Doing the Cambridge Delta: A Guide

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04

Good luck to all Delta candidates! 🙂

To quote from the official Cambridge assessment website, The Delta (Diploma of English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages) is:

“one of the best-known and most popular advanced TEFL/TESOL qualifications in the world. It is a flexible way for experienced English language teachers to progress further in their careers. Delta can be taken at any stage in a teacher’s career and is ideal for those wanting to update their teaching knowledge and improve their practice.”

It is a modular exam, consisting of three modules:

  • Module 1:

    Understanding language, methodology and resources for teaching. (Assessment: An exam consisting of two 1.5hr papers done in sequence with a break in between)

  • Module 2:

    Developing Professional Practice (Assessment: Three pieces of internal course work comprising a background essay, a lesson plan, an assessed lesson based on that plan and a reflection, followed by another piece of coursework with the same components but all assessed by a Delta Examiner)

  • Module 3: 

    Extending Practice and English Language Teaching specialism  (Assessment: An extended written assignment of 4500 words based on your specialism) There is also an English Language Management option.

This post guides you through the processes of:

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.041. choosing how and where to do your course
Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.042. preparing for your course
Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.043. completing each of the modules
Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.044. moving on to greater things ( 🙂 )

Based on my experience of the Delta, and incorporating the experience of others, it is structured as a Q and A, dealing with questions you might have with regards to each of the above categories as you progress through them and contains links to many handy resources (all easily identifiable with this symbol Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04) – some of which are mine, some of which are not. I hope it proves a useful resource to refer back to as the questions arise!

1. Choosing how and where to do your course

If you are thinking about doing the Delta, it is important to be aware of the options available to you. There are many options for how to complete these modules:

  •  intensively (all three modules in one go)
  • part-time (one module at a time, or two modules at a time, in sequence or spaced out)
  • distance learning or face-to-face.

Q. How can I find out which way would best suit me?

A. The best thing to do is find out as much as you can about the various options before you make your decision:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Sandy Millin has created  “Delta Conversations”, a series of guest posts in which people have answered questions about the Delta they did. This would be a good starting point to help you understand the pros and cons of each option. (And when you’ve finished your Delta, contact her to participate!)
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04(I took part in the above-mentioned series, and you can find out more about my experience of doing the Delta intensively at Leeds Metropolitan University here.)
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04TEFL.net have a nice, short FAQ page about the Delta, which also has a link to another page with FAQs about higher qualifications in general.

Once you have decided which route to take, you can really help yourself by doing some preparation before you start your course: both in terms of the course content and your own well-being.

I would say in my case that all the preparation I did in the run up to the course was one of the major factors in my success with it (the other major factor being my tutors and course mates at Leeds Met! 🙂 )

2. Preparing for your Delta: possible pre-course questions and where to find the answers:

Q. What should I do before I start my Delta?

A. There are a few things you can do, before embarking on this extraordinary journey, to help yourself begin on firm footing.

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04You could also think about investing in the latest book to hit The Round’s virtual bookshelves: How to Pass Delta : by the extremely experienced Damian Willians, it is available for a small fee and, I imagine, well worth that investment!

If you are still slightly bemused, or just thirsty to read more, here are several blogposts you could look at next, each of which contains guidance related to this question…

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Before, during and after the Delta: I wrote this post, based on my experience of doing the Delta. It contains tips to help you stay sane pre-, during- and post-Delta experience.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta FAQ: In this post, I answered students’ questions about the Delta on their induction day at Leeds Met. It contains lots of tips for preparing yourself for the Delta and making the most of it while you are doing it, including a list of things that are useful to know before you start and as you set off on mission Delta. It also contains a couple of reading recommendations for each of the systems (grammar, phonology, discourse, lexis) and skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening)

Q. That list of books from Cambridge is massive, I don’t know where to start – what should I read first?

A. It *is* a massive list: there’s a lot of amazing ELT-related literature out there! However, if you want something a bit smaller and more manageable to start off with, I have created an annotated list of potentially useful resources:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Annotated List of Resources I found useful in preparing for and doing the Delta: Does what it says on the tin – getting to grips with some of this will help lighten the load during the course. (It will still be ridiculously heavy but your sanity may stay closer to intact!) Getting ahead with reading will mean that you have more time (and processing space in your brain!) to devote to grappling with pernickety Cambridge requirements. This post is broken down by module, and then in module 2 by LSA and then PDA.)

