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).
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.’
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)
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:
- … 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.
- … 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.
- … 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
After the course, I am left with these questions to ponder:
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.