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!