The Cambridge Delta is a modular diploma which can be taken in or out of sequence, at any time, at any place.
Module 1 (M1) comprises an extensive knowledge test. Module 2 (M2) consists of 4 papers, teaching 4 lessons and writing post-lesson reflections, 3 professional development plans, plus an experimental teaching practice. Module 3 (M3) focuses on a specialism and candidates must turn in a rather comprehensive paper on the topic of their choosing.
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from taking M2.
1. Practice makes a difference
Delta M2 assesses candidates’ (deltees’, if you will) lessons: research, planning, delivery and reflection. I haven’t taught groups in 6 years.
As the DOS in a large school, my busy days did not allow me to be in the classroom as a teacher – even though I would observe classes frequently and work on professional development with the teachers I oversaw.
Besides, for the last 3 years – since leaving the school – I have been teaching one-to-one lessons almost exclusively. So you can imagine how ‘classroom-rusty’ I must have been.
Had I had the opportunity to teach a group while taking M2, my observed lessons would probably have felt less challenging. As it was, I didn’t have the opportunity to test my ideas, theories and lesson plans before being assessed on them. There was no ‘trial and error’.
Practice may or may not make it perfect, but it does make a difference.
2. Let your voice be heard
Each lesson to be taught involves a background essay (or paper) which covers your reasons for teaching a particular topic – be it system or skill.
When I first heard the word ‘essay’, I conjured up images of super-formal writing pieces in which one should appear to be as detached and impersonal as possible. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
It is imperative that the candidate show their voice, share their experience in this essay. Therefore, the first person should be used, i.e.: I tend to agree with; in my experience; that is why I have chosen; etc.
Cambridge wants to ‘hear’ what you have to say, not just what so-and-so do (ok, here I really mean all the authors and reference material that you will have to cite – by the way, be prepared to read a lot and add many in-text citations). Make sure your voice seeps through your words.
3. Stay curious
As in any course, how much you will take from it depends entirely on you. The amount of reading that needs to be done is gargantuan, so it is easy to want to stay on the surface. Yeah, doing so might work and get you a pass. But, really, wouldn’t it be nice to also learn something while going through the whole thing?
I managed to get merit and distinction on my lesson plans/background essays by asking the questions for which I really wanted the answers. Stay curious.
4. Simple does it
My M2 was 100% online, which meant lessons were delivered and observed/assessed online as well. I am sure at this point we are all aware of the limitations – and of the advantages – of teaching groups online.
Well, it turns out that the more gimmicky the lesson is, the less of your teaching skills you are showcasing, the less of the students you are listening to. Don’t hide yourself behind 43 slides: students can’t really see you and you sure can’t see them.
The more ‘external’ apps, pages, tools you use, the more transition time you need. This means you will also have less time to do all you have planned for in the lesson. This also could mean you might lose your students’ attention.
In true ‘more-is-less’ fashion, know that simple does it.
5. The student is the reason for it all
Well, it’s not that I didn’t know it before, it’s just that I took it for granted. Every single thing that happens in the classroom is because of the student. Why you choose to teach a certain lexical set, skill, grammar point is because of your students.
It also should be reflected in the classroom. It is imperative to be responsive to students’ contributions, especially when they link to what you have taught, are teaching or will teach. Failing to do so may be the difference between pass and fail or merit and distinction.
In real life we, as teachers, sometimes choose not to address a comment a student makes because it might take our lesson a different route. Well, for Delta it is definitely not the best policy.
I recommend reading How to pass Delta and the Delta handbook for tutors and candidates before and during the course.