As someone at the "coal face" I'm really enjoying the to-and-fro debate about "dogme" or "teaching unplugged".
I must agree I don't like the name "dogme" - it reminds me too much of a dog (mongrel) or of being in church. Also, I think "unplugged" is a bit negative - like something has been removed. I'm not sure what other term would be better though. Perhaps "open teaching", "liberated teaching", "selective teaching", "responsive teaching"???
Also, as you say, trying to convince government authorities, administrators, head teachers and parents that it's not necessary to use a coursebook, or to use it selectively, is an uphill battle.
The reality is that some in the EFL world are simply happy with what they know, or feel they are too poorly paid to consider it worth their time changing, or are put off by the likely negative response from above that an "unplugged" approach would induce.
I am not one of them, by the way!
While I don't always stick to the coursebook, at elementary school level I tend to devise other activities (like TPR or skits or story telling) which, though unplugged, aren't exactly spontaneously emerging from the ebb and flow of classroom talk, since that is necessarily limited by young learners' minimal exposure to, and training in, English. So, I use the framework of the coursebook with its specified curriculum, but decide in what ways I will address the content.
I suppose what I am doing is learning about the interests and experiences of students over a period of time working with them, and the indirect feedback I receive from trying particular activities, to build into the design of future lessons. Is that "emergent"?
Finally, I agree that those who have engaged in this debate could well now start consolidating resources, and putting together ideas and practical examples which would help us in the situations in which we teach, such as young learners, and large classes. After all, that probably represents the situation of most ESL/EFL teachers.
Please keep nudging us along.
Posted today at http://jasonrenshaw.typepad.com/jason_renshaws_web_log/2010/10/a-call-to-arms-on-both-sides-of-the-unplugged-fence.html
Greg Quinlivan (12:22:32) :
Scott, another stimulating topic for discussion in “T is for Taboo”.
The previous posters have stated the case for a more balanced and sensible approach quite succintly, and I would agree with them on this point.
In the EFL field, we should factor in cultural sensitivities through openly communicating with the various stakeholders, while not just assuming they exist and thereby being guilty of our own stereotyping.
Two further points I’d like to add to the discussion are:
(1) Good teachers use a text as a framework, but go well beyond it by accessing their own resources, other activities, the Internet, and so on. In this sense, it doesn’t really matter if the texts are imperfect since they are only a jumping-off point anyway.
(2) Those writers who do have something valuable to add to ELT, if faced with opposition from publishers, should realise the power of the Internet, PLNs, social networking, etc and SELF-publish. Perhaps if enough did so, the publishers might be forced to re-think their current censorial approach.
Says: May 24th, 2010 at 7:15 am comment-page-1/#comment-45
A very interesting post – though a little too “left” for my liking.
Just for background – I teach EFL to elementary school kids in Taiwan, but I’ve taught elsewhere, including ESL in Australia (my home).
Here are some random thoughts which your article brought to my mind:
- GLBT doesn’t appear in school textbooks generally, let alone ESL ones, so you can’t single out individual publishers without targeting those that produce texts for other school subjects as well.
- I’m not convinced there is a place for discussing GLBT in elementary school. In fact, sex education is not offered in many places until later, let alone it’s various forms. You have to consider age appropriateness here.
- I doubt if religious schools or religious-based countries would buy such texts if GLBT or other “sensitive” subjects were included. Publishers are businesses – their motivation is making money, not ensuring the inclusion of every shade of viewpoint (though, admittedly, they play it safe in the centre).
- If you are going to include GLBT why stop there? What about different political and religious ideologies? What about indigenous perspectives and culture? What about texts on people with physical or mental disabilities? My point is that there is just not enough room in the curriculum to include everyone and everything. Perhaps some features on people doing some good in the world (e.g. helping the poor, raising environmental awareness, making breakthroughs in various fields) could counterbalance the movie and pop stars.
