CPD: What does it mean to you?

CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is a well-used phrase. But what does it really mean? What does it involve? To me, it covers a whole multitude of things:

Courses

This is arguably the most obvious element. You identify a gap in your skill set or a need for general upgrade of your skills/knowledge and search for a course to suit your needs. Courses come in all shapes and sizes, varying in length, focus, outcome, commitment requirements, cost and so on.

The DELTA (Diploma for English Language Teaching to Adults) or its Trinity counter part, the Trinity Dip. TESOL, is a popular choice for qualified ESL teachers wanting to take the next step. These are internationally recognised professional qualifications with a practical focus. The DELTA is a modular qualification and modules can be taken separately or concurrently, distance or face-to-face, part-time or full-time, intensively or non-intensively. The trick is to make the right decision regarding which of these options will work for you. Being a level 7 qualification, the DELTA gives you a number of credits towards a Masters qualification, depending on the university and the course chosen.

M.A.’s (Master of Arts) or M.Sc.’s (Master of Sciences) are generally considered to be more theoretically focused. Popular choices for teachers include Masters in English Language Teaching, Applied Linguistics and TESOL and pure Applied Linguistics. Some M.A.s manage to combine the more theoretical focus of an M.A. with practical application. One such is the Leeds Met M.A. in ELT, which focuses on what you can do with the theory rather than on just learning and writing about it: in the second semester, for example, you design materials, undertake research, develop multimedia tools and write a journal article. First semester content depends on whether or not you choose to do the integrated DELTA option.

Shorter courses

I think these tend to have a narrower focus and there are lots of options out there. International House, for example, has a range of courses, of various lengths, some blended and some purely online. (I shall be doing the Young Learner training, starting tomorrow!) I won’t go into depth on all the courses available out there, or it will treble the length of this post! ;-)

Work-based CPD

This, most obviously, would include workshops (both attending and delivering), formal observation, peer observation and the opportunity to participate in short training courses. And, I have discovered, if you work somewhere that truly values CPD (actively, not just paying lip service), then these things become amazing opportunities.

I had my first formal observation earlier this week. Scary scary. BUT the DoS had emphasised that this was developmental rather than a test and an opportunity to experiment. So I experimented for the first time with some techniques I’d read about shortly prior to the observed lesson. It was so valuable to then be able to discuss the techniques, difficulties in applying them and ideas for continuing to apply them, during the feedback with my DoS. I now have a lot of detailed feedback notes to read and reflect on before I next teach. However, I have also already had two classes, directly following the feedback, and tried to put into practice the ideas discussed during the feedback, with some good results. So exciting!

There have been two workshops since I started here, too, both very thought-provoking and useful. It’s always good to be back in the learning seat. In due course, I hope also to deliver one, as I think this would be a very valuable experience. In addition to this, last weekend I did some Cambridge speaker examiner training for KET and PET exams, which was an interesting process.

Personal CPD

This is everything you do to learn that doesn’t come under a formal label! In this diverse category comes things like:

  • attending (and/or presenting at) conferences (face-to-face or online)
  • attending (or giving!) seminars (or webinars)
  • reading journals/professional magazines
  • reading relevant books
  • reading relevant blogs
  • using Twitter (e.g. participating in #Eltchat discussions, following up links)/Facebook (e.g. the British Council TeachingEnglish Facebook page.)
  • writing blog posts
  • writing journal/professional magazine articles/contributions
  • making learning materials
  • carrying out classroom-based research projects
  • reflecting on your teaching/development and making plans for what to try out next.
  • being a language learner again (!) (Being a learner in a language classroom again has shone a whole new light on learning, to consider as a teacher!)

For Me:

I found my Delta and M.A. immensely challenging and rewarding. But I think what comes next is equally important. The CPD doesn’t stop when you finish the course and get your certificate. The course provides you with new knowledge, techniques, methodologies etc. but true CPD is what you do with all of that afterwards. Do you put your certificate in a file and then continue as before? Or do you experiment with everything you’ve learnt and look for new things to try out and connect to your previous learning?

At the moment, I have a couple of projects on the go that are very much the result of having done the Multimedia and Independent Learning module of my M.A., that will culminate with my first webinar (in February next year) and recently I’ve also been exercising my materials development learning in making materials for the Global Issues month as well just for my own use with learners. And I’m finding all of this really satisfying, interesting and exciting. I think, too, that having a supportive DoS is key to effective CPD – there’s nothing like being actively encouraged to develop and helped to do so.

To me, CPD is the spaces between the words. It’s what and how you learn but also, all-importantly, what you do with what you learn, it’s being aware of opportunities and taking them when they arise. It’s what herbs and spices are to cooking – not strictly speaking necessary but it turns a bland dish (one day of experience repeated for twenty years) into something delicious and taste-bud tantalising!

I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of CPD options out of this post, so please comment with any additional CPD ideas you have! Inspire me!! :-) What does CPD mean to you?

Delta Tips 11: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the needs analysis section

This is the eleventh in a series of blog posts I’m doing in response to the number of Delta-related searches that bring visitors to my blog. Each post in this Delta Tips series will deal with a different element of the Delta, based on my experience of doing it (and surviving to tell the tale! ) at Leeds Met

 The module 3 extended specialism essay is a very special beast. If you thought Cambridge were demanding in their criteria for Module 2 LSA’s or perversely picky in how they want you to answer Module 1 exam questions – you’d be right! But, it’s nothing compared to what they demand you fit in to a measly 4500 words for Module 3…

  • For an overview of what’s required and tips for starting out, look at Delta Tips 9
  • For information about writing the first section of the essay – the introduction – look at Delta Tips 10
  • The focus of this post will be the second section – the needs analysis.

Now that you’ve done your secondary research and written your introduction, it’s time to think about your needs analysis section. This is where you focus on a specific group of learners and devise a needs analysis assessment, with the purpose of informing your course design (the focus of the third section of the essay).

There are several things you need to keep in mind when designing your needs analysis tools:

  • what you learnt from your secondary research and the implications this generated.
  • the principles of needs analysis, which should inform the design of your tools.
  • what you want to achieve with each of the tools you choose to use, which will also influence the design and delivery of the tools i.e. exactly what information you want to get.
  • where you can get this information from (the learners themselves, previous teachers, other stakeholders such as parents, management etc.)

