Tony Gurr

The “LEARNing Academic” Vs. The “LEARNing Publisher”…

In Classroom Teaching, ELT and ELL, Guest BLOGGERS, Teacher Learning on 06/12/2012 at 1:00 pm


…and never the twain shall meet?


A few days ago, one of my favourite “guest-bloogers” (actually, I’m begining to think he has become a permanentsquatter” on the ‘ole blog) – Laurence, did a great post for me.

The post was entitled – Going to the Dogs!

Now, this was probably all my fault…because I had suggested (in an earlier post) that he might enjoy the company of those wicked, wicked “ELT dogmatistas we hear so much about these days.


Laurence is not an ELT expert per sebut he works with groups of “future ELT Teachers”…to improve their speaking and communication skills. I have seen him in action – he does a grand job!

In his guest post, he did a wonderful job of reflecting on how his own philosophy of LEARNing and TEACHing “mapped” onto many of the tenets of Dogme ELT – as personified in Teaching UNplugged (by Luke Meddings  and  Scott Thornbury  – 2009).

However, what was really interesting came a bit later


A “publisher”! 

Yes, a “real” Sith Lordcalled Tim, read the post and added a wonderful comment.


Now, I’m sorry – but who the hell would take a Sith Lord called “Darth Tim” seriously?

Dark Side (vaders cookies)

I would…now!


Both Laurence and Tim talked about the “A-ah” moments they are experiencing…no, “living” – as LEARNing takes a bigger, and bigger role in how both of them “do business”.

Tim, for example, noted:

Discovering the ethos of Dogme and how it puts learning at the centre of its thinking has altered my perception as a publisher well and truly.

Even Luke….sorry… Scott  picked up on that juiciest of comments and a few of us had a little tweet-fest!


Eureka (TG blog ver)

I also had a little “A-ah” moment…of my own!


I wondered (acaba)…what would happen if I put this LEARNing Academic and this LEARNing Publisher together…in the same room!


Red flag and Bull


BUT…I had a wee problem!

Those of you that know the blog…and Laurenceknow that he lives and works in Ankara.

Like me – he is a hanım köylü!

Tim, on the other hand…while being very involved in H.Ed projects for the Turkish “market”…is based in Cambridge – and is very much the sert erkek


Wot to do?


What about if we put them in a virtual “coffee shop”with a strong cup of Turkish kahve (“sade”, of course)…I thunked to meself.

Would it turn out like this:


…or would something “beautiful” happen? 

Judge for yourself!





Laurence Raw & Tim Gifford


Time to LEARN


Laurence: I’m intrigued that we should be meeting like this. I’ve not actually met an ELT publisher before; my stereotype of them is that they’re more than happy to sell their existing materials to unsuspecting customers, but less willing to listen to them – unless, of course, they happen to be big names who can sell books. But it’s nice that we’ve got together to discuss the Dogme movement, even though I’m still not sure exactly what it signifies. Any views?

Tim: … in a way the Dogme movement could be described as being like a cup of coffee: it’s rich and invigorating. It offers both stimulation and comfort to the educators that enjoy it. But it’s also prone to being branded and commercialised by “my kind” as another edu-commodity when in fact everyone’s preferences and contexts are different. Imposing educational ‘tastes’ doesn’t benefit anyone, in the same way that assuming how people like their coffee isn’t going to get great results.

Laurence:  Only if publishers use the name all the time, without actually investigating what it signifies.  Since writing my last post, I’ve been mentioning Dogme to both learners and educators; their initial reaction is one of mystification, as if it were some new kind of technique or strategy that departs from prevailing approaches to language teaching.  But when you get down to it, we’re not really talking rocket science here; just a re-emphasis on learning and collaboration, rather than an overreliance on textbook learning.  Perhaps you’ve got a different view?

Tim: That’s what I’m getting at. My past experience of ELT publishing has been the “mass production” approach which entailed including gratuitous references to assessment frameworks or developments in education within our products in order to make them more attractive to teachers and directors. There was very little consideration given to actually understanding what these materials or concepts were or what they’d mean to the student sitting at their desk in a classroom halfway around the world. But that was “how it was done”.

Laurence:  Which strikes me as exceptionally intriguing. In my youth, I always assumed that a textbook was there to help learners find out “how it was done” – whether it was learning French, doing comprehension exercises, or finding out about biology (a subject I was never very good at).  It seems that, from the view of conventional publishing, a textbook is rather like the Emperor’s New Clothes; so long as it looks good, and draws on prevailing – some might say modish – frameworks, then it might sell and hence prove suitable for publishers.  This is why I am so against the idea of textbooks per se.  They are often an impediment to, rather than a resource for learning.  But I’d really like to know: what is it about Dogme – or the strategies associated with it – that proves so attractive for you?


LEARNing not a newspaper


Tim:  What struck me as I started reading about Dogme was that there was a learner involved in this arrangement who was having assumptions made about their learning needs and behaviours without them being consulted at all. The textbooks, materials and references we were piling into these learning environments weren’t doing anything to assist the student in their learning journey, and were in fact perpetuating the “course book is king” principle.

Laurence:  But isn’t that what publishers need to do in order to ensure a profit? What interests me above all about dogme-inspired learning approaches is that they are “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” in conception.  Your term “piling into” is a significant one, suggesting that in some ways publishers are trying to impose from the top, rather than listening to the views from the bottom. I’m not being critical of these policies; it’s what all publishers do, whether they’re involved in ELT or any other branch of learning.  So, how do you think you can accommodate Dogme-inspired principles into future publishing strategies?


UNcover LEARNing FQs


Tim:  It’s essential that publishers “walk the walk” alongside the teachers and directors they publish for as well the students that are, ultimately, the end users in this educational process. Rather than creating and selling content and components to shore up a brand or to “glamify” the annual sales catalogue, they need to immerse themselves in the realities and motivations of the learners they are going to be in contact with via their materials. The key words here are responsibilityresponsiveness and respect; publishers need to recognise and fulfil the responsibility that their position requires, and appreciate that their involvement in the process doesn’t finish once the order has been delivered.

Laurence: I think it’s necessary to go beyond these terms, to be honest with you. I really believe that publishers, just like many educators, have a sketchy grasp of the “realities and motivations” of learners in different contexts, chiefly because they don’t want to listen. “Responsiveness” only comes about if everyone is prepared to be responsive to everyone else in a communal situation. I’ve attended so many conferences where publishers’ representatives exist solely to sell books to teachers, and don’t really take the trouble to listen to what is being discussed, especially in informal discussions. The publishers I really like working with are those who take the trouble to listen, to criticize, to negotiate, and thereby reshape the ideas of those that they try to serve. Sometimes this can lead to what diplomats call “a full and frank discussion” but at the end of it, both readers and publishers end up having learned something about themselves, their approaches, and the validity of what they are doing. In other words, we’re back to what I believe lies at the heart of Dogme learning principles – negotiation and cooperation are useful in themselves as ways of advancing knowledge, understanding, and more significantly, LEARNing – a question of adapting oneself to changing educational conditions.


Learnacy ZONE


Tim: Absolutely, and that’s LEARNing that can and must happen for all involved, I think.

Laurence: So we are on the same page! But, I have to ask – as a publisher – what do you think “Dogme-inspired” materials should “look” like?

Tim: Ahhh, now there’s a question…


Questions (O'Conner Quote) NEW


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