Webinar on Learner Autonomy: Information and References

Today, the 19th of February 2014, at 11 a.m. C.E.T., I had the privilege of leading a webinar on Learner Autonomy Development, courtesy of the British Council’s Teaching English website. I started with a discussion regarding the theory related to learner autonomy, inviting participants to offer their own definitions and images of learner autonomy, and using the variety of definitions offered to illustrate how learner autonomy looks different in different contexts, before providing some definitions from the literature. This was followed with a brief look at each of my current learner autonomy development projects:

  • the Reading Project (click here)
  • the Experimenting with English Project (click here)
  • the Edmodo/Blog Project (click here)

(Links to these will be added in the next few days, as they are published)

Links to these can also be found on my Learner Autonomy page (click here). They cover largely the same ground as that covered in my webinar but with additional information regarding the process I went through with each project while developing it with my learners.

I concluded my webinar with a series of quotes from learner autonomy theorists. Each of these, I feel, makes an important point that is worth keeping in mind as you embark on the process of working with your learners to develop autonomy both inside and outside the classroom.

To see the recording of this webinar, please click here.

Many thanks to the British Council for giving me this wonderful opportunity, to International House Palermo for being supportive of my penchant for trying new things in the classroom, and last, but assuredly not least, to all the tutors in the M.A. ELT department at Leeds Metropolitan University for helping me find my voice and empowering me to question things as well as look for answers. Looking for answers may mostly lead to further questions (!), but it’s an amazing journey to go on. 🙂

Here is a full list of the references used in the webinar:

Benson, P. (2003)  Learner autonomy in the classroom in in Nunan, D. [ed] Practical English language teaching. PRC: Higher education press/McGraw Hill.

Benson, P. (2011) Teaching and Researching Autonomy (2nd Edition) Pearson Education. Harlow.

Borg and Al-Busaidi (2012) Learner Autonomy: English Language Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices British Council, London.

Dornyei and Ushioda (2012) Teaching and Researching Motivation (Kindle Edition) Pearson Education. Harlow.

Holec, H. (1981) Autonomy and foreign language learning. Pergamon. Oxford (First published 1979, Strasbourg: Council of Europe.)

Holliday, A. (2005) The struggle to teach English as an International Language (Kindle Edition) Oxford University Press. Oxford.

McCarthy, T. (2013)  Redefining the learning space: Advising tools in the classroom in in Menegale, M [ed] Autonomy in Language Learning: Getting learners actively involved. (Kindle Edition) IATEFL, Canterbury.

Oxford, R. (2003) Towards a more Systematic Model of L2 Learner Autonomy in Palfreyman, D and Smith, R. [Ed] Learner Autonomy Across Cultures. Palgrave Macmillan. Basingstoke.

Smith, R. and Ushioda, E. (2009) Under whose control? in  in Pemberton, Toogood and Barfield [Ed] Maintaining Control: Autonomy and Language Learning. Hong Kong University Press. Hong Kong.

Smith, R. (2003) Pedgagogy for Autonomy as (Becoming) Appropriate Methodology in Palfreyman, D and Smith, R. [Ed] Learner Autonomy Across Cultures. Palgrave Macmillan. Basingstoke.

If you are interested in learning more about Learner Autonomy, I would recommend the following resources:

Benson, P. (2003) Autonomy in language teaching and learning in Language Teaching vol. 40 issue 1 p.21-40. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Menegale, M [ed] (2013) Autonomy in Language Learning: Getting learners actively involved. (Kindle Edition) IATEFL, Canterbury.

Palfreyman, D and Smith, R. [Ed] (2003) Learner Autonomy Across Cultures. Palgrave Macmillan. Basingstoke.

The IATEFL SIG newsletter, Independence, which comes out three times a year and is free to SIG members or £6.50 to non-SIG members.