3. During your Delta

When you start doing your Delta, there will be huge amounts of information coming your way. You will probably also discover just how tricky it is to jump through hoops whose size and whereabouts you aren’t entirely sure of. (The good news is, you can learn a lot too, and really enrich your practice!)

As you work your way through your Delta modules, questions about what to do and how to do it may crop up. Here are some potential questions that may arise and some resources to help you answer them:

Module 1

Q. How DOES the exam fit together?  

A. Here is a flow-chart that shows the structure of the exam, complete with suggested timings for each question:

Q. I’ve looked at the Delta handbook and tried to understand just what it is the examiners want, and I listen really carefully in my preparation classes, but I still don’t really get it. How do I answer the questions the way they want me to? 

A. Here are some blog posts related to the structure of the two exam papers, with tips for how to answer each question successfully and package your answers the Cambridge way…

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 4:  Delta exam paper 1 –  tips related to the structure of this part of the exam in terms of what each question requires and the points available, as well as how to approach answering the questions, in terms of laying out the information in an examiner-friendly way.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 5: Delta exam paper 2 – as above but for paper 2.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04 Paper One Dale Coulter’s guide to part 1 of the exam, also dealing with structure and answering the questions.

Q. The exam date is getting nearer, and I really don’t feel ready! How can I help myself revise more effectively?

A. There are many ways of going about module one revision – reading, doing past papers (have you done all of these, on the Cambridge website?), boning up on terminology, language analysis, or how to write in phonemic script… Here are some links to help your revision along:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 6: Useful resources for Module 1 revision – a collection of links that will be useful as the exam approaches.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Revision chart: A colourful revision chart that I made for the Module 1 exam, this provides a visual aid to help with remembering the structure of the exam and how to lay out your answers.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 15: A checklist for anybody preparing for the Module 1 exam

Q. You said I should use Quizlet to revise terminology, but I don’t know how?!

A. You can find out how to use it, through the following step-by-step guide:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04 Quizlet!. (NB this was created for language learners, but the principle is the same – only the content of your cards will differ! 🙂 )

Once you understand it better, you could do worse than check out Sandy Millin’s Delta Group on it…

Q. I have no life! I haven’t since I started this damn course. Is this normal?

A. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone!

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Barry O’Leary shares his journey here.

But do try and take some time for yourself, however hard it is to make:

Module 2

Q. I have to write an LSA essay. Hmm. How do I do that? 

A. First you need to decide which system (grammar, lexis, phonology, discourse) or skill (receptive: listening or reading; productive: speaking or writing) to focus on, which at least initially will probably be influenced by your centre and the running order of their module 2 course.

When you embark on the essay, your tutors will be best placed to guide you in the “how”, but for some additional tips, have a look at:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 1 : Writing a background essay for an LSA, which provides some suggestions for getting to grips with this beast.

You may also find it useful to look at

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04my Delta Notes series (based on notes I made during my Delta, so far including error correction and teaching listening, with more forthcoming)
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Sandy Millin’s carefully-tagged Delta-related bookmarks may be useful!

Q. Right, I’ve finished my essay, how about the lesson plan? There seem to be endless criteria to fulfil…

A. Yes, there are lots of criteria – hopefully you’ve left plenty of time to get to grips with this component. In addition to listening very carefully to your tutors’ suggestions, you could have a look at my blog post with some tips for how to help yourself meet these:

Q. I’ve survived the lesson (thank God!) but now I need to do the post-lesson evaluation. Where do I start? What should I include?

