Monday, December 21, 2015

As an EFL/ESL educator, what issues do you face?

A five-day academic writing workshop starts January 11, 2016!

A five-day workshop begins January 11, 2016, and will be conducted face to face via this wiki.  The through-line question that underpins the pedagogical aspects of teaching and learning academic writing is as follows:

As an EFL/ESL educator, what issues do you face?

Participants of this workshop will be asked to develop a thesis around this essential question as they develop an argument with supporting claims and logical reasoning patterns. Join us!

Navigation: Day 1>Day 2>Day 3>Day 4>Day 5

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Going Gradeless vs. Formative and Summative Assessment

I came across Edchat Interactive (#edchat) and the Starr Sackstein Edchat Interactive webinar where Sackstein shared many great ideas about the importance of formative assessment in formal educational contexts. I certainly agree with the various ways formative assessment allows learners to take ownership of the learning process.  Clearly, formative assessment (over summative assessment) should be the main focus when providing the kinds of feedback that allow students to transform into more competent individuals. But after having watched the webinar - which touched on topics few would disagree with (and not having read Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School) - I felt there was a missed opportunity to touch on more issue-based (or practical based) concepts that stem from the title of her book.

What grabbed my attention before having watched the webinar was the part of the book title, 10 Ways to go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School.  So, going into the webinar, I expected to hear about how summative assessment (via grades) would not be used at all. I quickly learned while watching the webinar that grades were in fact used in her classes by having students grade themselves.  Also, at 42:25, she says she, "...hates to teach to the test", which is really a false argument against a thesis that grades should not be used in class at all.  In other words, tests can be useful in class without teaching to the test, aka dynamic assessment. Regardless, I get the impression that Sackstein is currently using summative assessment in class in the form of student self assessments and perhaps a final test at the end of the course?  If this is true, then this would seem to be counter to the book's thesis, going gradeless... 

The would have been interesting to hear Sackstein's perspective on the following questions:
  • How does she and each of her students negotiate the final grade for the course?
  • How does she resolve any differences in opinion between her and a student when negotiating the final grade for the course?
  • Are individual assignments, products, projects, etc. negotiated as well?  Do they receive a grade for each of these or just a final grade at the end of the course?
  • Is she really going gradeless if students are giving themselves a grade?
  • Does peer assessment play any role in the overall assessment approach?
  • How does she reconcile aligning assessments with both course goals and individual goals students set for themselves (assuming students set goals for themselves)?
  • What role does technology play in how assessment emerges both in and outside of class?
Again, the topics Sackstein bring up in the webinar are timely and relevant to today's standard-based testing environment, but I couldn't quite connect the dots between the book title and the webinar. And, I also felt that she was for the most part, preaching to the choir. A (future) webinar on the above questions, taking on a more practical discussion, would be helpful is better understanding the important relationship between formative and summative assessment in formal education.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Space Between

Today, I began discussing sonnets with my writing class and developed this example as a guide....

Space Between

The space between by all accounts betrays,
divides the ones who wonder why they went.
Confused, misused, mislead, confined all day,
unsure how salty language had been sent.

The view from up above came from the sky,
engulfed the place, our space, we made our home.
Upon our faces said the warmth, "goodbye",
behind the solar shade she chose to roam.

Like dawn the crisp cold curse crawled in the sheets,
as numbness crept along its fearless fight.
The heat escaped the lifeless frame sans beats;
the calm and docile thoughts in mind that might...

The cause became the life forever bound;
the speed of light pronounced, and it was sound.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Teaching is a calling or a degree

Photo Attribution

Teaching is a calling

Dr. Tom S.C. Farrell asks, Teaching is a Calling: Or is it?  This article was brought to my attention by a Griffin tweet, as part of an #rpsig Twitter discourse.

Farrell concludes that the maxim, teaching is a calling, is too often taken for granted by institutions who try to exploit teacher selfless dedication to their students' learning.  He also states that teacher assumptions can be imposed by others, presumably institutions. Although I can appreciate his efforts for looking out for the interests of educators, I wonder if it's really warranted.

My take

I am always leery of the use of maxims when forming an argument because it's too easy to generalize.  In order to agree with the point of view, one has to accept the maxim.  In this case, many educators may feel compelled to agree with this maxim because most have experienced times when the opposite is true: feeling overworked, underpaid, etc. - teaching which is not a calling but just a job. In other words, it is easy to take a dichotomous look at the teaching profession as either being only a calling or just a job...nothing in between.

If teaching is a calling (or vocation), then there is some force that attracts one to a profession whereby the act of doing the job becomes more important than a salary, the work conditions, the hours, etc.  Calling it a force (Robinson calls it one's element), seems a bit abstract, so let's just say that a person is interested in the job itself to the degree that the positive aspects outweigh the negatives.  Contrast this point of view to a more dichotomous viewpoint that labels teaching as a calling as being all or nothing.

If teaching is a calling is just a subjective (internal) viewpoint of one's job in assessing the positives over the negatives, then it also cannot be an assumption from some outside source (e.g., an institution or school) imposed on someone else (e.g., a teacher).  Of course outside sources can influence how one perceives the positives and negatives of a particular job, but the assumption, given, or maxim that teaching is a calling cannot be passed on to the individual.


Let's assume that ELT Language School is taking advantage of ELT Teacher A because Teacher A simply loves her job so much that other aspects of the job don't matter: making money, long hours, etc.

In this example, what matters is who is doing the assuming?  If Teacher B, her colleague, is doing the assuming, but Teacher A is happy with the job (the positives outweigh the negatives), then what does it matter? As far as Teacher A is concerned, teaching is still a calling.  If Teacher A realizes that ELT Language School is taking advantage of her, then it's likely that the negatives outweigh the positives and Teacher A as a result is not happy with the job.  Teacher A is working for some other reason and not for the joy of it, and teaching then no longer is a calling.  Teacher A is not in her element, as it were.

If Teacher A is not happy with her job, is it's the school's fault?  Certainly there are situations where this might be the case, but I think what is more likely is that Teacher A just has not found her calling.  There are possible reasons for this: she does not recognize her calling, she doesn't know how to find her calling, she doesn't know how to prepare (or train) for her calling, etc. Robinson might help here.


