Dogme Challenge #4 – Materials Light (a boring pub conversation)


October 28, 2010 by Willy Cardoso

part III of Dogme Blog Challenge

“Dogme is about teaching
materials 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.


Slave Market with the Appartion of the Invisible Bust of Voltaire - Salvador Dalí

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?

W: please…


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?


13 thoughts on “Dogme Challenge #4 – Materials Light (a boring pub conversation)

  1. Ace! What a cool way to approach this one. Actually, maybe not too far from the reality. Blogging as conversing in the pub. Just had a look at the video at Henrick’s post on his blog birthday. Perhaps blogs are our coffee houses or Parisian salons?

  2. I’m so never ever going down the pub with you…


    – and Mike, too right, freaking clever post even if I sounded like the dullest person ever to sit across from someone.

    Sometimes, guys, waxing lyrical and all… I feel like I’m part of this amazing radical art movement and all this what we’re doing was once done in letters between the “masters” and “almost-masters” of art or music or science – and then I think, no hey, it’s more like the time of Jesus (from a completely non-religious perspective) but from a philosophical meme, discussed and dissected by “disciples” (again, from a completely non-religious perspective… what a movement ,ya kno’)… and then in the end I wind up contemplating that nothing, really ever changes in life and communication: we love to debate, we love to be challenged and us humans we’re just constantly seeking to understand what we’re trying to understand…

    p.s. Willy, I really can’t wait to share a nice deep Barolo with you and the rest of the dogme folks. soon!

    • that’s right!

      I still don’t understand what I’m trying to understand, even though I’m pretty good at pretending I already do.

      geez Karenne, I have this friend, she has a PhD in audiolingualism for American as a foreign language from the Salt Lake City University of Behaviourism, can she come to the pub with the dogmateques too?

      But I do appreciate your thoughts, sorry if I made you sound boring, everyone knows you’re not.
      I just hope that this whole disciples thing in a pub don’t get any of our fellas hung(over), haha… :-/

  3. […] bloggers responding to Round 4: A boring pub conversation by Willy Cardoso, How I accidently started my teaching career unplugged by James Taylor, […]

  4. […] challenge is now centring on the need for light materials. So, no Phillip Pullman then. Unlike Willy Cardoso, I’m going to imagine Karenne as the police inspector in Accidental Death of an Anarchist. […]

  5. David Warr says:

    Very nice, Willy, in the tradition of Aristotle himself. Great questions, Karenne – you knew exactly what to ask him.

  6. David says:


    I love the way you presented your ideas in the form of a dialogue. Very Freirian. I have a lot to say but think I’ll use your own questions to have my own dialogue and then relink back here. That would make for much heartier eating – so much in the above recipe I’d like to spice up and also change.

    Good food for thought!


    • Thanks David!

      I’ve been growing very fond of dialogues, even if it’s with myself, don’t even know where it comes from, too many Woody Allen’s films perhaps.

      I’d love to hear the story from your side of the kitchen.

      bon appetit!

  7. […] many teachers. Karenne has unwittingly been involved in a number of tête-à-têtes, with Willy at Authentic Teaching and Diarmuid at Tao Te(a)Ching. Both David at Reflections of a Teacher and Learner and most […]

  8. […] week, Willy Cardoso wrote a fictional conversation that he might have had with Karenne Sylvestr about the use of materials in ELT. Karenne wrote […]

  9. […] were some great posts from challenge 4 shaped as conversations (Willy Cardoso’s  “A Boring Pub Conversation“, followed by David Deubel’s whispered ” A Boring Library Conversation” […]

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