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.
Sheona Smith is a teacher and teacher trainer based in Majorca, Spain. She loves her job and discovering ways to continue her Professional Development. Her special interests at the moment are using ICT in language teaching and CLIL. Her next project is to do an MA in ICT and EFL at some time in the not too distant future. She tweets from @eltsheona.
How did you do your Delta? How did you arrange the modules?
I’d been reading a lot of methodology books for ages and decided that I should try to put what I was studying to some use and have clearer objectives, so I opted to do the Distance Delta Module 1 [the exam] first in March 2011. I finished the module in June 2011 with a merit. As I am based in Majorca I knew it would be difficult to find a local tutor so I did Module 3 (merit) [extended assignment] next and then Module 2 [observed teaching practice] in October 2012 when I finally found a Local Tutor [someone to observe the lessons]. I got a Distinction for this module which was a big surprise even thought I put a lot of work in, and I was lucky to have a very understanding local tutor who gave me excellent feedback and advice!
Why did you choose to do it that way?
I’m a working mum, with 3 kids and it really was the only option I could do. I was unsure for a while if I’d ever be able to actually do Module 2 with the two-week orientation course, but after doing the other two modules I was determined to finish.
What do you think you gained from doing the Delta?
Well, there’s so much to say really. I really feel I gained a lot.
- Confidence in myself as a teacher.
- The confirmation that teaching is learning all the time.
- Discovering a ‘Sense of Agency’, something that I learned about in an excellent book that I’d recommend all teachers read: Psychology for Language Teachers by Williams and Burden [affiliate link]. This refers to giving students a sense of empowerment in their learning, showing them or facilitating an atmosphere of taking control of their own learning. For me that wasn’t just about helping students but a life lesson.
- An inkling of what doing an MA might be like in terms of amount of work and commitment (that’s my next challenge when I find the money)
What were the downsides of the method you chose?
The way the Distance Delta is set up you can do any module first and individually. This means that the course materials for each module overlap, so if you’ve done Module 1 you’ll get most of same material for the other modules. I feel this could be improved in some way.
As some people have mentioned, the course organisers could make better use of technologies available to update some aspects of the course. Much as I loved the orientation course and my stay in London, it was very expensive and logistically complicated for my family for me to be in London for 2 weeks. I felt despite being primarily an online course there was a human element which could be better enhanced through more use of digital tools like Skype, webinars etc.
What were the benefits of the method you chose?
The best thing for me about doing the Delta course at a distance was that I could carry on with ‘normal life’: that is, be at home for my kids and, of course, continue working. There is no way I could have done the intensive course. I also learned a lot about online learning and the benefits of Blended Learning, something that I’ve become really interested in.
What tips would you give other people doing the Delta?
Tips I’d give are:
- Only do the Delta if you feel it’s the right time for you to do it. This might seem a bit obvious, but it is a very difficult course in terms of workload and emotional highs and lows and if you’re not determined to finish and give it everything you’ve got, I would have a rethink and wait till the time is right.
- Read the Delta Teacher Handbook, (you can download this free). That is the best place to see what examiners are really looking for in candidates. Mine was tattered and torn by the end of the 3 modules.
- Don’t over-read. Some of the background reading books are amazing and I found myself getting lost in them, which I didn’t really have time to do. Don’t feel bad if you just read the chapter you need for your assignment. If it’s a worthwhile book you’ll come back to it after the course when you can really absorb and enjoy reading it.
- Resign yourself to the fact that for the duration of the modules/course you will be totally absorbed by the coursework. You might as well just make the most of it. I took my course books to the beach with me and read in the car between classes. But I did block off time specifically for my family and gave myself extra free time if I managed to get an assignment ready before the deadline. I always set my deadline a day before assignments were due so that I could leave my work alone for 24 hours, relax and then come back to it with a fresh perspective before handing it in. You’d be amazed at the things you find when reading with a fresh pair of eyes.
In retrospect, what would you have done differently?
I would probably have done the modules in the correct order: that is, 1,2, and then the third. They quite clearly follow on from each other which can only be beneficial when doing the third. I also left a bit of a gap (10 months) between M3 and M2 and I had this niggling doubt about how much I’d remember. I felt I’d kind of lost the momentum.
How much time per week would you estimate you needed to spend working on the Delta in the format you chose?
As regards the amount of time I spent, it was definitely well above what the website suggested. But then I’ve been told I can be a bit of a perfectionist. Definitely over 10 hours a week for Module 2. What can I say, writing up the background essay and the lesson plan felt endless at times. When I look back now I don’t actually know how I managed to do it!