Friday, September 18, 2015

DELTA Module 2 - Course Outline and Tips

I have decided to take the face-to-face option of Delta Module 2 at International House Tbilisi. The blended option with the Distance Delta was way too expensive.

In Week 1 of the course we had one diagnostic observation for which we had to write a full lesson plan. The lesson plan paperwork, self-reflection and the tutor feedback have to go into the Appendices of the first assignment - Professional Development. Before the start of Week 2, we had to submit one part of it (Stages 1 and 2) - 1000 words, which is actually quite doable. In this part of the PDA you are asked to reflect on your beliefs and classroom practices as a teacher, identify your key strengths and weaknesses and suggest an action plan.
NB When suggesting an action plan, bear in mind that you are going to be evaluated on how far you are progressing in whatever there is in your action plan throughout the course. So be realistic with what skills you can improve in about 3-4 weeks.

Week 1 was also the week in which we had to start getting to know our learners to be able to write a group profile and an individual profile for the first LSA in Week 3. The class profile may not be as difficult to write as the individual profile because you need information about your students' learning preferences and styles,  their interests and reasons for learning English, their general strengths and weaknesses. So during the first week you may need to design lessons and/or questionnaires to find all this out to be able to write the information in your assessed lesson plan.
NB Decide what your first assignment is going to be about to pay attention to your learners' strengths and weaknesses in relation to your first assessed lesson as these two are also part of the individual profile. Typing up the individual profile takes a long time so start this one earlier just to add new information whenever you learn new things about your learners. For your other assessed lessons, you will be using the same profile, but you will need to change the strengths and weaknesses in relation to the lesson section.

In Week 2 we had two developmental observations and had to write two full lesson plans and this made it impossible to start writing the first Language Systems/Skills Assignment earlier. I ended up doing this over the weekend and this was a real burden. I thought I wasn't going to make it by Monday morning because for the research you do, you need to design a lesson based on ideas you discussed in your LSA and write a lesson plan. The challenge here is not to mix skills with systems in your main aims. If your assignment is about some grammar area, then make sure that everything you do in the lesson is around that and is in the main aims. Everything else you do, speaking as a follow-up activity or gist reading for guided discovery should be in subsidiary aims. Actually, you don't have to have subsidiary aims, so you can forget about that for systems assignment. I think this week was very stressful for all trainees and some, including me, even started thinking of dropping out. So be prepared for a lot of stress.
NB It would help if before starting the course you already knew exactly which 2 skills and 2 systems you would like to focus on in your LSAs and do a fair bit of reading about those. For skills you will have to choose 1 receptive and 1 productive skill, you cannot do research on two productive skills, for example. For systems, you choose from pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, discourse. Discourse might be too challenging to do, so perhaps you shouldn't think of that one.

In Week 3 we taught out first assessed lesson and had to wait until Friday to find out whether the first LSA was a pass or a fail. The tutors warned us in advance that many candidates fail their first LSA and we should not worry if that's the case. A lot here depends on your post-lesson evaluation: if you can discuss the key strengths ad weaknesses of your lesson plan and lesson execution objectively, say what the learners took away from the lesson and provide evidence for that, and explain how your are going to consolidate on the learning, this will affect your grade for the LSA. I got Pass on both the background essay and lesson execution.
NB To get a pass you need to pass only two LSAs (one skills and one systems), has to be the internally assessed one, the other one has to be the externally assessed one. So make sure that for your externally assessed lesson you save a skill or system lesson that is one of your strengths.

In Week 4 we had to submit our second LSA and were again assessed - this time the LSA was skills and I have to say this one was really difficult to analyse for most of us, the trainees. The thing here is decide on the title of your LSA an stick to it in the analysis. Mine was Helping lower level learners understand authentic texts using top-down processing. So in the background essay I had to define what an authentic text was in the introduction and analyse top-down processing in the Analysis section. I analysed the types of schematic knowledge and top-down processing which needed to be explained in relation to stages of the lesson and types of activities. This all has to be based on the reading you do. I found Nuttall's book very useful for this. I got Merit for both the background essay and lesson execution.
NB The stress level at this point started escalating. The course became hell for all of us by Friday when we were waiting for feedback. So be prepared for a lot of stress because if you cannot handle stress, you shouldn't be taking the course.

