Monthly Archives: January 2013

Demand High vs. Dogme! (An #eltchat summary by Carolyn Kerr)

This text is an excellent write-up by Carolyn Kerr of the #eltchat session that happened on 16 Jan 2013.  You can see the original post on her website. You can get links to this and all the other #eltchat sessions here. You can also find the raw unedited transcripts of chat sessions.

If you are not familiar with #eltchat, it is a Twitter-based discussion that happens twice a week. It’s very democratic. Anyone can suggest a topic and join in. It’s also great fun and a brilliant professional development resource. Find out more at their website.


Demand High and Dogme

– brothers in arms or distant cousins?

By carolyn kerr ¶ Posted in ELT ¶ Tagged DHeltDogmeELT MethodologyELTChat ¶ Leave a comment

This post is a summary of the ELTChat of January 16 2013 between:


So what there is to be up in arms about?

Why Demand High?

The ethos behind it is that ELT has become too lightweight, too frivolous and not rigorous enough, as I understand it. @theteacherjames

By emphasizing personalization, DHT is a critique of the ‘environment-building’ ethos of communicative language teaching @baanderson

Teachers doing just for the sake of doing @rosemerebard

In this video, part of a set of materials for a reflective seminar created by Scrivener and Underhill you hear Adrian give his ‘why’ : 


And although #ELTChat could cite many examples where this was not the case, it was agreed that :

having seen lessons on 4 continents last years albeit mainly PLSes rather than mainstream I’ll stand by my ‘I agree’ @Shaunwilden

and further that

Maybe in many places teaching IS about students getting their msg across, even in poor language. DH is reaction to it @Natashetta

and even more

I’d say there’s a culture in FE that militates against Demand High: instead it requires Just Enough @pjgallantry

So what is Demand High?

ELTChat’s reflections included:

It seems to me it’s about asking more from your students, pushing them further & asking them to work harder @theteacherjames

DHT is just probing a bit more and exploiting opportunities for deeper learning & LA @Marisa_C

And importantly it is method agnostic, it is a practice that can be applied however you choose to teach:

it’s about demanding “a better quality” no matter what approach or method you choose @natashetta

DH is “not anti any method, not anti-Communicative Approach, not anti-dogme, not anti-Task Based Learning.” @natashetta

Confirmation that is not a methodology, an approach or a procedure, from the Godfather of DH itself, Jim Scrivener:

DH isn’t a “method”. It’s a small (but possibly needed) course correction. A tweak. @jimscriv

a correction of what?

its an anti plateau device – its pushing that bit harder, driving the learning forward @KerrCarolyn


It’s anti letting the tail wag the dog in my opinion @dalecoulter

What does Demand High look like in practice?  According to #ELTChat:

I would say the DHT comes alive mostly in feedback or exploitation not while Ss are collaborating Marisa_C

actually, my take is that DHELT means interrupting the Ss collaboration to make it more worthwhile @Imadruid

Feedback (not unearned praise) and intervention seem central to Scrivener’s view of DHT @idc74

I think its more like turning a group lesson into 121, with a focus on each individual @KerrCarolyn

What is Dogme?

Dogme – materials light, free from course-book driven learning, focus on emergent language and conversation driven, in brief @DaleCoulter

letting it all come from the learner and exploiting opportunities for learning as they arise @Marisa_C

Where is the Shared Ground Between Dogme and Demand High?

exploiting opportunities as thy arise seems to be where the 2 have something in  common – utilising  ’online’ teaching skills @dalecoulter

Breaking free of routine and automated teaching @idc74

For some they are inseparable:


Dogme without DHELT is like Pedigree Chum without the can opener @Imadruid

for others not so

can a lesson be #Dogme and not #DHElt ..yup. can it be #DHElt and not #Dogme…yup @MrChrisJWilson

But can you argue that they are the same?

