The end of the DELTA…for now

So that’s it. After 8 weeks of almost non-stop work, the intensive DELTA module 2 course is over. It’s a funny feeling getting back to reality after working so hard for almost two months. I’ve had this week off work and am meant to be just relaxing, but I keep feeling guilty that I’m not doing much productive with my time. Of course, in the back of my mind is module 3, but since I can’t realistically submit that until June it can stay on the back burner for now.

The course itself got me thinking about a lot of things, but it mostly has made me re-evaluate the choices I’ve made thus far in my career. The apparent paradox of the DELTA is that it simultaneously makes you a better teacher and (almost always) results in you spending less time in the classroom. I was already heading down the management path before taking the course and will continue on that route for now, but I do really miss working with my own group of students and having the time to properly prepare for their lessons.

As for the course itself, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. We were fortunate to have two extremely experienced and knowledgeable tutors and a great tutor to be, who really helped guide us through the whole process. My colleagues on the course were also excellent. No one freaked out and we were great at bouncing ideas off of each other. I’d like to say a special thank you to my TP group (not that any of them will read this…). Paul, Lance, Oli and Iain all helped me out in some way throughout the course, whether it was through making videos for my experimental practice lesson, or just being around to chat with over a bowl of bun cha. Gavin Reid also deserves a shout out for reading through my final LSA and giving me some great suggestions for the final lesson plan.

Due to Cambridge’s rigorous moderation process, I won’t find out if I passed the course until the beginning of February, so there will be another DELTA update around then, but for now I’m going to try my best to take advantage of my new found freedom before I’m back at the grindstone in two weeks’ time, no doubt with some new challenges to face.

Experimenting with TBL

One of the highlights of the DELTA course for me so far has been the experimental practice we did in week 5 of the course.

I decided to give Task-based learning a go. Though it’s not the most ‘out there’ methodology, I’d heard so many positive things about it that I felt it was time I tried it out myself.

For my task, learners had to choose from four holiday packages based on which one represented the best value for money (you can find the lesson plan and resources here). I’d designed the posters for the packages myself using a website called Canva, a great resource for creating free, colourful images that look professional and really wow the students.

Before the lesson, I was a bit concerned that this group of pre-intermediate students would struggle to complete the task, but they were actually really keen to do it and I had trouble getting them to stop in the end, showing me that this approach can work just as well with lower level learners as it does with higher level ones.

My native speaker model was also fantastic, thanks to Lance and Paul, and gave the students tons of useful language which they would have been able to use had I had time for the task repetition stage.

Feedback from the students was overwhelmingly positive, showing that student-centred, ‘deep end’ approaches really are the best.

Overall I’m a big fan of TBL and will definitely be using it in the future.

DELTA course update – five weeks down, three to go!

It’s only been two weeks since my last post but it feels like a lifetime ago! Guess that’s the nature of an intensive course. Since then, I’ve completed and had feedback on two LSAs, completed the experimental practice assignment and submitted three quarters of the professional development assignment. In total, that little lot is equal to about 20,000 words, yet only represents materials for two hours of assessed teaching. Suffice to say, I haven’t had much time or much of an appetite for any other writing.

For those uninitiated in DELTA parlance, below is a quick guide to module 2 of the DELTA course (the one I’m currently taking), which should help you make sense of what the hell I’m on about above.

Module 2 consists of:

  • 4 LSAs*
    • Of these four, two must be skills (reading, listening, speaking or writing) and two must be systems (vocabulary, discourse, grammar, pronunciation)
    • For each one you must write a 2,500 word background essay backed up with research and appropriately sourced materials and complete a lesson plan including class and individual learner profiles, aims, assumptions, problems and solutions, procedure, relevance to other lessons and a 750 word commentary justifying your reasons for teaching this lesson with respect to your background research and your learners. The lesson plan doesn’t have a word limit but my three so far have added up to over 5000 words each.
    • A post lesson evaluation of 500 words reflecting on how the lesson went, justifying any changes and explaining what you will do in subsequent lessons to follow up on what was taught.
  • An ongoing Professional Development Assignment
    • This consists of two parts:
      • Part A, which is about reflecting on  your beliefs and development as you go through the course. This is split into 4 short essays ranging from 750 – 1000 words each.
      • Part B, the experimental practice, which allows you to try out a technique you never normally use, reflect on it and say how it will influence your future teaching. To complete this part you have to write a 2000 word researched essay on your area of interest and your reasons for choosing it, then plan and teach a lesson before reflecting on how it went.

So now we all know we’re all on the same page, I’ll give you a bit more detail about what I’ve been doing.

I decided to do LSA1 on reading and focused on skills that students need to be able to understand a reading and how they can use their prior knowledge about a subject to help them. We were really thrown in at the deep end for this first LSA and had little more than 5 days to do the research, write the essay and complete the lesson plan. We did all this while also attending input sessions and teaching unobserved classes so it was a lot to cope with. However, everything turned out well and I was very happy with the lesson that I taught.

LSA2 happened two weeks later (in week 4 of the course) and compared to LSA1 it felt like we had all the time in the world to research and write it. I chose to look at grammatical discourse and sequencing words, which is just a fancy way of saying I did a lesson on phrases like ‘first of all’, ‘then’, ‘suddenly’, ‘finally’ etc. For this LSA I spent a bit too much time perfecting the background essay so the lesson didn’t go as smoothly as the first but it was still a pass.

In week 5 of the course I did the experimental practice. I chose task-based learning as my area of research as I hadn’t really tried it before and had heard many good things about it. After the lesson I’m a total convert and will certainly be using it a lot more in the future. You can read in more detail about my lesson here and try it out yourself.

Now we’re into week 6 and I’m currently writing LSA3 and will be teaching it bright and early Thursday morning. This time I’m focusing on writing, specifically formal e-mail writing for job applications. This has been the hardest assignment so far, perhaps because I’m not really feeling the subject matter, but probably also because fatigue is starting to set in. That was always bound to happen, but just need to persevere and make it to the last LSA in two weeks’ time.

The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter every day!

*not sure exactly what LSA stands for, but I’d hazard a guess that it’s Language/Skills Analysis.