Dogme Lesson vs DELTA level requirements

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

Start/First task


  1. 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?
  2. Should you have drilled/got a student model of that question to clarify?
  3. Could you have given a quick example before handing out post-it notes and still continuing with instructions?
  4. There was no indication of time for task and no ICQ’s


  1. How could you have made this task more communicative?


  1. Why slow up feedback with slow boarding?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. Could you have re-elicited the emergent language at the end of the feedback session and focused on a phonological element here?
  5. Perhaps not all learners knew embarrassed/interested/excited. What CCQ’s could you have asked to check understanding?
  6. Overall, feedback was very T-centred with high TTT and kind of flat.

Second Task

  1. 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?
  2. Again would a quick demo with a student model or drilling an appropriate question (and/or response) have clarified the task requirements?
  3. 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.

Bren Brennan

About Bren Brennan

Bren initially trained here at SGI and then joined the staff in 2005. Since 2006, he has taught abroad in Budapest, Berlin and now at Mondragon University in Spain. He returns to teach at SGI London every summer and completed the SGI Trinity DipTESOL in 2011. He also regularly writes posts for students here.
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18 Responses to Dogme Lesson vs DELTA level requirements

  1. Hi Bren,

    Thanks for the mention and link! (Numerous comments indeed!!)

    Great post, and you’ve touched upon some things I have been thinking re: Luke’s lesson.

    The main thing which jumps out at me though, is that this lesson was lacking in quite a few techniques which we teach at Celta level (CCQs, drilling etc…) but that does not mean that Dogme is lacking this. I include plenty of drilling, concept checking etc… in my lessons, if and when the lesson requires it.

    As an example of a Dogme lesson, Luke’s shows how far you can go with little material. This is obviously one of the basic tenents of Dogme, and is clearly useful for teachers to see and realise how it can be done. However, I feel that many out there who are “anti-Dogme” could take Luke’s lesson as an example that Dogme is just chatting and actually is much more teacher centred than the “pro-Dogme” lot would admit too. This is a shame. To me Dogme isn’t only about setting up speaking activities, it’s about capturing a snippet of that emergent language and coming up with some kind of practice activity for it, both controlled and then freer, both in pairs, groups, alone etc… Just as Luke himself has said, it’s about dropping down a gear to look at language and then bringing the lesson back up to speed again. This was missing from Luke’s lesson, which I can fully understand under the EXTREME circumstances he was dealing with. But if we are to hold that lesson up to the Diploma standard, we can’t say that we are holding Dogme up to that level too, because it doesn’t matter what style the teacher is using, be it the Silent-Way or whatever, those lessons can still be “not to standard” in terms of the Diploma because it depends on the individual teacher’s/students’ take on it, on that day.

    I think there is definitely space within the diploma to do a post-lesson plan structure, especially as most of the lesson plan document is about the class, their needs etc… and only one part is about the procedure. Using a lesson skeleton like Dale’s would work, and you could definitely analyse language you think would come up in the lesson to prepare yourself. Being prepared is not a stranger to Dogme, I think about what could come up in my lessons. I have a bank of activities in my head that I can select from depending on what happens in the lesson etc…

  2. phil wade says:

    This is a tough post to comment on Bren. My only explanation I can give is from my own experience of ‘going Dogme’ so to speak.

    As I wrestled with the whole idea of understanding something that has no set procedure and no set techniques I spent a lot of time reading about the 3 main principals. Then when I read about and saw some examples of putting these into practice, I finally figured out that watching a Dogme lesson and breaking it down sort of kills the essence of it. It is also impossible to replicate as it is completely reliant on the day, time, students, room etc. Actually, I think this was reason they didn’t record the Barcelona Dogme conference.

    If you were to recreate Luke’s lesson it would seem fake and disconnected from your class. This is why I never do exactly the same class. Yes, I have the same structure or topic or idea but you can’t predict what will happen or be said.

