I’ve been struggling with writing this post for some days now. I know very little about Dogme, and there’s been so much discussion on the topic in the past few weeks! (If you haven’t seen it, a good – maybe intimidating – and informative start would be Jeremy Harmer’s latest post with the 190 comments - as I write this - that it ensued). So what could I possibly add to it?
The only thing I can offer are my musings. How I relate to all that I read about it, how I can relate my experience as a teacher – and a learner – to it. And as I do that I wonder… does my learning about dogme become emergent? What is emergent learning after all? Well, I think I know what learning is (let us hope, for the sake of my students ;-)), so I will focus on emergent. Many definitions for it can be found, and so I did (after a quick search on the web and dictionaries). But the ones that caught my attention were “coming into view or notice” , “coming into existence, esp. with political independence” – political independence…hmmm… interesting… – , “arising casually or unexpectedly” and finally, the pièce de résistance: “Evolution”. When I put those definitions together with learning, what do I get?
Learning that was not planned for by the teacher; that begins in the student, because he wants to learn about something. The wanting is key here. Wanting brings motivation into the picture. And there is no denying at the role motivation plays in effective learning. Can I say that the political independence on the second definition refers to the student’s independence from the teacher? I believe I can. In this case, emergent learning arises from the student independently of the teacher’s agenda. What is the role of the teacher in this whole independence scenario? The one of a facilitator. The teacher then is the one who identifies/sees this emerging (possibility of) learning and uses it, guides the student into accomplishing that learning. Now, I really like this, because it resonates what I believe to be the role of a good teacher these days: a facilitator, one who knows the way to learning better, more ways to get there (to adjust to each student’s peculiarities). Definitely not one who possesses all knowledge and will “feed it” to the student. So, and please correct me if I’m wrong, emergent learning is taking into consideration the student’s needs and interests and transform them into teaching opportunities, so that learning becomes more meaningful – therefore more motivating and effective – for the learner. Using the learner’s own input to help them evolve in the use of the language being taught (and here is the evolution part!). Does that sound about right? I’m going to go along and say it does.
Having solved that riddle, another one pops up: does learning emerge naturally? I believe it does. If the desire for learning something is there and the student finds the appropriate tools for it, learning will come naturally. These tools may exist already but it may also be crafted by the teacher and/or the student. Now, is dogme = emergent learning? From where I stand (several steps behind so many people I’ve read recently) it proposes a much more student emergent learning, where the teacher is driven by the student’s interests, not bound by pre-determined, one-size-fits-all syllabus. My question here is: how really feasible is this? I can see it easily enough in 1:1 lessons, in smaller homogeneous groups of people with same interests and objectives, for students who are motivated. But when you think about large classes, with student with a wide array of interests, ages, professions, etc… , teenage students who have no idea of why they are in your classroom (other than being put there by their parents)…Well, I’m not so sure.
“If learners are supplied with optimal conditions for language use, and are motivated to take advantage of these opportunities, their inherent learning capacities will be activated, and language – rather than being acquired – will emerge.”
Using the students’ input, interests and activating those inherent capabilities certainly make for more interactive, motivating and effective learning. Knowing which button to press for those inherent capabilities to become activated is the one million dollar question… But we try and experiment and discover one button at a time. And each button is a victory. I live for those small (?!?) victories.
Other posts on the Dogme Blog Challenge #2 you might enjoy reading:
Mike Harrison’s – Sometimes a Prop is Really the Best Thing
Sabrina’s – Fear of the Unknown!
Willy C. Cardoso – Dogme Challenge #2 – Emergence