Within the part two essay section (a whopping 900 words you have at your disposal here!), certain things need to be covered:

  • a brief profile of the group of learners that you are focusing on for this project. (Just so we are clear, these are the learners you do your needs analysis on!! :-p)
  • a brief description of your chosen needs analysis tools (what did you use? why those particular tools? why not any different tools?). This should include tools for identifying learner profiles/needs (e.g. questionnaires; interviews) and tools for ascertaining their language level/needs (e.g. diagnostic tests)
  • a brief outline of the results your tools generated and how this information helped you identify what you needed to know and what you are going to prioritise when you design your course (as well, of course, as why these priorities and not others)

In doing this, you need, of course, to demonstrate awareness of the theory and principles related to needs analysis. As you will be using diagnostic tests, then principles of testing/assessment come into play here: issues such as practicality, reliability and validity are as important in the needs analysis section as they are to the assessment section (part 4), so start reading up on these now!

Tips for successful completion of section 2:

  • Be concise: (Yeah, yeah – same old, same old, but worth repeating!! It doesn’t get any easier as the project progresses!) You have to cover a lot of ground in 900 words, so redraft and cut words down, think about how you can say things super-succinctly!
  • Be clear about how the principles of needs analysis have influenced the design of your tools: If you list a bunch of principles and then briefly mention your off-the-shelf placement test, you won’t be demonstrating awareness/understanding of the principles, only ability to regurgitate information…
  • Read about testing: Andrew Hughes Testing for Language Teachers is a good, clear read for getting the basics down. As mentioned above, principles of testing are very relevant. But look also at articles written specifically about needs analysis and diagnostic testing, as these will cover other related issues (See the bibliography at the end of this post for examples).
  • Read PAGE 72 of the handbook! Then read it again and make sure it went in. Why? Because it has your all-important guiding questions and advice. Worth re-reading both before you start and during and then after to check back and see if  you have done more-or-less what they require. Probably initially you won’t have! Don’t despair, it’s normal, just keep redrafting (both tools before you use them and the write up) – you’ll get there.
  • Show off: Yes, the whole terminology issue applies throughout the assignment – use the terms, reference the terms.  Just a reminder, like! (See my post about the introduction for more information about this! – Bullet point 6 under “Tips for doing this successfully”: Use and reference appropriate terminology)
  • Really think about what it is you are trying to find out with your tools: It isn’t practical to test every single thing under the sun, is it? No. So what are you going to test? Why? How will the information you gain from testing this help you design your course? The same questions go for your questionnaires/interviews – how will finding out this information help you? Whether you find and adapt a test or create one from scratch, be very clear about why you are including each question and what you hope to gain from it.
  • Look at examples and then get creative: In Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching, for example, you can find an sample needs analysis questionnaire. There are also examples in Kathleen Graves’ Designing Language Courses. Look at them, both in terms of content and layout. Imagine a student completing one and handing it back to you. How would that information help you? What information would still be missing? How could you get that missing information? When you’ve thought carefully about that, design your tools.  Remember that your answers should be influenced by what you’ve learnt, and the implications you’ve identified, through combining your secondary research with your experience in section one of the essay. When you’ve designed your tools, pilot them. (Get a colleague to complete the questionnaire/tests etc. and see if they find your questions clear!)
  • Analyse and evaluate don’t just describe: You will give your learners the questionnaire or interview them, you will give them diagnostic tests. How did you try to ensure that the results were as reliable as possible and would generate as useful information as possible? Whatever tools you use will have pros and cons – that’s ok: nothing is perfect. BUT make sure you show awareness of this. Why are your tools the best compromise in your circumstances?
  • Make clear links: How did you get from your implications in section one to your tools in section two, to the priorities you have identified from your results? One thing should lead clearly to another:
  1. You may want to refer back to the implications you laid out in section one.
  2. You may want to refer back to your results or to your appendices (where you will put an example of all the tests/questionnaires etc that you used and evidence that you have synthesised the information e.g.charts, tables etc.) when you identify priorities.
  3. This doesn’t need to take a lot of word count: putting A1 in brackets i.e. [statement e.g."The majority wish to improve their employment situation and integrate socially - their priorities in doing this course"] (A1.vi [Appendix 1, part vi - which in this case was a chart showing reasons for learning English])  is a concise way of cross-referencing.
  • Spell it out! Use sub-headings. And I mean very specific subheadings. I know I already said this in the post about the introduction but it bears repeating. Really make it easy for the examiner to know that you have included everything that you are supposed to. You could, for sure, very cleverly weave everything in together in one body of writing, but then the examiner has to hunt out everything they are looking for. I would say, therefore, don’t bother. Keep it simple. Sub-headings all the way. It helps you keep track of what requisite information you have included and helps the examiner find it. It also makes it clearer for you to see if you have missed something. So, for example, if those are your implications for course design, label them as such. Bullet points are good too. Bullet point your implications and it becomes very clear where one implication ends and the next begins. Examiners like very clear.
  • Remember the importance of context: To an extent, a tool isn’t good or bad in itself – how effective or not it is depends on the context you are teaching in. A given test could be ideal for an exam prep class diagnostic but useless for a general English class diagnostic. A detailed test focusing on only one skill may be great if that skill is implicated as being a priority in your secondary research/implications but hopeless if your course needs a more general focus or a specific focus on a completely different skill. Equally, a questionnaire may suit one group of learners and generate really useful information in that context but produce irrelevant, unhelpful information in another. This is why you don’t just use an off-the-shelf tool without thinking it through and adapting it to meet your requirements first.
  • Don’t make things too complicated: Don’t use any tools for the sake of using them, don’t write reams about principles, that you then proceed to completely ignore in the design of your tools. Identify key principles, apply them to your tools. Demonstrate that you have done this by making it very explicit in your 900 words how you have used the principles to help you make the tools as effective as you could in your context.
  • (This may sound silly but) use colour! It doesn’t take (very) long and makes it easier on the eyes. I’m talking about headings, sub-headings, references to appendices/other essay sections. (Colour is also very useful in the course design section when you do your course map – but more on that later…) NB I don’t mean turn your piece of writing into a rainbow, but if you make all headings/sub-headings/references to appendices or other essay sections/bullet points a colour, e.g. navy blue, rather than black, they stand out better. This really hammers it home to Mr/Ms Examiner that you have, in fact, included what you are supposed to include and cross-referenced it…
  • Don’t forget to include the following: marking schemes for your diagnostic tools – these go in your appendices. Sample completed questionnaires and diagnostic tests as well as some evidence of synthesising/analysing the data. Colourful pie charts and bar graphs are handy for this. Tabulating information and your analysis of it may also be useful. (Exactly what you choose to do with it will depend on the nature of the information, your purpose in seeking it and the evidence you believe it offers.)
  • Remember your project should be comprehensible to a colleague – use this to your advantage: Get a colleague to have a look at your needs analysis section and your tools, to see if your section 2 makes sense to them. (It’s easy, when you spend so long staring at/working on a piece of work, to know *exactly* what you mean, where everything is and precisely how it connects. To an outsider, however, it may be a mystery. Of course, if it is a mystery to your colleague, it may also be somewhat mysterious to the examiner. This is generally not a good thing…! Also, if you can, write a section (and get your feedback, redraft etc etc) and then put it aside for a while. When you come back to it fresh, you may read through it and think, “huh? what on earth did I mean by that?” – in this case, you may want to make a few changes too…

Some useful sources relevant to the needs analysis section:

Davies, A. (2006) What do learners really want from their EFL course? in ELTJ Vol 60/1. Accessed: 22nd September 2012.