One of the ‘greyer’ areas seems to around ‘learner or learning’ centric:

@jimscriv would say that DHELT is more learnING centred than learnER centred? @Imadruid

and indeed, he confirmed:

Being learning centred means you try to find just what is learner doing to do the task. You then help on to next step @jimscriv

So a kind of +1 zone approach? and personalised to that learner? @KerrCarolyn

Yes very much so. The demand is a DOABLE demand for that individual at that moment ie a focused challenge @jimscriv

doable…with help? Similar to Vygotsky’s ZPD – apprentice and expert navigate the waters of learning? @Imadruid

yes and the teacher does not abdicate his/her duty to facilitate learning @jimscriv

And hence the ‘learning’ centeredness? ‘Facilitating Learning’ is the driving force? – Spot on! @jimscriv

The ‘Dogmeticians’ of this world could now jump in and say: ‘yes but this is exactly what the ‘scaffolding’ of Dogme is all about’, and they’d be right, but the fundamental difference is a ‘material’ one:

Getting away from a slight over concern about task, material, fun etc and focussing on the learning @jimscriv

Indeed, the ‘material’ question of ‘To coursebook or not to coursebook’ is key:

The quote put a perspective that coursebook is not the problem,but how how we use coursebook. from what I read, they are in favor of it, just there is more to it @rosemerebard

So, is ‘materials’ the only difference?

Well, no. And not just because Dogme isn’t entirely anti- coursebooks, as per Dogme and the Coursebook. There are also structural differences : Dogme has a method, and techniques (as described inTeaching Unplugged  and in the book of the same name. Demand High, however, is not a method. In fact, you can easily argue that ‘Demand High’ is both method and subject agnostic: it could be applied to the teaching of any subject or skill: An engineering professor or high school physics teacher could ask themselves the four key questions of Demand High

Are our learners capable of more, much more?

Have the tasks and techniques we use in class become rituals and ends in themselves?

How can we stop “covering material” and start focusing on the potential for deep learning?

What small tweaks and adjustments can we make to shift the whole focus of our teaching towards getting that engine of learning going?

And aim towards the Demand high outcomes. This is possible precisely because it is method agnostic: it is a way of reflecting that encourages reflection on and adjustment of the techniques already being used by that particular teacher.

But with a common lineage?

Dogme sits in the evolutionary line of Second Language Acquisition, its techniques could be applied to the Acquisition of any language. For me its immediate predecessor was CLL and that family of methods, where the learners’ experience of the language is at the core.

Demand  High sits in the evolutionary line of Modern Educational theory, its predecessors are Reflective Practice   and stretch back to the thinking of John Dewey

So if we take CLL as being the mother of Dogme, who is the father ? Well it can’t be Scott Thornbury, since he had taken a ‘vow of chastity’, but he is clearly the Godfather, guiding Dogme to adulthood. But Scott does give us the clue to its genealogy by referring back to an article which fundamentally influenced his thinking, an article on working in a materials light classroom.

The author of this important article? None other than Adrian Underhill.

Suddenly the family resemblance becomes clearer. Whether directly or indirectly, Adrian Underhill is the common denominator.


@Mk_elt #eltpics – who’s been running naked in the woods?

It makes me wonder who exactly was ‘running naked in the woods’ and what exactly they were up to? (I can’t help but wonder if this famous ‘tongue in cheek’  quote was referring to ‘nakedness’ as an antidote to ‘chastity’)  In any case the offspring are two different but enriching ideas that are pushing Education and Language Acquisition forward:

In my opinion DHT is as valuable as Dogme or any other approach that can enhance learning effectively @toulasklavou


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Doing Delta Module Two? Could Demand-High be your Alternative Practice?

If you are doing Delta Module 2, you might want to consider Demand High for your Alternative Practice assignment.

Here are a few suggestion: Is Demand High useful for Delta Module 2 (004b)


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Demand High isn’t a method! It’s a meme!

Demand High is a meme!