A calling cannot be designed by those who exploit another's selflessness.  Someone who is acting selflessly is not looking for anything in return, which teachers undoubtedly often do when they feel that teaching is a calling.  But teachers who view teaching as a calling also do so in terms of degree, pragmatically accepting the fact that certain positives outweigh certain negatives at any given time - this process is unique to the individual and cannot be assumed by others.  If there comes a time when teachers realize that negatives outweigh the positives, then it is up to them to make the decisions necessary to improve the situation; otherwise, it is there choice to live with current conditions (which in this case teaching no longer becomes a calling). The question here then is less about the profession as a calling and more about whether or not teachers are being taken advantage of.  But I think most educators know when they are being taken advantage of...perhaps what might be more interesting is to explore what options they have to actually do something about it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Transforming EFL Teacher Trainers' Pedagogical Content Knowledge Openly Online (#globaled15)

I will be presenting the following talk on Nov. 18, 2015 at the Global Education Conference (#globaled15)...

Your Name and Title: Benjamin L. Stewart, PhD, English-as-a-foreign language (EFL) educator and researcher

Link to the session:' 

School or Organization Name: Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes

Area of the World from Which You Will Present: Aguascalientes, Mexico

Language in Which You Will Present: English (and Spanish if necessary)

Target Audience(s): Anyone interested in teaching English to speakers of other languages and those interested in connecting with others with the same interest, and those learning English as an additional language.

Short Session Description (one line): Making the TESOL educative experience transparent through writing

Full Session Description (as long as you would like):  During this session I will share two different writing classes, which were designed for English-as-a-foreign language (EFL) trainers, and will explain how transparency and technology together afford a more educative experience when setting out to improve both skill and pedagogical development.  I will explain situational and instructional considerations when teaching openly online, and will provide opportunities for attendees (both educators and learners alike) to connect with others who have similar interests.

When: Check local times.

Websites / URLs Associated with Your Session:  Composition | Academic Writing

My presentation...

Monday, November 2, 2015

Personalization and Personal Learning Networks

For me, I can only do that from my own experience with people I've known and things that I've lived and experienced. That's what good pop music is all about, pop music that does reach out to people. It's very personalized and very real, honest and sincere. Jon Secada

The word personalization has steadily been trending upward over the years, where its usage has been most prominent in the United States (Google Trends). I came across Dobyns´ take on the word this week which sparked further reflection into why personalization - within the field of educationseems to pop up quite a bit in the blog, Getting Smart. I tend to agree with Dobyns on the end goal, but think that the term personalization just clouds the issue.

I agree with Dobyns that the school experience should reflect the following elements: 1) Students who are empowered to be self-directed in their interests/passions through, 2) the process of inquiry/PBL, while 3) using assessment data to design experiences that 4) intentionally seek to address critical areas of improvement that either impede student learning or are essential for future success (para. 11). I just don´t think that personalization is the answer.

Statements that muddy the waters...

  • Personalization is not a pedagogy (a theory and method for teaching and learning)
Ok, so what is it then?  There is no clear explanation as to what personalization is...only why it is important and vaguely how it occurs (i.e., in problem-based learning).
  • While personalization happens for students through classroom-level interactions, our experience is that it takes coordinated school-wide attention to have enduring changes in practices that meaningfully impact student outcomes.
Personalization is only about classroom-level interactions?  This just sounds like differentiated instruction.  There is nothing about personalization and assessment within a common curriculum.  If there were, it would help define what was meant by personalization.
  • For our work we see [meeting the needs of the students] as “getting personal” in ways that are consistent with our beliefs about education and our espoused pedagogy.
There´s a dangerous assumption going on here: one´s beliefs (i.e., theory in use) and one´s espoused pedagogy (i.e., espoused theory) are both the same.  Oftentimes this is not the reality, and when this occurs, it can have a detremental effect on the educative experience.  Also, personalization should not be confused with understanding the needs of the students.  This is like saying that we should tailor instruction based on individual learning styles.
  •  A rigorous, high quality project and problem approach to teaching and learning creates a set of environmental conditions where good teachers can do tremendous personalization work. This approach allows students to enter the learning at their level and make sense in a very personal way.
This still does not explain much about what is personalization.  So, it´s an approach but not a theory or method for teaching and learning?  Is it possible to personalize the experience without implementing a problem-based learning assignment?  Is it possible to conduct a project-based learning assignment and not personalize it?  
  • Marrying PBL and personalization can multiply the teacher’s presence, giving students access to the learning tools adults use in the “outside” world to answer our own questions and needs, and produces better data around learning student and teacher reflection and decision making.
"...Multiply the teacher´s presence..."and personalization?  Again, this sounds like personalization is something done to students (which it is not).  If we "give students access to learning tools", this is the same as personalization? How do teachers (schools) reconcile students answering their own questions and needs in a way that matches the curriculum?  How do big data and learning analytics fit into this concept of personalization?


Personalization is not something done to/for the student.  It does not take a school-wide mandate in order to implement it - it can be done at the classroom level.  And it is not called personalization

Teachers cannot personalize the learning experience for the student. Learning is personalized without the teacher doing anything at all.  It´s like saying that learning should be social...learning can´t help but be social.  Even if every aspect of instruction and assessment were magically the same, each individual learner would experience a unique learning experience (i.e., their learning would be personalized).  Each unique learning experience is inherently personalized and social because our interpretation of the world is based on lived experiences.  But it´s easy to think in absolute terms, so let´s introduce a more nuanced perspective.

Teachers can differentiate instruction, which is not the same as Dobyns´use of the term personalization.  Teachers can offer fair amounts of formative and dynamic assessment, making feedback more timely and accessible for each student.  This is still different from personalization. Teachers can differentiate product, process, and content and provide formative feedback to students, which still does not speak to the different roles they play based on student needs: didactic instructor, facilitator, and coach (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005).  The roles teachers play at any given moment is something done to the student, while personalization (like social learning) can´t help but exist, and thus is an internal/social process.

I think the point in using the term personalization is to explain the importance of helping learners become more interdependent.  So, instead of saying personalization, how about a personal learning network (PLN).  A PLN is a conglomerate of ideas, materials (or technologies), and social relationships that serve some purpose.  To understand any one idea is to understand its relationship with the related materials and human relationships that network around that one idea.  Thus, teachers can assist learners to understand and cultivate their own PLN for specific purposes.  These purposes might include class objectives and/or personal objectives that extend beyond the curriculum.  The student personalizes the learning experience in terms of how a PLN serves a particular purpose; the educator is there to facilitate this process.  But, the teacher does not personalize the PLN for the student.  A PLN inherently exists and is unique, but it may or may not be useful for the individual.  The educator´s job is to help the learner make decisions so that the PLN becomes more valuable to the learner over time.  

To Jon Secada, music is personalized based on lived experiences.  To a learner, the classroom experience is personalized since one´s interpretation, understandings, and skill sets are rooted in prior experiences.  Based on these experiences, a teacher´s job is to help transform learners from being dependent, to independent, to interdependent by making them aware of how respective PLNs can take student understandings and skill sets to new levels for specific purposes.  Teachers help students to understand how to personalize their own learning through their awareness of a PLN.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Understanding what learning king!