    Another point you raise is about CCQs etc. Well, the teacher has to be the judge of the students knowledge and how best to do things depending on that. I recently made a list of many of the methods we learned on the CELTA like CCQs, Gist Qs, PTV, eliciting, drilling etc and I realised that few people I know use them. Actually, about 60% of students on my old BE course transferred from GE because they said these things made them feel like they were in primary school. Whether it is because teachers over did it I’m not sure but I do know that they preferred topics and real information. They didn’t just want to read a text just so that a teacher could ask some random gist questions. Anyhow, if you skip all of those and ask for a discussion of the theme of the article which thus demands several readings and pinpointing of information (probably peer2peer help and T help) isn’t that better?

    So, personally I think that at DELTA level students should be given more freedom to create lessons for their students and use whatever gets the job done but from an informed approach or as Chia Suan Chong says Improvised Principled Eclecticism.

  3. Oli says:

    When studying jazz and improvised music at college, we were often told: ‘you practice and practice so that you can later forget about it all when you actually play.’ I think there’s a strong element of this in the Delta. If you can demonstrate all the techniques you get marked on, you show that you’re at a certain level technically. No-one seriously expects you to actually apply them all the time out in the real world – that’s down to your judgement as a teacher.

    What surprised me most about Luke’s lesson was no ICQs, because that is something I certainly took away from the Delta and use a lot. With an intermediate group of nervous learners I’d have thought he would have wanted to check the instructions. But then again, we weren’t up there…!

    • Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

      Hi Oli,
      Thanks for the great metaphor. The master of all music practising is Paganini, isn’t it. I think I read somewhere once that he said that the secret of great playing is practising SLOWLY. I wonder if there’s room for an approach of ‘slow-teaching’, like the slow food or travel movement. 🙂

      Anyway….yes, it’s like getting through the driving test, isn’t it? Robotic to satisfy the examiner and their checklist. It would be crazy to teach in a DipTESOL way every lesson. However, I did take some extremely valuable things away from doing the teaching block…a kind of recharging of the CELTA batteries (I’m going to talk about this in my next blog this week on the pros and cons of DipTESOL and how it could be shaken up a bit).
      ICQs were definitely one of the ‘must-use-more-in-future-and-more-cleverly’ notes to self from my exam. But as you said, I would have probably forgotten that too under the microscope that Luke exposed himself to.
      This is one of the reasons why I think that Luke hadn’t planned this lesson (going back to Marisa’s point below). If he had set out with a strong plan in mind, he would have probably paid more attention to those areas, no?
      Who’s to know? Hopefully, we get to see some more dogme video lessons soon…and some from other approaches, too.

  4. Hi Bren and everyone.

    Scott’s video was actually made in response to one of my trainees planning to do a Dogme lesson for his experimental practice on the DELTA and you can read the post here You can also download Jonathan’s lesson plan and assignment, plan and post-lesson reflection from the materials downloads page on my blog.

    In 2010, dogme was not “trending” 🙂 and there were many reports flying about on Twitter by disgruntled t DELTA candidates who wanted to try it out but their tutors were putting Dogme in the same no-no category as NLP.

    Community Language Learning used to trend a lot more before dogme days, and really and truly, I cannot see why DELTA tutors accepted CLL and objected to dogme – CLL doesn’t allow you a lesson plan at all; in fact, it is even more student driven and learner-conversation focused with the teacher just hovering outside the circle and contributing only when asked by the learners.

    Since 2010, it looks like I’ve been getting more and more Dogme Experimental assignments with post lesson self-reflections varying from rave to gloom.

    As an assessor on both CELTA and DELTA courses, I do have lots to say about Luke’s lesson if I apply the criteria set by Cambridge.

    But I am not about to do that here – Luke did not set out to pass an exam and I don’t think we should be looking at his lesson in quite this way.

    I have recently read and seen a lot which proclaims itself as dogme but manages to also be pretty poor instruction – and the opposite. But this is true of every other approach or method that gets written about or shown in demo lessons, not just dogme.