Cotterall, Sara.(2000) Promoting learner autonomy through the curriculum: principles for designing language courses. In ELTJ vol 54/2. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Accessed: October 11 2012.

Graves, K.(2000) Defining the Context in Designing Language Courses Newbury House Teacher Development. Heinle and Heinle.

Hughes, A. (2003) Testing for Language Teachers. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Nunan, D. (1997) Getting Started with Learner-Centred Teaching in English Teaching Professional issue four. Pavillion. Accessed: 15, October, 2012.

Perrin, G (2009) Diagnostic Procedures in Language Learning MET vol 18 no 4. Pavillion. Accessed: 14 October 2012.

Seedhouse, P (1995) Needs Analysis and the General English Classroom  in ELTJ vol 49. Accessed: September 22, 2012.

 ***But remember***: New stuff is being written all the time; I’ve used some stuff that I haven’t listed – this is a selected list of references: This list is far from exhaustive!!! So use your search tools (see previous Module 3 posts) to find other books/articles too. Also, if you do get hold of sources from the above list, look at their reference lists (at the end of the article/book) and do the treasure hunt thing: Run your eye over the list, looking at dates and titles, think “hmm this recent and looks interesting, or this was referred to a lot in the book/article, so it might be worth a look” etc. and try to source them through your centre library. 

To see tips for the course design  section: click here.

If you think I am wrong in anything I’ve said or that I’ve missed anything useful from this section, then please comment and I will add whatever is missing to this post!  

Delta Tips 10: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the introduction

This is the tenth in a series of blog posts I’m doing in response to the number of Delta-related searches that bring visitors to my blog. Each post in this Delta Tips series will deal with a different element of the Delta, based on my experience of doing it (and surviving to tell the tale! ) at Leeds Met

 The module 3 extended specialism essay is a very special beast. If you thought Cambridge were demanding in their criteria for Module 2 LSA’s or perversely picky in how they want you to answer Module 1 exam questions – you’d be right! But, it’s nothing compared to what they demand you fit in to a measly 4500 words for Module 3…

  • For an overview of what’s required and tips for starting out, look at Delta Tips 9.
  • The focus of this post will be the first section of this essay – the introduction.

Logically enough, you begin your assignment by doing some secondary research i.e. investigating what has already been written about your chosen specialism. This should allow you to identify key common themes/issues. You then investigate these particular key themes/issues further and see if they are common to other specialisms as well, or just to yours. For this assignment, you also draw on your own experience of teaching and observing classes relevant to your specialism.

Thus, in 1100 words, then, you are required to:

  • briefly justify why you chose your specialism.

demonstrate awareness and understanding of:

  • the key theories and principles relevant to your specialism
  • the key themes and issues  relevant to your specialism
  • your own experience and whether this supports or contrasts with what you have discovered in your secondary research (there will likely be a mixture).
  • the implications of all the above on designing a course for a class of learners within the field of your chosen specialism.

NB: you do NOT discuss a particular class of learners at this stage. The key themes/issues/learner needs should be relevant to all learners within the field of your chosen specialism.

Tips for doing this successfully:

  • Draft, redraft, redraft: in my case, the introduction I started with bore only a small resemblance to the final product.
  • Make sure your own voice comes through: Rather than just describing what’s in the literature, also evaluate it in relation to your own experience and the implications this has on teaching and designing a course for such learners. (I struggled with this initially, as when I did my B.A., which was also the last time I had produced anything essay-like, we were generally expected to avoid having opinions except for in the conclusion. Hence, among other reasons, bullet point one…) The key word in the Cambridge handbook here is  “discriminating” – that is what they require your review to be!
  • Use sub-headings: Cambridge are looking for specific information, hence providing you with “guiding questions” on page 71 of the handbook. Fashion those questions into sub-headings and it will focus you on including the necessary information as well as flagging it up to the poor sod whose job it is to read your essay and identify the meeting or otherwise of all bazillion of the criteria on their list! Make their job easier and they will hopefully like your work better…
  • Refer to a wide range of resources: Books, journals, professional magazine articles… The ELT Journal is a great resource, as are English Teaching Professional and Modern English Teacher. With any luck your centre will have a centre subscription to them. If you are lucky enough to have a university library at your disposal, then as well as a ton of useful books, you may have access to a very wide range of journals. I imagine it applies to other universities as well, but if Leeds Met didn’t have a subscription to a given journal, they would source the article you were after for a very nominal fee (£2 or something). You can’t just pick up Harmer’s Practice of English Teaching and summarise what it says. You need to synthesise a variety of pertinent resources. (NB: Cambridge won’t know if you’ve read something unless you refer to it – your list of references is just that, a list of references NOT a bibliography.)
  • Use Google Scholar: It does a database search of all manner of literature. Once you identify what is out there related to your specialism and its key issues/themes, you can then set about finding out what you can get hold of through your centre library. (If you are at Leeds Met, use Discover. You should have written notes on how to use it when you had your induction but if you have lost them and can’t remember how to do it, ask someone who works in the library to show you)
  • Use and reference appropriate terminology: In other words, show off! You need to demonstrate your awareness of key theories/principles/issues. Undoubtedly there is jargon attached. Use it and reference it. It is very important to reference it because different authors often use terms in different ways to mean slightly different things. Which usage you choose doesn’t matter, as long as you make it clear what usage you have chosen and are consistent in your use of it. The easiest way to do this is to use a term and then put a reference ( i.e. author and year of publication) in brackets after it.
  • Be critical: Another key word in the Cambridge handbook in reference to what is expected of you is “critically” – everything should be critically discussed, not just discussed.
  • Remember to make it clear how your specialism differs from others: To show awareness of what makes your specialism special i.e. its key theories/principles/issues, you need to show awareness of how it differs from other specialisms. This may be as simple as contrasting it with a General English class, in the case of Business English/EAP/Exam classes or if you pick Multilingual classes, the obvious comparison would be Monolingual classes, and so on.
  • Make the link between your review and your implications for course design clear: The reader/examiners should be able to see where your implications come from. Don’t write a wonderful, critical, discriminating review and then tack some unrelated implications on the end! ;-)
  • Make life easier for yourself: Don’t choose a focus which overlaps more than two specialisms and if you do overlap two specialisms, make sure one has clear priority. It might even be worth just deciding between those two specialisms and focussing on one…
  • Do your research and introduction first: Don’t start on your needs analysis before you have fully investigated your specialism. It will only make things complicated when you discover something key that you hadn’t thought about when designing your needs analysis tools! Probably good to write the introduction first as well as doing the reading: the process of synthesising everything will make it clearer in your head what those key issues etc are, which will enable you to make a better-informed, more useful set of needs analysis tools.
  • Use any support available: If you haven’t already done so, find out what support is available to you. At Leeds Met, MEET YOUR MINI-DEADLINES! :-) If you submit your introduction on time, it is a valuable opportunity to get detailed feedback on what you need to do to it to get it up to scratch. You’d also be able to ask questions about any of the feedback in the subsequent tutorial. As they say, well begun is half done. You may not want to, or have *time* to, redraft immediately once you’ve received feedback, but at least the feedback can help inform what comes next. Wherever you are doing Module 3, if you are doing a course, the tutors should know what you need to do – they are clever: they understand what Cambridge is after! – so that is one incredibly valuable resource. They won’t necessarily be specialist in your chosen specialism but they’d be aware of key texts relevant to it and of course of all the Cambridge criteria/how to structure everything etc.
  • Enjoy finding out a bunch of new, interesting stuff! Chances are you won’t know it *all* already, there is always something new to find. Much as it is challenging to meet Cambridge requirements, the project itself, starting from the introduction, should be a positive, useful experience. Especially if you have no experience of course design etc. So don’t forget to enjoy it and maximise on the learning potential.