Photo Attribution
I read with confusion, Robinson's Content is no longer king.  Here are five things that are at ELTjam, and felt compelled to counter.  Without having read the post, I realized from the title alone that a well-intentioned metaphor had been butchered - to my knowledge, there is no evidence of any country having had more than one official king.  Also, saying, content is no longer king, gives the impression that this is relatively novel idea, which it is not.  It is not exactly clear who the target audience is, but will assume that it is either learners in formal education (i.e., schools) or those interested in more informal educational contexts (learning outside of schools). Terms like businesses and customer are used in the piece, but learning seems to be the real focus.

Robinson concedes in the introduction that content is at best a "minor royal" (para. 5), and that the following have taken its place: 1) user experience, 2) access, 3) choice, 4) cost, and 5) data. I'll try to unpack each in turn, but struggle with the notion that these (or any) concepts should come before content and if all actually come before content in equal fashion.  Let's explore...

User Experience (UX)

Glossing over such a complex idea as UX is futile.  Robinson says, UX can be learned and applied with ease.  What does this mean?  The user experience can be learned and can be applied with ease?  Let's change to the active voice to see if this makes any more sense: Learners learn the user experience?  Teachers learn the user experience?  Teachers apply the user experience with ease?  As an educator it has never crossed my mind that I could apply a user experience to the user.  By definition, it's the experience of the user, which seems to mean that the user experience is inherently unique, regardless what the educator does.

Access & Choice

I do not really see any argument for access and choice (over content).  Robinson states that the value in Netflix (as a "content access business") is " the easy access to so many films, with no caps on usage and a recommendation system to help you navigate the impossible amount of choice".  How do these two points (access and choice) reach king status over content?


Cost is king over content?  What's the argument Robinson is trying to make?  Charging or not charging for classes is really what matters in how, where, when, etc. individuals learn?  And this is more important that content?


I would compare this definition of big data with that of Robinson's: "sets of data larger, more varied and more complex than we could ever have imagined capturing" (para. 18). How can big data be king over content, when content is at least part of the learning process?  This is like saying assessment (from big data) is more important than learning.  If there is no learning, then there is nothing to measure.  Surely most would agree that content has something to do with learning, and that assessment either occurs concurrently or sequentially to the learning process (but not absent of...).  Of course big data could be used to diagnose or for placement purposes, but this is limited in scope when compared to a more broader use that comes in the form of both formative and summative-types of assessment. The purpose of big data is to assess learning.


Nothing is "king" over content.  Learning is complex.  Learning involves ideas, materials, and social interactions, and none of these three - ideas, materials, and social relationships - are inherently superior over the others.  Learning is the aggregate of ideas, materials, and social relationships that grow and decline over time and are worth understanding at any given point of time.  Just using the word content limits the scope of an idea as it tends to ignore perspective, interpretation, and understandings of each individual (e.g., learner, educator, coach, etc.).  Learning is an ideational, material, and social network that intentionally and incidentally transforms over time.  If businesses want to make money in education, understanding what learning king!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Note-Taking as a Strategy

I can always count on Winkler to drive me towards expressing a current view I have on teaching and learning.  Today, it's her piece, Notes and Learning Resources: Why we Cannot (and Should not) Stop Student Sharing (May 25, 2012) that caused this expression.  There are three (interrelated) themes I'd like to unpack: a) students as "digital natives", b) note-taking policies, and c) the note-taking business.

"Digital Natives"

Students are oftentimes described as being "digital natives" who seem to be inherently "wired" for managing educational contexts that involve educational technology.  The term digital native is not one I tend to use as it typically stereotypes younger learners as being more prepared compared to those more mature learners who are typically labelled as being less technologically savvy (you know, those older folks.)  It's been my experience that learners who are more technologically savvy are seldom inherently at an advantage when it comes to using educational technology for some learning outcome or objective.  When it comes to note-taking, students usually need to learn it as a distinct strategy which many times is not linked to competencies with technology.

Since note-taking is a strategy, personal approaches to the act of taking notes will vary.  Regardless of which objects are used (technology, pencil, paper, etc.), the process is likely to vary as well: writing key words, mindmaps, outline, summarizing, etc.  Based on the educational context, this process will depend on how much will occur synchronously (while in class as the teacher is speaking) and asynchronously (outside of class). So, regardless as to whether a learner is a "digital native" or not, the strategy is what matters most.  And more often than not, students need assistance when learning which approach to their own strategy of note-taking works best for them - the technology (if) used is one of many aspects to an overall strategy.

This meta-awareness - knowing how to approach note-taking - will also intrinsically intertwine with where note-taking takes place.  Winkler alludes to this when she states, "students mostly love [taking notes], as this form of curation–possible thanks to the Internet–makes their life easier" (para. 2), insinuating that note-taking that is shared publicly online is synonymous with curation.  But taking notes, deciding how to share those notes, and topic-curating each require different (metacognitive) thought processes.  Again, the educator, an expert learner, becomes the facilitator in terms of not only what is to be learned, but more importantly how the learning could occur given each of these three distinct ways students might recall information.

A Note-Taking Policy

Winkler mentions that she has not found any school policies that address student note-taking. Based on the above, I wonder if schools should even implement such a policy, unless it is only to address licensing.  Choosing the type of Creative Commons license, for instance, will dictate much in the way of how and where sharing of notes will take place.  An understanding of commercial vs. non-commercial rights, derivative vs. non-derivative versions, etc. requires administrators to not only understand legal provisions but more importantly understand the school culture in terms of how students currently take notes and how students should be sharing notes in the future.  Any decent policy will set out to close this gap by tying it to student outcomes. 

The Note-Taking Business

I would be hard-pressed to find any business that allows for personalization of any note-taking strategy that goes beyond what is already being offered by EverNote, OneNote, or any public wiki for that matter (Wikispaces, Wikieducator, PBworks, etc.). 

Since note-taking is initially an individual pursuit, sharing them requires cooperation, collaboration, creativity, and consensus.  When working within a community, members of the community may need to conform (i.e., conform to ideas, social connections, and/or materials/technologies).  Thus, one needs to embrace the benefits of taking notes as an individual endeavor and/or appreciate the value of group note-taking as long as conforming does not hinder the learning process.  Indeed, the educator's role is to coach students through this realization and not assume that technological competency equates to having gained a set of metacognitive strategies.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Mission for Unity and Coherency

Always looking for a teachable moment, Choice Stifles Learning for Educators (Whitby, July 25, 2015) gives me an opportunity to speak to writers taking composition and academic writing about the importance of unity and coherency.

