Dogme Symposium #IATEFL


April 29, 2011 by Willy Cardoso

The Dogme Symposium, held at IATEFL Conference on 18 April, has brought about another round of great blog posts on the theme. At home or at sea, the conversation around the unplugged way of teaching is always an opportunity to, once again, puzzle over this exquisite dance between the learning and teaching of a second language.

I was fortunate to have traded one sunny afternoon in Brighton  – above pebbles and below seagulls – for an indoor shower of sincere, down-to-earth and attentive second language pedagogy. With its bare essentials and occasional befuddlement, the Dogme movement drew 200 people to a series of four powerpointless content-rich talks convened by Scott Thornbury.

I tried to capture a bit of this very emblematic moment. So, enough of floweriness.

Luke Meddings: “there’s enough in our interaction with one another”

Luke’s mission was nearly impossible, to define Dogme in 20 minutes. From what I understood it’s like a place where you can have a good night’s sleep. (if you were there you know what I mean; if you were not, sorry. update: Luke wrote about his talk and the analogy)

Here’s the core of his message. I say it’s a 45-sec very effective lesson on syllabus design.


Candy: “I didn’t say easy, I said simple”

Profound and funny: that was Candy Van Olst‘s talk at the Dogme Symposium. “That was a TED talk”, I heard someone utter.

Learner’s stories – how powerful they are. Everyone has a story, refugees and CEO’s; there lies the content of our lessons, there lies the language, the grammar, the everything we need.

(find more about the 5 R’s, retrieve, repeat, etc here)

Next time Candy is talking about her students’ stories in a theater near you, don’t miss it! It was hard for me to want to see anything else after that.

But there was Anthony Gaughan, with a smashing session at IATEFL Harrogate 2010 in his luggage, I really wanted to see him.

Anthony gave me hope, hope that pre-service teacher training certificates can be a great learning experience more than a disheartening one. His message was that teacher development should start right there, on day 1.

“You Can Train Me, and You
Can Educate Me, But You
Can’t Develop Me—I Develop”

– Julian Edge (tnx @nutrich, cos I didn’t know who said it)

Howard Vickers, the last speaker of the day, made some good points too. On my notes I jotted down:

human being = repetitive


“responsibility passed over to students”

no -> passed back

The first point is that, well, we are pretty damn repetitive. If you read this blog regularly, how many times do I repeat myself? Many, I hope. But the point is that we do it in slightly different ways, in our daily lives, we say many things repeatedly, but it’s never the same message. In the classroom: less parroting and more meaningful repetition. (for the how to, talk to Howard)

The second was my immediate reaction to the fact that many teachers I met think that stimulating learner autonomy is “a favor” they’re doing; in that teachers have always taken control over what is to be learned, which is “right”, but now they are going to be nice and pass this control to students – also of course because they’re burnout and because people got used to DIY and customer care, but that’s off topic. Anyway, I’m sure Howard didn’t mean that; but it was my reaction at the moment – pass back, because its theirs, it’s always been and somehow we managed to take it.

The structure of the symposium was pretty good too. Each speaker had something like 17-20 minutes, just the right time. This is what I said one post ago, “Everybody loves TED Talks, right? It’s not only because they are in fact great, it’s also because they are 20-minutes long” — there’s something to learn there (are you listening conference organizers, speakers and delegates?)

To finish it in a less mannerly way than how I started, I’d like to say that

In a scale between 1 and f*#^kin awesome, the Dogme Symposium was f*#^kin awesome!

This is a level of awesomeness  that is hard to be dampened.

Thanks to:

Howard, Scott, Luke, Anthony, and Candy


Every Dogme Has Its Day (Part 1)

Questions which dog me

The Unplugged Conference


14 thoughts on “Dogme Symposium #IATEFL

  1. Nice summary, Willy!

    Also excellent video as well =) I’m sure Luke and Candy would approve.

  2. dingtonia says:

    Oh my goodness, Willy. What an incredible post. I am truly humbled by what you have said. Everything I said, I believe in my soul and I thank you for believing that I mean what I say. And I believe that this is just the beginning of the dogme crusade!


  3. Anthony Gaughan says:

    Thank you so much for your work here, Willy – those clips capture the spirit of the day and it was great to see Candy and Luke in action again!

    • thanks!
      I’m sorry I don’t have any footage of you. Luke and Candy were the only ones I could get a nod from regarding filming right before the start. And since I was in the front row, I didn’t want to influence anyone else’s performance by holding up a camcorder unexpectedly.

      Next time, if you want, I can do it.

      • Anthony Gaughan says:

        Heh, heh – I’m surprisingly vain considering my unphotogenic nature, but feel free to “shoot” me next time, as it is fascinating to get an outside view of yourself from time to time!

  4. Very succinct summary, Willy – I would’ve loved to have attended this, but obligation meant I had to be at the LT SIG programme day presentations, so your post has allowed me to catch up on what I missed – thanks!

  5. David Warr says:

    Yep, it was a fantastic symposium.

  6. Thanks for that Willy!
    Was that the day that dogme came of age??

    • I don’t know, Scott.

      I feel like its youngest baby brother, maybe dogme’s begetter will know better if is has matured. On a second thought though parents are often late in realizing when their progeny reached maturity.

      In fact, among all the recent inquisition and perhaps unnecessary justification, it would be interesting to know how you review the symposium and what it meant to you.

  7. Diarmuid says:

    I especially like the fact that in Willy’s photos (none of which I appear in – very wise) look at the the people who aren’t engaged in conversation. What do you see in their hands?

    • if it makes any difference, those photos of the audience were taken before the whole thing started.
      But you’re right, many modern pieces of handheld technology,…you see? it’s the future of education.

      By the way, I noticed that by the end of the symposium there was nobody sitting next to you. he he he

      But thanks for you input at the final Q&A, esp. the one regarding inspections.

  8. This is a great post (and videos) that I just came across while planning my 1st in a semester of Dogme lessons with a new group of students. I may borrow Luke’s flip chart work to explain what Dogme teaching is to my students–hope he doesn’t mind!

    I’m planning to spend some time during this first lesson showing (and discussing with) them how this approach varies from what they may have done in the past, get their reactions to it, and get them thinking about their role in this semester’s classroom.

    Thanks so much Willy! I’ll be back regularly for inspiration in this Dogme/Delta Experimental Practice semester!

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