Back from the Bootcamp: Mike’s Delta Experience at the Berlin School of English

in Professional Development
Mike brought his adventurous spirit to the Delta training course, too.

Mike shares his thoughts and describes his experience doing the Delta training course at the Berlin School of English.

Is the Delta really worth the time and money?

The Delta is a big commitment. It isn’t cheap, and it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to complete the coursework. It also means you’ll have to reduce your workload, reducing your income. So is it actually worth it?

In terms of developing professionally, Delta is one of the best practical teaching qualifications. That means it isn’t just your ability to describe or discuss teaching that improves, you get to really focus on what you actually do in the classroom. There are plenty of workshops, webinars, journals and books out there to draw inspiration on, but it is in the Delta course that teachers really get the chance to research classroom methodology in detail and then critically analyse, get feedback on and develop their classroom practices.

A colleague once described doing the Delta as ‘completely dismantling your teacher self and putting the pieces back together.’ From my experience I’d say she was spot on.

How does the Delta benefit your career?

While many masters programs tend to be quite theoretical, Delta is one of the leading practical English teaching qualifications and respected as such. In addition to getting more recognition, (in the UK, it is a level seven qualification alongside master’s degrees), you’ll be poised to move into other areas such as management, teacher training or materials writing. But above all, the Delta leads to a significant difference in your teaching knowledge and capabilities. Many well known names in the industry started out by getting that famed Delta feather in their caps.

What motivated you to do it?

I guess it all started after I got my CELTA in January 2014, and had then been teaching for a number of years, when I felt I needed to expand my knowledge and gain more experience extending beyond just teaching intuitively and incidentally getting better. It was great to get positive feedback from my students and employers, but I lacked a sense of discipline and confidence within the field.

Additionally, I was feeling really lost with my planning and found it excruciatingly difficult to visualise what was going to happen in the classroom. It didn’t seem to make a difference if I put 20 minutes or 4 hours into a lesson.

I started reading books on psychology and learning, and then took part in study groups in preparation for the LCCI-FTBE certificate led by Mandy Welfare and Evan Frendo. Those groups gave me a taste of more formal education, but then I realised it was the Delta I really wanted.

Can you give us a brief rundown of the Delta?

To get the full Delta you have to complete three independent modules, which can be taken in any order, with no time limit. You get a certificate upon successful completion of each module and can claim to be a full Delta graduate when you complete all three. You don’t have to do all three modules if you don’t want to.

Here’s a brief overview:

  • Module 1 – a 3-hour written exam
  • Module 2 – a portfolio of classroom assignments including observed lessons to develop your teaching practices
  • Module 3 – an extended written assignment on an ELT specialism such as business English, ESP, EAP, young learners, one-to-one, monolingual classes etc; or you can choose ELT management.

How was the course structured at the Berlin School of English?

It was a one year, integrated course for modules 1 and 2, where we attended 4-hour weekly sessions going through numerous ELT topics, including lots of discussion with fellow participants and the trainers. We covered an exhaustive list of different areas of ELT including methodology, phonology, systems, skills, grammar, history of ELT, lesson structure, giving feedback, ELF and more. We seemed to leave no ELT stone left unturned.

The observations for Module 2 are generally carried out in your regular classes, but other arrangements can be made if necessary.

How was your experience at the Berlin School of English?

It was great. The trainers are so experienced, passionate, helpful, understanding, full of personality and open. They really become working partners for you during the course. You can organise private meetings with them to discuss your assignments or course progress.

While they encourage you to stick to agreed deadlines for internal organisation purposes, they are flexible and will do everything they can to fit lesson observations or deadlines around your teaching schedule. They are very understanding when it comes to the teaching environment and the challenges facing freelance teachers in Berlin. Not all of us managed to finish Module 2 by the end of the year, but submitting the coursework to a later deadline isn’t a problem as Cambridge sets no time limits.

Although I have bought a number of books for assignments, this is not entirely necessary as there are plenty of books and articles available for access in the Resource Library at the BSoE.

What do you think you gained most from doing the Delta?

