My DELTA-related posts *aren’t* a load of rubbish after all… :-)

I got my Delta results on Friday and they turned out to be a triple distinction. I still can’t quite believe it, it seems rather flukey! Nevertheless, here I am now fully Delta-qualified. And, since I did well, I don’t have to surreptitiously and sheepishly remove all of my Delta-related posts from my blog, which is nice! I might even get round to writing up my Delta tips for Module 3 (the only module currently without any posts)…

For me, my triple distinction doesn’t suddenly mean I’m some kind of amazing teacher. But it does prove a few things in my mind:

  • one, that I can work damn hard. (None of it came easy, was just non-stop work work work during Delta semester. I had no life at all! If I can work hard enough to get through the Delta with good grades, I should definitely be able to work hard enough to give any future jobs the effort and commitment they deserve.)
  • two, that I know how to learn more. (What I have learnt is only the tip of the iceberg, I feel, but at least I have learnt about different ways of developing: e.g. reflective practice, using a range of resources – books, journals, magazines, internet-based stuff – to expand my knowledge, action research etc. This means now that I [will]have the pieces of papers saying I’m qualified, I can get down to the serious business of learning how to be a better teacher and how to help my learners as best I can.)
  • three, related to two, that having done the course and got the maximum learning I could out of it, I am now more aware of how little I know in the great scheme of things, as well as of how much there is out there to learn and experiment with. I look forward to that!
  • fourth, and last but certainly not least, that the  Delta course at Leeds Met really *is* brilliant, as are the Leeds Met tutors, from whom I’ve learnt so much. (I knew very little when I began the course, so it was a steep learning curve, but they got me through it by being tirelessly supportive and helpful, giving extensive feedback on all my work so that I could know how to improve it and meet the Cambridge requirements and providing lots of engaging, useful input sessions. Could not have done it without them! Which, fair enough, is the point of doing a course, but they really did go above and beyond. I’m really glad I found the leaflet for this course in my conference pack last year!)

So, all the hard work (both mine and my tutors’!) has paid off. But hard work also continues – my M.A. ELT dissertation is as yet incomplete and there are 1001 other things to juggle too, including maintaining this blog! (Hopefully now that I am back from holiday – which was an amazing seven day complete break from work,  my first since starting the Delta last September! – new posts will start appearing again! Maybe more regularly once the dissertation is in, mind!)

I hope everyone else whose results were determined in this June to August 2013 grading session is happy with what they achieved and are feeling as positive about their onward learning as I am! 🙂

Delta Tips 8: Experimental Practice

This is the eighth 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.

Module 2 is divided into two parts: Firstly, the set of 4 LSAs (consisting of Background EssayLesson Plan/Observed Lesson and Post-Lesson Reflection/Self-evaluation) that you do during the course of your training and secondly, the PDA. The PDA is also divided into two parts: Part A is a reflection and action cycle and Part B is your Experimental Practice. Both parts aim to help you develop into a reflective, self-aware practitioner. Done effectively, there is a lot to be learnt from both parts, that you can use beyond the end of the course to keep furthering your development as a teacher. This post will focus on Part B. (Part A can be found here.)

The experimental practice is your opportunity to: select a specific approach, procedure, technique or tool that you haven’t tried before, research it, try it out in the classroom and evaluate the effectiveness of it. This process is something you will hopefully continue to do beyond the end of the course, though you may not wish to write an essay every time! 😉

You produce:

  1. a background essay: 750-1000 words, in which you synthesise your research on your chosen object of experimentation and give a rationale for your choice.
  2. a lesson commentary and objectives for teachers/learners: 750- 1000 words, the commentary is similar to the rationale in the LSA lesson plan i.e. you are justifying your planning decisions in relation to a specific group of learners and in addition, you state your objectives, the lesson objectives for the learners and the ways in which you will evaluate these.
  3. a lesson plan: this does not contribute to the word count. It is basically an LSA lesson plan minus the rationale/commentary (as this is included in the background essay document)
  4. a post lesson evaluation: 400-500 words (depending what remains when the above sections have been completed): you evaluate these exactly as you said you were going to. You need to mention the strengths and weaknesses of your lesson and how you will apply what you’ve learnt in future.

