Dogme in ELT with Scott Thornbury and iTDI

December is a month full of reflections on the year that is about to end. This post is my attempt to share one of the highlights in my professional development in 2020, namely, the course I took in November: Dogme in ELT with Scott Thornbury and iTDI (International Teacher Development Institute).

How I felt after the course.


The course was a mix of live sessions (4 meetings on Sundays) and asynchronous discussion forums. Having read (and re-read) ‘Teaching Unplugged’, I knew about the approach for a language classroom, but I was really, really curious how it could also work (and whether it could actually work) for a teacher training course.

This sentence* in the course description pushed me to sign up for it:

‘In line with the philosophy of Dogme ELT, the specific content of this course will adapt to meet the needs of the teachers who enroll.’

*You can read more about the course here. The information about course fees and other details can be found here

The great news is that if you get interested in being part of Dogme ELT in 2021, you can add your name and email address to their Waiting List.

Now, let me briefly reflect on my learning experience course. There were a couple of reasons/objectives for joining the course:

First of all, I was seeking deep conversations and ideas, both ELT and beyond, about teaching and learning. Then, from a course design point of view, I wanted to learn more about structuring unstructured learning, for language learners or language teachers. Also, I was looking for some teaching inspiration and fresh ideas, all in the direction of being ‘unplugged’ while teaching, and training. Finally, the ideas about bringing Dogme-style teaching online was another area I wanted to learn more about.

Did the course meet my expectations? Not only met but exceeded them! I now know how (as opposed to ‘knowing about’) a training course can be co-created with its participants, and what it means to be learning from the amazing facilitator, and from the experienced peers based in various parts of the world.

Some of my personal highlights

  • both teachers and trainers participating in the course make the conversations even more vibrant and meaningful, adding perspectives and viewpoints
  • (non-)ELT resources (I now have a list of links to get back to)
  • lesson and activity examples genuinely shared in the discussion forums (there were many of those!)
  • co-creating course content (and not being able to digest everything at the time of the course, leaving me motivation and determination to re-read the ideas later this winter)

I will be rereading it many more times!

One of my insights after the course: I kept thinking that I only dream about running a completely unplugged course for teachers (or teacher trainers). My ‘recurring’ question was the balance between what the course is offering (content), and how the teachers/participants are developing or improving their practical teaching skills in the process. Participants always have very different ‘starting point’ and prior teaching (and learning!) experience, even if we talk about a monolingual group of teachers from the same country. Having taken the course I realized that I have been doing ‘Dogme-style’ post-lesson reflection sessions (aka feedback) with teachers for the last 10 years or so. Let me go through the main Principles of Dogme Teaching:

  1. … is conversational driven, and so is feedback: having taken the detailed observation notes, I always put them aside and start with the teachers’ feelings, impressions, highlights and challenges of the lesson taught. Then I see what their peers/observers are ready to discuss.
  2. … is material light, and so is feedback: I am not there to read out my notes taken during the lesson. The notes are sitting quietly in my laptop, and teachers know they will be shared after the feedback session is over. Oftentimes, especially towards the end of the course where participants are experienced teachers, many points from the notes are discussed by the group.
  3. … focuses on emergent language, and feedback session is focusing on the questions and ‘puzzles’ of/from the teachers and observers. Feedback slots may even turn into ‘mini-input-sessions’ is modeling a technique can be seen as input. Another idea I tried is offering a different version of the lesson taught using exactly the same materials from the teacher. As a group, we often came up with 1-2 new versions of the same class. The ’emerging’ (emergent) wisdom from such conversations

It is a very meaningful document to me.

After the course, I am left with these questions to ponder:

  1. For successful teaching unplugged, students need to understand and embrace the concept of active learning, and taking responsibility for their learning. I am interested in collecting/discussing various strategies on how to make this shift (especially in the cultures where teaching-learning is seen in a more traditional way)
  2. How can more and more ‘Dogme Moments’ (elements) be added to the initial teacher training courses, so that the idea could be modeled (‘loop input’, etc.) and later on passed to the participants’ classrooms? I am talking about input sessions, written assignments, and lesson planning.
  3. Is ‘unplugging’ possible for teaching/ELT CPD? Maybe, the freedom to decide how to develop one’s [ELT] career is a part of ‘going Dogme’ in the classroom?