Coming soon: Tips for the needs analysis section! Stay tuned… ;-) (Update: tips for the needs analysis section can be found here.)

If you think I am wrong in anything I’ve said or that I’ve missed anything useful from this introduction section post, then please comment and I will add whatever is missing to this post! :) 

 

Delta Tips 9: Writing a Module 3 Essay – Overview and Starting Out

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts I’m doing in response to the number of Delta-related searches that bring visitors to my blog. Each post in this Delta Tips series will deal with a different element of the Delta, based on my experience of doing it (and surviving to tell the tale! ) 

The module 3 extended specialism essay is a very special beast. If you thought Cambridge were demanding in their criteria for Module 2 LSA’s or perversely picky in how they want you to answer Module 1 exam questions – you’d be right! But, it’s nothing compared to what they demand you fit in to a measly 4500 words for Module 3…

The brief:

In 4500 words, you have to introduce and discuss your chosen specialism (including literature review, issues that are typical of it, some comparison with a different specialism…), your needs analysis, your course design, your assessment methods (both formative and summative) and your course evaluation, and then, finally, bring your assignment to its conclusion. Each section also needs to showcase your knowledge and understanding of the theory and principles, and therefore the literature, related to it. (Therefore, Concise should become your new middle name!)

The choice of specialisms is as follows:

  • Business English (BE)
  • Teaching young learners/young adults (specified age group required with 5-year range e.g. 8–13, 14–19) (YL)
  • English for Special Purposes (ESP)
  • English for Academic Purposes (EAP)
  • Teaching examination classes (EX)
  • Teaching one-to-one (1to1)
  • ESOL learners with literacy needs (ESOL)
  • CLIL/Embedded ESOL (teaching English through subject/ work-based learning) (CLIL)
  • Teaching monolingual classes (MON)
  • Teaching multilingual classes (MUL)
  • Teaching in an English-speaking environment (ESE)
  • Teaching in a non-English-speaking environment. (NESE)
  • Teaching learners online/through distance/blended learning (DL)
  • Teaching English to learners with special requirements e.g. visual/hearing impairment, dyslexia, ASD (SR)2
  • Language development for teachers (LDT)
  • Language support (e.g. on mainstream teaching programmes, specialist skills support, such as supporting writing needs) (LS)

Starting out

Ideally, you will have thought about what you would like to specialise in before you start your course. Some centres (e.g. Leeds Met) even give you a pre-course task to focus your thinking in this respect. However, don’t be hell-bent on sticking to your initial decision – it may be that what you want to do isn’t an ideal choice. Hopefully you will discuss your choice with your tutor early on, so be open to their advice. I, for example, started out wanting to do Young Learners who need EAL support in schools in the U.K. but I had no access to such learners, no experience of teaching them and it didn’t fit comfortably into the Cambridge specialisms list either. All in all, following a very helpful tutorial, I changed my specialism to Teaching in an English-speaking environment (ESE).

Tips:

  • Don’t choose a specialism that incorporates too many different Cambridge specialisms. E.g. One-to-one business English over the telephone (or Skype) is a type of teaching that absolutely exists BUT it combines Business English, Teaching one-to-one and Distance Learning which is too much to juggle effectively in 4500 words.
  • Do choose a specialism you have some experience with. It’s easy to start out with lofty ideas of using Module 3 to learn about a new specialism, and perhaps if you are doing it over an extended period of time, working at the same time, with access to the type of learners you want to focus on, it may work a treat. However, if you are doing a 10-12 week intensive course and not working, then logistically it becomes a lot more difficult.
  • Do find out what the drafting procedure is with your centre. (E.g. At Leeds Met, they have a series of mini-deadlines where they take in a draft of each section and comment liberally on it, as well as giving you a tutorial to discuss the feedback for each section. Some centres may take in a complete draft to look and feedback on, rather than doing it in stages.) Then, follow it!! Meet all the deadlines, take every opportunity to get feedback/guidance. This will help you fashion something that meets all the pernickety Cambridge criteria.
  • Do read the Delta handbook for Module 3. (I know, it’s at the back of the handbook and, if you are doing all three modules simultaneously, you probably started out with good intentions, but then got bogged down with looking at the Module 1 section and gave up. Skip module 1, save it till later, read module 2 if you are doing module 2 and read module 3. They are shorter sections than module 1 and do contain useful information…)  The module 3 section contains criteria and a series of questions for each section, that your corresponding section is supposed to answer. (At Leeds Met, you do discovery tasks that make you get friendly with these criteria and questions by making you answer questions about them in relation to an example assignment, so you see how they can be answered/embodied. Hopefully your centre will have their own way of helping you get to grips with it all, but, either way, make sure you read the handbook!)
  • Do read lots. Find out what the key texts related to your specialism are (your centre may give you guidance on this – at Leeds Met we got a lengthy reading list divided into specialisms) and get them out of a library or cheaply from Amazon marketplace.
  • Do also think about issues that relate to your specialism e.g. for English-speaking Environment, issues such as intercultural competence, English as a Lingua Franca and culture shock are all relevant.
  • Do use journals and professional magazines as well as books – these contain up-to-date articles and are much quicker to read than books. With ELT Journal, for example, you can do a database search and find articles that are relevant to your specialism and to individual section principles/theory: some will be oldies but goodies, some will be very up-to-date.  A mixture of both is recommended.
  • Do think about your writing style. Are you using the correct way of referencing? Is your writing accessible enough? (Mine was far too academic initially!) You don’t want to include long quotes because the word count is too minimal to allow for it without other things getting lost. Paraphrasing concisely and following it with the reference in brackets is one way of referring to the literature in a word count-effective way.
  • Do build your reference list as you go. Be organised about it. (You don’t want to be running around at the last minute looking for all the details of all the books and articles you referred to throughout the essay. You won’t have time…)
  • Do refer back to the handbook and see if you are in fact answering those questions that they have listed. Ask someone else to compare your assignment and the questions, to see if you are answering them – you may think you are, but another set of eyes may not agree… (Of course, your tutor will also tell you if are missing important stuff. Hopefully sooner rather than later, but that depends on how the course is organised and when they look at drafts etc.)

