Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The DELTA Diaries: 4 thoughts after 1 month

As I mentioned a few posts back, I am currently taking the Cambridge DELTA course, an advanced qualification in English Language Teaching.

Since that post, a lot has gone on.

Module One of the course, which I am doing online through ESOL Strasbourg, kicked off in early April.

This part of the program covers a lot of theory about language acquisition, discourse analysis, English Language teaching methods...and many other points that I am either woefully or somewhat ignorant of.

After one month, I have 4 thoughts about the course.

1. This is a lot of work

When you read about doing the DELTA, it is always clearly stated that the course requires plenty of work.

I am here today to tell you that this is true. If you think you there are special circumstances that will exempt you from the workload, as in general intelligence, good test-tasking skills, or lots of teaching experience, think again.

2. Previous qualifications with the magic letters EL in them would have been useful

There is, however,  one special circumstance that does seem to be an advantage for going in for the DELTA: holding other qualifications with the magic acronyms "E" and "L".

I am one of "those candidates" who was accepted into the program based on experience, but I don't have a certificate-qualification-thingy including the letters "E" and "L". Oh yes, there is my Bachelor's degree in English Literature -- "E" and "L" -- but this is of precious little help when trying to learn what a suprasegmental is.

The learners in my course who already have "EL" quals seem a bit more comfortable for the moment.

3. I'm glad I have a book budget

I have been provided with 2 hefty reading lists; one is the "official ESOL Strasbourg" reading list, and another is an updated list suggested by one of our tutors. Surfing around the web, I have found yet other reading lists from reputable institutions.

So far I have invested in about 20 books at an average of about 20 euros each, so you can do the math. I must say the majority either have already been useful, or look like they will be useful.

I remember reading somewhere that proximity to a well-stocked ELT resource library was a real plus for the DELTA; since there certainly isn't one of those in Rodez,  I'm trying to build a modest version myself.

4. Online learning does, indeed, require discipline

I'm doing the course while working full-time, and I would say the workload is manageable, but significant. I'll be taking the formidable Module One test in early December, so my group has about 8 months to prepare.

For the first month of Module One, I put in 50 hours of work, including reading, preparing the assignments, studying, and interacting on the class wiki. I haven't officially "scheduled in" time for the class, but it has simply become my default activity.

My rule of thumb has been to work at least an hour per night on four out of five week nights, plus 6 to 8 hours total over the weekend.

In order to stick to it, I go into robot mode: I get home, do a few things around the house, and sit straight down to a 60-90 minute work session. Sometimes it is a real effort; but most times I look forward to it.

I've been discouraged a few times, but when I look back at how much I've learned in just one month, I figure that the endeavor is both doable and worthwhile.