A. As well as reading the Delta Handbook on this topic, and following your tutors’ advice, for some extra tips you could look at my post on the topic:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 3: (My tips for) Writing an LSA post-lesson reflection/evaluation

Q. This module is driving me crazy!! I think I’m going to cry…

A. Again, you are not alone:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04My post The Delta/M.A. Treadmill echoes the “arrrrghhh” (mixed in with exhilaration!) and offers some tips for sanity maintenance! (Not a serious post… 😉 )

Q. I still have to do my PDA part A and Experimental Practice. Can’t I just leave them until I’ve sorted out the LSAs?

A. It would be much better to get started as soon as possible! The PDA part A is supposed to be done alongside your module 2 work, as it is your opportunity to develop into a reflective practitioner. What you learn while doing your PDA could/should feed directly into your development in your LSA lesson planning and teaching practices. Equally, any weaknesses highlighted in your LSAs could/should feed into your PDA. I found this component of Module 2 very valuable developmentally and would really recommend not putting it on the back burner.

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 7: Doing PDA Part A offers some tips for getting the most out of your PDA.

The Experimental Practice is another valuable learning opportunity: it actually helped me figure out what to do with my PDA (I was slow to catch on!), and, long term, how to embark on a cycle of reflection, experimentation, evaluation and more reflection.

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 8: Doing the Experimental Practice offers some tips for getting the most out of your EP.
  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Experimental Practice in ELT by Jennie Wright and Christina Rebuffet-Broadus is available from The Round for a small fee, containing ideas and sample lesson plans suited to the EP as well as to teachers who want to Experiment outside of Delta training.

Module 3

Q. Cambridge wants me to do WHAT? I’m confused… Where should I start? What do they want? What should I read? 

A. I would start by reading the Module 3 section of the handbook!  If you are still no clearer, you could have a look at:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 9: Writing a Module 3 Essay – Overview and Starting Out 

Hopefully the input sessions on your course will also help you understand what you are supposed to produce, how and when.

Q. I’m writing a draft of my introduction now, but I’m not entirely sure if I’m doing it right. How do I fit in everything that Cambridge seem to want?

A. Well, you’re off to a good start if you know what Cambridge want! 🙂

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 10: in Writing a Module 3 Essay – the Introduction I offer some tips for how to meet Cambridge’s criteria for the introduction. It might also help if you are still a little hazy about exactly what to include in your introduction.

Q. How do I do a Needs Analysis with my students and what should I write in the corresponding essay section?

A. The Needs Analysis is an important element of the extended assignment. This is where you take the issues that you pinpointed in your introduction, consider how to assess your learners in order to identify where they stand in relation to these, and identify the areas that your course design will need to focus on. If you put a lot of reading, effort and thought into this section and create your tools very carefully, you will make your life a lot easier in the subsequent sections.

Here are some tips and recommended reading (books, articles etc) that I put together for working your way through this section of the essay:

Q. Well, I’m not sure if my Needs Analysis is quite right, but nevertheless it’s time to design and write about my course. How do I get from the priorities that my NA highlighted to my completed course plan and course design section? (Ideally without going insane in the process…)

A. This is arguably the most time-consuming portion of the extended assignment: You need to produce a 20hr course plan that addresses the priorities you’ve identified, and write about it in such a way that covers everything that Cambridge want to know about it. You may also want to showcase some sample materials that your course uses in your appendices.

Here are some tips and recommended reading that I put together to help you get through this section of the essay:

Q. I’m losing the will to live now – but it’s not over yet <sob>: Apparently I have to do the assessment section next! Help!

A. Don’t worry, you’re getting closer to point completion now! And hopefully all the reading up on the literature related to assessment that you did while doing the Needs Analysis section will also have given you a leg up with this section. Besides, by now you will be getting the hang of the writing style (or, at least, it took me this long! 🙂 ) and of Cambridge module 3 hoop-jumping.

Here are some tips and recommended reading that I put together to make your life easier for the assessment section:

Q. Hurrah! I can see daylight at the end of this module 3 tunnel from hell! How do I finish this bad boy off?!

A. Ok, first of all, the fat lady is not singing quite yet so hold on for a bit longer! The conclusion is short but still important. Don’t dash it off at the last minute… Fortunately, it is a lot less involved than the previous sections and mainly requires good evaluative skills. You are on the home-stretch now!

