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Can the DELTA help you to teach EAP?
by Gerald Kelly
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The question therefore is whether or not the DELTA takes such a stance: my belief is that it sets out clearly to do the opposite. The following quote from the syllabus shows this:

“The specification does not set out a repertoire of prescribed procedures or techniques for language teaching”. (From ‘Rationale’ section of syllabus)

Any claims that there is a DELTA style of teaching, or that one cannot pass unless one teaches in a particular way are therefore immediately redundant.

Further quotes from the syllabus show that current practice is to be investigated, and that a wide variety of situations are envisaged; there is room for any teaching situation, whether it be General English teaching, EAP or more specific ESP situations:

(From ‘DELTA Aims’) [the course]…..offers candidates the opportunity to….examine their current practices and beliefs…..and……apply the results of their learning and reflection to their current professional practice and to circumstances beyond their present and previous teaching experience.

(From ‘DELTA Course Programmes’, point 2) …programmes are designed to enhance candidates’ understanding of ….the practice and principles of teaching and learning English in relation to a wide range of adult learners and their learning contexts.

Let us now turn to selected points from the syllabus overview (see DELTA programme link at the start of this article): (I will not here go through the entire document, but have instead chosen particular highlights which help me to illustrate my points).

In the Syllabus Overview, points 1.2 and 1.4 may mention ELT, but despite this, they still encompass application to EAP. Teachers of EAP still need to “describe formal features of English and English language use”. Also, with 1.4, we can say that language is still an important component of any course, even on a primarily content-based course which tries to attune students to the experience of studying at a university as well as improving their English.

Moving on to the 5 th unit of learning (Evaluation, Monitoring and Assessment), points 5.1 to 5.5 contain nothing which cannot apply to EAP. While point 5.5 (preparing candidates for specific tests and examinations) presumably is usually taken to refer to well-known exams such as FCE, CAE and CPE, it is useful to reflect here on how learning towards a specific goal can sometimes limit appreciation of the possible wider application of that learning.

If we now look at learning outcomes, I have chosen this one because it is more likely to give the impression that the DELTA is for EFL and not EAP. In Unit 4 (Working in the classroom), point 2 (Classroom management with adult learners), teachers are asked to “demonstrate their familiarity with an extensive range of classroom procedures and techniques …”. This does not suggest that the teacher needs to be able to enter the classroom on a unicycle whilst juggling fish (or any such misconception of the EFL teacher in action!), but teachers are asked (in point c) to “select from these procedures and techniques appropriately, and implement them effectively with specific groups of adult learners”.

Now turning to assessment, the basic components of the DELTA are the coursework (which includes teaching and accompanying assignments) the extended assignment and the exam. For “Language and Skills” assignments, teachers’ background essays should “draw on …experience gained in their own teaching”. Clearly, if they are teaching in an EAP environment, then that is where relevant experience has been gained. Teachers are also asked to “draw general and specific conclusions about their current and future practice in this area”. Throughout the assignments, teachers are encouraged to relate their work to their current teaching environment and their students’ needs. The commentary for lessons, for example, requires teachers to “link the learners’ needs, the content and approach of the lesson, and the reading and research in Part 1”. There is nothing here to exclude EAP, and in fact there is ample opportunity and encouragement for teachers to explore their work in great detail. Similarly, the “Resources and Materials”, “Course Planning” and “Extended” assignments again give teachers the green light to really look into their own work, whether or not the teaching environment is general or specific.

I found that in only one area of the DELTA is there anything which might put the teacher of EAP at any kind of disadvantage. This is in the third part of the exam, wherein teachers will be presented with published material. In view of the wide variety of teaching contexts within which teachers taking the DELTA may find themselves, the choice made by those setting the exam is likely to be general, by which I mean material taken from a coursebook aimed at the teaching of general English (rather than for any specific purpose, such as academia). However, even here, where the teacher cannot make the choice of material to be looked at, they may still comment on its usefulness (or otherwise) for a teaching context with which they are familiar.

In conclusion, therefore, despite the misgivings of some working in EAP, I feel that the DELTA is a perfectly suitable course for those wishing to develop their teaching and hence (employers willing) have the opportunity to further and develop their careers. Unfortunately, this view is not necessarily held by all employers and/or teachers, and one occasionally finds the slightly odd (to me) situation wherein people teaching EAP may have entered the profession through the academic route, and may not have any direct experience of the DELTA, or worse, will be actively critical of a course which aims simply to help teachers improve. The most extreme case of this I have come across is an experienced EAP teacher who had never heard of the DELTA, and had to ask what it trains people for.

Both DELTA and MA courses, to my mind, can both provide excellent training, and can both help teachers to become better at what they do. They should not be seen as alternatives when teachers or managers are considering training needs, but can complement each other. However, I would conclude that experience shows that most MA courses will not offer teachers the kind of intensive practical development that the DELTA generally provides.


Gerald Kelly is a Senior Lecturer at the English Language Centre, Northumbria University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England. He is the author of "How to Teach Pronunciation" (Longman, 2000). He has been teaching since 1986 and teacher-training since 1991.

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