logo  ELT Concourse teacher training for Delta
Concourse 2

The Delta Professional Development Assignment, Part A

reflection action
Reflection and Action

The Professional Development Assignment, Part A concerns Reflection and Action but, before we can reflect and then act on our reflections, we need some data to chew.
Where does this information come from?
Pause for a moment and think of some possible sources of information about your teaching and then click here when you have a short list.


Beliefs about teaching and learning

Most good centres have some way of focusing you on articulating and examining your underlying beliefs about teaching and learning.  Take the exercise seriously because the outcomes will inform the whole of the Professional Development Assignment.  If your centre doesn't have such a procedure, and even if it does, try answering some of these questions before you click on the eye open to reveal some comments (there are no right answers but the right-hand column contains suggestions of where to go for more information).

Assumption Comment Guides for more
Language learning is essentially about mastering the structures, lexis and pronunciation of a language.
eye open
If you agreed with this statement, you are not alone.  Many learners would accept this and many teachers, too.  However, it is worth considering whether formal knowledge transfers to the ability to use language for real communication.
Communicative Language Teaching
Texts used for language input, whether spoken or written, need to be carefully graded for the learners’ level.
eye open
If you agreed with this statement, are you denying your learners access to and training in the use of authentic texts?  After all, the argument goes, no learner will ever master the whole of a language and most will never get above B2 level so they will all have to deal with materials beyond their level in the real world and need explicit training in how to do it.
authentic materials
Drilling new language is essential if it is to be mastered.
eye open
If you agreed with this, what evidence do you have that drilling is effective at all?  Do you believe that language learning is essentially a process of forming good habits? 
theories of second-language acquisition
Motivation springs from confidence in accurate language use.
eye open
Is that all?  It may be part of the story but the area is complicated and much is debatable.
Teacher talking time should always be kept to a minimum.
eye open
You need to ask whether it is the quantity of teacher talk that is concerning you or its quality.  The teacher's voice and input is appreciated by many learners and is sometimes underestimated in the effort to make lessons more learner centred.  It is a source of comprehensible input tailored to the level and interests of the class (or should be).
asking good questions
being clear
dealing with error
Learners learn best when they are relaxed and calm.
eye open
This is probably reference to Krashen's idea of the Affective Filter.  He asserted that relaxed, confident, calm learners learn best but the hypothesis is not without its critics.
Krashen and the Natural Approach
The teacher’s personal relationship with the learners is the most important factor in the classroom.
eye open
This is an important factor, of course, but whether it is the most important may be debatable..
how learning happens
Learning has to be objectively measured and formal testing is the best way to do that.
eye open
In some settings, this is probably the case and it is true that many learners expect some sort of testing procedure.  When they do, we need to make sure that any tests are fair and acceptable to the learners who should believe it is a real test.  There are, however, other ways of assessing learning that may be more appropriate in some circumstances. .


Stage 1: The Diagnostic Lesson

Each centre will vary in what it requires of you at this stage but there are some commonalities:

  • The lesson is unassessed so, however successful, or otherwise, no records will be sent to Cambridge and it will not be taken into account when awarding the grade overall for Module Two.  Relax; the outcomes are for you.
  • You will be given some sort of feedback probably both oral and written
  • Most centres will require you to write a proper plan
  • Many centres require you to write a Reflection and Evaluation document after the lesson
  • The feedback you receive from the observer must be included as an appendix to the PDA Part A
  • The lesson is not assessed in any formal way and does not contribute at all to the final grade for the Professional Development Assignment

Before you set out on the diagnostic lesson, there are some things to ask yourself:

  1. Is this a lesson in which I can take on a number of different roles?  It's good if it is, because your tutor can provide richer feedback.
  2. Am I happy that I have correctly analysed the language and or subskill which is / are the targets of the lesson?  It's helpful if you do because your tutor wants to focus on your teaching behaviour and style, not only the content of what you are teaching.
  3. Have I thought about how I am going to give feedback to my learners on their production?  Giving and getting feedback are very important parts of your teaching repertoire and you want to make sure you are doing this efficiently and helpfully.  There's a guide to giving and getting feedback on this site.
  4. Have I included stages where I can check learning?  See the guide to checking learning for more.

If you haven't already had some input from your centre concerning lesson planning, you should look at the guide to planning at Delta level.


Stage 2: Reflection and action

Don't base this part solely on the outcomes of the diagnostic lesson.  Your tutor watched only a small slice of your teaching.  You see it all.  Look at the diagram at the beginning and the notes below it to see what other data sources you should consider.
Obviously, if the tutor has identified important areas to work on in the diagnostic lesson, you should prioritise these but don't limit yourself unnecessarily.  Consider also:

  • your preferred teaching style and beliefs about what is 'best practice'
  • the culture of where you teach in terms of what the institution requires of teachers and learners
  • how you adapt to certain teaching contexts and types of learners
  • your knowledge (or lack of it) of methodology, techniques, lesson shapes and procedures and how confident you feel about implementing them
  • any other training you have received

For this stage, you need to write between 800 and 1000 words.
That's not much so be concise and stay relevant.  Using bullet points usually saves words but don't do that at the expense of providing some discussion.  A simple list is not enough.  Here's what you do:

  • Summarise your key teaching strengths and areas to work on.  Choose a maximum of five (preferably fewer but no fewer than three) or you won't have space and you won't stay focused.
    • Identify reasons for these strengths and areas to work on where possible
    • Explain what the effects of your strengths and weaknesses are on learners and learning
    • See if you can link what you do with your underlying beliefs and principles
    • Identify the source of these strengths and weaknesses: training, knowledge, your personality etc.
  • Say why development in these areas will be beneficial to you and your learners
  • Produce an action plan for developing your teaching.  Many people find a table the best way to set this out.  Consider:
    • Action: what are you going to do?  This could be something like "Think more carefully and plan good concept-checking questions" or "Experiment with different ways to give feedback to my students" or "Consider more carefully the types and sources of error before I jump in to correct".
    • Objective: say why you are taking this action.  How will it help?  Look at it from your learners' point of view.
    • Evaluate: say how you will find out whether the action was helpful or not.  This might include: getting a colleague to observe, asking your students via a questionnaire, getting a focus group of students together to talk about what they thought, recording yourself, keeping a teaching diary and so on.
      Make sure this column or section doesn't simply include more action but is clear about how you will measure success.
      Here's an example of how the first row of an action plan might look:
      Action Objective Evaluation
      1. I will plan in detail what I will say when giving instructions and how I will check they are understood
      2. I will observe a colleague who is more experienced and focus on how he gives instructions
      To make my instructions crisper and easier to understand and avoid the need for repair and repetition.  This will:
      • save time and help my learners focus on tasks, activities and targets
      • raise engagement and commitment levels
      1. I will audio-tape three lessons and then focus on whether I kept to my planned instructions and whether I checked and/or needed to repair them.  I will look for improvement over the three lessons
      2. I will observe whether the learners are on track and on task and note on my plan whether there were times when instructions failed.  I will look specifically to see what effect better instructions have on engagement
      3. I will ask a colleague to observe a lesson and focus particularly on whether she felt that my instructional language was effective and how engaged learners were from the outset of tasks
    • Notice, in particular, that the third column focuses on how you will measure the outcomes of your actions.
  • Include a bibliography and appendices for any materials used (e.g., a task for an observer to complete, questionnaire to be completed by learners) and don't forget to make the written feedback you received for the diagnostic lesson one appendix to the document.


How to gather good data and analyse it

This is often the part people find the most difficult to do, so here's some help.
This applies to Stages 3 and 4 as well.

In what follows, look through the procedures on the left, make up your own mind what it's good for and whether there are advantages and drawbacks and then click on the eye open to reveal some comments.
Remember: you are looking for techniques for data gathering that will provide good, clean data for you to work on.

Record your lesson(s)
eye open
Get an observer to comment
eye open
Get students to comment
eye open
Keep a diary
eye open
Discuss with colleagues
eye open
Observe others
eye open
Make notes on lesson plans
eye open


Some examples

There is some advice about how to write questionnaires and the sorts of item-types which are appropriate in the in-service training guide to conducting a needs analysis.  That section is not written with the Delta mind but the considerations are the same and you can adapt the procedures to get the data you want.

Observer tasks

These work well whether used by an observer or by yourself when reviewing a recording of some teaching.
You can, of course, write a questionnaire for an observer but simple tasks like this often produce cleaner results.


This can be an effective way to focus your observer (or you, if you are reviewing a recorded lesson) on what you want to discover.  Start with a blank chart and three coloured pens to play with while the lesson progresses.  You can also use a set of blank circles and make pie charts if that's easier.  Clearly, you can vary the parameters to suit what you want to be the focus.


Simple tasks

simple task
etc. for the following stages.

Interaction charts

Again, these can be filled in by an observer or by you when you review a recorded lesson.  You need to limit them to short phases or they become unmanageable.

interaction task

Questionnaires for learners

Again, simple, attractive questionnaires which are for simple responses are often better than requiring written answers from learners because the data is easy to interpret.

learner feedback

This is another way of getting feedback from learners, lesson stage by stage.  Get them to put a cross on the line.
Warning: learners are poor at remembering what they did!

what we did

Apportioning time

Make a pie chart of a lesson you taught and recorded in some way.
Something like this:
Then make another setting out the proportions of time you should have used.
Like this:
pie chart 1 pie chart 2

Now re-teach the lesson (or a similar one) trying to keep a better balance.


Stage 3: More reflection and action

For this stage, you need to write between 650 and 750 words.
That's not much so bear the advice above in mind.

  • Review your progress in the areas identified in Stage 2.
    • Say what changes you have made
    • Evaluate whether the actions in Stage 2 have been successful and whether / how your practice and / or underlying beliefs have changed.  You may feel it is appropriate to refer to feedback from tutors on your LSAs here
    • Discuss the effects of your action points on student learning
  • Identify and comment on the most significant weaknesses in your practice
  • Choose two or three areas to work on.  These can be extensions to the areas you chose to work on or new areas.
    • Say why you chose these areas, identifying the current problem or issue
    • Say why development in these areas will enhance your learners’ learning experiences
  • Select and/or design methods and/or documents for gathering data.  These may be refinements of your earlier ones or new ones.  You may also have decided to remove some ideas because they didn't work for some reason.
    Again, consider Action, Objective and Evaluation.
  • Don't forget the bibliography and the materials.


Stage 4: Yet more reflection and action

As before, you have only 650 – 750 words.

  • This stage comes after you have completed all internal assignments, including the Experimental Practice.
  • Identify and comment on any changes in your underlying beliefs and practices which have taken place during the course of the Professional Development Assignment.  Note that this does not refer to the Delta course as a whole although what you say may be affected by what you have learned in other parts of the course and feedback from tutors on LSAs will be an important part of what you consider.
  • Critically evaluate the approaches, techniques and materials that you have used during the course to develop your own teaching.
    • How effective have they been in achieving this development?
    • How might they be adapted to make them more useful?
    • How effective were your methods for the gauging success of innovations and changes to your practice?
  • Say how you will continue to develop professionally in the future using some of the techniques etc. that you have worked on.

That's it.  Nothing to it, really.