Omitting Others? A(nother) case for Dogme

During the last few months and to an extent the last year or so there have been a few bits and bobs about diversity in ELT. Two examples off the top of my head are:

The queering (or actually not) OF ELT materials by Angelos Bollas (talked about at Innovate ELT 2016 and this year’s IATEFL). 

Emily Hird’s post on diversity in ELT materials (by big publishers). 

All of this leads me to believe that one OF the best tools we have at our disposal as teachers is Dogme, going materials light. This gives greater opportunity to go to places prompted by the learners and teachers rather than hem in conversation by implicitly suggesting a norm in a textbook. 

A case in point would be the usual heteronormative, racially homogeneous family tree. One might get into hot water from bosses in very conservative institutions. If the work is learner centred, the basis of learners’ families is the basis of discussion. The way other families are portrayed on TV and in movies often come up in questions. How many learners have divorced parents? Step-siblings? Half-siblings? LGBTQ relatives that are married or living together? Heck, even straight people merely living together is risqué on coursebook land.  That’s just an example of what could come up when talking about one topic.

If you have a diversity problem in your materials, are you sure they aren’t overly simplistic? If they are overly simplistic in diversity, as well as language that learners may require  to meet their communication needs, why are we pussyfooting around the deficiencies of expensive dead trees and not instead boldly using our learners’ lives to teach real life. 

7 thoughts on “Omitting Others? A(nother) case for Dogme

  1. LGBT for some, football for others (me). A teacher is a prostitute, a teacher at my Czech training course liked to say. In other words, we teachers go with the topics our students want to talk about. I think you’re right that Dogme is especially useful because for sensitive topics we often just want conversation and little preparation (worksheets, LP) is needed. Simply supply the words like I did today when my student wanted to talk about contraception. However, I do feel more comfortable talking sensitive topics in smaller classes.
    Mind you, you’d be surprised how advanced the EFL world is. Teaching Czech for Foreigners is a different story and I’ve translated a sample dialogue from a widely used coursebook, which needs no other explanation:
    At the boutique:
    She: What beautiful clothes! And the lovely dresses! I’d like to look at them. Let’s go inside this boutique!
    He: Again? You bought a skirt yesterday.
    She: I needed that skirt but this dress is something I like. And you need to buy some clothes for the summer. Come on!



    1. Wow, that is an awful dialogue. You’re right that sensitive topics feel more comfortable in a small class because of the relative intimacy. It is important that learners get adequate time to take notes of new language otherwise this new language falls into oblivion.


  2. Nice post Marc and a nice simple solution to a industry-wide problem. I’ve just been given a class with no assigned textbook and the vague brief of it being a “speaking” lesson. Am very much looking forward to getting into these kinds of topics with my students!


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