Coming soon: Tips for the introduction section!

If you think I am wrong in anything I’ve said or that I’ve missed anything useful from this general overview/intro, then please comment and I will add whatever is missing to this post! :) But more specific stuff will come when I deal with each section individually… 

Leeds Met Delta/M.A. ELT Induction Day (aka Delta FAQs)

A year ago last week, I attended the induction for my course at Leeds Metropolitan University, and last week I attended (some of it) again! But this time, rather than being one of the students, scribbling away frantically as things were said (which notes ended up being put in a drawer not to see the light of day until I packed up my flat a few weeks ago – oops…) I was sitting in, watching – rather nostalgically! – and waiting for my turn to speak. I had been invited to share my experience with the new cohort. I started by feeding them with cake (because, cake makes everything ok! Also, they’re at the beginning of an amazing year – or semester if only doing the Delta – so there was something to celebrate) and then just let them ask me questions. This post is a summary of that plus a few things I forgot to mention…

1. What do you know now that wish you’d known at the start? What would you do differently?

Well, I’m rather lucky – I can look back on it and not wish I’d done things differently or known things I didn’t. I genuinely have no regrets. That’s not to say I had a clue what was going on to start with, but I was able to work it out – with all the help given to me by the fantastic tutors at Leeds Met. Still, things that I think would be useful to know at the start, because I either was helped to discover them early on or was lucky enough to be doing them anyway:

  • Manage your time efficiently! For module 2, this means reading efficiently, writing your essay and sending it in for feedback in good time, moving on to your plan promptly and getting that in for feedback too – all enough in advance to then respond to feedback before it’s time for your LSA. For module 3, this also means reading efficiently, and meeting whatever deadlines your centre has in place to help you through it. At Leeds Met, there are mini-deadlines periodically, so that you hand each section of the essay in one by one and get feedback on them. This is helpful because you get nudged on to the right track early on before you stray too far away from it!
  • Do your PDA-ing from the get-go! Well, perhaps not the get-go, but as soon as you have done your diagnostic and have submitted your part 1/part 2, where you reflect on your beliefs/strengths/weakness and identify areas to work on, then make a plan of how to work on them. (See my post on doing the PDA for more information on this important element of module 2)
  • Work WITH your classmates not against them! This isn’t a competition. You are all in it together and if you pool your resources, you will make your lives easier. Make a Facebook group to share links to useful articles/websites etc. Watch each others’ lessons and share feedback when these are observed e.g. diagnostic and LSAs.
  • Don’t get behind! This relates to the first bullet point and applies to intensive courses at least (I can’t speak for less intensive courses as have no first-hand experience of those) – if you get behind, you will struggle to catch up and perhaps never really will, because the course does not have any time built in for this. Time, tide and Delta deadlines wait for no man – and there is always another deadline looming.
  • Set up a decent filing system from the get-go! Keeping order is useful. Electronically, I recommend Evernote. In terms of paper-based stuff, have a separate notebook and file for each module. (I didn’t discover Evernote until the M.A. semester of my course – using it is actually one thing I would do differently if I had my time again! :-) ) And make sure none of your notes get squirrelled away in a drawer accidentally! ;-
  • Know how *fast* it will pass by! And make every minute count! Make the most of being on the course and all the learning opportunities it offers.

2. Are there any books you’d recommend reading?

Plenty! Of course, it rather depends what module you are talking about, as well as the specific element of that module:

For module 2, it partly depends on the focus of your LSAs.

  • For LexisThe Lexical Approach by Michael Lewis is the classic chestnut BUT if you are strapped for time, Implementing the Lexical Approach condenses the theory and summarises it, offering lots of practical ideas for implementation of it (funnily enough!), which is pretty handy. Of course, How to teach Vocabulary by Scott Thornbury is a very good base (best read in advance of the course!).
  • For ListeningListening in the Language Classroom by John Field is a good starting point.
  • For Discourse (though I didn’t focus on this for an LSA, there was overlap for my listening and my speaking LSAs, as I approached these through genre plus some knowledge of discourse is handy for module 1 too) I recommend Beyond the Sentence by Scott Thornbury.
  • For SpeakingConversation, from Description to Pedagogy by Scott Thornbury and Diana Slade is great but How to Teach Speaking by Scott Thornbury (again!) is probably the best starting point (though hopefully you will have already read it in advance of the course! ;-) )
  • For Phonology, I recommend Adrian Underhill’s Sound Foundations as a starting point. Very user-friendly. For a more academic follow-up, once you’ve narrowed down your focus, Roach’s English Phonetics and Phonology is a good bet.
  • For Grammar, you would turn to your grammar reference of choice – which will in all likelihood involve an author whose name is also the name of an animal (Swan, Parrott…), for a start. Thornbury (yep!)’s Uncovering Grammar is good too.
  • For ReadingTeaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language by Christine Nuttall is a good starting point.
  • For Writing, I am not sure… But if you are taking a genre approach, then a discourse book like Thornbury’s Beyond the Sentence or Mike McCarthy’s Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers is going to be useful.

I also recommend starting with such a core text and then when you have finished with it, look through its bibliography/references. Then do a treasure hunt: Choose books or articles that look interesting (pay attention to when they were written – there are some oldies but goodies, there are also some bang up-to-date journal articles that can be useful) and search for them in your library database.

(E.g. Leeds Met has an electronic subscription to a good range of relevant journals, so you have a good chance of being in luck when you do your searches. And, if it is not subscribed to the journal but you really want the article, you can fill out a request and they will get hold of it for you for a nominal charge (£2 or so).)

  • For the PDA, something like Jim Scrivener’s Classroom Management Techniques is a useful source, as it contains plenty of bite-sized chunks of information about different techniques, which you can try out and then reflect on/evaluate how it went. If you have chosen any classroom management-y weaknesses to focus on, then you can target the techniques you choose to try. If not, then it is useful for PDA anyway, because experimenting and incorporating different techniques may help you to up your game in between LSAs…

For module 3 it depends on your specialism and on the section of the essay that you are focusing on.

