Sunday, 1 June 2014

Short Book Review: Approaches and Methods 2014 update!

Just got the 2014 version of approaches and methods. Some good news folks, NLP has been given the boot (Yeah!!) The reason given is that NLP is 'not a language teaching method' but a 'humanistic philosophy based on popular psychology and as such does not meet the criteria for inclusion.' (2014:x)

The bad news is that 'multiple intelligences' is still in there. I find this a bit odd since the authors actually describe it not as a language teaching method but as 'a learner based philosophy' (2014:230). This is apparently OK because 'applications of MI in language teaching have been more recent, so it is not surprising that MI theory lacks some of the basic elements that might link it more directly to language education.'(2014:232)

In short, we can give MI a bit of slack because it hasn't been around in the EFL world long. 

This is somewhat confusing as both NLP and MI had language teaching advocates as early as the late nineties (well before the 2nd edition of A&M) who wrote articles championing their use in publications like,  you guessed it, ETP. The very first edition of ETP had a Jim Wingate article on MI I believe. The MI chapter also explicitly quotes from an article by Reid (who, I believe, brought learning styles to the EFL world) written in 1997 exactly the same time the first ELT NLP book came out.

So in short, NLP is out because it's a philosophy and isn't really a language teaching method and MI which is a philosophy and not really a language teaching method is in. Got it?

But what about approaches which are not philosophies but, y'know, language teaching methods? How did they fare. well since the last edition in 2001 little has changed on the EFL method scene. Except of course for Dogme. Starting in roughly 2000 with Thornbury's call to arms, (and actually a little earlier if you ask me) it's not surprising it didn't feature in the 2001 edition of A&M. But since then Dogme has been talked about and argued over constantly and seems to be the default choice for DELTA experimental lessons. So how did it fare in 2014?

Well, put aside your personal opinions of Dogme for a second (I'm looking at you Mr. Dellar) and ask yourself, in a book which attempts to catalogue the state of methodology in EFL in 2014, and which includes full chapters on TPR, The silent way, CLL and Suggestopedia (all left in for 'historical perspective' (2014:x)) should there be a chapter on Dogme? There is an issue of consistency.

Perhaps I'm straying out of the 'evidence-based' zone here but I find it hard to understand why MI gets an entirely uncritical 13 pages (they do stick a reference to a critical Kerr (2009) article in at the end) while Dogme gets, unless I've missed something, two paragraphs.

I haven't had a chance to read it all yet so there may be more to come...


  1. Regarding the scant references to Dogme ELT in Richards and Rodgers (and in other methodology texts, for that matter) I don't normally subscribe to conspiracy theories, but I wonder if those methodology writers (and their publishers) who are also heavily invested in coursebook writing/publishing would rather not make too big a thing of it. It reminds me of an exchange I once had with a marketing person in one of the big ELT publishers, which went like this: Publisher: Would you like to do a talk for us? Me: What about? P: Anything you like. Me. Dogme? P: No, not that.

    1. Hmmmm interesting...t would be pretty sinister to imagine there had been some kind of directive issued. It may be more probable that there is a certain amount of self-censorship as in "I bet my boss/publisher probably wouldn't approve"

  2. Hello Scott. Missed your logic!
    Dogma is still the D-word even after years of doubt whether it's a philisophy or a methodology. I believe it's the fear to put it in action, whether from teachers, teacher training programme developers, employers, or even students. Each has his own perspective, no one can deny. Regardless of their fears, Dogma is there.

  3. Totally, as all the Dogme workshops I have run at Bell Teacher Campus prove teachers are absolutely up for it, really into it, amazed by it and certainly often afraid of it. As of course are the publishers. Everything exciting comes with an element of fear and this is no exception. I find it refreshing that it is seen as slightly subversive ? it makes it even more interesting don't you think Scott ? As soon as it becomes just another methodology it will lose it's fire.