This is part of a series of interviews with fellow English language teaching professions to be published on this blog.
The interviewees are drawn from a variety of teaching contexts, in different countries and working with different kinds of learners. What they have in common is having experimented in some way with their teaching practice.
Interviewee #3 – Martin Sketchley
1) Who are you?
My name is Martin Sketchley and I currently teach at LTC Eastbourne as a Young Learner Co-ordinator. I was studying an MA in ELT at the University of Sussex a number of years back and I decided to do a Diploma level teaching course in my final semester. During the experimental teaching practice, I was teaching a group of adult Upper Intermediate language learners who were studying English in preparation for their undergraduate and postgraduate course. [Their] nationalities ranged from Spanish to Chinese with ages usually in the mid-twenties.
2) What did you choose to do for your experimental practice and why?
During the module of “Teaching Methodology”, I came across Dogme ELT, which was very new to me at the time. I decided to purchase “Teaching Unplugged” (Meddings & Thornbury) and read it with keen interest. After reading the book, I decided to do my experimental teaching practice in Dogme ELT. It was new for me and I wanted to throw myself in the deep end.
3) How did you go about researching this area? Were there any sources you found particularly useful?
As well as reading “Teaching Unplugged”, I decided to try and find out a bit more information about this subject. Unfortunately, there was not much information available at the time apart from the occasional blog post and experiences shared. In a way, I found the lack of information particularly useful as I wanted to learn as much as possible about Dogme ELT and tried to discover more by reading more extensively around the subject. I quickly discovered that Dogme ELT was related to other methods and approaches than I previously understood and then started to read about TBL, CLT, etc.
4) How did you record what happened in the lesson? What were the most effective and interesting ways you found to document your experimental practice experience?
I decided to record my Dogme ELT lesson using a video camera that I had borrowed from the University of Sussex media department. I then used the digital file to edit it down to a more watchable period and upload it to YouTube to share with other English language teachers. The video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN75uheAVl0
As well as recording my Dogme ELT video to reflect on my own experiences of my experimental teaching practice, I also wrote up a summary of the lesson and what I had learned from this experience. I had to document all my lessons in a teaching portfolio.
5) What happened? What did you find out about teaching and learning and teachers and learners by doing your experiment?
After my experimental teaching practice, I discovered a new area of teaching that I had never considered undertaking previously and wanted to learn more about this subject than ever before. It was a relatively new philosophy of teaching and decided to focus my dissertation on Dogme ELT. From this experience, I discovered that no matter how many years of teaching you have covered, you can always find out more about the methods and approaches that you apply to your teaching.
For the next few months, and being so curious about this subject, I was committed to carrying out research and created student and teacher questionnaires to quiz on the three key tenets of teaching unplugged. I met with teachers, wrote up summaries of my meetings and discussions with them as well as relay my findings with those schools that helped with my academic research. It was such a wonderful experience which stemmed from my experimental teaching practice and without the decision to focus on new teaching methods, I would not have completed my dissertation in Dogme ELT.
Finally, I found out that teaching was negotiated activity between learners and the teacher in the classroom with the teacher able to assist in the development of classroom interaction when required. I also found out that the act of doing a Dogme ELT lesson was incredibly stressful and required full focus during the whole of the lesson. Teachers would find it rather intensive as you are always walking around the classroom trying to pick up any possible discussion and emergent language. I was also able to recognise how this style of teaching could fall apart if students were non-respondent to the activities which were employed to prompt authentic and natural interaction in the classroom.
Martin Sketchley is a YL Co-ordinator at LTC Eastbourne who holds an MA in ELT, a Diploma, a CELTA as well as a TYLEC (Young Learner Extension Certificate). He has been teaching for nearly nine years with experience in the UK, Romania and South Korea. He has a keen interest in teaching young learners, teacher training and Dogme ELT.
You can find out more information about English language teaching from his blog, ELT Experiences
Martin is also available to follow on Twitter: @ELTExperiences
His blog posts about Dogme ELT and his dissertation are available to view here: http://eltexperiences.com/?s=dogme