- I think what is more important than slavishly following celebrities or “cleaner than thou” models, is to ask (a) what do students NEED when they come to an English-speaking country or interact with English speakers, and (b) what is useful for them to learn.
As an aside, I would like to agree with Marisa about the selection of texts. I have had to teach in Australia using Headway and Cutting Edge, which was difficult because I didn’t always know the people they were talking about, why they were chosen, etc. I couldn’t relate it to my Australian lifestyle at all. Unfortunately, we are slow at developing our own alternatives that are packaged in such a way as to make them valuable to ESL schools.
Finally, at the end of the day, a good teacher will use a variety of resources (print, multi-media, on-line, their own experiences, etc) in assisting learners, and will not restrict themselves to just the text as their only source of content.
Thanks for reminding me of the need to bring critical analysis to my work in the classroom.
Posted May 24th, 2010 at 7:15am on http://vassilakis.edublogs.org/2010/05/23/are-elt-materials-purged-of-ideology/
Some useful ideas that I would also support – particularly using the textbook as only one of many resources, drawing out students’ existing knowledge and skills, and providing useful material for life beyond the classroom.
However, I don’t think we should be considered bad teachers if we haven’t updated our lessons for next week with new stuff on the Internet this week. Not everything changes that fast, not everything that is new is good, and not everything that is “last week” is bad.
Also, as an English language teacher, I’m afraid your proposition of no longer teaching content won’t work.
How are Taiwanese elementary school kids supposed to learn English if all I do is show them “how to find, access, analyze, understand, and create content”? I assume I would have to get my Chinese co-teacher to write this in their first language and then leave it up to them to discover what they need by themselves.
They would then some how search the English web – not easy when they can’t read, write or type English characters, there are few computers available and I only see them 40-minutes per week – work out what would be appropriate – again not easy as they can’t read English – and then show me their great discoveries. Of course, they wouldn’t be able to explain to me what they discovered, as I don’t speak Chinese and they won’t have magically learned how to speak English.
Oh, I forgot to mention, some of these are grade one students (about 5 years old).
Come on, this just won’t work in my situation. What about those that teach students to play a musical instrument? What about those that teach ballet or sport? According to your proposition, they can just read about it or watch it on the Web and go out and play.
Honestly, what is required in your remarks is the context you are speaking about. When you say ALL teachers, you should clarify the educational sector you are talking about. That way they might make more sense to those of us not working in that environment.
Posted on May 23, 2010 at 4:32 AM on http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/hunter-gatherer-teacher/
Question: Great teachers have high expectations. Who do they have high expectations of?
I don’t really know who “great” teachers have high expectations of, as I’m not sure what a “great” teacher is.
For me as an EFL teacher in a foreign land, I have great (possibly even unrealistic) expectations of myself and my students, but I accept that reality often falls short of my expectations as far as others are concerned.
Partly this is because different cultures and different educational systems within them don’t always work the same as we might expect. Partly it is also because the structures that do exist bar “foreigners” (here, we’re actually referred to as “aliens”) from climbing the institutional ladder to gain greater power or influence, or even be consulted.
At some point, after banging your head against the wall, or perhaps the “glass ceiling”, for long enough you adjust your definition of “great” to suit the circumstances you are in, and you put aside most of what you learned throughout your advanced studies at university for the reality of others’ decisions, however poorly founded.
For example, it would be great if every classroom had an IWB or even a regular whiteboard, let alone a working CD player. It would be great if we could have teachers’ books for classroom texts that are written in English rather than Chinese. It would be great if we had dedicated classrooms rather than having to trudge from room to room where we enter like something from outer space. It would be great if we could set the format and content of exams or even decide if or when there would be exams. It would be great if we had access to computers with English operating systems, the commands of which we could read. I guess you get the picture.
For a more stress-free life, when you cannot change things, it’s easier to make your high expectations fit the situation.
Posted at http://busstop.stedi.org/index.cfm/2010/5/14/Quick-Question
5/14/10 11:19 AM