This is part of a series of posts showing you all the different ways you can approach the Cambridge Delta. They are designed to help you find out more about the course and what it involves, as well as helping you to choose the right way to do it for you, your lifestyle and the time you have available. If you’ve done the Delta (or any other similar higher-level teaching course, including a Masters), and you’d like to join in, let me know by leaving me a comment or contacting me via Twitter@sandymillin.
How did you do your DELTA?
Module 1 was distance—through a wikispaces wiki, with skype “classes” about once a month with our tutors on selected topics.
Module 2 was done through 3 separate week-long on-site sessions, with autonomous work time in between to work on the LSAs.
I haven’t done module 3 yet, but am planning to.
How did you arrange the modules?
Module 1 began in April or May 2011 (I think…) and ran until Dec. 2011
Module 2 ran from August 2011 to May 2012
Why did you choose to do it that way?
I did Module 1 as a distance program because I couldn’t take off a long time from work to do the program and because there were no DELTA centers in my area (Grenoble, France). The nearest was Strasbourg, which had just started offering DELTA. We were the first ones to go through their program. Also, I figured that I was disciplined enough to work mostly autonomously for this module, where you basically learn the material, take practice tests, and check your results with the examiner’s reports/answer key. We got feedback from our tutors through email and could discuss specific issues on the skype sessions, so it seemed do-able.
I did Module 2 as a longer program for the same reasons. I liked that we had the one-week on-site sessions because we could be with our tutors and classmates. Since they were spaced out, we went home after each session and had 4-5 months to do 2 LSAs and the ongoing PDA assignment. It was a nice combination of face-to-face time and autonomous work. Plus, it was easier to take off 3 separate, spread-out weeks than a whole chunk of time.
How was your Module 2 taught?
Like I said above, 3 separate week-long sessions, with 4-5 months of autonomous work time in between. When we were together in Strasbourg, the sessions were a mix of traditional lessons with the tutors teaching us things, quiet time for lesson planning and working individually with the tutors and other candidates, and some observation sessions.
ESOL Strasbourg organized to have us observe some EFL classes at the Strasbourg training center, taught by the center’s English teachers. They also organized to have these teachers “lend” us their classes so that we could teach them our LSA lesson plans. There were only 4 DELTA candidates in my class, so we paired off and observed each other teaching our LSA lessons and then gave peer feedback. Of course, our tutor also observed these lessons and gave us individual feedback afterwards, both written and oral.
How much time per week would you estimate you needed to spend working on the DELTA in the format you chose?
I’d say be prepared to spend 2 hours per day on weekdays and maybe a bit more on weekends. It can take over your life, so you have to be ready for this.
In retrospect, what would you have done differently?
I wouldn’t have overlapped Module 1 and Module 2. Module 1 ran from spring to December and Module 2 started at the end of August, so there were about 3.5 months where I was doing both modules. I don’t recommend that to anyone! It’s a lot of work and your time and energy are divided between the modules.
What do you think you gained from doing the DELTA?
As I told Jane Ryder, who runs ESOL Strasbourg, there’s a pre-DELTA me and a post-DELTA me (even though technically I still have module 3 to go). Of course, I learned so much linguistics terminology and LSA theory, as well as how to step back and reflect on what I do in the classroom and why.
But I think the real gain is in how the DELTA can open the path to further exploration. It’s like a boost in your involvement in the world of TEFL. I began blogging, began going to conferences, did my first conference presentation, began tweeting and facebooking with other teachers, and have even begun writing a book with Jennie Wright, whom I met on Module 2. All of this energy is indirectly related to the way the DELTA spurred me on to really invest in myself professionally.
What were the downsides of the method you chose?
If you’re not disciplined and don’t set up a fixed study schedule (that you stick to), the distance part will kill you. Just as proof, there were 5 of us who signed up originally for the distance Module 1 and only 2 of us took the exam. The others weren’t able to manage their schedules efficiently, for various reasons. I’m not saying they couldn’t handle it of course, but you do have to cut back on time with friends and family to do the work. It’s easy to get home after a long day at work and say “I’ll do the reading tomorrow or this weekend” but you really have to discipline yourself and just go do it.
What were the benefits of the method you chose?
It was a pretty long, drawn-out schedule I think, which was advantageous. It meant that I could spend maybe an hour or two a day and still feel like I was on top of things. That meant if I just got up a bit earlier in the morning and then did another hour in the evening, I could keep to my schedule.
Also, I liked the way Module 2 was organized. It was a good combination of tutor-led work and autonomous work, with enough time between sessions. I don’t understand how some programs have people do Module 2 on really tight schedules!
What tips would you give other people doing the DELTA?
A few things, I suppose:
- Be prepared to invest in books if you’re not always at a center that has a library. I bought a ton of books and now have a pretty impressive library! Budget accordingly. Just like the fees for the DELTA, this is part of the investment.
- Plan study time. Write it in your schedule as if it were a class. You wouldn’t just not go to a class because you didn’t feel like it! Treat study time the same way and be sure to tell friends and family about your commitment so they’ll understand.
- Read a book or two BEFORE even starting. I read Lightbrown & Spada’s How Languages Are Learned, which helped because some of the things encountered on Module 1 then weren’t 100% new. Also, get Scott Thornbury’s About Language, which is sort of a language workbook for language teachers. It’s great because you actually “do” things with it.
- Spend time learning the format of the exam, especially Module 1. The examiner’s reports are indispensable for this because they show you how to lay out your answers correctly and efficiently. If you try to write out everything like an essay test, you’ll never be able to finish within the time limits.