Scott Thornbury opened this IATEFL SIG event in fine style by taking the teaching unplugged discussion into uncharted territory. Scott’s first surprise was not necessarily the fact that he listed the rejections of the Dogme philosophy, rather it was in the fact that he didn’t attempt to refute them. He quite cleverly avoided the spurious arguments against Dogme by stating that you cannot compare it directly with other methodologies and cannot prove that any of the ‘accusations’ against the unplugged philosophy are right or wrong.
Rather than going through the rigors of defending Dogme, Scott chose instead to examine the received wisdoms (learning language is a linear process – detailed planning is necessary – a grammar syllabus is the best route to take) that dogme challenges and asked the audience to question these ways of thinking.
The second great surprise was the body of evidence Scott showed to support the joys of Dogme, in that it espouses a mindset of exploration and discovery that is being wholeheartedly taken up by a new generation of language teachers. He showed how a community of teachers is exploring what dogme is doing for them: it is encouraging people to explore those moments when things could be exploited and go with them. He also noted that Dogme may not be new, but it is giving validation to these moments. The work of a brave new breed of teacher bloggers was showcased, debunking the myth that this is ‘Scott Thornbury’s one big idea’ and indeed showing that Dogme is acting as a shot in the arm that the profession has required since the onset of ‘coursebookitis’ slowly closed many people’s minds to what is important.
Adam Simpson for the roving reporter team