Cambridge Delta: The Diagnostic Lesson

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Planning a Delta diagnostic lesson is first and foremost a decision-making process. The answers to questions such as what to teach or how to teach it should be decided well in advance of the planning process. In this post, I will share the steps I followed while preparing for it.

A. The Purpose of The Lesson

Why is one doing a diagnostic lesson is a very important question to spend some time thinking about. In my view, such a lesson serves six purposes:

1. For the candidates to review, hone, and assess their practice in general.
2. For the candidates to review, hone, and assess their practice in relation to Delta-specific criteria.
3. For the candidates to gain experience teaching a group of students, most of whom they will teach again for at least one of their LSAs.
4. For the candidates to familiarise themselves with the reflective practice model of the course.
5. For the students to familiarise themselves with the teacher’s personality/method/style, etc.
6. For the tutor(s) to set a basis against which they will monitor the candidates’ performance, development, and progress.

B. The Focus of The Lesson

Following the above-mentioned purposes of the lesson, it is without question that the diagnostic lesson focuses on the candidate; however, there is a fine line between focusing on the candidate and ignoring the students.

1. Focus on the Candidate

Since the focus is on the candidate, one would assume that each candidate should select to teach a lesson from an area they feel more comfortable with. So, if, let’s say, one of my strong points is teaching productive skills to intermediate students, I should plan a speaking lesson aimed at intermediate students. However, does any real benefit derive from such a decision?
The candidate will stay in his/her comfort zone showing off some of his/her techniques, the students will most probably have a good time, and the tutor will not have much to commend upon, offering feedback that will not portray the candidate’s areas of improvement with much accuracy.

Wouldn’t it be more beneficial if candidates chose to plan a more challenging lesson? For example, teaching a language system’s lesson to elementary students has always been more demanding for me, as it requires strong language awareness, honed classroom management skills, high in-class energy, adjustable pace, etc. So, when I went over the dilemma ‘teach a reading lesson to intermediate students vs teach a grammar lesson to elementary ones,’ I decided to go with the latter choice. (Thank you Cambridge for allowing us to get feedback but not a grade!)

2. Focus on the Students

Once teaching focus has been selected (and established), the candidate should shift the focus from his/her self to the students. (Again, this is entirely my view on the matter.) At the end of the day, this is all about teaching students. So, one should avoid selecting aims, materials, tasks, techniques, shapes, etc. unless s/he ‘listens’ to the students’ needs.

C. The Planning of the Lesson

Planning can be a very nerve-breaking process if the above-mentioned decisions are not made on time. However, one must find ways to make planning an enjoyable activity. For example, I see planning being the same to directing a movie: one decided on the setting, then on the characters, then the goal/aim of the scene, the motives for action, and last, the action itself. Others may see it as a chance to prepare well so that they stage the lesson better. Whatever works best should be used to make planning acquire positive connotations.

D. The Staging

This is the fun part, isn’t it? I mean, this is why we become teachers; so, there is nothing for me to commend on, here. Enjoy it as much as possible.

Good Luck to everyone! ☺

2 thoughts on “Cambridge Delta: The Diagnostic Lesson

  1. Great post Angellos and great timing – we’re doing our diagnostics this week.

    I have had any choice who I’m teaching and relatively little what I’m teaching – we’re following a course book, though we can take materials from elsewhere.

    I think I’ve taken your advice and gone ahead with a lesson which challenges me (and hopefully the learners!). I think I could have done well on a systems lessons and ok on a listening – today in doing a reading and, well, let’s see what happens ^_^

  2. Reblogged this on DELTA Course Blog and commented:
    Very early on on the DELTA course, trainees are required to plan and teach a lesson which their tutor and other fellow trainees observe and evaluate.

    Reflection on this lesson which takes account of the experience itself, the trainee’s own perceptions and the oral and written feedback received by the tutor and fellow trainees form the basis of a plan of action for the rest of Module 2 on the course.

    At different points, it is this plan of action that the trainee has to look back on and track their own development during their course, take stock and work on areas which are felt to be in need of improvement.

    Read Angelos’ blog post of how he sees this experience, its challenges and its benefits and think about your own diagnostic lessons.

    It should be said that this seems to be a great way to go whether one is doing a Cambridge DELTA course or not and helps teachers to become reflective and to think of solutions which will keep improving their planning and their teaching.

    Marisa Constantinides
    Cambridge DELTA Course Tutor

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