October 8, 2010 by Willy Cardoso
Foreword: Please read this short post on Karenne Sylvester’s blog before reading mine. This is going to be a series of 10 posts on the Dogme Blog Challenge (#dogmeme), sort of a ELT bloggers’ think-tank.
I decided to take this first one as a reflexive comparison between what I’m inclined to take as good teaching practice and sound pedagogical principles and what my actual experience as a learner tells me. Here, I’m not focusing only on ELT even though Dogme was contructed for it.
The first post evolves around the quote below.
Materials-mediated teaching is the ‘scenic’ route to learning, but the direct route is located in the interactivity between teachers and learners, and between the learners themselves.
Learning is a social and dialogic process, where knowledge is co-constructed rather than transmitted or imported from teacher/coursebook to learner.
Thornbury & Meddings, Teaching Unplugged
I think it sounds very beautiful and convincing, even though it’s unempirically proved.
I understand that Dogme springs from constructivist theories of learning, so the fact that it’s not empirical doesn’t actually matter for now. I’ll try to stick with a constructivist view as I develop the argument.
- Empiricist approaches – how experiences imprint the structure of the world into the mind of individuals.
- Constructivist approaches – how people transform and organize reality according to common intellectual principals as a result of interactions with the environment.
The rising of Learner Autonomy as common sense in ELT has brought many constructivist side effects, such as an overload of and overreliance on pair and group work for example. Little (1996), a pioneer of Learner Autonomy in the field makes it very clear when he says the chief argument in favor of group work as a means of developing learner autonomy is Vygotskyan in origin, for learners have to externalize processes of analysis, planning and synthesis that wouldn’t happen when working alone.
Having said that, co-construction of knowledge is a very plausible tenet for a teaching approach, or to be fancier, for an educational philosophy. I presume hardly anyone would disagree with that. If a pre-service teacher trainer told you ‘don’t do pair-work because it’s futile’ I think you wouldn’t agree so easily. On the other hand, if you were told ‘do lots of pair-work’, you would easily comply. It’s common sense now, plus, Vygotsky and his disciples are backing it up, so it can’t be bad.
However, when I draw on my own learning experience and my present learning activities I can firmly say that: I hate pair-work!
The worst for me is the now talk to the person next to you.
Unless the person next to me is a member of my family, a good friend, Penelope Cruz, or an authority in the subject (which would be an unlikely classmate), I don’t care.
I consider myself the heck of a fast learner in languages. (though I’m also lazy… or should I have said busy… anyway)
That might sound quite arrogant, but the fact is that I have a good idea of how I learn better and faster, and I don’t want to waste my time with tried and failed ideas. Again, I must emphasize that this holds true for me as a learner. I will get back to the issue of pair-work on a later post.
In reference to Thornbury and Medding’s quote above I can’t see transmission and importation of knowledge as antagonists of dialogue and co-construction.
I can very well read a book (which is knowledge transmitted to me from another person), go out and observe the world around me, reflect and draw my conclusions by manipulating received information and testing them according to my needs (and why not to my advantage); and I can do all that without being dialogic or co-constructing anything. All by myself and with my mouth shut.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the power of social-constructivism, I’m very much in favor of it and I encourage teachers to share its beliefs, but humanism talks louder in my experience.
self-construction surpasses co-construction.
(I’m not sure about this anymore, well I never was. Update: 21/4/11)
Scott and Luke say ‘the direct route (to learning) is located in the interactivity between learners themselves’.
I would like to think that the route to learning is never direct and that it’s located in the learner himself and in his integration with the environment, whether there are other people in it or not.
I decided to use integration rather than interactivity firstly because I didn’t find in the field a distinction between interactivity and interaction – I would be happy if the masters told me why the word choice, in case it was done deliberately. Secondly, because I wanted to quote Freire, since he’s one important mention in the Unplugged frame of mind.
Integration with one’s context, as distinguished from adaptation, is a distinctively human activity. Integration results from the capacity to adapt oneself to reality plus the critical capacity to make choices and to transform that reality. To the extent that man loses his ability to make choices and is subjected to the choices of others, to the extent that his decisions are no longer his own because they result from external prescriptions, he is no longer integrated. Rather, he has adapted.
Freire , Education for Critical Consciousness
And just for the hell of it I also found another interesting social(ist)-constructivist phrase that I couldn’t help but mention here.
It is precisely the alteration of nature by men, not nature as such, which is the most essential and immediate basis of human thought.
Friedrich Engels, Dialects of Nature
All I said is a work in progress in my head, for I’m too young to dictate anything and to have read and hypothesized extensively on the subject, so I hope I could get some of it across and contributed to the challenge.
As usual, you can comment below. If it’s hard to put it down in words, you can videorecord your ideas and post them on YouTube, which makes it a lot more interactive, we’ll make sure to get it in the #dogmeme ring.
Other bloggers – round #1
Diarmuid Fogarty http://taoteaching.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/311/