    I hope it’s obvious that I haven’t come here to support dogme either – there are enough bloggers around who will jump at any opportunity to defend, when there is really no need to.

    This comment, I am sure, will generate angry comments and endless defensive argument about an issue which in my personal opinion has a place in the larger picture of what foreign language education is, but not such an inflated and self-important one.

    One final comment about Luke’s lesson:

    It is my impression that this lesson was planned – we just didn’t get to see the lesson. plan. I don’t for one minute believe that Luke delivered this off the cuff.

    Would it pass? That is an altogether different question…. 🙂


    • Bren Brennan says:

      Hi Marisa,
      Very interesting to hear your points about Dogme in assessed lessons over the last few years.
      Yes, Luke did not set out to pass an exam and perhaps it was unfair to scrutinise him in that way. I just thought that it would be worthwhile to apply the DipTESOL/DELTA requirements to this lesson excerpt, as it would obviously fall short within that limited framework.
      That wasn’t me setting out on some dogme bashing, but rather having a measured look at it from a different perspective (an industry standard) other than adulation. As you noted, with every method, there are positives and negatives…also fantastic and shoddy proponents teaching it day to day.
      There are also several disadvantages to DELTA/DipTESOL level teaching that I can think of which I will be talking about in my next blog this week.

      Finally, I’m not entirely sure about your opinion that this was a planned lesson. Part of me wants to agree with you. However, I don’t know Luke, but I am sure that he is a genuine guy and assume that he approached this in an honest way as a genuine look at unplugged teaching.

      • Hi Bren, not implying that Luke is not genuine, or that this came with a detailed and explicitly written lesson plan such as one expects to see for a CELTA or DELTA assessed lesson, but to me, it looked like there was a scenario Luke was working on – that’s what I meant.

        Would be happy to discuss the limitations of cert of dip assessed lessons when you have time – in fact am halfway through writing a post about distinction lessons…


        • Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

          OK Marisa, I understand about the ‘scenario’.
          I just meant that Luke’s planning was probably nothing more extensive than ‘corridor planning’, as Jezza Harmer calls it 🙂 Whereas I thought that you meant it was a tad more substantial.

          Anyway, it seems that both of our next blogs are covering the same subject matter. Will be interesting to contrast and compare and have the discussion that way.
          Looking forward to it.

  5. Richard says:

    there are enough bloggers around who will jump at any opportunity to defend [dogme], when there is really no need to.

    I love this bit Marisa. Dogme is one approach amongst many, why pretend anything else? I really can’t understand the need for all this polemic.

    • Bren Brennan says:

      Hi Richard,
      Thanks for your comment. It does seem that Dogme gets people very emotional, either one way or the other. Perhaps subconciously I was hoping to ‘smoke out’ some of its detractors to give them a platform to raise valid concerns/issues/opinions. In that way, Dogme fans could answer in a considered fashion and thereby a progressive discussion could take place.
      As you say, dogme is an approach like any other and voices from both sides of the fence should be heard if it is something that we will all still be talking about in 20 – 30 years.
      If this has already been happening on other blogs, please excuse me. As I mentioned, I’m new to the dogme debate and haven’t had time to read up everywhere about it…the internet is a big place! 🙂

  6. Dave says:

    I don’t get it.

    The teacher talks the whole time and they learn next to nothing? What did they learn? Incidental language could come out of any lesson. A full lesson to learn “make a decision” and “nervous”? C’mon now.

    I thought it was boring, and I didn’t see much chance for communication other than a few pair exercises.

    My students would be asleep if I did that.

    Don’t mean to be so negative, but I was excited when I saw this post title. All the teachers and video cameras made me think it was going to be interesting.

    • Sorry to answer instead of Bren here, Dave, but you know, not all kinds of lessons excite all kinds of students. I think some students would respond really well to Luke’s teaching style and others perhaps not.

      He certainly does not conform to the ‘whirl-around-the-room” orthodoxy of ELT standards, and believe me I have sat through enough Cambridge DELTA assessors’ meeting to tell you that this is mostly the style that’s popular with them.


      • Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

        As I said initially, Luke was under extreme pressure in unnatural conditions and this was ONLY an excerpt from the whole lesson, so it’s a little unfair to say that there were only 2 learner outcomes. Perhaps there were, but we cant say from the footage available. If those were the only results of the lesson, then I would tend to agree with you.

        The most valuable thing here in my opinion is that Luke said it’s important for people to observe and then to talk about teaching. In my experience, most feedback sessions are filled with constructive criticism from peers and superiors. By that, I mean that when there is genuine grounds for negativity, it is usually backed up with kind of “I would have done it like this…”. So how would you have developed one/some of the tasks?

        Luke himself said in his report that he felt it was very T-centred.
        My style is different to Luke and undoubtedly yours. As Marisa said, every teacher is unique with their own merits. I like to think that I’m a good teacher, based on my learners’ progress and their feedback. However, when I did the DipTESOL teaching, I realised that I needed to book up a few ideas.

        The best way to make constructive criticism would be to film one of your lessons and put it in the public domain, wouldn’t it?

  7. DaveDodgson says:

    Hi Bren,

    As I think you are discovering, any post about dogme, whatever the intenions of the author, seems to turn into a polarised for-against debate! I’m not sure why that is the case but, as long as the comments are constructive, it makes for some good discussion. 🙂

    Anyway, your analysis seemed to raise more questions for me about the DELTA and the nature of observations than the dogme approach we watched Luke demonstrating. The problem I’ve always had with observations, whether as part of a course like CELTA, DELTA (which I admittedly have no experience of) or as part of an in-house scheme, is that they easily turn into criticisms from the observer and/or over-sensitive defensive reactions from the teacher.

    The feedback often seems to be worded along the lines of “You should have done this” or ” why didn’t you try this?” or “wouldn’t this have been better”. It’s almost as if the observer has to pick out some negative aspects to comment on and they inevitably become the focus of the post-observation feedback. Something along the lines of “I think I would have used more CCQs here but you chose to start straightaway instead – what was the thinking behind that?” would be less confrontational and may lead to some interesting insights for both parties.

    One strenght of dogme is the lack of focus on pre-planning and adhering to certain expectations of how a lesson should be (like ICQs, CCQs, language aims of an activity, etc.) These can sometimes cause the lesson to be too rigid. Far too many times have I heard things along the lines of “that’s an interesting point but we’ll have to come back to it later” due a teacher being too focused on getting on to the next stage of the plan.

    Also, the point made by the first Dave about only getting ‘make a decision’ and ‘nervous’ out of the lesson comes from the over-stated obsession with covering discrete language points in each lesson. I often reflect on classes at the end of the day and realise not much new language was covered but we did cover some important conversation skills, reading strategies and critical thinking skills instead.

    And finally to address Marisa’s point, although dogme lessons are not planned in the traditional sense, I don’t think that excludes having certain ‘scenarios’ in mind before going into class. The topic of the lesson may arise from conversation with students or from a prompt, question or item brought in by the teacher. The important thing is not to force the lesson in a particular direction but rather to let it develop and respond to whatever comes up. That’s something very difficult to include in a lesson plan!


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  9. mura says:

    I agree with DaveDodgson that this post raises as many questions about teaching courses as it does about Dogme.
    I was always very bad on my CELTA training when filling in the detailed lesson plans, by the time I did I forgot what I wanted the lessson to achieve!
    Dogme and other similar approaches is a good way to try to reduce the cognitive load on both teachers and learners.

    • Bren Brennan Bren Brennan says:

      Thanks Mura,
      Yes indeed re the questions arising about training courses. This post was a lead-in to an area of interest of mine talked about in the next post Shaking up the DELTA
      Have you done the DELTA or DipTESOL? Those lesson plans make the CELTA look like a walk-in-the-park!! When you’re still doing them at 3am, you can’t even remember your own name, never mind the supposed learner outcomes!

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