At the end of the first lesson, students provided their first impressions of Dogme. In analyzing the feedback, several ideas emerged, some more so than others. The percentages in which these ideas occurred are presented in the graph below.
Note that the percentages shown reflect how often a specific idea recurred in the total number of ideas presented, not the percentage of students who provided the idea. For example, “Interesting” accounted for 22.9 percent (16 out of 70) of the total ideas provided by students, but was actually mentioned by 64 percent (16 out of 25) of students.
Although 25 learners responded, they sometimes included several ideas in their response. For example, one learner stated “I think it’s interesting to try. It makes the class more interactive and that allows us to talk about more subjects that concern and interest us” (Rebuffet-Broadus, 2012). In this one comment, three ideas were identified and presented in the graph: interesting; interactive, involves students, convivial; and more personal topics. Although feedback came from 25 learners, 70 different ideas were identified. This method was used in analyzing all three questionnaires and for each questionnaire the total number of ideas identified is indicated.
Three ideas are prevalent pre-course: interesting; positive in general; interactive, involves students, convivial. Perhaps predictably, these ideas are much more general than some of the less-frequent ideas. Nevertheless, they are all positive. In fact, 92.85 percent of the total first-impression feedback was positive and the remaining 7.15 percent of feedback stated that Dogme was still abstract, something students were not used to, or not different from previous classes. While this initial positive feedback could indeed be due to the nature of Dogme as experienced in the first lesson, other factors may also have contributed to learner enthusiasm: the excitement of a new semester and a new teacher, the simple fact that it was a change from previous courses, teacher personality, etc.
However, when looking at the more specific recurrent ideas—better teacher-student exchange, better improvement in L2, and more personal topics—we find some of the qualities of Dogme that are often highlighted by its supporters (Chong, 2012; Coulter, 2011; Meddings and Thornbury, 2009; Wade, 2012). These characteristics of Dogme—though not limited to this approach—have also been identified in earlier research on the link between student motivation second language acquisition (Cadorath and Harris, 1998; Chomsky, 1988; Dörnyei, 2001; Nunan, 1999;)
Dörnyei and Chambers note the importance of relevance in student motivation. Chambers, quoted in Dornyei, states that “if pupils fail to see the relationship between the activity and the world in which they live, then the point of the activity is likely to be lost on them” (Dörnyei 2001: 38). Learner feedback hinted at this, citing as qualities inclusion of more personal topics and the fact that Dogme helps prepare them for real life where they will encounter “situations where [they]’ll work without any help” (Rebuffet-Broadus, 2012).
The importance of creating an atmosphere conducive to genuine exchanges is paramount in a language classroom and after this initial Dogme lesson, the idea was mentioned by five students. These exchanges, ‘conversations’ we could say, lend “a degree of equality between the participants that blurs questions of status and social distance” to the classroom (Meddings and Thornbury 2009: 11).
This equality often lacks in French classrooms, which as mentioned earlier, can lean heavily towards a transmission style of teaching. The learners in this experiment approved of this shift, perhaps feeling that such equality meant more security, less fear of making mistakes, and the chance to take a more active role in their learning.