  • For the introduction, it will mostly be specialism specific – either yours or the specialism you are contrasting yours with. Of course it can also relate to themes that arise in relation to your specialism. For example, if you do Teaching English in an English-Speaking Environment, with a U.K. focus, as I did, then articles relating to intercultural competence, ELF etc would be relevant.
  • For a general overview of the course design process from Needs Analysis to Evaluation, I recommend Nation and Macallister’s Language Curriculum Design or Graves’ Designing Language Courses.

For module 1About Language by Scott Thornbury and An A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury (yep, as well!) are both very useful. Of course, anything you read for the other modules could well help too – e.g. if you read about and learn about assessment for Module 3, you can apply it to the Module 1 question on testing. Plus, the terminology questions will be easier, the more you’ve seen the terminology in context.

Generally, you might like to have a look at my Annotated list of resources that I found useful when preparing for and doing the Delta.  You may or may not find something of interest!

3. Do you have any other advice?

  • Read what people have written about the Delta in their blogs. I have listed all my Delta-related posts in one page, as has Sandy Millin. And contribute your own take on it when you have time (which for me was not till very near the end of the Delta semester – when the input sessions had finished and I came up briefly for air…).
  • Be ready to work very hard! It won’t be handed to you on a plate – nobody can do that, with the best will in the world. Hopefully you will be somewhere where you are given all the help and support you need to understand and fulfil the requirements, as I was, but ultimately it’s down to you.
  • Listen to and respond to the feedback you are given! The tutors can advise you till they are blue in the face, they can fill your drafts with comments, but none of this will help if you don’t listen and respond. Make the changes they recommend. Question the ones you don’t understand so the tutors can explain them to you. The tutors will do their best to help you, but in order for that to work, you need to help yourself too, by taking what they say on board – treat all their comments as gold dust, they *are* that valuable in the context of your Delta! :-)
  • If you are doing the Delta at a university, get a Sconul card so that you can access more libraries – vital when the wolves/vultures have all fallen on the small handful of copies of <insert core text name here> when you are on the verge of LSA essay writing!
  • If you are doing the Delta at Leeds Met, do the M.A. semester afterwards too! It contextualises the Delta and brings everything to life – you have a lot more freedom to explore everything. And it also helps massively with the Module 1 exam when you come to do it in June! But most importantly, it’s a wonderful course to do – you learn loads through the input, discussions and the assessments you have to do (which, handily enough, are all nice and practical not just essay writing or whatever, so you can apply them beyond the course), and so many opportunities can open up to you as a result of doing it – at least that’s what I’ve found.

Good luck to everybody who is starting their Delta now! I know the Leeds Met course began today – a year ago today, that was me just starting out… <nostalgia> :-)  Enjoy the journey, make the most of it, it will be over before you know it.

NB: if you are one of the students who was at the induction and think I’ve missed something that you wanted to refer back to, or you want me to answer something else that you forgot to ask (related to my experience as a student of the course at Leeds Met), feel free to comment on this post and I’ll get back to you! :)

Delta Tips 9: Before, during and after the Delta

Doing the Delta is a massive commitment – financially (if you pay to do the course somewhere and stop work in order to do it), mentally (you can look forward to brain over-load for the duration) and emotionally (‘emotional roller-coaster’ may take on new layers of meaning!). I think what you do during both the preparation time beforehand and the readjustment time afterwards (where I am now…) is, in some ways, equally as important as what you do during the course itself. Why? Because how you prepare for the course will deeply affect how successful you are during the course and once the course finishes, you are left with a lot of new learning to marshall and come to terms with.

Here are a few general tips for all three stages, based on what I’ve learnt from my own experience and from talking to others who have completed the Delta – both at the same university as me and beyond – which will hopefully help you to get as much as possible out of doing the course. If you think I’ve missed something crucial, or even less crucial but nevertheless should still be there, post a comment on this post and I’ll add it on! :)

Before the Delta:

  • Read Sandy Millin’s blog post Preparing for the Delta: She knows what she is talking about! :) This post contains a lot of useful information and links.
  • Make sure you really want to do the Delta: It’s all-consuming and not something to take on just for the hell of it. If you are 100% sure you want to do it, make sure the timing is right: are you able to commit the time, money and non-stop effort required at this point in your life?
  • Read blog posts aimed at people who are doing the Delta, such as those which have been curated by Sandy in her blog post Useful links for Delta   : This will give you some idea of what to expect and therefore help you to decide if it’s really what you want.
  • Make sure you choose the right place and the right mode of delivery to suit you and your needs. Sandy has started a Delta Conversations series, to which a number of people have contributed accounts of their Delta experiences so far. If you are unsure of where/how to do it, have a read of this and take time to make the right decision. I can, of course, highly recommend the course I did at Leeds Met.
  • One I will re-emphasise is: Read. Read. Read, read, read…oh and readPreparing for the Delta contains some recommendations, as does my Annotated List of Resources I found useful in preparing for and doing the Delta It really does make a difference. One I will add is: Do the activities in About Language (the above blog posts for further information about this book) – even if you’re pretty good with terminology and how language works, this will make sure everything is fresh before you embark on the course, which will save you time in the long run (through knowing things rather than having to look them up and remind yourself of them)
  • Decide on a note-taking system and investigate different ways of curating information – you will probably acquire a wealth of notes, handouts, electronic handouts, journal articles, links etc during the course and it helps if you keep things organised (less time spent rootling around either your computer or your bedroom for the crucial bit of information you know is there somewhere).
  • For storing electronic stuff, I would recommend using Evernote (and wish I had known about it before the Delta – I only started using it during my M.A. semester!) for anything electronic. Why?
  1. Because you can put anything into it (pdf’s, various document types etc) and it has a handy web-clipper and desktop clipper too. The web-clipper can save articles, pdfs, links, webpages etc and the desktop clipper works a bit like Jing, in that you can take screen casts and they save to Evernote too.
  2. Because you can also tag everything, which makes finding information a LOT easier.
  3. Because if you have a tablet and can write (legibly/not like a two-year-old!) on it with a stylus, there is an app called Penultimate, which talks to Evernote. So, the notes you write in Penultimate will be saved to Evernote as well, and you can then search them using the Evernote search function. Pretty handy!
  • Remember that you are going to be a student again and brush up on your study skills! This would be a good point to learn all about the formatting tools that exist in Word – these will be timesavers when you are producing your course work. (See Preparing for the Delta no. 3 for help with this!)

