Here are some questions which I wish someone had answered for me about the DELTA Module 3 last year when I started writing it. Just the basics.
I didn’t get any of this from tutors or courses, because my method for writing this essay was to read the handbook about 6 million times, take in everything it said, and work based on that.
1. How much reading do I need to do?
The handbook is fairly explicit as to how many references are desirable and I strongly recommend following its advice rather than ignoring it. My bibliography had 13 books in it, but I really based the essay around about 8 core texts which I read cover to cover. Three were about young learners, two were about task based learning and three were about course design. The other 5 books and articles were really thrown in for quotes and I wouldn’t say I really read them thoroughly. You can add more if you want, but my essay proves that 13 is enough for a distinction, so its don’t feel that you have to do it to get a higher mark.
Notably, though, my final bibliography referenced far fewer books than I read whilst thinking about or writing the essay. I think this is the right way around. I read a lot of blogs, articles, pieces of research etc especially about young learners in the build up, but they wouldn’t all fit into the actual essay.
2. What’s in a ‘course plan’?
This is the question that I didn’t know the answer to and didn’t dare ask anyone because it seemed a bit stupid. The answer is simple – it
Course Plan sample
depends on what kind of course you are writing! If you wanted to write a grammatical syllabus – your syllabus would be a list of grammatical items along with materials to teach them. If you wanted to write a task based syllabus, it would be a list of tasks.
A course plan is not a series of lesson plans. Don’t plan every lesson down to the last detail. I think this would actually confuse the course plan because it risks obscuring the main purpose/structure of the course.
Remember, (hypothetical) teachers will be teaching the course and its still their (hypothetical) job to plan their own lessons! 🙂
3. I am writing a topic / task based syllabus. How many language items do I need to include in my course plan?
None. You need to understand your type of syllabus fully. If you write a task based syllabus, don’t then stick a load of grammar points under each task that need to be learned, because then you’ve written a grammar based syllabus not a task based one.
If you’re writing a task based syllabus and thinking ‘but what grammar point is this teaching?’, then you haven’t understood what task based learning is about! The same goes for a lot of different approaches.
4. How do I show ‘linking between the sections’?
Cambridge loves to see ‘linking between the sections’, essential for higher grades. This is because it shows a coherent body of work. The four sections shouldn’t look like four different essays, they really need to run on into each other naturally. For example – you’ve got a task based course? So do a task-based needs analysis and a task-based assessment. Don’t do a task-based course then give them a grammar test at the end! This is ‘implicit linking‘ – making sure that everything is connected by theme.
On top of this, think about ‘explicit linking‘. This is where you actually say ‘In section x I said…, so…. Two examples of explicit linking from my essay:
“Analytic syllabuses are clearly more appropriate for younger learners, who do not necessarily see language as an abstract set of rules (see 1.2.2)”, or “Whether this assumption is completely false for adults might be debatable, but it seems almost unquestionable for young learners, because, taking into consideration what was said in 1.2.2 about the way young learners learn, for a product based syllabus ‘The language has to be packaged in a way that makes sense to children’ (Bourke, 2006, p. 282)”
5. How detailed does my needs analysis have to be? How detailed does the summary have to be?
Simple but detailed – the needs analysis results
It needs to be sufficient to justify the type of course, the course content and the types of activities you’ll be using, and no more.
Endless excel tables recording vast quantities of data is more likely to obscure your purpose than enhance it. A brief but clear summary is all that is necessary. Above all – it should be critical. For use excel to highlight activities which one or more students said they didn’t want to do as a way of justifying not using those activity types.
The important thing about writing it up is that the key information is clear. Someone should be able to read a statement in your essay, like ‘the class has a mild kinesthetic preference’, they should be able to look at the referenced table and instantly see that this is the case, AND be able to see the numbers behind the statement.
Remember that you are assessed, by and large, on what is in the essay, not on your appendices. If there is something in your needs analysis results which you haven’t referenced in the body of your text – then you probably don’t need it. Don’t waste your time or go overboard here. As I said, 30 pages of tables is probably not a good thing because it will only make it harder to read. It’s not as simple as ‘the more, the better’. Quality not quantity.
6. I am just starting, I have 6 months ahead of me, what should I do first?Read. Become an expert on your chosen specialism and on course design. Start to think about what is involved in course design. And start to be critical, post on blogs and read an write about surrounding issues.
7. How long does it take to write a really good essay? I heard that some people spend thousands of hours writing it!
It’s only 4,500 words so you don’t need too long to write it. My rough guess is that about 150 hours over about 4 months is enough. That’s about 3 months of 3-4 hours background reading a week, followed by about two full weeks to write it, and leaving some editing time.
Personally, I did most of the writing in about three days. I spent about one more full day tabulating the needs analysis, about one day assembling the appendices and editing and about one day doing the course plan, making six full days (probably about 8-10 hours each day, including a lot of coffee breaks). I then had about two weeks to edit and improve, doing about an hour a night.
People that spend too long writing it are probably being somewhat inefficient. Never write over the word limit and the ‘cut it down’ because it will waste your time. Don’t read obscure books from the 1960s just to add pointless quotes.
8. I am just starting, I have 6 days ahead of me, what should I do first?
Panic. I don’t know how people pull these essays together last minute, but if I were you I would delay your submission by 6 months and write a decent one that you can be proud of.
I know, we’ve all heard the stories about the people who wrote it all in the 48 caffeine fueled hours between the exam date and the module submission date and somehow got a merit. But you’ll have this result forever, so why not make it as good as you can?
9. What’s the one thing that you need to do to make sure you pass?
Write with the DELTA handbook in one hand and tick off the criteria as you go. A startlingly good essay could fall down if it doesn’t meet the Cambridge criteria.
10. I heard that writing a one to one course or an exam course is easier. Is this true?
I’ve heard this a lot of times. I imagine that an exam course is easier in some ways because your assessment procedures are handed to you on a plate and there are mountains of resources available to you. One to one courses only have one needs analysis, which you can easily distort to your needs if you want to.
Beware of the hidden dragon though. It may seem easier, but Cambridge is still expecting you to do the same amount of work.
To be honest, I think you should chose something that you are really interested in. You are going to spend a LOT of time reading about it, and you want this time to be spent reading about something which will be useful to you in the long run, not just get you a certificate.