Paragraph 1
What is it about a mandated, contractually obligated, professional development conference that inspires some teachers and completely turns off many others? Why do some teachers glow with excitement at conferences and many others complain as they go through the motions? Is it the conference itself, or the attitude of the educators attending, or a combination of both?
 The first paragraph provides a hook by asking three consecutive questions. The first question provides context by limiting the types of professional development (PD) conferences as not being a choice a teacher makes (i.e., conferences are required); it suggests that conferences are appealing to some educators, and not for others. The second question restates the rheme from the prior sentence, making it sound as if the main idea of the essay (i.e., the thesis) vaguely relates to the differences in opinion when attending a conference.  However,  the third question offers a dichotomy that insinuates the reason for these differences in opinions about conferences has to do with both the conference itself and the attitudes of the attendees.  

A hook should align with the main thesis of the essay.  The rest of the essay speaks mainly about conferences and slightly about educators but not related to ideas found in this paragraph.  Also, mentioning that PD conferences are mandated clouds the overall thesis for this essay.  Just being forced to attend a conference is reason to be turned off and may have nothing to do with the conference or how it is organized.  The hook (the entire first paragraph) lacks unity both in terms of the rest of the essay and within the paragraph itself.

Tip: Begin your essay with a hook but limit it to one question, famous quote, or important statistic or fact.  Develop the rest of the introduction paragraph by providing context or background and conclude with a strong thesis statement.  As a general rule, avoid questions throughout your essay... answer the questions instead! 

Paragraph 2
When it comes to professional development for educators, conferences are believed to offer a great deal of choice with usually a seemingly wide array of sessions and workshops for educators to choose from to fill their blank schedules for a full day of learning. That is at least what is in the minds of the conference planners as they spend a huge amount of time planning these events. They seem to concentrate on the how and what of education, but fall short of the why.
 The second paragraph provides more context and speaks to the problem of conferences focusing more on the how and not the why of education.  Notice how the hook (prior paragraph) does not align with this paragraph.  One of the first two paragraphs are off-topic (lacks unity). Also, notice how the use of passive voice in the topic sentence (...conferences are believed...) fails to disclose who the agent is.  Do teachers or conference organizers believe this?  Then in the next sentence, the writer kind of suggest conference organizers. Incoherent.

Tip: Provide context, background information, or problem in the introduction paragraph.  This sets up or should lead right into your thesis statement, which concludes your introduction paragraph.

Paragraph 3
The why refers to why we do things in the first place? Without at least discussions on that subject of why we should, or should not do certain things in order to examine their relevance, we might find we are doing things just because that’s the way they have always been done. To simplify an example: that is why we teach keyboarding and not typing. There are no longer any typewriters, but keyboards abound. Of course all of that goes out the window with mobile devices where thumbs and pointer fingers rule the keys. The point is that we examined why we were teaching typing, and found that we needed to teach something else to stay relevant, keyboarding.
The third paragraph attempts to expand on the why of education that was introduced in the prior paragraph and concludes with an example.  The topic sentence is vague because it is still not clear who we are: educators, conference organizers, administrators, instructional designers, parents, etc. As a question, it is not clear why the reader should ask why about education.  If this was not just a mistake in punctuation, it is the opposed of what the main point of this paragraph is - that the reader should consider why teachers educate.  The example that concludes this paragraph does not go far enough in contrasting the reasons for teaching typing class vs. keyboarding class.  The example seems to suggest that the we pronoun refers to educators. 

As it relates to the first paragraph, why teachers teach typing or keyboarding has just as much to do with curriculum planning and policy than actual instruction.  For this reason, paragraph three does not align with paragraph one which seems to be about decision-making among educators, forcing educators to attend conferences, and conference organizational choices.  Lacks unity.

Tip: Avoid questions as topic sentences.  Instead, create claims as topic sentences that are 1) not questions, 2) not commands (imperatives), and directly align to the thesis statement or the overall thesis of the essay.  Avoid the we pronoun when its antecedent is not clear.  Unless writing a narrative, it is usually best to stay in the third person.

Your mission: Take a look at the rest of the paragraphs of this essay and choose two to comment on.  Provide an analysis similar to the discussion above.  Your instructor will suggest where to post your response for others to comment on from a discourse perspective.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What's the link between formative assessment and anticipating student challenges?

I was asked recently about formative assessment and anticipating student problems in a recent Google+ Community chat, so I thought I would create a blog post.

Could you give some examples of what you mean by the "formative assessments" you said you build in to your planning? And I'm curious as to how you go about "anticipating student challenges" and what kind of challenges?

Wiggins and Mctighe (2005) posit (and I would agree) that assessments include standardized exams, in-class exams, quizzes, academic prompts, performance tasks, and informal discussions. Informal discussions might occur around homework, student portfolios, Socratic Method, among others.  Broadly speaking, all assessments can be broken down into two categories: formative and summative.

Summative assessments are often associated with standardized tests; they are defined as any assessment that measures learning.  They measure what knowledge and skill sets the student has acquired in the past.   When teachers assign grades, they usually (but not always) are applying summative assessments.

Formative assessments set out to promote learning, and in contrast to summative assessments are more prospective or forward-looking. The most common example are informal discussions with students that are intended to help them achieve something they could not do before.  When teachers are in class, they constantly observe students who are struggling and thus make adjustments to either their teaching practice and/or they suggest to learners to make adjustments to their learning tactics.  This is an example of formative assessment...we are assessing and tweaking the educational design in order to help students learn more effectively, efficiently, and through higher engagement.

I mentioned before that exams were "usually" considered summative assessment - but they don't have to be.  Dynamic assessment is a term used to describe how teachers use the results from student exams, for example (which are typically summative assessments) as a type of formative assessment.  Teachers build a lesson (i.e., a learning experience) around common problems reflected in the results that came from the results.

So, formative assessment techniqually can be any type of assessment, but it is what you do with the test, exam, informal discussion, etc. that matter.  The purpose of formative assessments is to create better learning experiences; the purpose of summative assessment is to measure learning.  In formal education, both are important, but my philosolphy leans on having more formative assessment than summative.  As in the case with dynamic assessment, anything can be turned into formative assessment.

As for anticipating student challenges, there are two perspectives to consider: the novice practitioner and the expert practitioner.  The novice teacher perhaps will lack at being able to anticipate certain student challenges. So, what I would suggest is to record or share classroom experiences as often as possible and inquire about what others are doing. One's personal learning network (PLN) can come in handy when using social media to share experiences with others in this regard.  Simply asking questions to others often can create a discourse around working towards a possible solution - make learning transparent.  Then, complement this with what the literature (research) states.