Tips for doing it effectively and getting the most out of it:

  • Don’t put it on the back burner: start work on it as soon as your centre tells you to. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can benefit from the positive impact it should have on your teaching and on future LSAs.
  • Choose something you are genuinely interested in learning more about and experimenting with: If it ties in with your PDA goals, so much the better. (E.g. one of my PDA goals related to making lessons more student-centred and for my experimental practice I did Cuisenaire rods, which can be one way of doing this)
  • Use a variety of different sources for your background reading: E.g. books, journal articles, magazine articles etc. I found English Teaching Professional was quite a handy magazine source, as it contains lots of practical ideas as well as theory.
  • Use sub-headings: These really help to make it clear that you have covered each of the criteria.
  • Be specific in your objectives and your intended methods of evaluation: How are you going to collect evidence? You might like to consider asking a colleague to observe your lesson and complete a tailor-made observation form, and/or film your lesson to analyse later, and/or elicit feedback from you students either orally or via forms or both, and/or jot down notes as your lesson progresses. The more evidence you have, the easier it is to identify if your objectives have been met or not.
  • Apply what you learn from doing the experimental practice to your PDA: I didn’t really “get” the PDA until I’d done the EP and realised that the process of investigation, experimentation, evidence collection and evaluation is exactly what works well for the PDA albeit on a smaller scale.
  • View it as a learning process rather than a test: If whatever you do doesn’t work, it’s equally as valuable a learning experience as if it does – provided you are clear about why.
  • Be systematic: do your investigation/research, decide what to do in your lesson and what the objectives are for you/your learners, decide how you are going to collect your evidence, get exactly that evidence and use it to evaluate your lesson.
  • Consider all of your evidence: Compare the results that each of your evidence collection methods yields. This will give a more complete picture of your lesson and so enable a clearer, better balanced evaluation.
  • Write the essay before you make the lesson plan and do the lesson: Ideally. It’s the logical path through. If time is tight, at least have clear notes, based on your reading, that you can later write up into an essay, from which to work.
  • Make sure your lesson plan is as detailed as your LSA lesson plans: And remember how long it takes to complete that bad boy when you are organising your time!
  • Enjoy it! It’s a great learning opportunity and complements PDA part A. Make the most of it and take the lessons learnt, both in terms of what you experimented and in terms of the process itself, forward.

If you think I have left out anything essential, or simply have any helpful tips to add, please do so by commenting on this post. If you are embarking on your Experimental Practice, good luck – it is a valuable experience!! 🙂

Delta Tips 7: PDA Part A

This is the seventh 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! )

Module 2 is divided into two parts: Firstly, the set of 4 LSAs (consisting of Background Essay, Lesson Plan/Observed Lesson and Post-Lesson Reflection/Self-evaluation) that you do during the course of your training and secondly, the PDA. The PDA is also divided into two parts: Part A is a reflection and action cycle and Part B is your Experimental Practice. Both parts aim to help you develop into a reflective, self-aware practitioner. Done effectively, there is a lot to be learnt from both parts, that you can use beyond the end of the course to keep furthering your development as a teacher. This post will focus on Part A. (Part B can be found here)

Part A is a 4-step process that you complete alongside your other Delta module course work:

Stage 1: Your diagnostic lesson plan and lesson. Following this, your tutor should give you some feedback. From the feedback, you will be able to extrapolate some goals to work on.

Stage 2: Following your diagnostic, you get 800-1000 words in which to reflect on your beliefs and practices as a teacher, your strengths and weaknesses, the reasons behind these, the positive and negative effects of these on your learners, and finally create an action plan to work on these as well.

Stage 3: This is essentially an update on what you set out to achieve in Stage 2. Following LSA 2, you are required to evaluate your progress, including identification of current weaknesses, and the effectiveness of the approaches/methods/techniques/materials you selected, as well as to produce an action plan, including methods etc that you will use to collect evidence of your development, for the next phase of the course.

Stage 4: Following LSA3, you discuss any changes to your beliefs and practices (as laid out in Stage 2), you evaluate the reflection and observation procedures that you have used and you outline a plan for your future professional development.

