Delta Tips 13: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the Assessment

This is the thirteenth 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.
  • For help with the second section of the essay – the needs analysis – try Delta Tips 11.
  • To find out more about the third section of the essay – the course design – try Delta Tips 12

The focus of this post will be the fourth section – the assessment.)

Give yourself a pat on the back if you’ve got this far: you’ve finished designing your course and are ready to turn your mind to the issue of assessment. No small feat! Weighing in at 1000 words, +- 10%, the assessment section is nothing to sneeze at. If it’s any reassurance, it took me until I wrote the assessment section of my essay to actually get my head around a suitable writing style (and of course I had to then go back and redraft all the other sections with this eventually-acquired understanding!) – so don’t worry if it’s slow coming together, persevere and you will get there.

There are two main parts to the assessment section of the essay:

  • discussion of how you will use assessment to monitor learners’ progress and assess the learning outcomes proposed by your course.
  • discussion of how you will evaluate your course.

I’m sure at this stage if I say the words “principles” and “literature”, you will immediately understand the implication of this: Yup, as with the other sections, you need to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of principles of assessment and evaluation, as outlined in the relevant literature.

(If you’ve got this far and not read Testing for Language Teachers by Andrew Hughes, now is the time to do so!)

However, as usual, it’s not enough to regurgitate principles: you need to apply your chosen principles to the assessment procedures you have selected to weave into your course: one way of doing this is to paraphrase and reference the principle, then link it to an aspect of your assessment procedures. (When I produced the first draft of my assessment section, I wrote about the principles and then wrote about my assessment, in two separate paragraphs, then following feedback, redrafted so that it interwove rather than being separate. It was much clearer and saved lots of words!)

Without any further ado, here are some tips for getting through the production of your assessment section:

  • Remember the Magic 3: Look at 1) the assessment procedures and materials you are considering using and make sure they are suited to 2) the learning outcomes you have decided on for your course and informed by 3) assessment principles from the literature. If you have designed a speaking and listening course, with various related outcomes, then giving learners nothing more than a gap-fill grammar test is probably not going to be massively valid. (Extreme example, but the point remains…)
  • Mollycoddle the examiner(s): Use the guiding questions on page 73 of your module handbook to create sub-headings within your essay section 4, so that it is abundantly clear that you have included all the required information. The examiner is not interested in picking over your essay with a magnifying glass in order to find what he/she is looking for.
  • Bear in mind that no course exists in an ideal world: Be realistic – with the best will in the world, there are going to be obstacles to overcome. That’s fine, but show awareness of those obstacles and demonstrate clearly that your intentions in terms of assessment are the best way of doing what needs to be done.
  • Remember your learners: You know, that little group of people you did the needs analysis on and designed the course for? Yeah, them. Are the assessment procedures you have in mind suited to them and their needs?
  • Don’t forget to mention evaluation as well as assessment: You know how I mentioned there are two parts to this essay section? Make sure you don’t get so over-excited by your amazing assessment set-up that you forget to think about and describe how you are going to evaluate your course and why that is the best way to evaluate it (referring, of course, to the literature…) Include examples of any questionnaires or other activities used to evaluate the course in your appendices and cross-reference to these.
  • F is for…..: Formative assessment. Don’t forget this bad boy – you need to show exactly how you are going to monitor your learners’ progress as the course unfolds, not only what happens at the end. (And what do we call the assessment that happens at the end? That’s right, boys and girls, summative assessment.) Remember also to think about how the results that are generated by your amazing formative assessment procedure can feed into possible change of course content or approach.
  • Are your assessment tools all clear, present and accounted for: You should include sample tests in your appendices. Don’t include tests in your assessment process for the sake of it – make sure each has a clear purpose and place within your overall assessment process. And then make doubly sure that this is abundantly clear to the examiner: You might like to include a table with your assessment plan in your appendices, clearly stating each test, as well as the type of assessment it constitutes and when/why it is to be used (with reference to the literature, of course!). You could then cross-reference to this in your course plan and in your assessment essay section.
  • C is for (clear) cross-referencing: Refer to your appendices (assessment plan, sample assessment tools, any other assessment or evaluation-related documents…) within your essay and within your course plan. This will make it clearer how everything fits together and that this is a well-oiled machine, rather than a random collection of stuff thrown together at the last minute.
  • Gratuitous tip for anybody who needs to create a speaking assessment tool for their course: Read Luoma (2004) and use the headings in her example test specification documents to help you make one of your own. It’s time-consuming to write but a useful process to go through, to get it clear in your head what your assessment tool needs to do, in what context, how, when and why. You can also include this document in your appendices as extra evidence that your assessment tool is closely mapped to your course proposal and group of learners. Final plug for Luoma (2004): Reading this book really helped me get my head around assessing speaking and designing assessment tools.
  • Why are your choices important? You’ll be making a lot of decisions regarding tools to use, tools NOT to use, when and how often to use various assessment types etc etc: remember to think about why the decisions you made were important for the fit of your assessment programme to your course design. Don’t just make choices, be prepared to rationalise them clearly, with reference to the literature, your learners, your course proposal and learning outcomes and so on.