The expert practitioner perhaps can anticipate more problems that students are likely to face.  But since each group of students is unique, being a reflective practitioner and sharing one's experiences with others (like in the case of the novice) can also be beneficial.

For me, being a reflective practitioner and sharing my experiences with others has helped me cultivate my own PLN in a way that helps me become better as an educator.  I often reach out to my PLN when it comes to student challenges. These challenges are often linguistic, technological, and managerial when it comes to when, where, and how they set out to achieve the objectives of the class.  I receive a lot of good information via my PLN and this has helped me learn how to be more in-tune with my students.  For me it's just paying attention to the types of feedback that I repeatedly give (i.e., formative and summative assessments) and then reflecting on and sharing what I learn as often as possible.  This is the approach I currently take.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

ELT Live #9

‘Summer Brainstorm/Get the Rust Out’ edition
Join this ELT live hangout on air of language learners and educators this Tuesday, July 21 at 0100 UTC (Global Times:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Academic Writing and ICTs

I'm preparing an in-house talk on using information and communication technologies (ICTs) for academic writing and am planning on using the presentation below (currently a work in progress) and will broadcast my talk live as well.  Feel free to share any ICTs you currently are using to promote better academic writing skills with your (language learning) students!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Standardized testing...why not just opt out?

Hashtags: #education #edchat #commoncore

Props to DP (@pakman) for including a segment on education.  I'll leave it to him to put a political slant on it all! :)

David Pakman (DP) - +David Pakman, of The David Pakman Show,  interviewed (at 27:42) Joel Westheimer (JW) for today's broadcast regarding what's wrong with standardized testing.  The answers were all over the place (incoherent), and basically neglected one key point. Let's review.

DP: What are you most concerned about when you look at education?

Point #1: JW begins by describing a shift to standardization stemming from a shift from tradition view of education as serving a public good to one that he labels a "job training institution"...? 

My response: Really?  I thought the shift to standardization came from periodic student outcome reports (tests) showing the US towards the bottom when compared to other countries.  I don't see how standardization came about from a focus on high school students getting jobs.  High schools are designed to prepare students for either the workforce or higher education, but never considered them job training institutions per se (unless we're including vocational high schools).   If one believes the intention of high schools is only to prepare students for employment, what types of jobs are high school graduates prepared to fill? And aren't standardized tests more about assessing academic knowledge than vocational?  If JW means that high schools are job training institutions because they both prepare students to further their education and indirectly prepares them for better employment, then isn't this also a "public good"?  I'm just note sure what JW is getting at.

Point #2: JW uses the term, so-called, as in "...obsession with so-called standards...", to make it sound as if the word standards is falsely termed, yet later in the interview says he has no problem with the term standards, but does have a problem with the term, standardization (more on this later).

Point #3: JW argues that standards only apply to math and literacy to the exclusion of other subjects that used to be part of a public education. 

My response: So, subjects that are not covered by Common Core aren't currently part of a public education?  I know what he means, and I agree that certain subjects are being neglected (and cut out entirely).  But try looking at it another way.  If the US can't even get standards set on a few subjects within a curriculum, how likely is it for them to extend those standards to other subjects? Baby steps...

DP: How do the problems in the US educational system compare with those in Canada?

Point #4: JW claims various things...
  • One similar issue among both countries is that there is a "growing obsession with standards and standardization".  Nobody is against standards, but the problem is that of standardization.  
    • My response: Here, JW makes a distinction I reference in Point #2 above. So, one moment JW is against the term standards, the next he is for it?  Or perhaps not against it and not for it?  And everyone agrees with this.  Can we have standards with not standardization?  And can we truthfully call them standards if only one person is doing them? This is like saying I'm respecting a community of practice (or I'm following "best practices") when I'm the only one doing (or practicing) them. Or another way of looking at it: it's fine if each teacher has individual standards, just don't force teachers to share these individual standards with others. I have to believe that "forcing" teachers to share what's working in the classroom (perhaps a standard, perhaps not) has to be part of the solution. Question: how many standards are required before standardization emerges? :)
  • He states that standardization is the "enemy of imagination".   
    • My response: So, standardized testing is standardizing the teaching practice? I don't think so...I'll explain this more in my conclusion below.
  • Standardization means that everyone must be the same - numberical numbers on very small amounts of the curriculum as represented on standardized tests.  
    • My response: Everyone meaning students?  Teachers?  Both?  Standardized testing does not mean that all students are learning in the same way.  It means that what students are expected to know and can do are uniform, but does not speak to how students can learn and develop such knowledge and skills.  And it does not speak to how teachers teach or the environment they create for students to thrive. 
  • When standardized tests are used, this takes away from teachers individual passions they bring to the classroom. 
    • My response: This is like saying Standardization means that everyone must be the same (see above).  I really get the feeling that everyone here includes the teachers.  This is not what standardization is all about.
  • Standardization is the cause of the high attribution rate in the US. 
    • My response: I'd be interested to know if standardization is the sole reason why teachers leave the profession.  This means that teacher pay, work conditions (which may not relate to standardization), advancement, etc. have nothing to do with it.
DP: What's the logic of the standardized test?  Why have standardized tests?  To find the strongest students?  The strongest teachers?  If standardized tests worked well, what would they help us to do?

Point #5: Standardized tests have noble origins: helped address educational bias so that all students had an equal opportunity. It levels the playing field.  But here are the reasons why this didn't play out, according to JW:
  • Massive inequality that we're experiencing.
  • Test preparation favors the wealthy.
  • Bias build into the test regarding the materials the test cover.
  • Standardized tests to not measure what's important to teachers and parents.
  • Standardized tests do not measure critical thinking skills, creativity, healthy relationships, if students can give back to the community, develop convictions and stand up to those convictions., etc., .
  • DP interjects and suggests that tests also do not show the potential of the student, JW agrees.
  • Standardized tests only measure a vary narrow view of learning.
As a result, JW states that the US is scaling back subjects that are not part of the standardized tests.

My response: Is it possible to even create a completely unbiased exam at this level?  Isn´t it more important the constant measures are being used to improve the test? The rest of my response is included in the conclusion below.

DP: Goes on to mean the problem of funding for schools linked to test outcomes.  JW agrees and they discuss problems with teachers "teaching to the test".

DP: What could change this and how could we restructure this?

JW responses that schools, parents, teachers, etc. are opting out of Common Core.

My response: Teaching to the test is a problem, but this is a problem with teaching and not testing.  Different from teaching to the test, teachers should be preparing students for the knowledge and skills that test items (from the standardized test) are intended to assess. 


