I am currently working on my DELTA assignment and one of the most valuable knowledge I have gained so far is not about designing a course or issues of monolingual groups, nothing even close to that. The main experience is my own way of learning and understanding how to organise it right. At least from my perspective and personally for me.
Ok, here it is, listen carefully: never ever try to break a big and complex thing into little slots which you again break into tasks, put into a bullet list (or a bucket list, you know better) and then concentrate on that specific bit only, pushing aside everything that doesn’t fit into the frames.
It’s exactly the opposite. The main thing is to keep the full picture in mind. You cannot do the needs analysis only and nothing else. You cannot write your course plan and ignore assessment just because it happens to be in the next chapter. Losing the general perspective is the worst that can happen in a big project.
My strategy name is the article title – start with the top. Get the main idea, read for the gist from the most general books, gain the perspective. Once I have more or less clear idea of what I should do (it can never be too clear and precise from the very beginning), I start digging down to the bottom of the most interesting or important (or both, if I’m lucky) topic. Now it’s time for the to-do list, a few post-its with reminders of the key names to check, things to come back to later. When a few “bottom” topics are well-covered (at least now it feels like this), it’s time to go up for a reality check. From the “top” I can see priorities, missing elements, logical connections and if I managed to make them obvious enough for my reader. What do I do after I spent some time revising from the top? Yes, you got it! I am back to the “bottom” again, dealing with next issues. Like on a Ferris Wheel. Up and down, up and down.
Which part of the learning process is more important? For me, it’s the top part, no doubts. I need to step aside, look around, think over. There is a saying: “can’t see the wood for the tree” – this is exactly what happens if one goes step by step, from one thing to another, and the more seriously you take those studies, the more connections you overlook.
What does it mean for doing DELTA?
- Read the whole Handbook. Even if you are going to get to the last section in five months. Just read it all carefully to see the scale of the disaster.
- Read the Syllabus. It’s a few pages long but you will see the elements for your future “to-do list”, carefully prepared by supportive Cambridge examiners.
- Are you sure that you understand the general flow of the work? Then it’s time to look through the specialism reading lists to make a final decision about which way you are going to follow.
- Ok, now you are ready to hit up the reading part. But! Before you make a decision about the group you are going to write about in the next part. You definitely write about the specialism from the broad viewpoint, but later you’ll need to build over those issues and conclusions. If your issues are not related to your group, well, it’s a waste of words and in strict word count, it is a big deal.
- If you take a course with some center and have an opportunity to get a section by section feedback with deadlines, you are lucky. But as soon as you land on section 2, start writing drafts and take notes for all sections left. It is so much interconnected, that staying with the bottom approach and losing the big picture will cost time and nerves later. The tutors will check what they are supposed to, you will go step by step, but by the time you get to your section 4, you’ll have a clear idea of how you are going to assess your students, when (because you already put at least some hints in the course plan) and, the icing on the top, a bunch of references to some a bit more general books on course design in general. Sounds good, m? Yes, thinking ahead is a great skill.
The first time I approached section 2 I thought that I needed to concentrate on it only and guess what? It did not build up well, it was missing important things here and there and left me literally exhausted. My feedback was not pleasant too and I pushed my writings and readings aside until better times. My new approach puts everything in order and facilitates the whole process. Look around, go deep, get back on the top, check the direction, down on the track to move further and so on and so forth.