Delta Tips 8: Experimental Practice

This is the eighth 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.

Module 2 is divided into two parts: Firstly, the set of 4 LSAs (consisting of Background EssayLesson Plan/Observed Lesson and Post-Lesson Reflection/Self-evaluation) that you do during the course of your training and secondly, the PDA. The PDA is also divided into two parts: Part A is a reflection and action cycle and Part B is your Experimental Practice. Both parts aim to help you develop into a reflective, self-aware practitioner. Done effectively, there is a lot to be learnt from both parts, that you can use beyond the end of the course to keep furthering your development as a teacher. This post will focus on Part B. (Part A can be found here.)

The experimental practice is your opportunity to: select a specific approach, procedure, technique or tool that you haven’t tried before, research it, try it out in the classroom and evaluate the effectiveness of it. This process is something you will hopefully continue to do beyond the end of the course, though you may not wish to write an essay every time! 😉

You produce:

  1. a background essay: 750-1000 words, in which you synthesise your research on your chosen object of experimentation and give a rationale for your choice.
  2. a lesson commentary and objectives for teachers/learners: 750- 1000 words, the commentary is similar to the rationale in the LSA lesson plan i.e. you are justifying your planning decisions in relation to a specific group of learners and in addition, you state your objectives, the lesson objectives for the learners and the ways in which you will evaluate these.
  3. a lesson plan: this does not contribute to the word count. It is basically an LSA lesson plan minus the rationale/commentary (as this is included in the background essay document)
  4. a post lesson evaluation: 400-500 words (depending what remains when the above sections have been completed): you evaluate these exactly as you said you were going to. You need to mention the strengths and weaknesses of your lesson and how you will apply what you’ve learnt in future.

Tips for doing it effectively and getting the most out of it:

  • Don’t put it on the back burner: start work on it as soon as your centre tells you to. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can benefit from the positive impact it should have on your teaching and on future LSAs.
  • Choose something you are genuinely interested in learning more about and experimenting with: If it ties in with your PDA goals, so much the better. (E.g. one of my PDA goals related to making lessons more student-centred and for my experimental practice I did Cuisenaire rods, which can be one way of doing this)
  • Use a variety of different sources for your background reading: E.g. books, journal articles, magazine articles etc. I found English Teaching Professional was quite a handy magazine source, as it contains lots of practical ideas as well as theory.
  • Use sub-headings: These really help to make it clear that you have covered each of the criteria.
  • Be specific in your objectives and your intended methods of evaluation: How are you going to collect evidence? You might like to consider asking a colleague to observe your lesson and complete a tailor-made observation form, and/or film your lesson to analyse later, and/or elicit feedback from you students either orally or via forms or both, and/or jot down notes as your lesson progresses. The more evidence you have, the easier it is to identify if your objectives have been met or not.
  • Apply what you learn from doing the experimental practice to your PDA: I didn’t really “get” the PDA until I’d done the EP and realised that the process of investigation, experimentation, evidence collection and evaluation is exactly what works well for the PDA albeit on a smaller scale.
  • View it as a learning process rather than a test: If whatever you do doesn’t work, it’s equally as valuable a learning experience as if it does – provided you are clear about why.
  • Be systematic: do your investigation/research, decide what to do in your lesson and what the objectives are for you/your learners, decide how you are going to collect your evidence, get exactly that evidence and use it to evaluate your lesson.
  • Consider all of your evidence: Compare the results that each of your evidence collection methods yields. This will give a more complete picture of your lesson and so enable a clearer, better balanced evaluation.
  • Write the essay before you make the lesson plan and do the lesson: Ideally. It’s the logical path through. If time is tight, at least have clear notes, based on your reading, that you can later write up into an essay, from which to work.
  • Make sure your lesson plan is as detailed as your LSA lesson plans: And remember how long it takes to complete that bad boy when you are organising your time!
  • Enjoy it! It’s a great learning opportunity and complements PDA part A. Make the most of it and take the lessons learnt, both in terms of what you experimented and in terms of the process itself, forward.

If you think I have left out anything essential, or simply have any helpful tips to add, please do so by commenting on this post. If you are embarking on your Experimental Practice, good luck – it is a valuable experience!! 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Delta Tips 8: Experimental Practice

  1. Pingback: Delta Tips 7: PDA Part A | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

  2. Pingback: Useful links for Delta | Sandy Millin

  3. Pingback: Doing the Cambridge Delta: A Guide | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

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