Perhaps most outstanding is a deeper understanding of gap between what ‘I’ve taught’ and what the students subsequently ‘have learned’. The Delta syllabus stipulates that you utilise objective techniques to analyse your students’ uptake. In my case, this process definitely led to the message being driven home that teaching does not necessarily result in learning.

Here is a by no means complete list of areas in which I’ve grown through the Delta.

Area of ELTMy personal gain
Classroom managementConfidence in shifting students around in class, making new pairings.
LexisA much deeper understanding of how lexis is ‘learned’, including collocations and lexical primings.
Learning principlesA deeper understanding of the learning process and the speed at which people learn. I now push my students harder but exercise more patience.
PhonologyAbility to spontaneously use the phonemic script and describe how different sounds in English are made.
Analysing connected speechAwareness of elision, assimilation, linking and other hurdles slowing down our learners’ listening comprehension.
Learning/teaching grammar‘Guided noticing’ is a key principle and students need lots of it.

Skepticism of sentence-level grammar and increased focus on text-level grammar.

Awareness of vast differences between spoken and written grammar.

DiscourseDeep understanding of cohesion and coherence in spoken or written discourse.

Much better ability to grade and provide feedback for student writing.

Teaching speakingConfidence in teaching features of conversation including intonation, backchanneling, pausefillers
Understanding coursebooksAbility to analyse a coursebook lesson sequence and identify the teaching principles behind each stage.
History of and different approaches/theories to ELTKnowledge of grammar translation, audiolingualisim, the Direct Method, the Lexical Approach, Krashen’s comprehensible input hypothesis, dogme and others
Lesson planningLoss of planning phobia and gained effectivity and enjoyment.

Standout books I’ve used in the Delta that have had a profound impact on my teaching:

TitleAuthor and publisher information
About LanguageScott Thornbury, 2017, Cambridge University Press
Beyond the Sentence – Introducing Discourse AnalysisScott Thornbury, 2005, Macmillan Education
Conversation: From Description to PedagogyScott Thornbury and Diana Slade, 2006, Cambridge University Press
Grammar DictationRuth Wajnryb, 1990, OUP
How Languages are LearnedPatsy M. Lightbrown and Nina Spada, 2006, OUP
Lexical Priming: A New Theory of Words and LanguageMichael Hoey, 2005, Routledge
Listening in the Language ClassroomJohn Field, 2009, Cambridge University Press
Practical English UseMichael Swan, 2005, Oxford University Press
Teaching Collocation: Further Developments in the Lexical ApproachEd. Michael Lewis, 2000, Language Teaching Publications
Uncovering GrammarScott Thornbury, 2014, Macmillan Education
Teaching LexicallyHugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley, 2016, Delta Publishing

 

What would you say to those fearful of doing the Delta?

“I don’t think I’m good enough for it.”
“I’m anxious about being observed and getting negative feedback”
“I can’t write academic texts.”

The tutors at the Berlin School of English carry out three of four of your assessed observations but they’re there to give you supportive feedback at the end of the day. The whole point of the Delta is professional development, so progress is partly by you moving forward, not by first being at a specific standard before you begin. If you’re still worried, look at the application requirements and get in contact with the training centre and they’ll help you.

I admit that before it began I didn’t have much confidence in my ability to write at an academic level, but this came with time. The longer your drafts, the more feedback you will get. So you could in theory submit a draft which is 1000 words over the final limit, and you’ll get valuable feedback from which you’ll be able to make adjustments.

In the assessed lessons, I had a strong mental picture of the lesson after working on the plan for a long time and received feedback on it that just felt like going through the ropes. But don’t worry; if things aren’t going quite to plan (as was the case for me once!), you’re allowed to deviate from your lesson plan if you can provide reason for it in your post-lesson reflections.

What tips would you give to someone who has decided to take the Delta?

Embrace the opportunity to read a lot.Try and put aside at least one full weekday each week to devote to the Delta assignments or you won’t make any progress. It will be intense, but  the feeling of relief and satisfaction after completing an assignment successfully is worth it.

Mike Budden has been an ELTABB member since 2015 and on the Events Team since 2017. He teaches at a training centre for airport ground staff and at the Volkshochschule in Berlin.

Is it worth taking the Delta course?

Mike Budden

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