And now for some recommended reading:

Black, P(2009)  Formative Assessment Issues Across the Curriculum: The Theory and the Practice. TESOL Quarterly. Vol. 43, Issue 3, 519-523.

Davison, C. & Leung, C. (2009) Current Issues in English Language Teacher-Based Assessment. TESOL Quarterly, Vol.43, Issue 3, 393-415.

Graves, K (2001) Designing an Assessment Plan in Designing Language Courses. Newbury House Teacher Development.

Harris, M. (1997) Self-assessment of language learning in formal settings in ELTJ vol. 51/1. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Hedge, T. (2000)  Planning and Assessing Learning in Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom.

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

Luoma, S.(2004) Assessing Speaking. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Richards, J.(2001) Planning goals and learning outcomes in Curriculum Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Stoynoff, S (2012) Looking backward and forward at classroom-based language assessment in ELT Journal Volume 66/4 Special issue. 

Don’t give up – you’ve broken the back of the thing now. Hopefully the assessment section will help you bring it all together. 

You may (as I did) discover a desperate need for redrafting at this point, but don’t worry this is a good thing: it means that your understanding of your specialism and the literature is developing. Hurrah! And hopefully you have left enough time for that crucial redrafting phase… 😉

Coming soon: Tips for the Conclusion! Yes, even Delta Module 3 Extended Essay beasts do eventually come to a conclusion 🙂 (Update: tips for the conclusion can be found 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!

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7 thoughts on “Delta Tips 13: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the Assessment

  1. Pingback: Useful links for Delta | Sandy Millin

  2. This is a fantastic resource. I’m at the secondary research stage at the moment, so it’s great to have a clear overview of the whole shebang to know what I’m working towards. Thank you!

  3. Pingback: Delta Tips 14: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the conclusion and wrapping things up! | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

  4. Pingback: Delta Tips 12: Writing a Module 3 Essay – Course Proposal | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

  5. Pingback: Delta Examples 4: Module 3 – Assessment | Reflections of an English Language Teacher

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

  7. I would like to thank you for all the tips and guidance provided in this blog . Your blog has been really useful .I passed my delta module one with a distinction in December and submitted my module three paper in June.
    However, I am very surprised and disappointed at my module three result :pass.I had submitted a BE paper on teaching English for effective presentations. Due to the nature of the topic, certain parts were perhaps a little unusual, but my tutor at this institute was very happy with my work so I was expecting a merit at the very least. I am feeling dejected and a tad silly for choosing an unusual topic now. Could someone here guide me how I could apply for a detailed evaluation , I would like to know what mistakes I made and perhaps resubmit the paper in December. I had a few electronic-version related problems ät the end and I am wondering if the formatting was screwed up because of that.
    I hope one of you can help me on this regard as my tutor seems disinterested and there seems to be no mention of this in the handbook thanks .thanks again ….

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