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The Delta Professional Development Assignment, Part B


Writing up the Experimental Practice

This guide concerns how to choose a topic, research the area and write up your Experimental Practice part of the Professional Development Assignment.
You should have a look at the general overview if you are at all unsure about what goes in this part.
That link and all other links on this page open in a new tab.


Selecting a topic

Whatever topic you choose has to meet five criteria:

  1. It must be new to you
  2. It must interest you
  3. It must be appropriate (i.e., valuable) to the learners you have in mind
  4. It must contribute to your professional development
  5. It must be linked, however tangentially, to the concerns of Part A of the Professional Development Assignment.
    If, for example, one of your Part A concerns is to cut down on teacher talk or to become less materials dependent, then it may be helpful to look at the Silent Way or Dogme for some ideas.

Essentially, this is a three-part process:

  1. Pick an area.  You can choose to focus on
    • Resources: Cuisenaire rods, literature, poetry, classroom readers, technological aids etc.
    • Approaches: Dogme, Task-Based Learning, Total Physical Response etc.  See the guide to some alternative approaches for some ideas and examples.
    • Techniques: Dictogloss, jazz chants, feedback techniques, translation etc.  See the guide to techniques in the Teacher development area of this site.
  2. Make sure that the area you choose is justifiable in terms of the target learners.
        Do they need this?
        Will they respond positively?
  3. Check you have the resources to research your area.
        Do you have access to online and print references in the area you have chosen?

As a check, look at the possible assignment titles in this table and think about whether they would be appropriate for you, your learners and in your setting.
When you have reached a decision, click on the eye open for some comments.

Using Total Physical Response with beginner learners
eye open
That's fine, providing you don't have TPR as part of your current repertoire.
It is not an approach confined to lower levels so it could be developed beyond them.
It becomes slightly more challenging to implement above level B1.
Teaching the Past Simple and Past perfect in narratives
eye open
This does not qualify for two reasons:
a) it is highly unlikely that the topic is new to anyone on a Delta course
b) a structural target does not represent an experiment in approaches, resources or techniques.
eye open
This is acceptable, of course, again, providing you don't do Dogme-style lessons routinely anyway.
You would be well advised to limit this by level or setting so that you remain focused, so better titles would be:
Using Dogme with B1-level learners
Using Dogme in Business English Teaching
for example.
Using peer-to-peer feedback
eye open
This is interesting and easily linked to concerns in Part A of the Professional Development Assignment.
Is it really new to you or an area you already have lots of experience with?
Teaching listening skills
eye open
Unless you have something new and innovative in mind (in which case, the title should say so), this does not qualify because the area cannot be new to you.
Experiments in dictation
eye open
This is another popular area and one which can be quite productive.
There are some ideas in the development section of this site.
Using Cuisenaire Rods
eye open
This is OK as far as it goes but the title needs to say what for or the essay will be too superficial.
Better titles might be:
Using Cuisenaire Rods to teach pronunciation
Using Cuisenaire Rods at lower levels to teach word order and phrase constituents.
Task-based approaches with examination classes
eye open
If this is, indeed, new to you, then it's a good title because it limits by approach and by setting.
eye open
This does not qualify for two reasons:
a) it is far too broad (what are you drilling and why?)
b) it is unlikely that drilling is a new technique for anyone at this level of training.
It may be, of course, that you have something new and exciting in mind, in which case the title should reflect that.


Writing the Commentary

This is an information report so you need:
  1. An introduction saying
    • what area you have chosen
    • why you have chosen it.  I.e., why it interests you, why you think it will be helpful, how it ties into the Part A of the PDA
  2. The heart of the document explaining and discussing
    • the background:
          What's the theory?
          Where did it come from?
          What's the link to theories of learning and theories of language which may underlie the area?

      You may find it helpful to review the guides to the history and development of ELT, motivation, alternative approaches and learning styles.
      The word-count for this is limited so be selective, practical and concise.
    • the relevance to your teaching context:
          What is the value to your learners?
          How have you designed the lesson to take account of their needs and styles?
          Have you adapted or deviated from the conventional suggestions?  Why and how?
  3. A final coda saying
    • what it is that you want to find out about the approach / technique you have chosen and what your objectives are for the learners.
    • how you will evaluate your objectives.  I.e., How will you judge whether the experiment was a success?
      You should have more than one way of evaluating outcomes.  For example:
      • observing the learners’ behaviour
      • giving the learners a questionnaire
      • setting up a focus group to discuss their reactions
      • asking a colleague to observe the lesson and give you feedback

It looks like this:
commentary structure

and here's an example of the sorts of things you might say:

Introduction (200 – 300 words)

I have chosen to focus this Experimental Practice lesson on XXX.  XXX has been defined by ... as "..." and is based on ... .  I have decided to focus on XXX for the following reasons:

  1. My learners in my current situation persistently talk of their need to become more fluent and confident, especially when they are talking to native speakers and XXX will contribute to this by allowing ...
  2. In Part A of the Professional Development assignment a central concern of mine has been to develop ways of ... and XXX will contribute to this by encouraging me to ...

and so on.