Here are some of my last tips to help you bring your assignment to a close and sort out the packaging (do not underestimate this final packaging phase!! It is a time-muncher!):

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 14: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the conclusion and wrapping things up

Enjoy the wonderful feeling of submitting the beast *at long last*! 🙂

4. Conclusion – or, moving on to better things

This brings me to the end of my rough guide to the Cambridge Delta. I hope the Delta journey is rewarding for you. Don’t forget to share your own experiences/example assignments/tips (if you don’t keep a blog, I would be happy to host a guest post about your experiences on mine – just get in touch!) – and, of course, do have a holiday before you do anything else! Now that you have completed a highly sought-after qualification, it is time to think about what to do with it and where you want to go! So, finally, bear in mind the tips in the final section of this post, as you set off on your post-qualification journey:

After the Delta is an important time and the world is your oyster – all my best wishes for a bright, rewarding future! Make the most of it and enjoy! 🙂

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Delta Tips 14: Writing a Module 3 Essay – the conclusion and wrapping things up!

This is the fourteenth 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
  • To get to grips with the fourth section of the essay – the assessment – look at Delta Tips 13.

The focus of this post is the conclusion of the essay and “wrapping things up” – by which I mean making sure your finished product is packaged the way Cambridge want it! (No mean feat… 😉 )

Congratulations! You have made it to the final section of the Module 3 essay-beast! You are probably sick of the sight of it and really looking forward to finally getting rid of the damn thing, but persevere, for this final section: the fat lady ain’t singing jeeust yet!

The conclusion, for which you are allowed to use a piddly 400 words, is where you will:

  • evaluate what you have produced: extol the virtues (benefits for learners, ways in which learning objectives are met through what you propose) and explain how you minimised the negatives as much as you could in the given circumstances (identify the limitations, the effect on the learners and how these limitations are better than the alternatives).
  • succinctly identify and summarise application of principles to practice: making reference to previous sections, how did the principles you identified to start with (section 1) affect the design of your course (sections 2, 3 and 4)?

Top tips:

  •  Don’t hope that the examiners won’t notice the problems with your design: They will. Hopefully you have done your best to design out flaws, but in the real world nothing is perfect. The trick is to recognise the imperfections and be able to justify (succinctly, as usual!) their existence and explain how you have minimised them as much as possible. Show that the benefits outweigh the limitations.
  • Demonstrate that your essay is a beautiful, cohesive whole: summarise how part 1 fed into part 2, which fed into part 3, which fed into part 4. Show how the issues identified in part 1 have been addressed in the process of designing parts 2-4.
  • Use sub-headings: The examiners like having relevant information flagged up – this saves them from hunting through your writing trying to identify if you have or haven’t met this or that criteria. (Imagine how you’d feel with a massive list of criteria to apply to someone’s writing – you’d want all the help you could get! Now imagine you are on your nth script of the day – how hard are you going to look for the needles in the haystack? 😉 ) *p.74 contains guidance about the conclusion – use those guiding questions to help you insert your guidance for the examiner.
  • Be succinct: You have 400 words – use them wisely! Reference in a space-efficient way (as demonstrated in previous post of this series) Word-count is very important: if you are over the limit, you will be penalised (and you want ALL of those marks!!), if you are 100 words or more over the limit, your essay will be sent back unmarked and you’ll have to pay again once you’ve cut down the number of words. Better to make sure in advance of sending it the first time!

The appendices and wrapping it all up

Don’t forget that it isn’t over until it’s over: once you’ve written your amazing 4500 word Module 3 essay beast, and accumulated a load of supporting documents, you then have to collate all this in exactly the way Cambridge wants you to.

