October 28, 2010 by Willy Cardoso
“Dogme is about teachingmaterials light”(Meddings & Thornbury)
This time, I’ll imagine Karenne and I are in a pub and I’ll answer her questions. Naturally, we would be talking about much more interesting things than materials, but anyway…
Karenne: What does it mean to us as teachers to go into a classroom materials-light?
Willy: It doesn’t mean anything to me. What the learners do in the class and whether they feel the class was worth it is what matters in the end, regardless of materials. There are great classes with iPhones, laptops, porn magazines, you name it. And there are awful classes with no materials. It’s not the material, it’s the people.
K: Where should all these light materials magically come from?
W: Everywhere. I don’t know, what kinda question is that anyway?
K: What do you think that Paulo Freire meant when he said that liberating education consists of acts of cognition, not transferrals of information? Does going in light, as opposed to heavy,change this? And, what in your opinion, might teaching materials-heavy look like?
W: I think Freire meant that learners are not empty vassels waiting to be filled. By the way, it’s absolutely a struggle to read some of his writings for you can’t make out what he means very often, still, it sounds very nice and sensible, he’s great, very political too. But back to your question, I don’t think the weight of the material makes it any different, a book can be considered as a transferal-of-information-cognition-foe tool just as much as a teacher can, or less in fact.
K: How could teachers approach teaching with coursebooks dogmeicly*?
W: If they are in essence good teachers, the same way they’d do without them. Conversation-driven, affordance and emergence facilitative, etc. But for a greater amount of sustainable argument one could check out the discussion list, I’m not really in this topic.
K: Thinking about your colleagues and staffrooms along with your classrooms – do you think it is the teachers or students who favour most grammar based curriculums? For either, why? Do we need to unlearn them?
W: I think it’s everyone. It’s very easy to blame on the teacher or on the nagged Director of Studies or whoever you call the person who makes the decisions for you. Many times the students ask for a grammar-based classes or courses, many teachers like it too. Why? Because it’s easy. Easy to control, easy to know the next step or how to pass the test. I’m not sure if it’s easy to learn that way. There are probably better ways out there, but they aren’t that easy. And let’s face it some people don’t want to be challenged all the time, cognitively mainly. Apart from all the movements, behaviorism is still very strong in our society. Another reason is that 97,5% of coursebooks are undoubtely grammar-oriented, and there’s no-one who can prove otherwise. Mainstream pre-service training too, they are too much worried about showing you how to teach the tenses and then drill it, when there are much more important things a teacher-to-be needs to know.
K: In Meeting of Minds, Stuart McNaughton challenges us with the idea of ‘a curriculum that promotes only segmented, isolated, and elemental learning tasks reduces the students’ degree of learning (including incidental learning) and also their preparedness for future learning.’ Have you seen this? Felt it?
W: I have argued against reductionist methods, of research and of instruction. I believe it’d be better if there was no segmentation. A great deal of my generation and all of the past ones in this century were taught in what we call traditional methods, the ones that are said to stiff creativity. Nonetheless, there are bright minds among us, great artists, fashion designers, novelists, shoe repairers, bloggers, and we didn’t have these things at school and yet it didn’t prevent us from learning them later in life. So I really don’t know to what extent this is valid.
K: How do your students cope when the real-life need to speak in English crops up in their lives: can textbooks ever prepare them adequately for these experiences? Can being light?
W: After facing a real situation in which they had to use English, some students come back to class really frustrated, with even lower self-confidence and a greater distaste for the language. Some of these endure, some drop off. A great deal of other students come to class thrilled and self-assured, they made it, they tried, spoke, made mistakes, learned from them. Some of these keep up, some drop off when they’re at the crest and after a while they’ve lost considerably. With all of them I used a coursebook, a lot with some, like for 80% of the time, and very little with others. Does the coursebook have anything to do with it? Yes, but in the multitude of factors that will contribute to the success or failure of these people using the language out there, the coursebook is definitely not a significant one. Moreover, I never saw a coursebook claim to prepare people adequately for their experiences, that’s not a coursebooks’ job and we know it. On the other hand, many teachers claim to be able to prepare people for I don’t know what and fail big, big time!
K: Are you bored?
W: to tears…
K: Another pint?
David Deubel A boring library conversation
Diarmuid Fogarty Accidental Death of a dogmeist
Mike Harrison, Materials Light
Dave Dodgson Video blog post: Not to be taken lightly
David Warr Sense and memorability
Sabrina de Vita Everybody can paint!
Cecilia Coelho Light Coke and Learning?