Background (600 – 900 words)

XXX was developed initially by ... and has been refined subsequently by ... .  There are three fundamental concepts on which the approach is based:

  1. The theory of language: ... + example of practice
  2. The theory of learning: ... + example of practice
  3. Motivational issues: ... + example of practice

Relevance (150 – 200 words)

XXX is particularly relevant because:

  1. Needs of my learners: ...
  2. Characteristics of my learners: ...
  3. My teaching setting: ...

and so on.

Objectives (100 – 200 words)

I have two (or more) main objectives:

  1. To discover if ... .  I shall evaluate this by ...
  2. To see whether ... .  I shall evaluate this by ...


The post-lesson evaluation

It is not necessary for the lesson to be successful.  The important thing is to evaluate perceptively and draw logical conclusions.  In other words, you need to measure your success (or otherwise).
This is in Discussion format so you need to keep to a three-part structure:
  1. Say what you did (very briefly)
  2. Evaluate the lesson
    • Keep your objectives in mind and refer to the data you have gathered
    • Include your own subjective observations
    • Comment on the success or otherwise of the experiment with reference to the outcomes for both the learners and you
    • Remember the structure: you can set out the positives first and then the negatives (PPP-NNN) or you can thread them together (PN-PN-PN)
  3. Put in a coda to explain how you might go on, saying
    • how you may adapt / use this area in future OR
    • why you don’t think the area is worth further extension or adaptation

It looks like this:
ep ple

and here's an example of the sorts of things you might say:

Introduction (50 [or fewer] words)

The lesson was conducted as far as possible in line with the main characteristics of the XXX approach and focused on ...
My main objectives were:

  1. To discover if ...
  2. To see whether ...

Evaluation (200 – 250 words)

In terms of objective 1., the most positive point was that the learners and I were able to ... .  I base this on the evidence I gathered from ... and ...
However, on the other hand, the process was not wholly successful in achieving this objective because ... .  I base this conclusion on evidence from ... and ...

Repeat for objective 2.

Future action (150 – 200 words)

Because the central objectives were, in my view, achieved, I shall continue with the use of XXX by ... (+ three or four ideas)
The experiment, while interesting, has not been successful enough for me to incorporate XXX into my everyday teaching.  There are two main negative outcomes which lead me to this conclusion:

  1. In terms of learning outcomes and learner responses ...
  2. In terms of personal aims ...

However, I may take .... forward from the experiment and incorporate some aspects of XXX by ...


The Lesson Outline

See the guide to planning for Delta for more on this.

The Experimental Practice requires a less complete lesson plan than you need for the main Language Systems / Skills assignments for Module Two.  In particular, you do not need to include a profile of the individual learners, assumptions, timetable fit etc. and you also do not need a separate commentary because that is what you have already written.  Most centres have a policy for this so do as you are told but as a minimum, the outline plan will include:

  1. Aims and Objectives from two points of view:
    1. The learners' view.  What do you hope / intend should be learned?
    2. Your view.  What do you want to find out?
  2. Procedures as in a plan for a Language Systems / Skills assignment
  3. Materials (as an appendix, properly sourced even if they are your own)
  4. Ways of finding out whether the two-part aims have been achieved (see the ideas above).  This section will include, as an appendix:
    1. Evaluation documents
    2. Observation feedback form (if any)
    3. Collated data (a summary of the results will be in the Reflection and Evaluation)
    4. Questionnaires you intend to use



It is generally considered a good idea to get a colleague to observe your lesson.  Then you can include the feedback you receive as part (not all) of your evaluation.
There is a guide in this section to some observation formats and techniques.

There are a few things to remember:

  1. Make sure that the observer is aware of the intentions of the experiment so they can give you focused feedback.  Copy this from the objectives in the Commentary (above).
  2. Make sure that the observer has some kind of form to fill in with categories which relate to the aims of the experiment.
  3. Make sure that a blank copy of the observer's task is included in the appendix to the lesson outline and that the completed form is part of the appendix to the post-lesson evaluation.

That's it.

Here's a cut-out-and-keep representation of most of this.