Unplugging everywhere

A long time ago, near the beginning of my EFL journey I attended a postgrad course in Education. The very first day was going OK until a teacher gave a 10 minute talk on theories of learning and then said “OK, you have 2 weeks to write a 5,000 word essay comparing the main theorists such as Piaget, Bruner and Vygotsky”. The silence lasted about a minute and then all hell broke loose.

Years later I’ve realised that it was all upside down. For example, most unis have a marking scheme like this:

Bad student: Copies

Average student: Summarises

Good student: Compares

V Good student: Is critical

Excellent student: Presents and supports his own ideas

This is also the development many of us follow in our teaching life. So, why not start with the Excellent bit FIRST?

The teacher could have used unplugged ideas and:

1)Asked students how they think students

2)Compared and debated different ideas

3)Given each group 1 theorist and asked them to compare it to the class ideas

4)Discussed all of them as a class

5)Asked each group to write up a text of critical comparisons followed by their own ideas.

This goes straight into the EXCELLENT category and produces a creative teacher. So, going unplugged seems to work at even the highest levels and could really make an impact, it seems???


6 thoughts on “Unplugging everywhere

  1. Very happy to see this blog up, Phil: I think you can give us all a great deal of food for thought with this.

    When I turned my CELTA course on its head, I basically, like you, wanted to short-cut the approach time to getting excellent. I don’t think there is ever time to waste and on a 4-week preparatory course this is painfully obvious.

    So I have to say it has disturbed me recently to see it suggested more than once that there is a kind of Natural Order Hypothesis when it comes to teacher competence – that we progress from coursebook/support bound towards greater independence/unplugged nirvana.

    This threatens to suggest that this is not only how it is, but how it must be by dint of nature. I am somewhat uncomfortable with this implication, frankly.

    Perhaps I will be proven wrong in the end, and my experiments thus far have not always turned up the results I would wish for, but I still prefer to assume that people are capable of more than such lock-step views of development might suggest.

    What do you think?

    Thanks again.

    • Ah. The shoe is on the other foot now. Thanks for being the 1st commenter. Here goes a response:

      As with many things we have been, maybe, told and trained to believe that we have to go through the motions and learn X,Y,Z before we can do our own thing. But why? Anyone who’s tried tai chi will have learned 100+ moves but if you go back there were 3 and before that just several guiding principles. People then adapted and used them as they wanted freely. Sounds weird but isn’t Dogme perhaps the same. Chia has said that every one of her classes is different, Dale’s classes are different to mine, to yours, to Mike’s but we all have the same 3 principles guiding our actions. This freedom to do what you want is principled and doesn’t lead to things that just fall flat when you are winging it. You have said that Dogme is a state of mind so we should all be different because we are different. Thus, Dogme is an adaptive state of mind or guiding principle. To the onlooker they could be mistaken for saying that “it’s just chat” or “there’s no stage” or “they all teach different” but to the Dogmite (?) they can see why things are happening and how.

      ??????Hope someone understands.

      RE:The order

      From studying in HE and working in it I can honestly say there is a lot of ‘padding out’. In a previous life I was the main padder outer on a 1 year course but I couldn’t say “ok, all you need is X,Y,Z, bye”. even though it was true. Some colleagues actually said that studying is not just about learning the subject but also about learning social skills, sticking to deadlines and other life skills.

  2. Phil! Great to see you blogging. It was a tragedy to the PLN that you didn’t have a space to share your ideas with the world.

    Educate comes from the latin ‘educere’ which means ‘tirare fuori’ in Italian, basically bring out from inside. The former of those ideas don’t really involve the idea whereas the later focus more on the ‘bringing out’ of ideas. Dogme certainly focuses on the original meaning of educere. In fact, I’d even say that ‘input’, in these terms, should have the sole purpose of bring out what is inside.

    Couple of thoughts before teaching, or, bringing out what’s inside.


    • Hi Dale,

      Hope this experiment turns out to be useful to someone. No agenda, no plan, no real theme, just thoughts and ideas in theory.

      I was just reading about ‘open learning’ in ETp and here was some impressive student FB as they said they were more interested in doing what they had chosen. This seems to be just another angle of Dogme which seems to suggest that its main ideals are part of core good teaching ideas, is also supported by the number of teachers who say “I’ve been doing that for years”.

      For me I really like the freedom it gives me to do what is appropriate. Speaking of that, I’ve just given for my first Dogme taught 121 student an official mid-course FB form. I’ll see if I can share some of it here.

      I also am in the middle of testing about 250 students using a small text. After a couple I venture into Dogme territory and am now letting them read 1/2 short passages, then asking for a summary and/or specific questions leading to discussion/debate.It’s great to see them put their heads up and think and then get passionate which of course draws on their resources and lets them show their real ability and limitations.


    • Hi Shona,

      Thanks for the comment and link.Your site is very clear and concise and not to mention interesting. You’ve definitely done a good job of making the theories attractive and digestable.I think I’m using too many adjectives here.Anyhow, I just hope that new students are getting introduced to these ideas in an easier way and helped to create their own ideas, as seasoned teachers do.


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