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Professional Development

Delta module 3

Julie Anne Marker

I completed the Delta Module 3 in December 2019 after doing module 1 earlier in the year. It is quite different from module 1 in that you are assessed on a 4500-word essay, called an Extended Assignment (EA), involving the creation of a 20-hour lesson plan with the essay explaining the rationale behind it. It sounded easy but I found that once again my life was overtaken by writing and rewriting as I tried to fit all I wanted to say into a very rigidly-adhered to word limit.

The candidate is presented with a selection of specialisms to choose from: monolingual classes, business English, teaching exam classes, young learners, special needs, etc, but you must choose a group you teach. This is a bit tricky because if you want to do something other than young learners you will need to find a way to access your target students. This is primarily for carrying out a Needs Analysis and Diagnostic Testing. I chose Young Learners, narrowing the field to a 5-year range of Teen Learners.

The course guides you through the writing process, focusing on one part of the overall Extended Assignment at a time. There are five parts. You read the guidelines and input material and churn out that portion of the essay, send it to your tutor for feedback, and make adjustments as required with about two weeks between each part being submitted. My tutor was really helpful, but without getting to see actual examples of assignments, I was still lost as to how to complete some parts in the way they wanted. I am definitely a product-process kinda gal. You have another chance for final feedback of the whole assignment a week or so before the submission deadline.

The course is supposed to be 12 hours per week, but I honestly found it required much more, as I struggle to articulate my ideas well. I also found that the reading list was too much to be able to cover well, and at times I was wondering what I was supposed to be gaining from the selected texts. Starting early on the texts is good; however, be smarter than me – I would read something, not realise its importance until later in the course, and be unable to find it again when I wanted it for a quote. So stay alert!

A couple of books I really enjoyed and recommend are How Languages are Learned (Lightbown & Spada) and Teaching Languages to Young Learners (Cameron, L.) They cover a lot of research relevant to what we do in Brunei and are available at the CfBT library. One of the most interesting (and unsurprising) things was how literacy in the mother tongue supports literacy in a foreign language. Literacy skills developed through interaction with mother tongue texts are transferable to ESL (or any foreign language), but students are at a disadvantage if they lack such experience. I know only two students out of my 56 Year 11 IG students who had ever read a magazine article in Malay, and definitely none had in English.

I would have to say my favourite author is Scott Thornbury. Something of an ESL icon, he is a New Zealander living in Spain and wrote the book The A-Z of ELT, pretty much the encyclopaedia of ESL terminology. I like to use his book Teaching Grammar Creatively. I have found the lesson ideas are communication-focused and can be pitched well for our students. He is also anti-testing – my kind of person! Another favourite is Paul Nation, an American-Kiwi who has had a wide impact on teaching and learning vocabulary, extensive reading programmes in ESL, and language teaching methodologies. He has a vast array of free articles on his website https://www.wgtn.ac.nz/lals/about/staff/paul-nation-pubsdate that are easy to read and not full of indecipherable terminology.

My Extended Assignment was Teaching Year 9 Express Class in Brunei. I wanted to call it Surfing the Backwash in Brunei (hehe!) and while my tutor loved the title he thought that maybe the examiners would be less enthusiastic about it (‘backwash’ is how exams end up impacting and driving curricula, and this can be either a negative or positive effect).
The first part of the EA requires the candidate to explain why they chose their specialism and what they hoped to achieve by doing the course. You then write about the characteristics of your learners. Saying that teens are like humans temporarily invaded by aliens until their early 20s was a no. Ugh! I hate writing bland, humourless, academic essays. I’m lucky my eyeballs are still intact and not skewered on a barbecue to relieve the boredom I felt.

The second part, Needs Analysis (NAs), showed that my students wanted more creative activities in class, such as role plays and songs, and more speaking opportunities. I was also asked by the tutors to give the parents a Needs Analysis to find out what they wanted their children to do and the learning goals parents had for them. I didn’t do this as I wasn’t sure if it might be treading on toes – consultation with parents about learning is ideal, but not something that happens here yet and I wasn’t comfortable initiating it. I did, however, refer to the MoE goals and objectives along with those of the students.

Part three is where we get to the nitty-gritty – the course proposal. You need to explain your selection of activities, whether your course is cyclical, linear, etc, etc and why. It all needs to link up to part one and part two. You need to justify your approaches, aims and objectives, materials and sequencing. Those are easy, but I did find it hard to fit my proposal into a category – it was little bits of everything.

In part four, you explain the assessments you are using. You must have at least one summative and one formative. And you need to explain, define and justify all the way through. Rubrics need to be included as well.

The last part is the course evaluation. In the appendices (and you need loads) are the collated NAs and DTs with examples of each, examples of materials you will use, plus the 20-hour course itself with the objectives colour-coded to the overall aims of the course, plus pretty little arrows showing how one lesson flows on from another. It was my worst nightmare to find that after I had submitted it (thankfully early!), that it had to be in PDF format, which unfortunately kept distorting all my charts and pasted materials. I managed to work out how to do it by midnight a day before flying out when I would have no access to the internet before the deadline. That was one huge sigh of relief. I found sometimes that important details were buried at the bottom of a page and I didn’t always notice them until too late. Too much to read, too little time.

So, would I recommend module 3? Well, it certainly wasn’t my favourite of the two I have done so far. Some people are great at seeing the bigger picture and expressing and organising ideas well. I get stuck on details, like … yeah. That. I like having specific, guided reading and tasks, as opposed to when I did my MA and there was less input from the supervisor. It was good in that it made me think about what my students want and how I could meet their needs and interests while following the SoW, and of course, how they learn languages. I will definitely continue to do NAs and DTs in my classes and do professional reading as it was enjoyable (when at the right pace)!

So, I got a Pass. I was hoping desperately for a Merit at least to go with my Module 1 Distinction, but this was not to be. Ah well. Having a breather before Module 2 so I can remember what it is like to have a life again. Then I will look at Module 2. Any questions, feel free to message me.

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