Top tips:

  • Read the handbook pages 74 -76 carefully. Follow the guidelines for packaging (p.74/75), presentation (p.75) and referencing (p.76). Then when you have finished, read it again and check that you really *have* followed them. Cambridge are picky, there’s no doubt about it, but at least they explain the ways in which they are going to be picky, so that you can tailor your essay to their pickiness! If you are lucky enough, get someone who will proofread it for you, checking that you have met all the pernickety criteria (or if you are even luckier, your tutor will give it a final once over and check everything is in the right place!).
  • Remember, this stage will take longer than you think! (I can remember finishing my essay and then spending an awfully long time getting all the various bits of appendices together, in the right order, in the correct documents etc…) So leave plenty of time to do it in, in order to minimise your stress levels – these will be high enough as it is! 😉
  • Hopefully you will have been keeping your list of references as you went along. Make sure you have got all your references on it. Only list those resources that you have actually referred to in the essay itself – what Cambridge calls “explicit evidence” is necessary to show that you have read what you list.
  • You may find that your files are larger than Cambridge’s maximum file size. Fortunately, Word has a file-shrinking tool that you can use. Also make sure that when you plonk .pdf’s into your document (completed questionnaires, sample materials and the like) that you have saved them in the smallest file size that you can first.
  • Don’t forget your contents page. Hopefully you have lots of neatly labelled sub-headings in your document – these can come together to form part of your contents page, beneath the section headings. (I’m in the process of uploading samples of my Module 3 essay, so will upload my contents page too and link to it here, in due course…)
  • Finally, remember to use the Cambridge naming conventions for each file (Handbook p.75)

When all is done and dusted, pat yourself on the back and get yourself taken out for a large glass of the beverage of your choice! 🙂 Congratulations!!

Blogging highlights of 2013: me versus WordPress Monkeys!

I received an email from WordPress this morning: Your 2013 year in blogging. I also recently read 12 from ’12: The best of your posts from this year (blog challenge) by Adam Simpson. I had planned to round off 2013 by writing something along similar lines to identify my blogging highlights for this year. This post will be a mixture of that and response to WordPress‘s report on my blog activity this year…

According to WordPress, here are my top 5 posts for this year.

This is based on the number of views received. So, according to their quantitative analysis:

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 10.05.32

The best according to WordPress!

Though I hadn’t started writing the intended Top 13 from ’13 blogpost before receiving WordPress‘s email (unless you count setting up a draft post with a title as starting :-p ), I had started thinking about what blogposts I would choose:

WordPress and I agree with regards to number 1. 30 things to enhance your teaching? would definitely have headed my list of my favourite posts of mine from 2013. Why?  Because it got me loads of views? No. Because not only did it win me the British Council blog of the month award for June 2013 (which, to be fair, accounts for it topping the “number of views analysis”), but, as importantly, it is also a reminder of the fantastic flavour of learning that I tasted while doing my course at Leeds Met Uni during the academic year 2012/13. I had the time of my life, learnt loads and look back on the experience with great fondness and appreciation.

Of the rest of that list, 4 and 5 would also definitely have made the 13 for ’13 cut. Extensive Reading part 2 is important to me because it came about as as result of my (on-going) learner autonomy development projects and as a result of my own recent experiences of using extensive reading for my own language learning. Bringing Metacognition into the Classroom would have made the cut because I still find the whole area of metacognition and metacognitive awareness development and its role in language learning fascinating. My interest was sparked by Teaching and Learning Second Language Listening by Vandergrift and Goh, which I read in preparation for designing the materials I created for my Materials Development module assessment, having stumbled across it by chance in Leeds University Library (making use of my SCONUL card!). A chance discovery that had a deep impact both on my assignment and my conceptualisation of language teaching and learning.

Delta Tips 6: Resources for Module 1 exam revision would probably not have made the cut, but I would certainly have chosen a post from my Delta Tips series, as representative of the series, which I enjoyed writing because it gave me the opportunity to reprocess all my learning and create a record of it to look back on (we always extol the virtues of peer-teaching in the language classroom and I think as teachers we can benefit as much as our learners by sharing and reflecting on what we learn), and because judging by the number of views the various posts in the series have had, they’ve been at least moderately useful to other Delta trainees.

The final post listed in the WordPress top 5, at number 3, (Elementary Teens (13-15 year olds) Christmas Lesson) wouldn’t have made the cut for my 13 for ’13 list either. I think I would have gone for my Elementary Teens Global Issues SIG challenge materials/lesson plan instead. Why? Because it was a rewarding process making materials to meet the challenge both of Global SIG’s food awareness month and of engaging my teenagers early on in their course.