Pakman poses some important questions but the discussion really never got to the key point: The reason standardized testing isn't working is because educational stakeholders (i.e., teachers, administrators, parents, civic leaders, lawmakers, etc.) fail to use standardized testing as a means for improving public schools.  What would this look like?
  1. Standardized tests in conjunction with additional qualitative and quantitative data which are generated from both internal and external sources are used collectively to measure student outcomes.
  2. Research into the relationships between teacher practice and student outcomes need to complement comprehensive data points that holistically measure student outcomes.
  3. School funding is based on a comprehensive assessment of student outcomes, current literature into teacher practice and student outcome relationships, and the current educational context that covers everything beyond student outcomes. 
This simple, yet complex, solution turns comprehensive data into formative action.  When schools are struggling, this data provides a clearer vision as to the resources that are needed (mainly an external commitment) and types of changes that are needed using the resources that are newly available (mainly an internal commitment).  This is not a top-down directive, but rather a negotiation (investment) between all parties. High performing schools share their successes, providing a model for possible solutions for other, more lower performing schools. Hence, education becomes more transparent

In this scenario, evidence-based education provides the professional learning environment for teachers and subsequently for students to be creative, imaginative, etc... If teachers are being creative in the learning design, then it's realistic to think that students are being allowed to be creative (however one defines creativity).

Of course my vision is idealistic, some would say impossible.  But unless we change the narrative, then educational stakeholders are going to go on thinking that the "answer" to standardized testing is simply opting out; in other words, we're just spinning our wheels...

What do you think?  Am I off base?  What am I missing?  What's the problem and solution with standardized testing as you see it?

Friday, May 1, 2015

Article Review: Exploratory Practice

This article review looks at Hanks (2015) and the notion of exploratory practice.  The principles behind exploratory practice, as an answer to the too demanding action research model, include the following (Allwright, 2005):
  1. Put ¨quality of life" first.
  2. Work primarily to understand language classroom life.
  3. Involve everybody.
  4. Work to bring people together.
  5. Work also for mutual development.
  6. Make the work a continuous enterprise.
Two suggestions are also given...
  1. Minimize the extra effort of all sorts for all concerned.
  2. Integrate the "work for understanding" into the existing working life of the classroom (p. 360).
Hanks (2015) sets out to answer the following research questions:
  • What are the challenges faced by practitioners (teachers and learners) when they try to conduct exploratory practice (EP) in an English for academic purposes (EAP) context?
  • What is the relationship between principles and practices in EP? (p. 119).
The study took place in a year-long EAP course at a language center to prepare incoming English language learners (IELTS 6.0) to enter a university in the UK. Two out of six students were chosen to participate in this study, which also included two teachers.  Only the results from the two students are included in this article (results from the teachers pending).

The results of the study show how participants (two English language learners) "welcomed the responsibilities of setting the agenda (via their puzzles)" (p. 127).  The two students were asked to write out what puzzled them which was used as an alternative to solving problems.  The two "puzzles" were 1) Why can't I study in certain situations? and 2) Why do people learn bad words [swear words] more easily? In this research, students collected data to research what puzzled them. Hanks (2015) concludes that EP encourages practitioners (i.e., students) to set their own research agendas because it is integrated into the normal pedagogical practice.

Article Critique


The whole premise for implementing EP is because action research (the alternative) is too demanding and complicating for the English language educator (Allwright, 2005; Hanks, 2015).  Instead of focusing on a problem-solution, the hallmark of any action research approach, the goal for EP is to gain further understanding.  I would argue that it's impossible to pursue a problem of any kind and not gain some higher degree of understanding.  And another misconception of action research is that problems are to be solved.  Setting problems and the pursuit of a problem are sufficient to gain understandings, for both teacher and student.  An understanding is meant to include six facets: to explain, to interpret, to apply, to have empathy, to have perspective, and to have self-knowledge (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005).

Also, by calling it exploratory practice, one might get the impression that all research is exploratory in nature.  However, research can also be explanatory, confirmatory, discursive, intuitive, etc.

Regarding EP as a framework, contrast Hanks's (2015) "seven principles" to Allwright's (2005) principles and suggestions above:

The 'what' issues
  • Focus on quality of life as the fundamental issue.
  • Work to understand it before thinking about solving problems.
The 'who' issues
  • Involve everybody as practitioners developing their own understandings.
  • Work to bring people together in a common enterprise.
  • Work cooperatively for mutual development.
The 'how' issues
  • Make it a continuous enterprise.
  • Minimize the burden by integrating the work for understanding into normal pedagogical practice (pp. 117-118).
The main issue here is the what of it. Quality of life is like no child left behind or teach the whole child, they are buzzwords that few would disagree with, yet few would actually agree on what each term meant and few would actually agree on how to best achieve such ideals.  Also, understanding the language classroom life and understanding first, before solving a problem both seem unnecessary.  Understandings gained through a process of solving (student or teacher-driven) problems does seem necessary however.  The rest of Hanks's (2015) list regarding who and how issues I could equally argue against as well.

Regarding the method, there are no direct (explicit) answers to the research questions, and since only the students are included in the findings, I wonder if presenting the teacher results first wouldn't provide the necessary perspective needed to better understand the findings from the students.  I'm more concerned about what challenges the teacher faces when conducting EP in an EAP context.  I'm more interested in any relationships between EP principles and the teaching practice.  The article neglects any mention of EP in the classroom itself.  Again, perhaps this will be discussed later (future publication?), but not knowing this makes it more difficult to make sound judgments on any possible implications being presented by the (student) participants.

Finally, two images are included in the article showing poster boards that participants made in this EP experiment (great idea!); however, one image is completely illegible while the second only half of the image is decipherable. Missed opportunity. 



Look through this article for possibilities for further study.  Instead of doing an intervention, take some of these ideas and apply it with your own group(s).  Problem setting and seeking are worthy causes as long as you systematically go about collecting and analyzing relevant data.  Also consider the role of assessment when doing this type of student or teacher-driven research.  How might teacher, student, and self-assessment evaluate the process and/or product that resulted from setting and pursuing a problem? As a mental exercise, take the six "puzzles" presented in this article and re-articulate them into problems.  As an example, let's say that I puzzle over why I can't learn Spanish while watching TV.  The problem I have might be 1) I am unable to allocate my time properly; 2) I have not looked at how I learn best; 3) I am unaware of learning opportunities that would help with my learning of Spanish; etc. See if you can do something similar with what's being shared in the article, then image how you, as the English language educator, could coach a student to research these problems for themselves.

If you agree with EP (for the sake of problem solving), still consider what I've mentioned above, but consider carefully how you plan to state a strong case in your literature review: initial argument, counterargument, and rebuttal.  Is there room for problem setting and solving within this phenomenon called "EP"?  Could another term be used instead?  Should problem-based learning be ignored because the rigor of collecting and analyzing data is too much for the English language educator?