If you are interested in learning about research done into the use of CMC tools in the language classroom, I would recommend the following resources:

Pinkman, K. (2005) Using blogs in the foreign language classroom in The JALT CALL Journal vol 1

Tratjemberg and Yiakoumetti (2011) Weblogs: a tool for EFL interaction, expression, and self-evaluation in ELT Journal vol 65/4. Oxford University Press.

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Laila’s Story: the next instalment of my materials (listening, language focus and pronunciation) at last!

Months ago (erm, late September to be slightly more precise!), I started uploading instalments of the unit of materials I made for the assessment component of my Materials Development module at Leeds Met last year. Life, a new job, the IHCYLT and everything else took over, and I didn’t get any further than the reading section. At long last, then, here is the next instalment!

This is the listening section of the aforementioned unit and is based on a recording I made of “Laila” telling me a story about something life-changing that happened to her at school as a child and the effect she feels it had on her as a person. This instalment includes:

  • a listening sequence which uses  Vandergrift and Goh’s (2012) metacognitive approach
  • a language focus on features of spoken narrative
  • a pronunciation focus on contrastive stress

All activities draw out different elements of Laila’s story. You can find the following materials  on the Materials Page of this site:

  • Student book pages
  • Teacher’s book pages (including the transcript of the recording)
  • The recording of Laila’s story (for personal use with students only, not for reuse in other materials or websites)
  • The pronunciation tracks

If you use these materials, I would be interested to hear about how you used them and you/your students’ response to them. So, please do comment on this post or on my Materials Page and let me know! 🙂

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:

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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.
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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! 🙂

100th post: Looking backwards, looking forwards…

This post sees the neat coincidence of several things:

  • my 100th post on this blog (this one!)
  • my 100th follower of this blog (a few days ago)
  • my 40,000th view (earlier today)
  • the end of the year (very shortly)
  • the first ELT Blog Carnival of 2014 (for which submissions are open, with a topic of “New Year’s Resolutions)

It’s been quite a year! 🙂 In this post, in keeping with the Blog Carnival abstract, I am going to reflect on what I’ve achieved this year, as well as my projects, plans and goals for next year.

Looking back…

At the beginning of this year, I was in Leeds. I had completed the input sessions for the Delta portion of my course at the end of the previous year, but had all the external assessment (Module 2 LSA 4, Module 3 extended assignment, Module 1 exam) all looming over me. So I still very much count the Delta as part of this year – after all, I only received the qualification in August! (I was on holiday in Italy, up a mountain riding a horse, when the news of my distinctions arrived in the form of happy emails from two of my tutors…)

It’s interesting (to me) to think that at the beginning of this year, I was feeling quite demotivated and felt I hadn’t achieved anything despite working so very hard in the first semester of my course. I’d learnt a lot but nothing was finished (other than the Delta mock exam that provided the M.A. grade for that module, which I thought I’d done badly in – though it transpired that I hadn’t!). Goes to show, perhaps, that achievement shouldn’t necessarily only be associated with completed things…

Since that rather inauspicious beginning to the year, which followed a Christmas “holiday”, which I spent redrafting my Delta module 3 and preparing the M.A. module presentation based on it, loads of exciting things have happened:

  • my M.A. modules!

They were brilliant. What a wonderful, wonderful course. I learnt ever such a lot (for evidence of this look here) and had such a lot of fun in the process, thanks to lovely tutors and lovely course mates. The best thing is, I’ve been using my learning from the modules ever since: For example, from Multimedia and Independent Learning came my interest in learner autonomy and resultant projects that are currently in progress at work, and thanks to the Materials Development module, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making several sets of materials, some of which you can find here.

