Developing Teachers - Is DELTA Really Worth it?

by Sandy Millin

DELTA: the stepping stone to management and teacher training?

DELTA: a long, hard slog, which breaks your teaching down completely, then builds you back up again taking your teaching to a whole different level?

DELTA: one of the most fruitful experiences of your life?

DELTA has many faces and everyone who does it has a completely different experience. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a higher teaching certificate, designated as a Level 7 qualification (the same as a master’s) by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) in the UK. It consists of three modules, which you can take in any order, separately or at the same time:

  • Module 1: exam. Two 90-minute papers, with a short break in between.
  • Module 2: teaching practice. Four one-hour observed lessons (LSAs), for which you have to write a background essay and a detailed lesson plan. Also an experimental practice lesson and a professional development assignment.
  • Module 3: extended assignment. A 3500-word assignment based on a 20-hour course plan that you put together for learners you nominate.

Another way to look at it is by breaking it down into a series of questions:

  • How do people learn languages? How does what we do in the classroom help them (or not!)?
  • What methodology would best serve our students? How has this methodology developed over time?
  • Why do we teach in the way that we do? What beliefs underlie our teaching?
  • What are our strengths and weaknesses in the classroom? How can we build on our strengths and move past our weaknesses?

I followed the Distance DELTA programme, run by IH London and British Council. My experience started in September 2012 with a two-week face-to-face orientation course at IH London. You can do the orientation at many locations around the world. This was the part I enjoyed the most, and I feel I learnt a lot during those two weeks. It gave me a taster for the whole course, and was followed by a year of distance study, supported by a local tutor at my school. My LSAs were spaced out through the academic year, I submitted my Module 3 assignment in June 2013, and I postponed my exam from June to December 2013 because my plans for taking it fell through. I studied for at least 14 hours almost every weekend until June, then had a break before starting to prepare for the exam. It was a long process, and often painful, but I survived.

There are as many ways to do a DELTA as there are places to do it, including distance, face-to-face, full-time and part-time options. On my blog I’ve collected experiences and tips from people who have completed it in a variety of combinations, in a series called ‘Delta Conversations’ ( Each conversation has details of that person’s experience, along with tips to help you make the most of your Delta. Regardless of how they did it, there is one thing everyone is agreed on: it changes how you teach forever.

As part of all three modules, you are constantly required to justify your decisions as a teacher, for example when writing your lesson plans for your LSAs for Module 2, or when showing how your course plan is relevant to the learners you have selected for Module 3. You also need to back everything up with references to your reading and action research. As a result of this process, you become much more aware of what is happening during the planning process and in the classroom.

DELTA was the kick I needed to start reading methodology books – in the five years between finishing CELTA and starting DELTA I had only dipped in to one or two, and read just one from cover to cover. I knew they were out there, but I had no idea where to start. Two books particularly influenced me: The English Verb by Michael Lewis has changed the way I think about grammar, and Listening in the Language Classroom by John Field means I now teach listening in a completely different way. Since the course finished I have read quite a lot more methodology, and have amassed an even longer list of books I want to read.

Doing the Diploma has brought many other opportunities. For me it has been the stepping stone to a position as Director of Studies at IH Sevastopol. This means I am able to help develop our team of teachers there, and work closely with the director to build up our young school. I have also become a CELTA trainer, which in turn has helped me improve on some of my weak points further. For example, despite the year of DELTA, giving instructions was still a big problem for me. Now that I have watched many trainees baffle their students with long-winded instructions and I have had to show them how to be clear and concise, my own instructions are much better. Without the Delta it would have been much harder to get either of these two positions.

It’s also provided a lot of material for my blog. In addition to the ‘Delta Conversations’ I have three main selections of resources for candidates:

Although the 18 months I spent doing the DELTA were some of the hardest of my life, leading to frustration, exhaustion and even illness at some points, what I have taken from it has benefited me in the long run. I would recommend that anyone planning to take the course researches the different combinations you can do it in to find out the way that fits in best with your life. Many people I know who took the full-time Module 2 course said it was one of the best experiences they have ever had. If you can, consider doing the three modules separately and having a break in between. This will give you the chance to absorb the huge amount of information you get during the course. A year on from finishing, I’m still taking it all in!

If you do decide to take the plunge, good luck! And if you’d like to add your voice to the ‘Delta Conversations’ once you’re done, please contact me – I’m always looking for more experiences to add to the series.

Author’s Bio: Sandy is an experienced teacher trainer and teacher who has worked on every continent except Africa and Antarctica, mostly for IH. She is currently working as a freelance CELTA tutor, and will be the DoS at IH Bydgoszcz in Poland from August 2015. She is passionate about teaching, and is constantly trying to develop professionally.