Other posts that didn’t make the quantitative top 5 but would make my qualitative top 5 (or 13 from ’13) would be:

  • my posts, Part 1 and Part 2, about my Delta and M.A. respectively, because they act as a reminder of the professional and personal growth I’ve enjoyed since September 2012 and a motivator to continue pushing myself to use what I’ve learnt and add to it.
  • a post as representative of my Dissertation Diary series, e.g. this one, which helped me achieve a solid mark for my dissertation materials/rationale and which provides me with a window to look back on that process and remind myself of what I learnt as well as how.
  • In response to Observations of an Elementary Language User as representative of all my posts relating to my experience of being back in the Elementary language learning seat, which has also influenced my teaching and my learner autonomy projects in various ways.
Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 17.24.01

Posting a-go-go!

2013 has definitely been a year of blossoming for my blog: The 83 posts mentioned above were all written from May onwards this year, so in the space of about 8 months. Meanwhile, the three previous years of blogging yielded the other 21 – quite a stark contrast! What have I gained from blogging so extensively? Well, my British council blog award and resultant webinar (forthcoming!) on learner autonomy, for starters. But also, a space to reflect and re-process my learning, as well as a record of my professional development over the course of time. It gives me a lot of pleasure to look back over posts I’ve written and recapture the excitement, motivation, inspiration etc that the posts were borne of, while reminding myself what I’ve learnt.

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 17.24.41

Countries, countries, everywhere!

That my posts have been read by people from 164 countries makes me feel a sense of connectedness to teachers and the industry worldwide – I feel a part of something. The teachers I communicate with via Twitter, via this blog, via their blogs (I’m planning a post where I list the blogposts by others which have most inspired me in 2013 – stay tuned! Update: That post is now written and can be found here) and other means of online CPD (e.g. participating in webinars) are all part of the big online staffroom that I am lucky enough to be able to pop into on a regular basis and from which I gain and share ideas, creativity, motivation and inspiration.

Blossoming blog (“Frangipani_flowers” taken from Google images search, licensed for commercial reuse with modification)

And finally, to end my last post for this year, a big thank you to everybody who has been part of my 2013 and all my very best wishes for a happy and fulfilling 2014. Carpe diem! 🙂

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!

Countdown to Delta Module 1 exam – Good luck, candidates!

On the first Wednesday in December (if I’m not mistaken…), there will be knots of worried (or perhaps super-confident!) TEFLers gathering at Cambridge exam centres the world over, ready to try their luck at the beast that is the Module 1 exam. Are you one of them? If you are, are you ready? Here is a little checklist to help you out…