    Allwright, D. (2005). Developing principles for practitioner research: The case of exploratory practice. The Modern Language Journal 89(3), 353-366.  Retrieved May 1, 2015 from 

    Hanks, J. (2015). "Education is not just teaching": Learner thoughts on exploratory practice. ELT Journal 69(2), 117-128. 

    Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

    Photo attribution

    Saturday, April 25, 2015

    Composition (4th Semester): Group Writing Task

    Group: Composition (3rd semester)

    Time: 50 minutes

    Task: As a group, listen to the above video as many times as you wish and write a single paragraph describing the essence of the message (idea), but in your own words.  Create the paragraph using Google Drive and project the text onto a large screen so that the entire group can view it. Make edits to the text however you'd like, and include a list of those who contributed to this task (first names only) below the single paragraph.  Once you have completed the text and have included your names, choose one person to sign into Google, and upload your work as a comment to this blog post.

    Prior tasks

    Composition (3rd Semester): Group Writing Task 

    Friday, April 24, 2015

    Why creativity in the classroom doesn't matter

    Hashtags: #creativity #education #learning #pedagogy

    Wait...what?  Creativity in the classroom doesn't matter? After posting comments to Why creativity in the classroom matters more than ever, I've come across several additional posts through my personal learning network (PLN) that have all promoted creativity in the classroom. And just now (freaky), I got a notification that others within my PLN are thinking about creativity as well. So what's wrong about developing creativity in the classroom?  Why would I dare say that creativity in the classroom does not matter?  Let's dissect.

    What others say about creativity and my response...

    It’s a crucial skill for everybody to master. 

    Key words here are skill and master.  I have a hard time believing that creativity is limited to what we usually associate with being a skill.  This ignores any characterization of competencies that also include knowledge and disposition.  If creativity is only seen as being a skill - isolated from any connections to knowledge and disposition - it has no place in the classroom.

    ...creativity is when one idea branches into a complex, rich and vibrant neural network...creativity means starting with the bricks in the garden and winding up with the universe.

    Now creativity is a noun, limited to a single idea, that metaphorically speaking branches into a "neural network".  This definition ignores socio-cognitive aspects of learning that leaves the term creativity empty. Also, the metaphor "...bricks in the garden..." is so abstract that some (like myself) would not recognize what is meant by bricks, garden, and universe. Thus, creativity has not place in the classroom.

    [Creativity] doesn’t have to be new to the whole of humanity— though that’s always a bonus— but certainly to the person whose work it is.

    So here, innovation comes to mind. Downes (44:00), claims the innovation is taking something new and presenting it in a way that is of benefit of others.  Here, there is no mention of creativity as benefiting others.  Secondly, if it doesn't have to be new to the "whole of humanity", although it might, for whom must it be new? Now we are running into issues of how relativism and rationalism might fit within the classroom (I would argue they don't). Therefore, based on this definition, creativity has no place in the classroom because it potentially means too many things to potentially too many individuals.

    Creativity is putting your imagination to work. It is applied imagination. Innovation is putting new ideas into practice.

    Again, a definition ripe with metaphors.  Putting new ideas into we again have the problem of defining new.  Is it new for the student who is trying to be "creative"?  Is it new for the entire class?  Is it new for the teacher?  Is it new for the local community?  Is it new for society? etc. And how might practice be defined?  Is it possible to develop a working definition of practice that is applicable across disciplines?  Again, creativity as it's being defined here has no place in the classroom.

    The process of having original ideas that have value...the idea you start with is not the one you end up with.

    Ken Robinson uses original instead of new, and adds a second component, value.  Whether one uses original or new, the same issue applies: original for whom?  The term value is interesting because it links to what Downes discusses when using the term, innovation. So now there is a transactional element to creativity that employs an interpretive process that extends beyond the person(s) being "creative".  This definition might avoid problems of relativism and rationalism on the part of those putting something new into practice, but ignores the still vast potential for interpretation when trying to objectively articulate ideas of new, valuable, innovative, etc. to those beyond the practitioners - I use the term practitioners to mean those who are setting out to be creative. Finally, the problem with accepting that an idea might change throughout the creative process means that assessment comes after the completion of instruction.  In formal education (for better or for worse), this goes against the reality of adhering to a curriculum, syllabus, scheme of work, and/or lesson plan.  That is, desired results are established beforehand, and instruction and assessment intertwine to facilitate how these desired results are met. This reality does not automatically mean students are unable to learn.  For this reason, creativity as defined here, has no place in the classroom.


    I have never entertained the idea of creativity in my classroom because to do so would mean judging my students as opposed to assessing them.  Judging my students would be like saying...
    • Mary, you sure are creative.
    • Mike, you produced a creative brochure, video, etc.
    • Monica, your group worked creatively on that project.
    In all cases, I am labeling my students dichotomously as being either "good" or "bad".  In formal education, the feedback students receive needs to go beyond good/bad, pass/fail, etc.  It needs to be more nuanced.  This is where the alternative, assessment, becomes more important than creativity.

    Assessment includes more useful terms like formative assessment, summative assessment, dynamic assessment, diagnostic assessment, alternative forms of assessment, rubrics, portfolios, etc., which if collectively considered, limit the subjectivity of judging students and instead focus more on objectively providing feedback in terms of quantitative, qualitative, and interactional forms of data.

    A Picasso painting is viewed as creative because the work is completely finished, and enough time has passed that enough people have determined that something new has been developed and that this object (the painting) has value. Picasso, the man, is viewed as creative because he has produced enough works that collectively are viewed by others as creative.   Creativity is retrospective of the process and product together. Indeed, the term (creativity) serves a purpose, but not in the classroom.

    Assessment is (or should be) more prospective; that is, formative.  Assessment of learning is more about guiding, facilitating, coaching, and leading students towards understandings, skills, and dispositions that they haven't experienced before.  Learning is a result (and process) of an individual being able to do something or think/feel a certain way that previously was not possible.  Assessment allows this to potentially happen in varying degrees.  In formal education, like scenarios found in the classroom, words like assessment, feedback, etc., should replace words like creativity, creative, creation, and creatively. It's possible (perhaps likely) that students learn something in the classroom that others deem uncreative.  It's possible that educational stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, admin, etc.) deem a classroom experience as creative where students fail to learn much.  Creativity in the classroom doesn't matter because it ignores other more useful terms like assessment, etc.  If one wishes to articulate what creativity is in terms of assessment (using related terms mentioned above), wonderful.  My only point is why not just talk about assessment and leave creativity out of it.