A number of people have enthusiastically greeted (or critically denounced) Demand High as a new “method”.

It isn’t. We are clear about that!

Though, to be fair, we weren’t really sure what it was. Recently we’ve started referring to it as a meme.  This article explains our thinking.

Why Demand High isn’t a method

We reckon that much of current ELT methodology is fine. We are not intending to polarize a set of new ideas against any older set.  But we do think that there are gaps, oversights. And they are important ones.

As the communicative approach and its variations have evolved and grown, ELT has gathered a useful set of classroom aims, materials, practices and techniques.

With Demand High, we simply wish to point out that, alongside these, there has perhaps grown up an over-attention to mechanics of task and material and to the pursuit of “fun” and an under-attention to the moment-by-moment learning that our practices might or might not lead to.

So, we are not asking to throw out infant and bathwater.  We are proposing a small course correction to our current direction of travel – or whatever direction of travel you are taking in your teaching approach.

Why Demand High is a meme

The meme is a concept from Richard Dawkins and means “a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena …”. We are using articles, website, conference presentations and workshops, resources and so on.

Whether ‘real’ or not, we find the meme a helpful concept to suggest that, at its heart, Demand-High is just an idea that travels – not a method, approach, instruction book, guideline, saleable product or anything else.

One interesting thing that comes from this choice of terminology is that no-one owns it. A meme has a life of its own. Although we have started this idea out on its journey into the wider world, how it evolves and changes and lives or dies is beyond our control. Similarly, its meaning is flexible and will adjust and shift with time and differing inputs from others.

For us, at this point, the Demand High meme carries the idea of expecting more of your learners and, as a result, challenging them more fully and differently. The meme represents a learnING centred view of teaching rather than a learnER centered one. Some of the separate ideas and techniques that can carry the Demand High meme will be familiar, but we think that the gathering of them together for this specific purpose alongside newer concepts and techniques, and as a meme rather than as a product or thing, is new.



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Does using “one-to-one-in-a-group” help overcome embarrassment at performing in a group?

Does using one-to-one-in-a-group help overcome embarrassment at performing in a group?

This is a short piece, continuing the topic of “one-to-one-in-a-group” addressed in Jim’s long piece yesterday and Adrian’s own earlier article.

In a recent conversation between Adrian Underhill and teacher Louise Guvett, she said:


I find that some learners get really embarrassed when I try to help them with pronunciation, especially if they have difficulty making a specific sound.

I think when one learner has an individual problem they become shy. Perhaps, by helping this student individually to begin with, but then including the rest of the class…. I find that the other learners are keen to get involved, but the learner who’s making the error becomes shyer.

Is this the wrong way to do it? Am I causing their embarrassment?

Maybe it’s that they are disappointed because the other learners can make the sound effectively.


Well, what I try to do is

1.         Not to ‘fix’ the student, nor to see their thing as a ‘problem’, but to see this as an opportunity for a learning journey together

2.         I work with them for a moment one-to-one in front of the group, not to fix the problem but to help the learner approach it and discover for themselves what needs to shift

3.         While doing this I hook up the others with my look, as if to say “Hey watch this… there is something pretty interesting happening here…”, and for a half minute they are touched by some real one-to-one learning going on in front of them. And I also get other students to have a go.

BUT even if they get it correct (which they might) I push them for a higher challenge (e.g. faster, or louder, or more connected, or more interesting or slower, or less energy, or clearer, or refine the sound, or check the word order etc. ) so after just half a minute everyone is individually challenged, no one is hanging about waiting for the first student to get it right “so that the lesson can continue” and I go back in the midst of all this to the initiating student (the one who gifted us the mistake in the first place) and work further with them.

4.         I do not see the mistake as a nuisance which ‘suspends’ the lesson while we stop and deal with it. It IS the lesson! A mistake is a gift. It tells us exactly what needs doing now.