Thank you for reading! And hope you have a chance to enjoy the course its 2021 iterations.

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
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6 Responses to Dogme in ELT with Scott Thornbury and iTDI

  1. Andriy Ruzhynskiy says:

    Thank you for a great post, Zhenia. I am totally with you on your first question: how to make the shift in students’ perception of learning if they are used to step by step written instructions? I am sure you remember Korea, where teachers could not imagine a teacher training course without a coursebook, no matter if we used it or not. But that coursebook was supposed to exist!


    • Zhenya says:

      Thank you for the kind words Andriy!
      Yes, the belief that ‘a coursebook was supposed to exist’ is very firm in some cultures. I wonder if this is true for Ukraine, by the way. There were several amazing teachers from Kuiv in the course and some of them work in public schools, and looks like they are able to ‘go Dogme’ in their classrooms.


  2. Irene Sushko says:

    I am a huge fan of Dogme teaching and I can’t believe I missed the course this year. But no worries! I am already on the waiting list.
    A few thoughts while and after reading the post. One – A few months ago within ELT Swap Shop we started having mentoring groups – 4-5 teachers get together and talk about their teaching (problems, challenges, concerns, questions, successes). For the first meeting, as a mentor, I assigned a topic. But later, the topics were generated by the teachers. So it’s conversation-driven, material light and all the input is generated by teachers. Does this count as Dogme? I’d love to know what you think.
    Another thing – a huge obstacle to teachers trying Dogme in teaching and/or training is their lack of confidence in their language ability. Can I work with the students’ input? What if they ask something I don’t know? These are the questions I often here?
    One other thing – how do you assess Dogme teaching/training? All state schools and universities, many language schools require some kind of formal qualifications. How does Dogme training go about that?
    Finally, it’s high time to start introducing students to autonomous learning. I’ve been a proponent of that for quite a while. As teachers we can’t do all the job ourselves any more. Our students need to start taking responsibility for their own learning, to participate actively in co-creating the course and offering meaningful input – and Dogme teaching is one of the ways to do just that.


    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Irene

      Yes, I can see you are in the Dogme in ELT FB Group: hope you have a chance to get on the course in 2021 and ask these, and many more questions directly to the expert! And I love the questions you are asking!

      Let me start with the last question. We talked about assessment in one of the forum discussions (how can teachers not ask this question, right?). One way to look at it is similar to TBLT: start with the learners’ needs, design and use negotiated syllabus, and later (and together with the learners) assess what was achieved and what was not.

      As for the lack of L2 confidence, I’d say that perhaps the time which teachers spend on preparing/searching/typing the various activities (for the course book, oftentimes), more time can be spent for working with the language, reading more in it, watching movies, etc. I know it is easier said than done, and I myself used lots of course books in my own teaching, and only felt confident having lots of materials in my tray on the way to class. Lots of beliefs have changed, over time.

      Finally, I think teacher meetings like the ‘ELT Swap Shop’ sound ‘Dogme-style’ to me. One difference with teaching a language I see is in what’s emerging: language forms are a little more specific than teacher challenges, and we can work with them in the future lessons, doing Scott’s ’10R’s.

      I recently watched Martyn’s Clarke’s webinar called ‘Reflective talk: making conversation a tool for learning’ where he offers interesting classification of the type of talk (cumulative, disputational and exploratory) and then offers some ideas how specifically educators can structure, time and assess their reflection). Sharing a link
      but you need to register to the BC website, if you have not already; actually a cool resource for teacher educators. Link:

      Thank you for the conversation!


      • Judie Hudson says:

        Hi Irene and Zhenya,
        I’d agree with Techers’ Workshops and Swap Shops being DOGME. The idea of emergent language came out of practising DOGME in the ELT classroom, and since I Flipped my CELTAs in 2019, we’ve realised that the tutors deal with emergent methodology, usually in the form of filling in gaps in short repair sessions. I discussed this with Scott Thornbury at the end of the November course, and he agree that the course sounded very much in line with DOGME principles.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Zhenya says:

          Hi Judie
          Thank you for joining us in this conversation! I love the term ’emergent methodology’. It is actually very relevant to the courses where teachers come with (sometimes a lot of) experience, and can ask very different questions, depending where they are in their development as teachers.
          (I was just responding to your comment to Wilma’s post, and threw an idea of a possible co-written post in 2021, at some point?)


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