  • my British Council Blog of the Month award

My 30 things… post, which came about as a direct result of all the learning in my time at Leeds Met, managed to win the June 2013 edition of this award – a great honour for little ol’ me and something that has brought with it opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. For example, the British Council webinar I will be doing in February next year: my first ever webinar. I’m not at all scared….ahem. On the theme of blogging, my little blog has blossomed this year. I started blogging in May 2011 and between then and May this year, posted very little and was visited very little. Then I suddenly found I had things to say and share, resulting in a lot of content being added to this blog over the last 7 months. I also went from 4,000 odd views to now just over 40,000. Quite a big jump! But it’s not the numbers or quantity of content that is important, it’s the profound effect that having this reflective space has had on my professional life. It’s a wonderful thing, being able to share teaching-y things with teachers all over the world. And, of course, reading others’ blogs has remained a great source of inspiration to me.

  • my first conference presentations

I presented for the first time at the 16th Warwick International Postgraduate Conference in Applied Linguistics, which was on the 26th June 2013 at the University of Warwick. My presentation was based on the research project I did for the Research module of my M.A. and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was a gentle way in, being as all the other participants were also students and I had already presented my research as part of the assessment for the M.A. module. This first time was swiftly followed by the second time, less than a month later:  This was at the MATSDA/University of Liverpool 2 day conference, themed “Enjoying to learn: the best way to acquire a language?” on the 13th and 14th July 2013 at the University of Liverpool. If you haven’t been to a MATSDA conference before, I highly recommend it. It was a lot of fun and a very supportive atmosphere for a novice presenter. For details of my presentations, please see this link.

  • my dissertation

Bubbling away in the background, behind all the excitement of the presentations and blog award, was my dissertation. My constant companion for about 4 months, the D-beast definitely represents a large chunk of the time, energy, focus and dedication that has gone into this year. It was worth it in the end, as not only did I find it a very satisfying experience (though towards the end I was worried I would never finish in time!), but I also came out of it with a respectable 82%. This sealed my overall distinction for my M.A. in ELT, of which I am very proud: it represents a LOT of very hard, yet enjoyable, work. But not only hard work on my part: my tutor who supervised me for the dissertation gave up a lot of her time in order to meet with me and look at/feed back on what I’d produced at various points, as well as giving me lots of support and encouragement throughout the whole process: Thank you, HB!

  • my new job in Palermo

I am fortunate enough for teaching at IH Palermo to have become my first post-Delta job. It’s a great school to work in, with a very supportive and friendly atmosphere, as well as a lot of opportunity for continued development. Since I have been here, I have attended workshops on teaching young learners, teaching using Headway, teaching teens, dealing with parents and, last but not least, pronunciation. I have also been observed while teaching, and received a high quality of helpful, constructive feedback subsequently, as well as had the opportunity to observe my peers. And then, of course, I have embarked on the IHCYLT (IH Young Learner Cert) course – which deserves its own bullet point!

  • IHCYLT

This, I am still very embroiled in. In fact, I’m about half way through and hanging on by a very slender thread. Turns out starting a new job, working full-time, learning a new language AND doing a training course is quite the balancing act. Fortunately, the afore-mentioned supportive nature of the workplace and my DoS and YL coordinator have helped me keep going thus far. How it turns out remains to be seen – I suppose I shall either make it, just, or crash and burn spectacularly! I think it may possibly be course over-load for one year but at least it’s nearly Christmas and hopefully after a break I will have what it takes to push through what’s still to come. I’ve discovered that I’m not a huge fan of distance/online learning as vs. face-to-face study and am heartily glad/relieved that I did not attempt the Delta via distance learning, as I don’t think I would have made it through or done anywhere near as well as I did. Thankfully, as the YL course is blended, the observation (both being observed/the feedback and observing others) element has balanced out the online component. (NB: the online tutors are fantastic, so my lack of love for the online element is no fault of theirs…)

  • Italian

I’m also learning Italian, being as prior to moving to Palermo I had never learnt nor spoken any Italian in my life before. (Oh except learning the numbers, the word for England and good afternoon/please/thank you when I came on holiday here with my aunt’s family, aged 16 or so) I study every day before work and read extensively every evening and over the weekend. I also listen extensively. I think I’ve learnt a lot of language since I’ve been here (still just under three months though it seems like forever longer!) and it’s been fascinating being a language learner again. I did a few lessons at the school but stopped for a variety of reasons (including lack of time, the YL course starting, and just not getting on that well with the lessons). Learning independently has been a lot more successful and I’ve learnt a lot from how I learn – if that makes sense (it does to me…)!