  • Have you practised writing at speed for 3hrs with only a half hour break in the middle? If not, I recommend that you do so this weekend! And, find a nice, comfortable pen, making sure you have spares in case it runs out.
  • Have you learnt the structure of the exam? Test yourself – get out a piece of paper and write down what you know about the requirements (points on offer, how you will/should package your answer, exactly what information is required in each answer) of each question of each paper. Check the outcome against my posts, for paper 1 and for paper 2  – how did you do? It’s worth doing this (I did it several times, minus checking against my posts – they were only a collection of notes at the time!) – knowing exactly what’s required is half the battle to being able to produce it under pressure. It might be worth making something like this chart if you brain responds well to colour…
  • Have you got your phonemes under control? If not, it’s not too late! Have a go at writing a short text in phonemic script. First with the chart to hand (if you need it), then without the chart, to force you to remember. Then try and write quickly in phonemic script. If you are shaky on your symbols, have a look at my useful resources for module 1″ post  where you can find links to Adrian Underhill’s chart, presentation on youtube and app.
  • Have you got your terminology tightened up? Test yourself using all the flashcards that Delta hopefuls past and present have created on Quizlet (you can find a link to many of these in my useful resources post too). Or, if you prefer less new-fangled ways of learning, get your Thornbury A-Z of ELT and open it at random. Pick a term, define it and check your definition against his.
  • Do you know your reliability from your validity? Your proficiency test from your achievement test? Dig out past papers for any English exams that students can do e.g. KET, PET, FCE, CAE, the placement test used at your school, the last achievement test you gave your students and analyse them in relation to a specific student or group of students. (If you’re feeling really geeky, make some student profile cards and divide them up so that they are a reasonable fit with the exam type you are analysing. Pick an exam and a card from the appropriate pile and give yourself the Paper 2 question 1 time limit to analyse it.)
  • Can you look at a spread of course book material and infer all the activity aims and assumptions about learning of the course book writer? Grab the course book nearest you and check! Can you come up with the requisite number of points within the allocated time limit?
  • How is your language analysis? Pick a short text and analyse the hell out of it. If you’re not sure about any of it, time to open About Language by Scott Thornbury and make sure!! Remember, Cambridge examiners give points for the strangest things:  if you think it, you might as well write it down just in case – as long as you can write quickly!
  • Do you know all there is to know about authentic materials? Look at every piece of authentic text you see today, from your cereal packet to adverts in town to …you name it! Can you identify generic features? If not, flick through Beyond the Sentence by Thornbury or Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers by McCarthy and refresh your memory…
  • What do you see when you look at a piece of student writing? Can you analyse it for positives/negatives and things that most need working on, giving reasons for your choices? Can you package this information so that the Cambridge examiner can see it easily? Can you do this super-quickly? Test yourself and make sure you can! (You are more than welcome to use my progress test scripts that need marking this morning for practice!! 😉 )
  • Can you look at a course book speaking or writing activity and know what students (of a particular level) need? Pick an activity, any activity, of this sort, and see how quickly you can list what learners need (language, structural elements etc), along with appropriate examples.
  • How’s your knowledge of SLA theory? If you need a quick refresher, why not spend 45 minutes (or so) watching Chia Suan’s British Council Webinar on this topic? (You can find the link to this  in my useful resources for module 1″ post  post.)
  • Have you done a mock exam (Paper 1 AND Paper 2, one after the other with only the allocated break time in between) yet? If not, get on it. If so, do another this weekend or on Monday/Tuesday – it won’t hurt to get yourself right in that zone again!

Don’t panic, you’ll be fine. Try and enjoy it (I know, I know…) – it’s an opportunity to show off everything you’ve learnt and it will be over before you know it! (Thank goodness…)

Good luck! 🙂

Delta Tips 12: Writing a Module 3 Essay – Course Proposal

This is the twelfth 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
  • The focus of this post will be the third section – the course proposal.

So, you’ve researched your specialism and identified all the inherent issues, carried out a meticulously detailed needs analysis, synthesised all the information it yielded and you’re ready to proceed. What comes next? Creating a coherent 20-hour course, whose content responds to the issues and learner needs unearthed in sections 1 and 2.

There are two parts to this:

  • essay section part 3 (+- 1100 words), in which you discuss the content and structure of your course
  • the course map, which goes into your essay appendices

NB: There should be clear links between the two, funnily enough…

There are multiple things to remember and refer back to when you are designing your course:

  • Your secondary research findings from section 1
  • Your needs analysis data from section 2
  • Principles of course and syllabus design (these should influence your course proposal!)
  • Learning aims and objectives (which you will have decided upon based on your secondary research and needs analysis)
  • Institutional constraints
  • How the various strands of your course relate and interact (colours and arrows will become your friends)

Within the course proposal, you need to:

  • show the examiners how savvy you are about principles/theories relating to course/syllabus design (remember, show off!)
  • show the examiners that you are not a plagiarist (i.e. reference all the wonderful principles/theories alluded to above).
  • explain in no uncertain terms how the afore-mentioned principles have informed your course map.
  • make it blindingly obvious how your course proposal responds to issues identified in part 1 and learners needs (by now thoroughly analysed) from part 2.
  • draw the examiner’s attention to your learning aims and objectives (which will of course be clearly mapped to your learners needs…), teaching approaches, course content and your choice of materials. These will of course all be thoroughly justified/rationalised.
  • reassure the examiners that your head is not in the clouds – your course proposal (and map) should not only be operable in cloud cuckoo land.
  • refer to your course map a) so that it is clear that your course proposal and your course map are hand in glove and b) to make it easier for the examiner to see that your course map does what you claim it does. (Remember, you want the examiner to like you! 😉 )