The PDA is “only” a pass/fail document. However, it is essential not to back-burn it or ignore it on account of this: the more you put into your PDA, the more you are likely to get out of module 2, the more you are likely to progress between LSAs. Also, in terms of professional development, the PDA helps you to learn how to be a reflective practitioner, which is key in long term development. Pages 54, 55 and 56 of the handbook contain some helpful advice on carrying it out, it is worth reading these at the beginning of module 2 and again before you produce any of the written work for the PDA.

Tips for getting the most out of the PDA:

  1. Listen carefully to what your tutor says after the diagnostic lesson. Make notes. Reflect on them. Compare them with feedback you’ve received from your previous work place/colleagues/learners etc.
  2. When you make your first action plan, don’t put everything you ever want to work on for the rest of your life in it. You only have till after LSA2 to action it, so be realistic and selective.
  3. Choose things to work on that will have the most beneficial effect on you and your learners when improved on. (There are a wide range of possibilities: see p54 of the handbook for ideas)
  4. Work on your PDA consistently, don’t leave it to one side until a few days before the next part is due. It will only benefit you if you give it regular attention.
  5. Be clear about how you are going to collect evidence of your progress/development: This could include filming your lessons and analysing them, getting feedback from your learners, getting colleagues to observe you for specific things you are working on and observing colleagues to see how they do the things you are working on. This evidence will be useful in evaluating your progress in stages 3 and 4.
  6. Be very specific in your initial action plan – how are you going to work on each thing you have identified (reading up on it, trying it, collecting evidence on your efforts) and when are you going to do it by? This specificity will help you keep on track, know what you need to do, and not leave everything til the last minute, thus ensuring you have time to do things effectively.
  7. You don’t need to wait until the next stage of the PDA is due to reflect on your progress: Keep your evidence (observation forms etc) in a folder together and look over it periodically. See if you can identify any patterns.
  8. Write outside of the written work requirements. By this I mean write down your thoughts after a lesson regarding how it went, regarding what you were working on, any changes you notice in your practice. You could use self-evaluation forms (I found one in EtP which was very useful) to stimulate and direct your thoughts.
  9. For stage 3, use your feedback from LSA1 and 2 – what weaknesses were identified by your tutor? Working on these through your PDA will hopefully yield signs of improvement in LSA3 and 4.
  10. Remember, this is a process you can continue using beyond the end of the Delta, which will help you continue to grow as a teacher, so make the most of the opportunity of learning how to do it effectively.

I really enjoyed this element of the Delta and got a lot out of it. I hope you do too! Good luck. 🙂

If you can think of any suggestions/hints/tips that are missing, please do let me know by commenting on this post and I will add them to the list! 

Delta Tips 3: Writing an LSA post-lesson reflection/evaluation

This is the third 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.

Having done your LSA assessed lesson (phew!), there is one more thing to do before you can call the LSA done and start afresh on the next one (or, when you reach that joyous moment after LSA4, celebrate not beginning all over again!) – The post-lesson reflection/evaluation. A mere 500 word limit is all you have to:

  • reflect on your planning and teaching as well as the learners’ progress
  • outline the strengths and weaknesses of the lesson (from the point of view of the learners)
  • identify how you might consolidate this lesson.

This is your opportunity to justify all deviations from the game plan (a.k.a. the spectacularly detailed LSA Lesson Plan) and demonstrate how aware you are as a teacher. 

Here are my top tips for writing  a post-lesson reflection/evaluation:

  • Before you start writing your reflection/evaluation, think about the aims/objectives stated on your lesson plan and whether you met them. If you did, what evidence is there of this? If you didn’t, why didn’t you? This might be useful information to include in your reflection/evaluation…
  • Think about how effective each stage of your lesson was, in terms of contributing to the learners’ progress.
  • Don’t do as I did in LSA1 and refer to a lesson stage using incorrect terminology! 😉
  • When you write about the key strengths and weaknesses of the lesson, remember these are from the point of view of the learner. For each one, think about what the effect on the learner was. If it’s difficult to pin down, then perhaps that is not a key strength/weakness.
  • Make sure you justify all deviations from your lesson plan. You are expected to teach the learners as well as the plan, so deviation is acceptable – however, it should be principled deviation. You should be able to rationalise your decisions.
  • When you consider how you might consolidate the lesson, don’t only think about completion of optional activities that you cut: think also about how you would develop the topic, the target language/skills and what other related, relevant target language/skills might connect nicely with what you’ve done.
  • Don’t be overly negative or overly positive. It’s easy to come out of the lesson with rather extreme feelings so be aware of that and don’t allow it to influence your writing too much. Your tutor/the examiner is unlikely to think it was either the best thing or the worst thing ever to happen. It probably wasn’t, though it might feel that way at the time. Remember that!
  • If you’re able to, talk the lesson through with someone you trust, before you write your reflection/evaluation. The act of talking it through may help you process what’s happened more effectively. Also, the thing you thought signified the end of the world as we know it may actually be quite minor – somebody less biased may help you realise this!
  • Ideally, write the reflection/evaluation on the same day as you did the lesson and then sleep on it. Check it over in the morning before you submit it and see if you still agree with what you’ve written. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to put things in perspective!
  • Remember, this is your opportunity to demonstrate what a self-aware, learner-aware, reflective practitioner you are – make the most of it!

If you think I have left out anything essential, or simply have any helpful tips to add, please do so by commenting on this post. If you are embarking on Delta module 2, good luck – it is a valuable learning experience!! 

Delta Tips 2: Writing an LSA lesson plan

This is the second in a new 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 at Leeds Met (and surviving to tell the tale! ) 

So, now you’ve written your background essay for your LSA (well done!) and sent a draft off for feedback (you know it makes sense!) – what next? Hopefully you still have plenty of time before your LSA assessed lesson, because this lesson plan is something else. Think of the longest, most detailed lesson plan you’ve ever written and then multiply that by 100 and you might just about start to get the slightest idea of what we are talking about here. Delta lesson plans are notorious – you will at some point fight the temptation to pull out clumps of hair (if you have any!) and you will need to allow yourself plenty of time to meet all the many, many requirements.

I was lucky – I did my Delta at Leeds Metropolitan and there, the tutors are nice enough to offer you a template to use as a framework for your lesson plan. If your centre doesn’t provide such luxuries, then I highly recommend making one. You can do this by using the criteria you have to meet for planning and preparation. (And no, I’m not going to upload the Leeds Met template – if you want it that badly, do your Delta at Leeds Met! 😉 )

In a Delta lesson plan, you need to demonstrate that you’ve thought of everything in great detail. For example (not an exhaustive list – like I said, look at the criteria…):

  • who’s in your class and the nature of the group
  • your aims and outcomes
  • what might go wrong
  • how you would fix what might go wrong
  • how this lesson relates to other lessons you’ve taught the class
  • a thorough analysis of your target language.
  • a rationale for what you are doing
  • the procedure you are going to use to teach whatever it is you are teaching.

Here are my top tips for writing a Delta lesson plan:

  • Make sure that whatever it is you decide to do in your lesson bears some relation to what you wrote about in your background essay. (You could think about using one of your teaching solutions.) Essay and lesson plan should cohere.
  • In your rationale, do NOT just repeat what you’ve written in your essay. The focus in your essay was broader – you were considering different types of learners and learning contexts, even if you had narrowed it by higher or lower levels of learners, whereas your lesson plan, and therefore your rationale, is for a specific group of learners.
  • For your target language/skills analysis, consider form, meaning and pronunciation. For skills, consider sub-skills and relate them specifically to your lesson – you don’t want it to be too general. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of what it is you are teaching.
  • When writing your procedure, think about how whatever activity it is you are planning is going to help your learners do something better.
  • Make sure your lesson aims and outcomes are clear and concise. Make sure they are suitable for whatever level it is you are teaching. Make sure they are achievable. Make sure they are measurable. Make sure they are not too vague.
  • Attach copies of all materials you intend to use and make sure you attribute them appropriately.
  • As with the essay, if you have a lovely tutor who is willing to give you feedback on your lesson plan (be it detailed, super useful written feedback as I had at Leeds Met, or a tutorial, which I have read in an EtP article also happens in some places), then submit a draft in good time. There will inevitably be something you haven’t thought of – your tutor will pick up on it and guide you to notice it.
  • Make sure your timings are realistic and remember things often take longer than you anticipate. Build in a contingency for if things do take longer – or indeed you get through everything too quickly. Make sure whatever activity it is that enables your learners to meet your aims and outcomes, so your main activity, is planned for early enough in the lesson that things taking longer than anticipated isn’t going to mean your learners are unable to finish that main activity.
  • Mentally rehearse the lesson – picture doing everything you’ve written down in your procedure, imagine how your learners might respond and how you could deal with those responses. (I did this while going out for a walk or a run; do whatever helps you think most fluidly.)
  • You will likely be nervous at the beginning of your assessed lesson – it can be handy to make that first activity something that the students can get on with rather than something teacher-fronted, so that the focus isn’t on you. That will give you time to get into your groove and relax, ready for whatever teacher-fronted activities you do have.