During the Delta

  • Be a stickler for deadlines and be organised: if you get behind, chances are you won’t ever quite catch up again until the course finishes! (From experience, even if you are organised and meet every deadline, you only just about keep on top of things, at least most of the time…)
  • Make sure you take breaks and have a means of making yourself switch off. (For me, yoga was a life-saver.)
  • Exercise regularly – your brain needs all the oxygen it can get! (I found swimming and running good) Even a half hour break to exercise is time well-spent. And you will probably work more effectively when you come back to it – so you can justify it!
  • Make friends with your course mates (sounds obvious but still!) – they know exactly what you are going through, so you can jolly each other along. (I imagine if you are doing a distance option, then the equivalent would be ‘make use of the message boards’ or something!) That way, you can have some fun too. And not feel isolated.
  • Tell your tutors when you are struggling or panicking and considering dropping out –  don’t be embarrassed to, they’ve seen it all before (!) and will be able to help you. And hopefully they will all be as lovely as the Leeds Met tutors. :)
  • Take every opportunity to observe other teachers teach and be observed teaching by colleagues (using tailored observation forms for both). This was built into our course, because of the way the teaching practice element worked, but I imagine if you are doing module 2 where you work, while you work, this won’t be quite as easy. It is worth making the effort to make it happen, if it’s possible, because it is very valuable and really helps with the PDA element of the module.
  • Don’t feel bad if you find it extraordinarily hard – it is. Extraordinarily hard, that is. It’s quite normal to rant, rave, cry etc – the trick is to find people you are able to do that with! (Hence: “Make friends with your course mates” ;-) ) It doesn’t make you inadequate or incapable or anything else – it just means you are human!
  • Keep in mind why you wanted to do the course in the first place: As the course wears on, maintaining motivation to keep going will become key.
  • Reward yourself when you submit assignments on time, when you get a good grade etc etc. (You can think of various such reasons, I’m sure!) E.g. treat yourself to a long hot bath and a night off or take a day off at the weekend to see some friends. This will help you not to burn out.
  • Eat healthily – try and make sure you take time to prepare and eat healthy meals as much of the time as possible. (It’s tempting to decide you haven’t got time and just munch a bowl of cereal instead of having dinner – I did it a few times: A few times is ok, but don’t let it become a habit.) You need to keep your strength up and not open yourself up to illness. Especially if your course runs over winter in a cold country…

After the Delta (Cos there is life after Delta, believe it or not! ;-) )

  • (Perhaps, depending on your personality type) be prepared for some serious confidence issues when you emerge out of the other end of the Delta tunnel: Having spent the length of your course having your teaching completely deconstructed, poked and prodded, analysed and reformulated, you will be hyper-sensitive to everything you do in the classroom. Don’t beat yourself up. Give it time for things to settle. (And I have it on good authority that it really does take time for everything to settle – which is reassuring!!) Everything will be ok…
  • Have a holiday (if you can!) – you’ve earnt it!
  • Blog about your experience of doing the Delta and what you’ve learnt – the more people do that, the more complete a picture of what doing the Delta means will be built up. This is helpful for prospective Delta candidates as well as current Delta candidates. It could also helpful for you – blogging about what you’ve learnt means you re-process it and maybe get more out of it as you do so.
  • Don’t jump straight into another course (unless you happen to be doing the Delta/M.A. ELT at Leeds Met, in which case you will jump straight into the M.A. semester of the course – via a few weeks off at Christmas!! But I’m counting it as one course, and won’t be jumping into anything else for a while!)  – give yourself plenty of time to let your teaching settle and experiment with what you’ve learnt. You learn so much on the Delta, and, particularly if you do Module 2 intensively, there isn’t time to experiment with and really get to grips with all of it. Studying is awesome, I love it, but you really do need time in between courses, I think, to integrate what you learn into your teaching, so that you can fully benefit from the courses you do.
  • Think about what you want to do with your Delta: maybe you aren’t interested in making any changes and will just continue with/return to your previous job. But otherwise, the Delta opens up lots of doors. Have a good look at what is out there, what new things you might be able to do with it, and think about what you really want to do and how to go about reaching that goal. Then go for it!
  • Don’t get complacent: keep learning – read, experiment, reflect, evaluate. Attend conferences. If you haven’t already done so, think about presenting something. Use Twitter. Blog. In a nutshell, keep up to date and keep seeking out new opportunities for development. The world won’t stop turning just because you now have your Delta!
  • Give yourself a pat on the back and a nice big glass of red wine/ <insert your tipple of choice here> – you survived! :)

Delta Notes 2: Teaching Listening

This Delta Notes series has come about because I am packing up all my stuff to move out of my flat and have found my Delta notebooks. I don’t want to put them in a box (got plenty to store as it is plus it’s pointless…) and let them gather dust, so thought I’d write up the notes I’m interested in keeping and get rid of the notebooks instead! I will also add some reflections at the end of each set of notes. Feel free to share opinions, add ideas, argue against any ideas you disagree with etc by commenting using the comment box beneath the posts. (These are just some of my notes from Delta input sessions – I may have misunderstood or missed something: there was a lot of information flying around that semester!)

Here are some of my (written up) notes from a module 2 input session on teaching listening, followed by some reflections/ramblings and a short list of recommended reading:

Listening is:

  • often under-valued
  • often back-burned in favour of speaking and writing (as they are more tangible)
  • often seen as ‘passive’ (due to widespread use of the comprehension approach)

BUT:

  •  Learners need to be able to listen and understand in order to speak.
  • Learners with good listening skills can take better advantage of the multitude of linguistic input available (especially in an English-speaking environment) and so listening better equips learners to learn autonomously.

The Comprehension Approach  

 This consists of:

Pre-listening

  • Establish context
  • Create motivation
  • Pre-teach vocabulary

Extensive/intensive listening

  • General questions on context/attitude of speakers

Post listening

Language focus:

  • Functional language
  • Infer meaning of unknown vocabulary
  • Look at transcript

It is a robust methodology, still featuring strongly since it became popular in the late 80s.

Need to bear in mind:

  • The more we tell learners before they listen, the less they need to listen.
  • Wrong answers could be a reading or writing (of the questions or answers) failure rather than a listening failure.

Listening teaching practice was probably transferred across from reading teaching practice (listening dedicated lessons came after reading-focussed lessons).

 BUT:

  •  A reader benefits from a standardised spelling system and gaps between words on the page, while a listener must cope with speech sounds which vary from one utterance to another and words which blend into one another (because of phonology/position  of articulators)
  • Reading is recursive – you can look back and forth over what you have read, while listening is transient – the information unfolds in real time and you can’t look back over it again.
  •  Both require use of meaning-building processes BUT speech is temporary: the listener must carry forward memory of what has gone before to make sense of what comes next.