In Week 5 we had a bit of a break. This was the week of Experimental Practice when you choose any approach in ELT that you have never tried before and try it on your learners. You are only observed by your peers and the background essay, lesson plan and the post-lesson evaluation form Part B of your Professional Development Assignment. For a Pass in the Module, PDA has to be submitted and does not have to be a Pass.
This week we had a lot of fun, I have to say. Some of us experimented with Dogme, some with the Silent way, Suggestopedia and strong-end TBL. You need to do the research before you teach the lesson because you need to have a clear idea about the approach/method. You should also write the background essay before the lesson, 2000 words, + you write 500 words of post lesson evaluation which is part of the assignment. I did mine on Dogme and my learners loved it. I decided that Dogme was worth trying out with my own groups back home. I got a Pass for my Experimental Practice paper.
We also had a developmental observation this week for which we prepared a lesson to test one of the approaches we were going to use in one of the remaining LSAs. This was very helpful for us actually although that meant extra lesson plan writing. Still I would highly recommend requesting a developmental observation, which is not assessed, to practise the approach you are going to employ in your LSA 3 or 4, especially 4, as it is externally assessed and it is of utmost importance to pass both parts of it.
NB This week we all started to understand what the second module of DELTA is all about and it became a matter of good time management skills, because if you are bad at that, then the course will be even more stressful for you.

In Week 6 we had to submit LSA 3 background essay and teach the third assessed lesson. I think this week it was less stressful because we were all more worried about the external assessment the following week. In this week the tutors changed TP groups. So the first two lessons and PDA Part A were assessed by one tutor, and PDA Part B and LSA 3 were assessed by the second tutor.
For my third LSA I chose writing and the title was Helping lower level learners writ formal emails. The focus of the lesson was writing emails of enquiry. I found writing this LSA easier than the previous two, because we had our tutor's feedback to base this one on. Again, the Analysis section of the essay was not so easy, and everyone found skills analysis more difficult than systems analysis.
The moods in general were gloomy and everyone was only thinking about the end of the course. Although I got Merit on both - the essay and the lesson, I was a bit worried about LSA 4, perhaps because of the fact that this one was going to be assessed externally and had to be at least a pass on both.
NB It would help if you could think of your LSA 4 well before the time you have to write it. It saves you time and worry. I decided this in Week 4 and did not have to worry about not having ideas about how to stage the lesson and how to deliver it. Some of my peers felt drained by Week 7 and could not come up with ideas.

In Week 7 we had our externally assessed lesson. Although we all found writing LSA 3 easy, everyone was again stressed about LSA 4. And it did seem difficult to write. I think we were all overthinking and wanted to include everything our tutors told us about. But the word limit would not let us do that, of course. After the lesson we were given 48 hours to write the post-lesson evaluation and send it to the main tutor. I think this is a rule for all Delta centres, but I might be wrong. After the last LSA it was really hard to get down to the post-lesson evaluation and all of us felt the same way. We were too exhausted to do anything. But the next day after the external we all partly got our senses back. So I would think that it wasn't just us and many Module 2 trainees feel drained the day of the external assessment as it is way too stressful.
In Week 7 we also had to write Stage 4 for PDA Part A and submit it for it to get a final grade of Pass or Fail. I did this one before my externally assessed lesson as I knew that after that I would be more dead than alive to be able to write it. And it proved to be a good idea. I couldn't even reply to my mail that day, leave alone write an assignment. So if you can, try to complete your PDA Stage 4 before your external because after it, you may find it impossible to do.
The last day of the course was about where to next. But I don't think we were prepared to think about any other courses that day. We still need to get our results in two months' time so we are definitely not going to take any courses yet.
NB Don't worry if the external assessor doesn't talk to you or smile. They are not allowed to. So take it as something normal.

All in all, the Delta course is worth taking but you should forget about life while doing it and you must be prepared to a lot of stress.

Good luck to everyone who is about to start it. And good luck to everyone who is waiting for the results.

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