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Two Interesting Demand High links

Two interesting Demand High links from the last week or so:

Steve Brown, who teaches in the FE sector, writes about some differences he notices between FE and Private Language school teaching: Steve Brown’s blog


The wonderful twitter chat event #eltchat had a discussion about Demand High compared with Teaching Unplugged / dogme. Are they really at odds? Here is the transcript.

Leave a comment

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Detailed Practical “How to” Guide: Teaching One-to-One-in-a-Group

Here is a longer article about the technique of teaching one-to-one-in-a-group. You’ll find some background discussion plus detailed practical guidance on using this classroom technique.

It follows on from Adrian’s earlier article.

Click this link to read the new article or (on a PC) Right-Click and “Save link as …” to download it: One to One in a Group (Jim)


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Teachers Workshop on DH – Guest Post by Diana England (IH Torres Vedras, Portugal)

Here is an interesting approach to a teachers workshop on the theme of Demand High. It took place  on Friday 23rd November 2012, and comes from Diana England, Director of Studies at International House, Torres Vedras, Portugal.  She designed and ran the session, and all the materials you need are here, but feel free to adapt.


What follows are:

1.. Her overview of her setting

2. Her session notes

3. The ppt she used

4. The collated participant results.

Note how Diana uses a 3 x 7 grid to tease out differences between too difficult, under-challenging, and doable demand, and in the other dimensions she has the four skills and the three language systems. See also how the ppt illustrates and sets up the tasks

We find this a useful thinking device and a great resource.

Diana’s DH session Nov 23 Torres Vedras Collated notes

Demand High ELT Blank session handout

Diana DH slides


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Demand High for learning to take place – Guest post by Zorica Kovacevic DoS IH Belgrade, Serbia

Demand High for learning to take place

The ELT world has gone through many changes: from trying different approaches, using numerous ways of making our teaching more efficient, creative and dynamic to introducing new technologies in the classroom with seemingly the same goal: to achieve successful teaching and learning.


Every attempt to raise awareness of the need for challenge in teaching and learning is more than welcome, and, the way I see Demand High is understanding how much has been achieved, how much more learners can do, and showing teachers the best ways to do it.


Learning is, in the end, an individual process.  It is facilitated by different teaching approaches and techniques, media used and by the effect of learning in a group, or from a group. But, learning a foreign language is a very demanding situation: learners have to deliver, produce, interact on the spot most of the time. What they produce, or show they are able to do, does not always show the real level of learning and their learning potential. Sometimes, we witness the horror of  ‘I cannot say it, do it’ , or ‘everyone else is doing it better than me.. ‘So many things are happening at the moment when a response is expected from a learner, whether in individual production or group/pair interaction.


So, before we offer challenge, or ask for more, we, teachers must ensure learning takes place and understand why there are problems. And then, intervene, in order to open the channels for learning. I would say that teaching is generally a 1-2-1 situation: we need to know whether learners are really learning, why our students are not learning generally and at that particular moment, what could be the reason and how to ease the problem on the spot, during a real teaching situation.


Therefore, I found Adrian’s 1-2-1 teaching in front of the group as giving teachers the freedom to help the student(s) immediately and in the way they need it. With this 1-2-1 approach, we can offer our students more, or challenge them and make it possible for them to learn more. I do not see the challenge as designing more complex tasks only, and the way I understood both Jim and Adrian was to do with actually thinking about task design more deeply. If we, teachers only resort to more difficult tasks, we would risk that students would just be more blocked. How many times we teachers realise that part of the group did not quite learn something we wanted to teach and the students went home feeling they are not sure they can use what they were supposed to learn that day?


Indeed, if we help teachers in designing well staged tasks and checking if learning takes place, it will be quite possible to achieve challenge and use learning potential more. By this more stimulating exposure to learning, students can surely learn not only more about a foreign language and its use but also about their own learning style and learning capacities.


Zorica Kovacevic

DoS, Teacher trainer & ELT materials writer

IH BelgradeSyllabusSchool



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