It was extremely interesting to watch Luke Meddings carrying out a Dogme lesson in front of his peers. The edited video of the lesson is below and there is another video here where Luke holds an immediate post-lesson feedback session with some penetrating questions from the audience.
I am relatively new to the whole Dogme argument/debate (that seems to get so much discussion time from the TEFL Twitterati and blogosphere – as an example see the numerous comments on Jemma Gardner’s latest blog,) so I am not informed enough yet to have a pro or anti-Dogme stance. From my own lessons though, I would say that I readily include ‘unplugged’ elements and sometimes my entire lesson is off-the-cuff.
I passed the Trinity Diploma (equivalent to DELTA) in 2011, so I have first-hand experience of the scutiny one’s teaching comes under for the assessment in the 2-week practical teaching block. I thought it would be interesting as a discussion catalyst to compare Luke’s lesson with the demands/expectations of DipTESOL/DELTA assessed classes.
As Luke himself requested at the beginning of the video, I would like to TALK about some elements of his lesson. This is not meant to be an out-and-out criticism. It is merely a comparison of a required standard in the industry (DipTESOL/DELTA) versus the elements of the Dogme ‘movement’. What I hope to ask with this blog is ultimately what is more beneficial for the learners – DELTA level teaching requirements or a Dogme lesson?
I have to mention of course that:
- Luke was extremely brave to hold a lesson under such unnatural conditions. This must have been nerve-wracking and the technical inteference from the recording (i.e. the mic feedback) can’t have helped. He was also not in a normal classrrom with the protection that traditionally offers students.
- We only get to see edited highlights of the lesson, so I am only commenting on those.
- Luke had only met these students moments before the class, so had not established any rapport, as with a normal teacher/group dynamic.
- I am nowhere near an assessor of DELTA/Trinity Diploma. I am merely a candidate that passed. My analysis is based on the kind of questions that were routinely put to me in post-lesson feedback.
- These are only excerpts of one dogme lesson and obviously do not represent the entire concept
Comments/Questions that a DipTESOL/DELTA assessor would have
- How did you (the teacher) know that all the students understood the question (“How do you feel right now?) and what they had to do?
- Should you have drilled/got a student model of that question to clarify?
- Could you have given a quick example before handing out post-it notes and still continuing with instructions?
- There was no indication of time for task and no ICQ’s
- How could you have made this task more communicative?
- Why slow up feedback with slow boarding?
- Would verbal feedback in open pairs by getting students to ask each other the initial question have taken the focus off you as the teacher and increased S-S interaction?
- You pointed out nicely that ‘nervous’ was perhaps the most natural/appropriate response for this situation and it can be produced with several collocations. But as it was clear that ‘nervous’ was the key word, could you have increased the usefuleness of feedback by developing the emergent collocations? Maybe boarding “__________________ nervous” and asking the class in groups to try to quickly come up with all of the 3 collocations.There wasn’t any opportunity given to the students to check that they could say these useful chunks accurately.
- Could you have re-elicited the emergent language at the end of the feedback session and focused on a phonological element here?
- Perhaps not all learners knew embarrassed/interested/excited. What CCQ’s could you have asked to check understanding?
- Overall, feedback was very T-centred with high TTT and kind of flat.
- Task settting up wasn’t clear enough. No ICQs re the number of situations the students should talk about/the length of time/should they note down the results or key vocabulary?
- Again would a quick demo with a student model or drilling an appropriate question (and/or response) have clarified the task requirements?
- Would this have task been better served as a mingle? Would that have been more fun for the students and instilled some energy/movement into proceedings?
I’m sure that many people reading this will think that I am being super critical, but I am actually only applying the kind of rigorous critique that one experiences when undergoing the DipTESOL/DELTA teaching practice. If I had taught these two tasks in my Diploma block, I believe that they would not have scored high marks when I compare it to the scrutiny that I was put under by my observers. (I would be very interested to read any comments from assessors to either confirm/deny whether my comments above replicate the conditions of assessment at this level – It’s certainly how I remember it!)
But is that level of analysis worthwhile? Does it make for robotic teaching? Do the DipTESOL/DELTA essentials of clear ICQ’s, task demos, CCQ’s, insistence on taking the focus off the teacher, attentiveness to increasing the S-S interaction above all else lead to better learning?
As I said, I am NOT anti-dogme. I suppose what I’m really pondering is within an improvised lesson, should we still implement the minutiae teaching standards required at DELTA level.
What was the language that emerged and ‘learnt’ here that the students could ‘take-away’ from this lesson? This was asked by one of the observers in the students in the post-lesson evaluation, but perhaps not satisfactorily answered. As progressive teachers, we are aware of the benefits, but could the same be said of all the students here?
As I understand it, in their marking schemes, in 2012 Trinity is definitely implementing the ideology that a failed lesson aim constitutes a failed lesson: End of story. The lesson aims have to be absolutely, clearly defined at the outset, so is it possible that a Dogme lesson could pass DipTESOL/DELTA assessment?
Included in the overall assessment is a mark given to a detailed lesson plan. But does a dogme approach allow for this? (As I say, I haven’t drilled down into the details of unplugged teaching, so please do correct me if I’m wrong here)
Scott Thornbury has commented on this exact point (see below). He said that examiners “enjoy and appreciate it” when candidates take risks, albeit it being “high risk”, but experienced teachers can show off their best skills and that their predictions of how the lesson will go can stand them in good stead. But that still perhaps doesn’t help with the requirement of submitting a detailed lesson plan.
Incidentally, during teaching at St George International in London (a Trinity assessment centre), I have seen dozens (perhaps hundreds) of teachers in the staffroom go through the same stressful experience of the practical block assesment and the same complaint repeats with every candidate – “I was up all night making the lesson plan”. So why is such a thorough lesson plan mandatory?
Finally, I would like to see more Dogme lessons like this (as I’m sure would many others) to be able to form an opinion as to the learner-goal effectiveness of Dogme. I think I saw a few comments on Twitter pertaining to this…so I look forward to seeing them in the near future.