If you think I have left out anything essential, or simply have any helpful tips to add, please do so by commenting on this post. If you are embarking on Delta module 2, good luck – it is a valuable learning experience!! 

Delta Tips 1: Writing a background essay for an LSA

This is the first in a new 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 LSA (Language Systems/Skills Assignment) background essay is the starting point for each LSA that you do to complete Module 2 of the Delta. You do 4 LSA’s in total, 3 of which are assessed internally and 1 of which (the final one) requires an external assessor. 2 LSA’s must be systems-based (Grammar, Discourse, Phonology, Lexis) and 2 must be skills-based (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening).

An LSA background essay is the synthesis of all your research relating to the specific area of the system or skill you have chosen to teach for your assessed lesson, and you are expected to cram a lot into your 2500 words Cambridge allows you. Each essay needs:

  • a clear, detailed analysis of the specific area you have chosen, with reference to a range of relevant literature
  • an analysis of the problems that may be faced by learners when a teacher teaches them this specific area, with reference to your experience as well as the literature.
  • a set of solutions to the afore-mentioned problems, each of which must be carefully evaluated and include reference to your experience.
  • a list of all references used in the essay
  • appendices containing copies of any materials referred to in your teaching solutions

Here are my top ten tips for writing a successful LSA background essay:

  • Read widely and relevantly (obviously…)
  • If the area you have chosen is rather large, use your title and introduction to narrow it down a little, for example by focusing it on higher or lower level learners.
  • Be concise (You may well find yourself re-reading and re-reading your essay, removing all phrasal verbs and non-essential articles!)
  • Make sure your structure is clear and easy to follow (the examiners won’t be your friend if you don’t!)  – You can use headings and sub-headings and numbering systems to help you with this. You need to make sure there is a clear link between your analysis of language/skill and your teaching solutions.
  • Make sure your language analysis takes meaning, form and pronunciation into consideration, while your skills analysis should include coverage of any relevant sub-skills and meaning/form/pronunciation analysis of any associated language, for example structural language related to telling anecdotes within a speaking skills essay.
  • Make sure your analysis of problems includes reference to a range of teaching contexts (different ages, levels, locations, L1’s etc)
  • Make sure you explicitly evaluate your teaching solutions, with reference to your own experience of using them. Phrases like “In my experience..” and “I have found this valuable because..” and “I have found this effective in…” are all useful!
  • If you are lucky, as I was, and you have a wonderful tutor who is willing to liberally cover your essay in feedback on how to make it meet Cambridge requirements, then make sure you submit a draft!
  • Related to 8. above, don’t spend too long reading before you start writing. You can always reopen books to fill in any gaps. This is particularly important for intensive courses, where time is tight and you need to manage it very carefully in order to get draft feedback and prepare your lesson plan (and get draft feedback on that!) prior to the assessed lesson.
  • Related to 8. and 9. above, don’t spend too long writing your LSA essay. You need enough time to fill in a ridiculously detailed lesson plan and hopefully get feedback on that too.

If you think I have left out anything essential, or simply have any helpful tips to add, please do so by commenting on this post. If you are embarking on Delta module 2, good luck – it is a valuable learning experience!!