produced in English then so much the better. (Beware of taking this this too far however. Not everybody loves their company and may prefer to view English classes as an opportunity to talk about something else, in such circumstances it is better to avoid the class falling into a company hate-fest.)
In the classroom
In a Dogme lesson, the classroom as such does not exist, as there are no resources, course books or lesson structures apart from those that learners bring. The teacher involves the learners in deciding on their priorities each lesson, and takes the role of facilitator of their objectives.
Dogme pros and cons
These are some of the often-stated advantages and disadvantages of the methodology.
- From the teacher's point of view there is the big advantage of little or no lesson preparation. Unless you count the five to ten years of preparation and experience necessary to be able to use the technique well.
- Students should feel in control of their learning process and consequently be more motivated.
- Done properly it can be highly motivating and interesting for the teacher. (Though it must be said that it might not be suited for the novice teacher.)
- Students who are unused to the method may feel uneasy about it or simply not understand it.
- As mentioned above, new teachers may be extremely uncomfortable with abandoning the security of a textbook.
- Teachers simply may not have the freedom to use this methodology.
- It removes the teacher from a position of power which may make some teachers uneasy.
- Colleagues may think the dogme teacher is simply "winging it" to avoid preparation.
- While dogme is good for teaching students conversational skills it is not appropriate for students studying for a specific exam. (Although dogme practitioners would maintain that this is not its objective anyway.)