So, I think that just about covers looking back…

Looking forward…

  • Christmas Holidays!!

Thank goodness. This time next week I will be on holiday. I intend to finish all the YL coursework I need to do *before* the holiday and have a complete rest (if you can call Christmas etc  a rest :-p) over the 2 weeks I’m off work. It will be the first real, proper holiday since August 2013. I am very, very, very in need of it!

  • British Council webinar

In February, I will be giving my very first webinar (as mentioned earlier in this post), on the topic of learner autonomy. I hope my audience will be gentle with me… 😉  I’ve been experimenting away with various tools and ideas for helping learners become more autonomous and am looking forward to sharing what I’ve learnt and to having peoples’ responses to what I say inform what I do with my projects in future, too.

  • A workshop at work

One of my goals for next year is to deliver a workshop at work. (Sometime *after* the YL course finishes, of course! 😉 ) I think it would be a very valuable experience.

  • Presenting at IATEFL

I’ve been accepted to present at IATEFL, which is very exciting. Still a few teething issues with regards to attending, but here’s hoping I’ll make it… 🙂 (Much as the thought of it also terrifies me…. 😉 )

  • Attending other conferences

There’s a MATSDA conference in June, when I shall be back in England (8-month contract), which I very much hope to attend. I love conferences: they are so inspirational.

  • Working at a university

One of my goals for next year is to work on a pre-sessional course at a University in the U.K. over the summer.

  • Continuing work on my projects

I am thoroughly enjoying working on my learner autonomy projects and helping my learners become more autonomous learners and this is something I want to continue working on next year. I want to read a lot more on learner autonomy theory and motivation theory (currently in the middle of a book on each subject).

  • Reading

As well as the afore-mentioned learner autonomy and motivation theory-related texts, I want to keep abreast of developments in the ELT world by continuing to read the journals and professional magazines that I have discovered through doing my Delta and M.A. I also want to reread and reprocess my notes from these courses, and keep the learning fresh as well as add to it.

  • Using my learning

I *really* want to experiment with what I’ve learnt through the Delta and M.A., experiment, reflect, evaluate, experiment some more, write about it… this is one of the reasons I am looking forward to the YL course finishing: at the moment I’m struggling for brain space. The YL course is ramming more and more learning into my poor little brain when all I really want to do is draw breath and work with what I’ve got. Nevertheless, when it does finish, I’ll work with that learning too, of course! 🙂

  • A PhD

Not next year! But sometime… to research something related to learner autonomy and motivation. (Of course that may change by the time I get round to doing one!)

  • Learning more Italian

I want to keep working on my Italian – I’m feeling enormously motivated – and for my speaking to catch up with my reading and listening….at least a little!!

  • A better work-life balance!!!!!

At the moment, my work-life balance is not awesome. (Thanks, YL course!) I’m very much looking forward to having my weekends back but, that aside, outside of frenetic times (of which there will be another in late January when a whole bunch of courses end) I want to try and spend less time at work and get more exercise during the week. If I keep going for toooo much longer at the current rate, I suspect I will burn out.

Plenty to be getting on with…!

Meanwhile, I’ve one more week left of term, which will see teaching practice observation no.3/4, parents consultations, a course ending (and attendant marking/reports/admin) and the usual load of YL tasks to be getting on with… no rest for the wicked!

2013 has been fairly phenomenal all in all: and I am eternally grateful to all who have helped to make it that way – my wonderful tutors, my course mates, my colleagues, my DoS, and, best of all, my lovely, lovely family and friends. Thank you all for your support, for putting up with me and not giving up on me. 🙂

Here’s wishing everybody a fantastic 2014 – live your dreams!

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!