So You Wanna Do DELTA Module 3?

I started Module 3 nine months after I sat Module 1 exam. Same as before, I took a course with the Distance Delta. Academic writing is not among my strengths so I needed a lot of guidance and feedback.

The course was organised in chunks, and there was a deadline for submitting each part (approximately 2 weeks for each part, apart from Part 2 because it requires some extra time to collect the data you will need for Parts 3 and 4). We also had a couple of weeks to work on the final draft after receiving the tutor’s feedback.

Some things I realised while working on my EA and which might be useful for those who are going to start Module 3:

  • Before running thorough needs analysis for Part 2, do a short preliminary one. This will give you some ideas about what your future focus might be and what sources you need to look for before you actually start working on your EA. As a result, you will save some time.
  • When working on appendices, create a separate file with the list of appendices you are going to have. Group appendices according to the parts they belong to, e.g. 1a-…, 2a-…, 3a-… Apart from the title, add a short description in brackets (in case you forget what the appendix includes). Keep editing the list on the way. This will help you organise your Document 2 and not lose any appendices on the way (which is likely to happen if you have over 30 of them, and it’s a pretty common number for Document 2; I had 39).
  • Appendices to include in Document 1: 1) course syllabus and lesson plans; 2) collated needs analysis (NA) and diagnostic tests (DT) results
    Appendices to include in Document 2: 1) samples of NA questionnaires; 2) sample of completed NA questionnaires from one of the students; 3) DT tasks; 4) samples of completed DT tasks from one of the students (transcripts for speaking DT); 5) all materials used in each lesson; 6) all assessment forms; 7) all course evaluation questionnaires; 8) anything else you wish to include, e.g. charts and diagrams you refer to in the main body of your EA.
  • Learn how Word works. In particular, how to create heading styles and auto-generated contents. This will save A LOT OF time. To display the styles, press Ctrl+Shift+Alt+S. Apply them to the headings – without this, you will not be able to create auto-generated contents. To create them, go to References -> Table of contents -> choose your preferred style.
  • Do all the necessary formatting BEFORE you start typing into the document. The standard is 2.5 cm margins (all sides), font size 12. Everything else is up to you, but I’d suggest having line spacing slightly bigger than 1 (it makes it easier for the reader, i.e. the assessor).
  • If you have problems with placing both footers and page numbers at the bottom (I did), place page numbers at the top – it’s much easier to do and not against the rules.
  • Have multiple copies of your EA in case something happens to your PC or if you decide to work on it using a different PC. I know it’s pretty basic advice, but you’ll be surprised to know how many people fail to arrange extra copies and end up regretting not having done this.

Don’t be afraid to get a deferral if you feel you don’t have enough time to refine your EA. You don’t have to submit it in December even if you started your course in September. I was working full-time while writing my EA and literally had no time to finish it before the deadline. I still did all the writing but did not prepare lesson plans, just the course proposal. I then took a break from writing and came back to it in spring. This gave me an opportunity to introduce all the necessary changes (according to my tutor’s feedback), attach all the lesson plans, and submit the EA in June. As a result, I got Pass with Merit, which is more than enough for me considering how many difficulties I always have when it comes to academic writing.

And as always, a link to the treasure box where you will find:

  • Module 3 Handbook;
  • Examiner reports;
  • Some sample assignments (free public access, no laws violated);
  • And a little extra.

If you wish to have a look at my assignment, feel free to contact me (but remember Cambridge does not tolerate plagiarism).

To assess, or not to assess, that is the question indeed

I’ve always had a difficult relationship with assessment.
When I was a student in Russia, I knew that it was all about scores and rankings. At university, I realised that assessment can be different and can be aimed at measuring how good you are at providing supportive arguments and structuring your assignment. However, neither in Russia nor in the UK, it was about me as a person. In Russia, schools are doing everything possible and impossible to have as few F students as they can. In the UK, the university failed to take into consideration my background and those difficulties I had to face as an international student for whom English was a second language and who was educated in a totally different environment where different criteria were cherished.
No wonder that when I became a teacher myself, assessment became my nightmare and a constant source of anxiety.

How to measure effort? Creativity? Engagement?
How to come up with criteria that will provide you with reliable data?
How to make sure each and every student in my class will be able to complete the assignment without saying that it was too easy or too difficult but just challenging enough?

Stakeholders want numbers and pie charts demonstrating that their investments have paid off. Academic managers want proof that they made the right choice when they decided to hire you. At the end of the day, assessment becomes a tool that is used to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers. Some might say that if a teacher is effective, their students make progress. True. But your effectiveness should not be the main concern when assessing students.

In most cases, what assessment lacks is the focus on learners.

As a learner myself, I know one thing: motivated or not, too harsh on yourself or not, you always know exactly how you’re doing. You know if you haven’t been studying hard enough. You know if you have tried your best. You know when you have finally mastered some structure or topic. You know what structures or topics you still have to master.

When I assess my students, I always turn to their expertise. Who, but them, know how they have been doing all that time and what, if something, has stopped them from achieving more? I don’t grade. Grades are meaningless unless there are very specific, detailed and objective criteria – which is hardly attainable. Instead, I ask my students how they feel about their learning process. Do they think they have made any progress? What do they think they should still work on and how could they do it? If they love grades then which one would they give themselves and why?

Of course, I take notes and make comments. Of course, I do not eliminate myself from the process completely. Students need our feedback, our encouragement.

Whenever I do some progress check, I always tell my students: this is not for me, this is for you. For you to evaluate your progress and see your strengths and weaknesses. For you to reconsider your learning route. Learning is by nature a solitary activity. You can have a teacher and classmates, but your learning journey is yours only and no one else’s. And it’s totally up to you where it brings you.