Scholarship Circle: Giving formative feedback on student writing (9)

It’s the last week of term, exam week, and we have managed to squeeze in a final scholarship circle meeting for the term. How amazing are we? ūüėČ I also have no excuse not to write it up shortly afterwards – nothing sensitive content-wise and, for once in a way, I have a wee bit of time. Sort of. (By the time you factor in meetings, WAS and ADoS stuff for next term, not as much as you might think…!)

For more information about what scholarship circles involve, please look here and for write-ups of previous scholarship circles, here

You might also be interested in session 1 / session 2 / session 3 and 4 / session 5-8 of this particular circle.)

So, session 9. The first thing we recognised in this session is that we won’t be collecting data until term 3 for September students and term 4 for January students (which will be their term 3). This is a good thing! It means we have next term to plan out what we are going to do and how we are going to do it. It sounds like a lot of time but there is a lot we have to do and elements of it are, by their nature, time-consuming.

Firstly, we need to decide exactly who our participants will be and why. “You just said term 3/4 September/January students!” I hear you say. Yes…generally, that is the focus. In other words, students who are doing a coursework essay and therefore receiving QuickMark feedback. However, within those two broad groups (September Term 3/January Term 4), we have IFY (foundation) and PMP (Pre-masters) students and the IFY cohorts are streamed by IELTS score into a, b, c and (numbers depending) d groups. So, we need to decide exactly who our participants will be. This choice is affected by things like the age of the participants (some of our students are under 18 which makes the ethical approval process, which is already time-consuming, markedly more difficult) and what exactly we want to be able to find out from our data. For example, if we want to know the effect of the streaming group on the data, then we need to collect the data in such a way that it is marked for streaming group. (NB: as I learnt last term in the context of a plagiarism quiz that had to be disseminated to all students, it is a bad idea for this information to rely on student answers – having a field/question such as “What group are you in?” might seem innocuous but oh my goodness the random strangeness it can throw up is amazing! See pic below…)

“Bad” and “g’d” are other examples of responses given! …Students will be students? We need to make sure that our Google Form collects the information we want to collect and allows us to analyse it in the way that we want to analyse it. Obviously, we need to know what we want to collect and how we want to analyse it before we can design an effective tool. Additionally, however pesky they might be, participant students will also need to be a) fully informed regarding the research as well as b) aware that it is voluntary and that they have the right to cease participation and withdraw their data at any point.

Developing our research is just one of the directions that our scholarship circle might take next term. We also discussed the possibility of further investigation into how to teach proofreading more effectively. We are hoping to do some secondary research into this and refine our practice accordingly. While we will do what we can, we recognised that time constraints may affect what we can do. For example, we discussed the following activity to encourage proofreading after students receive feedback on their drafts:

  • Put students in groups of four and have them look at the feedback, specifically QuickMarks, on their essays
  • Students, in their groups, to work out what is wrong and what the correction should be. Teacher checks their correction and ensures that it is correct.
  • Students to pick a mistake or two (up to four sentences) and copy them onto a piece of flip-chart paper with the mistakes still in place
  • Each group passes their flip-chart paper to another group who should t try to correct it.
  • The flip-chart paper passes from group to group, with the idea that they look at the mistake and the first correction group’s edits and see if they think it is now correct or want to make additional changes (in a different colour)
  • Finally, the original group gets their flip-chart paper with corrections and edits back and compares it with their correct version.

This is a really nice little activity. However, after students receive their first draft feedback, they do not have any more lesson time (what time remains of the term, after they get their feedback, is taken up by tutorials, mocks and exams!), so it wouldn’t be possible to do it using that particular feedback. Perhaps what we need to do is use the activity with a different piece of work (for example a writing exam practice essay), and integrate other proofreading activities at intervals through the course, so that when they do get their first draft feedback for their coursework, they know what to do with it!

Another thing we discussed in relation to proofreading and helping students to develop this skill is the importance of scaffolding. I attempted to address the issue of scaffolding the proofreading process in a lesson I wrote for my foundation students last term. In that lesson, students had to brainstorm the types of errors that they commonly make in their writing – grammar, vocabulary, register, cohesion-related things like pronouns etc – and then I handed out a paragraph with some of those typical errors sown in and they had some time to try and find the errors. After that, I gave them the same paragraph but with the mistakes underlined, and having checked which ones they had found correctly, they had had to identify the type of error for each one that had been underlined. Finally, I gave them a version with the mistakes underlined and identified using our code, and they had to try and correct them. All of this was group work. The trouble was the lesson wasn’t long enough for them (as a low-level foundation group) to have as much time as they could have done with for each stage of the lesson. I had hoped there would be time for them to then look at their coursework essays (this was the last lesson before first draft submission) and try to find and correct some mistakes but in reality we only just got through the final paragraph activity.

