Dustin sets up situations that the student will encounter in real life and allows the student to demonstrate his competence. If the student succeeds at one task, he can skip ahead to the next lesson. If he has trouble, he can return to the beginning of the instruction. Because the student is in a simulated situation identical to the one in which he will have to function, he does not have to learn things that will be of no use to him. If all you want to do is to check into a hotel, you don't need to learn the theory of the subjunctive.
Language is a tool people use to achieve goals; therefore, Dustin starts each scene by presenting a story in which someone uses language to accomplish some clear task like ordering lunch. Then the student is asked to play the lead role in the story he has just observed. The premise is that a student will, by practicing, index new linguistic knowledge in terms of the situations in which that knowledge is useful. The goal of the program is to put the student in the habit of saying the right thing in the right way at the right time.
Failure is also a key element in Dustin. Students realize what they need to learn in a very direct way: they fail at a task and become interested in finding out what they need to know to succeed. In some sense, then, they instruct themselves by seeking the information they need to complete the task.
Dustin allows students to learn language in realistic situations. But it will probably not enhance a student's performance on achievement tests. A Dustin student cannot be graded in the conventional sense, but what we can see is if a student successfully completed various tasks. We could determine how quickly a student completed a task, but why would we really need to know that? We don't ask someone who has successfully learned a foreign language how long it took them to do so. We are simply interested in how capable they are in that language. Ideally, schools must learn to satisfy themselves with scores like "got to level 5 in Dustin." Those measures work in Nintendo games. We acknowledge a master craftsman by what he has built, a scholar by what he has written, a businessman by the success of his business. Can't we do this in school, too? We can if the instruction allows achievement in the first place.
Applying Dustin to Other Simulations
Where am I in the content of the book?