Conventional listening does not develop learners’ listening skills/competence in any systematic way. Progress just means harder texts: barriers are raised but learners are not shown how to get over them. After a given point of difficulty, learners may switch off in belief of their incapability.

It is important to note that right answers do not necessary equal understanding:

  •  it could be a guess
  •  it could be use of test-wise strategies
  • it could be identification of an isolated point but no overall understanding of the speaker’s message

Furthermore, an “incorrect” answer might be supported by textual evidence that the listener has noted but the teacher and/or writer has overlooked.

The comprehension approach is very teacher-centred: The teacher intervenes too much, learners tend to be isolated and the whole process is more like a test than a learning process.  This can be helped by doing jigsaw listening or by having learners check their answers in pairs prior to eliciting answers. Especially if you play the recording, allow learners to check in pairs, play the recording again, allow learners to check again and then elicit answers.

Another thing to bear in mind is: If one learner gets the right answer, what about the rest? Have they also understood?

A listener needs to:

  •  Select a listening type that is appropriate to input and task. Goals and types of listening are closely linked.  One might listen and respond, listen and challenge, listen and negotiate, locate and retain main points, monitor for one item (e.g. a train time or news of a particular road in a traffic bulletin), listen for interesting items (e.g. in a news bulletin) etc.

Listening varies along a spectrum from expeditious to careful and from local to global.

Process Listening

 According to this approach, listening is a process not a product.

We have decoding processes:

  •  Turning the stream of speech into sounds, then syllables, then words, then sentences

And we have meaning-building processes:

  •  Using background knowledge, contextual knowledge and co-textual knowledge to help us make sense of what we hear.

These processes interact rather than working in isolation. For example, we use context to help with decoding as well as for global meaning.

Why don’t learners understand?

 It could be lack of vocabulary, but it could also be that a known word is not recognized due to reduction, elision, assimilation or any other feature of connected speech. It could also be a problem of lexical segmentation e.g. instead of hearing catalogue, a learner might hear cat a log.

How can we help?

 Using authentic materials can help learners become accustomed to the natural cadences of the target language. We can also help learners become more used to and better able to extrapolate meaning from partially understood utterances

Teaching listening strategies can also help learners to listen more effectively.

Drawing attention to the way words change, in terms of how they sound, in connected speech i.e. elisions and assimilations etc.

Reflections (or, my chance to waffle and reprocess what I’ve read and learnt ;-) ):

 I learnt a lot about listening from doing my listening LSA: Reading Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom revolutionised my understanding of what’s involved in teaching listening (as opposed to merely testing it!). However, I think I possibly learnt at least as much again as a result of the materials development module that I did as part of my M.A. in ELT. This is because I discovered and then used theories from  Teaching and Learning Second Language Listening: Metacognition in Action, by Vandergrift and Goh to inform the materials I developed for assessment.

(As far as I can make out) Vandergrift and Goh argue that learners will be able to listen more effectively if they have greater control over the processes they use. As I understand it, developing learners’ metacognitive awareness of the cognitive processes they use in listening helps them become better able to select processes according to text type and task type. So we can help learners learn to plan, monitor and evaluate their listening, rather than just leaving them to listen haphazardly:

  • As well as having learners check their answers in pairs (as mentioned in my notes above), we can encourage them to pinpoint where their difficulties were, evaluate the effectiveness of the listening processes they used (did they use their background knowledge, did they use the co-text, did they use the context, did they try and translate every word etc.) and plan for the next listen through.
  • Before playing the recording, we can engage learners in discussion about the type of recording it is and what they can expect to hear: Different genres follow different predictable macro-scripts. Learners could then discuss what type of listening and what listening purposes match the genre in question. Of course we can also give them some information about the topic and encourage them to predict what kind of vocabulary and ideas might come up too. Reading something related to the topic prior to listening could also be useful.
  • All of these activities contribute to schema activation and planning: Once schemata are activated, learners are better prepared to listen and have more chance of listening successfully, and if learners plan how to listen as well, they can subsequently monitor the processes they use as well as how effective these are, and then evaluate the effectiveness of their plans.

The transcript can be used, after listening for meaning and detail, to help learners identify the problems they had, to help them understand why they didn’t understand:

  • They could circle words they didn’t manage to understand while listening and then use a list of prompts, e.g. “I heard the words but I couldn’t remember the meaning quickly enough”, to help them analyze their difficulties.
  • Activities such as listening and marking pauses and/or stressed words can also be done using the transcript.
  • Drawing learners’ attention to features of connected speech such as elision and assimilation can also be useful as learners often find it confusing when words sound so different as part of utterances compared to how they sound in isolation.

One thing I have noticed, since changing the way I teach listening, is that there is a tangible air of relief in the classroom when you allow learners to check their ideas together after they have listened. Listening stops being threatening because learners aren’t isolated and they know they aren’t about to be picked on when perhaps they aren’t confident of what they’ve heard. As learners are then more relaxed when they listen, they are likely to be able to hear more as anxiety and tension do not prevent them from focusing. Playing the recording again after learners have conferred before eliciting any answers is also useful as they can check what they have discussed and have the opportunity resolve any disagreements and plug any gaps.

Of course, like anything, you can’t do it ALL in one lesson. Over a course of lessons, however, the recording is your oyster…

In terms of the Delta, if you are doing a listening LSA:

  • Do yourself a big favour and read Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom as a minimum. (He has several articles in the ELTJ as well – see below for examples).  I’m biased but I’d say read Vandergrift and Goh as well, if you can: the theory is extremely interesting and it has lots of adaptable, useful, practical activities for you to try out in the classroom too. What I’ve alluded to is only the tip of the iceberg – both books contain such a wealth of valuable information and advice.
  • Try new things out with your learners well in advance of your assessed lesson – you probably don’t want to be springing a whole bunch of new techniques on them all at once while being observed! Also, you yourself may need time to get the hang of using the new techniques effectively (experiment, collect evidence, reflect, fine tune…) This may seem obvious but on the other hand it also requires good time management and advance planning, which are easier said than done, especially under Delta pressure! :-)

 Further recommended reading:

So, if you’ve read the books I mentioned above and are looking for more material to get your teeth into, or you’ve read the above-mentioned books and are now looking for extra references to beef up your bibliography, or you just incredibly interested in the ins and outs of teaching listening, you might like to have a look at these: 

Field, J. Promoting perception: lexical segmentation in L2 listening ELTJ vol. 57/4 October 2003. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2003.

Field, J. Looking outwards, not inwards. in ELTJ  vol 61/1. Oxford University Press. Oxford. 2007.

Kemp, J. (2010) The Listening Log: Motivating autonomous learning in ELTJ vol. 64/4. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Nation I.S.P, Newton J. Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking Routledge. 2009.