Other ideas for scaffolding the development of proofreading skills were to prepare paragraphs that had only one type of mistake sown in so that students only had to identify other errors of that particular type, with the idea that they could have practice at identifying different errors separately before trying to bring it together in a general proofreading activity. That learning process would be spread over the course rather than concentrated into one (not quite long enough) lesson. There is also a plan to integrate such activities into the Grammar Guru interactive/electronic grammar programmes that students are given to do as part of their independent study. Finally, we thought it would be good to be more explicit about the process we want students to follow when they proofread their work. This could be done in the general feedback summary portion of the feedback. E.g. cue them to look first at the structural feedback and then at the language feedback etc. That support would hopefully avoid them being overwhelmed by the feedback they receive. One of our tasks for scholarship circle sessions next term is to bring in the course syllabus and identify where proofreading focuses could be integrated.

Another issue regarding feedback that we discussed in this session was the pre-masters students’ coursework task which is synoptic – they work on it with their academic success tutor with focus on content and with us for focus on language. Unfortunately, with the set-up as it is, as students do not work on it with a subject tutor, there is no content “expert” to guide them and there is a constant tension with regards to timing of feedback. Our team give feedback on language at the same time as the other team give feedback on content (which, not being experts, is a struggle for them, exacerbated by not being able to give feedback on language, especially as the two are fairly entwined!). Content feedback may necessitate rewriting of chunks of text, rendering our language feedback useless at that point in time. However, there is not enough time in the term for feedback to be staggered appropriately. We don’t have a solution for this, other than more collaboration with Academic Success tutors, which again time constraints on both sides may render difficult, but it did lead us onto the question of whether we should, in general, focus our QuickMarks only on parts of text that are structurally sound? (Again, there isn’t time for there to be a round of structural feedback followed by a round of linguistic feedback once the structural feedback has been implemented.)

Suffice to say it is clear that we still have plenty to get our teeth into in future scholarship circle sessions – our focus, and areas closely related, is far from exhausted. Indeed we have a lot to do still, with our research still in its early stages. We are not sure what will happen next term with regards to when the sessions will take place as it is timetable dependent but we are keeping our current time-slot pencilled in as a starting point. Fingers crossed a good number of us will be able to make it or find an alternative time that more of us can do!

Thank you to all my lovely colleagues who have participated in the scholarship circle this term, it has been a brilliant thing to do and I am looking forward to the continuation next term!

 

 

Doing the Cambridge Delta: A Guide

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04

Good luck to all Delta candidates! ūüôā

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‚Äôs 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 ( ūüôā )

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) Рsome 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! ūüôā¬†)

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! ūüôā )

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:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 2:¬†(my tips for)¬†writing an LSA lesson plan

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 22.07.04This post, by Tefalump,¬†The stages of a Delta assignment,¬†should be somewhat comforting – it’s normal for Module 2 to make you cry at some point(s)!
  • 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… ūüėČ )

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 ‚Äď 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! ūüôā

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 10:¬†in¬†Writing a Module 3 Essay ‚Äď 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:

  • Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 22.07.04Delta Tips 11:¬†Writing a Module 3 Essay ‚Äď the Needs Analysis¬†

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! ūüôā ) 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 ‚Äď the conclusion and wrapping things up

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

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! ūüôā

Delta Tips 13: Writing a Module 3 Essay ‚Äď 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‚Äôs or perversely picky in how they want you to answer Module 1 exam questions ‚Äď you‚Äôd be right! But, it‚Äôs nothing compared to what they demand you fit in to a measly 4500 words for Module 3‚Ķ

  • (For an overview of what‚Äôs required and tips for starting out, look at¬†Delta Tips 9;¬†
  • For information about writing the first section of the essay ‚Äď the introduction ‚Äď look at¬†Delta Tips 10.
  • For help with the second section of the essay ‚Äď the needs analysis ‚Äď 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 ‚Äď 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… ūüėČ

Coming soon: Tips for the Conclusion! Yes, even Delta Module 3 Extended Essay beasts do eventually come to a conclusion¬†ūüôā (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!