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 to 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.

Main principles of Dogme

There are three precepts that emerge from the ten key principles.

Conversation-driven teaching

Conversation is seen as central to language learning within the Dogme framework, because it is the “fundamental and universal form of language” and so is considered to be “language at work”. Since real life conversation is more interactional than it is transactional, Dogme places more value on communication that promotes social interaction. Dogme also places more emphasis on a discourse-level (rather than sentence-level) approach to language, as it is considered to better prepare learners for real-life communication, where the entire conversation is more relevant than the analysis of specific utterances. Dogme considers that the learning of a skill is co-constructed within the interaction between the learner and the teacher. In this sense, teaching is a conversation between the two parties. As such, Dogme is seen to reflect Tharp’s view that “to most truly teach, one must converse; to truly converse is to teach”.[5]

Materials light approach

The Dogme approach considers that student-produced material is preferable to published materials and textbooks, to the extent of inviting teachers to take a ‘vow of chastity’ and not use textbooks.[4] Dogme teaching has therefore been criticized as not offering teachers the opportunity to use a complete range of materials and resources.[6] However there is a debate to the extent that Dogme is actually anti-textbook or anti-technology. Meddings and Thornbury focus the critique of textbooks on their tendency to focus on grammar more than on communicative competency and also on the cultural biases often found in textbooks, especially those aimed at global markets.[7] Indeed, Dogme can be seen as a pedagogy that is able to address the lack of availability or affordability of materials in many parts of the world.  Proponents of a Dogme approach argue that they are not so much anti-materials, as pro-learner, and thus align themselves with other forms of learner-centered instruction and critical pedagogy.

Emergent language

Dogme considers language learning to be a process where language emerges rather than one where it is acquired. Dogme shares this belief with other approaches to language education, such as task based learning.  Language is considered to emerge in two ways. Firstly classroom activities lead to collaborative communication amongst the students. Secondly, learners produce language that they were not necessarily taught. As such, the teacher’s role, in part, is to facilitate the emergence of language. However, Dogme does not see the teacher’s role as merely to create the right conditions for language to emerge. The teacher must also encourage learners to engage with this new language to ensure learning takes place. The teacher can do this in a variety of ways, including rewarding, repeating and reviewing it.  As language emerges rather than is acquired, there is no need to follow a syllabus that is externally set. Indeed, the content of the syllabus is covered (or ‘uncovered’) throughout the learning process.

Pedagogical foundations of Dogme

Dogme has its roots in communicative language teaching .  Dogme has been noted for its compatibility with reflective teaching and for its intention to “humanize the classroom through a radical pedagogy of dialogue”.  It also shares many qualities with task-based language learning and only differs with task-based learning in terms of methodology rather than philosophy.  Research evidence for Dogme is limited but Scott Thornbury argues that the similarities with task-based learning suggest that Dogme likely leads to similar results. An example is the findings that learners tend to interact, produce language and collaboratively co-construct their learning when engaged in communicative tasks.