On Wednesday I made the trek over to the nearby city of Zafra to sit my Delta Module one exam. It marks the first end of my Delta course and was a very welcome moment. As I finally put the pen down after three hours of writing (in two slots) I let out a sigh of relief, a smile of joy and felt a tiny ping of worry. It was (or at least felt) easier than the practice papers I’ve sat but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve passed which explains the mixed feelings fairly well.
The last few weeks have been a blur of work, study, occasional breaks of writing, procrastination (more on this later), stress and learning.
I last checked in having completed the input sessions and feeling like I had been hit by a whirlwind of information. I imagine it would be easy for a teacher to spend 20 years teaching and not come across the majority of concepts in the Delta beforehand if they didn’t spend any time doing professional development. Yet even with my International House certificates under my belt (the language awareness course I was so grateful for) and self directed study, there was still a wealth of material I didn’t know.
As such, when I ended the input sessions my mind was buzzing with words, terms and ideas but they hadn’t firmly settled in my mind. Was validity about testing or phonology, what on earth was germination and what on Earth is the noun phase!!! Honestly, I looked at the material and came to the conclusion that if I had to re-take the exam it would be no lose. A chance to let these ideas sink in more and revise them all again would allow them to really take hold, and so if I failed there wouldn’t be too much cost (apart from the actual financial cost). It wasn’t like university or school where (like Eminem said) you’ve only got one shot!
Despite this I took to my copy of Beyond the sentence and the A to Z of ELT with highlighters and pencil and looked over my notes and the study notes from the distance delta and when I came to the first exercise I could see the difference. The terms came to my mind much more quickly and rapidly, not only that but I was thinking of pieces of extra information for Paper one task two.
I’m not saying that I have now got these ideas and really understand them all. My knowledge of phonology still sucks and I can’t really use phonemic script to save my life, but I can at least notice intrusive Rs better now!
Revising The Test not the Knowledge
The Delta isn’t a case of just revising the terms, ideas and knowledge, you really have to revise the exam format and how to answer the questions as well. Luckily, I had a check over Dale Coulter and Lizzie Pinard’s brilliant articles which gave me much more confidence over the areas I had performed badly in practice papers.
A lot of people tell you to start reading about the terms before you start. I’d agree if you really don’t know your language theories or your grammar is still stuck at pedagogic grammar in coursebooks. But if you have studied things yourself a bit, you know about the silent method, the direct methods etc and you have heard about aspects then I’d recommend you learn about the exam format first. Some of the tasks require you to answer in a certain way.
Some of these might not be fair but here we go.
The fact that you have to study the exam is just wrong in my opinion. You shouldn’t need to learn how to answer a question properly to answer it. There is an aspect where you are trained to think about language in a certain way (discourse level not sentence level) and there are parts where people tend to answer the question they want rather than the question set (from the teachers perspective not the students etc) but even simple things like not having the potential marks for each task (but having the time) doesn’t help.
Too little time to sink in?
Maybe teachers are suppose to have more knowledge before they start but considering I have put a lot of effort into my own development over the last two years, certainly more than I would image others who would apply have done and I found there to be an ocean of new knowledge with little time to take it all in and no time to apply it, I will bet this is true of other people too.
Here we go, this is a big one. The distance delta site disappointed me a bit in terms of online learning. It wasn’t bad, but honestly I expected an example of the best type of online course you could possible see. Basically the site had [pdf] texts to read (which also had tasks you should do as you read), exam practice exercises to do each week that were marked and a forum to discuss exercises, questions and ideas. I wasn’t the best student at using the forum but there was no time to do it. I get the idea that it is asychronus learning and with people all over the world this can be an issue but here are a couple of simple ideas that would improve it.
1. Multimedia input via webpages.
Using pdf had issues with clicking hyperlinks within the texts and copying and pasting the text into my Evernote system. Plus…it was text only and considering the importance of “learner styles” given in the course it wasn’t really the most visual approach. Some images, videos with presentations, audio readings of parts of the text could be a great alternative form of content consumption
2. Hangouts or weekly discussions
I would have loved a weekly scheduled group discussion. It would have been a great way to clarify some issues with the texts and if there was a schedule time for the chats it would have provided a point to finish reading by AND a set time to discuss with people rather than just “yeah use the forum at some point, whenever you want). With Google Hangouts this wouldn’t cost them a thing to host (except staff costs) and they could arrange groups by time zones for chats.
[Of course, I could have organised this myself so I really have myself to blame for not doing this but when I started I didn’t know this wouldn’t be organised at all]
Module one is only a third of the Delta and there are two other modules to go, so maybe they will tackle some of my criticisms. My currently plan is to go about doing the other two modules and if I have failed the module one exam, I will do it at the end of the course (which might have been the best time to do it anyway). Hopefully then the ideas, knowledge and thoughts will have sunk in a bit more after engaging with the topic differently.
Overall I can certainly say that I have learnt a lot, it has come at a cost though. There’s that funny thing that when an artist finally get’s paid to make art and gives up their day job it can all go down the drain and so they return to their day job. I felt this was a bit true of my professional development. My energy for self directed and other Professional development just evaporated. I learnt a lot but it became a strain to struggle.
I’d definitely do it again, but I would certainly study in a different way.