Within the course map, you need to:

  • provide sufficient detail regarding the content of your course (“Lesson 1 – a bit of reading and a few discussion questions” does not count as sufficient detail :-p)
  • give some indication of how the content maps to your part 1 issues and part 2 learner needs.
  • make reference to any materials you include in your appendices (you are not “required” to put any samples of teaching materials in your appendices but you “may” – including some is probably going to be a good thing!). This is as simple as brackets and appendix number next to mention of the materials in question e.g. material x (A2.iii)

Tips for doing all this successfully:

  • use arrows and/or colour in your course map: these make it easier to demonstrate links to theory/issues/needs and inclusion of key content. (Otherwise, find another way to make this blindingly obvious to the poor examiner who is on his twentieth script and getting really bored/tired :-p)
  • use sub-headings in your course proposal: don’t just include everything that is required, take the examiner by the hand and show him/her *exactly* where that essential information is.  (You could use the “guiding” questions on page 73 of the Delta Handbook to help you formulate your subheadings…)
  • don’t include content in your course map for the sake of it: show how the content you are including helps you/your learners meet your learning objectives (which are based on their needs and the implications inherent in your specialism).
  • don’t just copy out a course book syllabus: the course book wasn’t made with your group of learners in mind, to meet their specific needs. Sorry. 😉 If you use any published materials within your course, make sure you thoroughly justify why you have chosen them and how they meet your learners’ needs.
  • Think “why”/”how” not just “what”: 
    • Why does your course represent the best way of meeting your learners’ needs and fulfilling the learning aims/objectives that arise from these?
    • Why have you chosen to follow these principles/theories of course design and not any others?
    • Why are you including this content?
    • Why are you using that set of materials?
    • Why are you using this approach?
    • How will your choices with regards to all of these benefit your learners more than another set of choices could?

And make your answers to these questions clear to your examiner through your course proposal.

  • Read pages 72 and 73 of your handbook: Then read them again.  Then make sure you’ve read them properly.
  • Don’t make life complicated: A 20hr course is required. Not 25, not 30…so don’t do more than 20! More than 20 hours is “acceptable” but do you really want to produce the level of detail required for more than the number of hours required? (The answer is “no”…)

Final tips:

Don’t underestimate how much time you will need to produce a 20hr course map that is sufficiently detailed.

Don’t waste any opportunity to get feedback from your module tutor – if your course proposal/map doesn’t make sense to your tutor, it is highly unlikely to make sense to your examiner (however much sense it may make to you!) Better to find out from your tutor than the examiner… 😉

As usual, be ready to draft and redraft your course proposal. You are unlikely to get it right first time. There’s always room for improvement! 🙂

Don’t underestimate the power of arrows and colours! 🙂 (For a lesson in using arrows to good effect, just look to trusty Tricia Hedge’s Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom…)

Some potentially useful resources:

Graves, K (2001) Organizing the course in Designing Language Courses. Newbury House Teacher Development.

Graves, K (2008) The Language Curriculum: A social contextual perspective in Language Teaching vol. 41/2. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Hall, G.(2011) Planning and organizing L2 learning and teaching. in Exploring English Language Teaching: Language in Action. Routledge. Oxon.

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

Nation P. and Macalister J.(2010) Language Curriculum Design. Routledge. Oxon.

Richards, J.(2001) Course planning and syllabus design in Curriculum Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

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

But don’t forget:.

Resources relating to teaching and learning theories relevant to your learners’ needs and your specialism! (E.g. if your course has a heavy listening/speaking focus, as dictated by your learners’ needs and requirements related to your specialism, you might like to think about including reference to theory related to the teaching of listening and speaking, both in your proposal in terms of approaches and in your course map in terms of how your content maps to theory.)

Persevere!!!!

It will feel really good when you *finally* fill in the final arrow and highlight and change the font colour for the final time! And you will/should also learn a lot in the process of putting together the course map and accompanying section three course proposal. Make the most of it! 🙂

Coming soon: Tips for the Assessment  section! Stay tuned, if you can bear it… ;-) (Update: You can now find tips for the assessment section 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 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!