Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

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.

Matthew Ellman is a teacher and materials writer working in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He passed the Delta with double distinction in 2013, and is currently doing an MA in Applied Linguistics to fill the gaping void it left in his life. He blogs at and tweets from @mattellman.

Matt Ellman

How did you do your Delta?

I did my Delta on a face-to-face course over 8 months at International House Madrid.  I had already done quite a bit of reading when I started though  ̶  I used the course as a pretext for staying at home and sponging off my parents all summer, so it was unavoidable!  All told, then, I suppose you could say I did it over about a year.

How did you arrange the modules?

I didn’t really arrange the modules so much as blindly submit to the schedule that was given to me by my tutors. It’s a good thing I did though, because in hindsight I can’t see any better way of organising things.  We did modules 2 and 3 side-by-side, and the classes we had in preparation for our module 2 assignments doubled up as exam preparation classes, particularly as the exam drew near.

Why did you choose to do it that way?

I was working for IH at the time, so it made sense to do it there. They were able to fit it around my teaching timetable and helped ensure I had suitable classes for observations. I didn’t get a staff discount though, which still keeps me awake at night…

What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?

In the classroom, it made me more aware of the rationale behind things: things I had learnt from the CELTA without truly understanding, and things that I was using in published materials. That, in turn, made me more confident about the decisions I was making during planning and in class.

As I’ve moved into materials writing, I’ve come to appreciate the benefit of module 3, the extended assignment.  It gave me an understanding of things like assessment and course design that I hadn’t touched on before, so it was probably the module that has opened the most doors for me since I finished the course.

What were the downsides of the method you chose?

I’m not sure there was a downside, apart from having to pay for it myself! Had I been in a situation to do the Delta as part of an MA course, I might have chosen to do that, but it wasn’t an option.

What were the benefits of the method you chose?

Face-to-face instruction has enormous benefits that tend to be overlooked when it’s compared to distance or blended learning. Informal discussions in class between tasks, or in breaks, and tutors’ offhand comments about this theory or that book – all of that feeds into your understanding of the material, but you don’t get that from an online course.

Timing was another benefit.  Nine months proved to be a good balance between getting the course done on the one hand, and having the time to absorb the new information and apply it to my teaching on the other.  I marvel at how anyone can get through a full-time Delta in 8 weeks.

I was fortunate to have the help of two excellent tutors – Kate Leigh and Steven McGuire – and their advice and encouragement were crucial factors in my success. I don’t think that anything improves your teaching more than being observed by experienced tutors who can see in detail what your strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve since spoken to other Delta trainees, particularly doing the Distance Delta, that haven’t had the same level of support or insight from their tutors, and that’s a great shame. The purpose of the course is to improve your teaching, and unfortunately it seems that there are some tutors who see the whole thing as one horribly rigorous extended assessment in which their role is simply to pass judgement.

What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?

Be organised – the course is perfectly manageable if you set aside time for studying and keep on top of all the work.

Do your reading – Tricia Hedge’s Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom is an excellent place to start for just about any topic the Delta covers.

Practise your assessed lessons – if you can, try out your lesson plan on a class of guinea pigs beforehand.* Doing so reveals weaknesses that you just can’t spot by looking at it on paper.

Use your tutors – for better or worse there is an element of box-ticking when it comes to CELTA and Delta, and knowing what Cambridge expect is part of the difficulty with each assignment. Don’t be afraid to ask your tutors about anything that’s unclear; it’s their job to clarify that type of thing.


*Not real guinea pigs, obviously – they are terrible language learners. I mean “a class of normal students that don’t mind being test subjects”, but that’s not as catchy.

Comments on: "Delta conversations: Matthew" (2)

  1. IH Madrid said:

    Congratulations Matt and thank you for the comments about IH and your tutors. Hope things are going well in Kuala Lumpur. To make it clear for readers of the blog, the 20% staff discount IH Madrid offers on the DELTA is conditional on staying one academic year after the end of the course.


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