    Photo attribution:

    Wednesday, April 15, 2015

    Phenomenal Learning

    Hashtags: #BeSmartOnAir #education #esl #efl #tesol

    At the end of the month, Be Smart On Air #17 will discuss Phenomenal Learning. Never having heard of the term, I decided to look it up. I gather that phenomenal in this sense means of the nature of a phenomenon; cognizable by the senses ( I particularly like looking at learning as cognizable by the senses, and am curious how Niilo Alhovaara and others decide to approach this topic. What I found online about phenomenal learning sparked a few questions. For the purposes of this post, I’m confining the notion of phenomenal learning within the context of formal learning (learning that occurs in schools).

    At the time of this writing, the domain,, was currently unavailable. The only specific reference to phenomenal learning that I found was Davidove (2008), who contrasted it to traditional learning:
    • Centrally developed courses (traditional) vs. developed by workers (phenomenal learning)
    • Modules lasting hours vs nuggets lasting minutes
    • Delivered by an instructor vs. delivered by anything
    • Often just in case vs. just in time
    • Often competence driven vs. more performance driven
    • Paced by the agenda vs. social and participatory
    Other key ideas associated with phenomenal learning include seating arrangements, few opportunities to collaborate, among others. Three key principles associated with phenomenal learning, according to Davidove, are the following: everyone instructs, learning is memorable and unique, and the notions of learning and working merge. These three principles lead to excellence “in every aspect of the learning experience”.

    Although Davidove seems to be referring more to organizational (or professional) learning, I have a particular interest in this topic as it relates to formal education (in schools). Some key concepts to unpack during this discussion about phenomenal learning might include a) teacher/student roles (“removing the ‘middle man’”), b) freedom of choice on the part of the student (differentiated instruction), c) assessment, d) content delivery (or interactivity), e) student collaboration, f) course goals vs. individual goals, etc.

    What other aspects of phenomenal learning should one consider in order to make it "cognizable by the senses" for each student? And is phenomenal learning related to phenomenal field theory (and the phenomenal self)?

    Saturday, March 14, 2015

    Dogme language teaching…what is it?

    Hashtags: #dogme21 #elt4 #clivage3 #polqc2 #thatcher2 #bêtise1 #croyance1 #méthode1 #dégâts1 #eltchat #dogme
    Trying to seek a better understanding of Dogme language teaching…
    Dogme language teaching is considered to be both a methodology and a movement - a communicative approach to language teaching that encourages teaching without published textbooks and focuses instead on conversational communication among learners and teacher (Wikipedia, 2015). Dogme has ten key principles:
    1. Interactivity: the most direct route to learning is to be found in the interactivity between teachers and students and amongst the students themselves.
    2. Engagement: students are most engaged by content they have created themselves
    3. Dialogic processes: learning is social and dialogic, where knowledge is co-constructed
    4. Scaffolded conversations: learning takes place through conversations, where the learner and teacher co-construct the knowledge and skills
    5. Emergence: language and grammar emerge from the learning process. This is seen as distinct from the ‘acquisition’ of language.
    6. Affordances: the teacher’s role is too optimize language learning affordances through directing attention to emergent language.
    7. Voice: the learner’s voice is given recognition along with the learner’s beliefs and knowledge.
    8. Empowerment: students and teachers are empowered by freeing the classroom of published materials and textbooks.
    9. Relevance: materials (e.g. texts, audios and videos) should have relevance for the learners
    10. Critical use: teachers and students should use published materials and textbooks in a critical way that recognizes their cultural and ideological biases.
    The Twitter hashtag #dogmeelt was active from April 15, 2015 through June 21, 2014, but hasn’t seen much action since. Presumably, Twitter activity has migrated to the hashtag #dogme. Top hashtags include #dogme21 #elt4 #clivage3 #polqc2 #thatcher2 #bêtise1 #croyance1 #méthode1 #dégâts1 #eltchat1, while top languages include French and English (#dogme statistics, March 14, 2015).
    It seems that the main reason Dogme came about was that English language teaching (according to Scott Thornbury)...
    had become similarly dependent on a constant fix of materials and technology, at the expense of the learning possibilities that could be harvested simply from what goes on “within and between" the people in the room (to borrow Stevick's phrase). ELT needed a similar kind of "rescue action". (as cited in Meddings, 2003)
    Others seems to agree. An ELT Dogme Yahoo Group was formed that shows an active message history being primarily between 2002-2011. Trending topics include ELF workshop and teaching project-based learning. The Yahoo group was founded in 2000, currently has 1,564 members, and includes a website link to Scott Thornbury.
    I recently had a discussion about Dogme in LinkedIn where the following manifesto was presented as follows (derived from Dogme 95)…

    1. All teaching and practice of language must be done "in situ", in the real location. No fake props or sets but only using real language in a real location.
    2. Teaching is holistic. There must be no separation of function and form and language is treated not in discrete parts, nor dissected but rather as it is used.
    3. Technology must be simple and hand driven. Chalk, pencils, pens etc.... No use of electronic devices; computers, screens, CD players and so on. The speaker, the human being, is the focus.
    4. Teaching must be real. It can't be a play, a scripted event. The plan is that there is no plan other than the main objective to start things off. No fakery, no lying on the part of the teacher.
    5. Extrinsic motivators are forbidden. The class must not be tainted by point systems, rewards and competition.
    6. There should not be any role playing in the classroom (this is artificial). All language takes place and arises from a real need and impulse.
    7. No use of video to show learners language used in a different time and place. It all happens in the here and now.
    8. The teacher can't be an actor or use different teaching styles. Nor are there any different types of English to be taught (business, global studies, finance, hospitality and tourism etc...). The only English used is that of necessity that comes from the learner, there is no imposed structure given from the instructor.
    9. The class must be 10 or less students to facilitate real use of the language and proper instructor intervention.
    10. The teacher is part of the class and a learner. Credit goes to the whole class for any success, not just the teacher.

    In summation, I can’t quite connect the Dogme 95 list to the Dogme Manifesto list above, and can’t quite reconcile the Dogme Manifesto list above with the ten principles listed at the beginning of this post. I´m willing to reservedly accept a definition like… 
    a communicative approach to language teaching that encourages teaching without published textbooks and focuses instead on conversational communication among learners and teacher…(emphasis added)
    but can’t quite accept a definition like Dogme ELT is a materials light methodology (What is Dogme ELT?, n.d.).
    The main problem I have with the notion of Dogme is the uncertainty in the use of the term "materials".
    I use terms like authentic learning using authentic materials to describe many aspects that Dogme seems to embrace. This would also include the Socratic Method and many principles from Mortimer’s Paideia School. At this point, still am not compelled to use the term Dogme as a “rescue action”, although such action is definitely needed.