Can the DELTA help you to teach EAP?
by Gerald Kelly
(Please note, this article draws heavily on the DELTA syllabus document available from http://www.cambridgeesol.org/teaching/delta0104.pdf . I resisted the temptation to put huge chunks of text from that document in this paper, but you are advised to refer to the syllabus while reading this article, as many references are made to specific parts of it).
The Cambridge ESOL DELTA is perhaps the most widely-known diploma-level in-service training course for experienced teachers, alongside the Trinity Licentiate Diploma. Its development has led to a course which, most ELT teacher educators would agree, provides sound training, along with opportunities for reflection and development.
Recent years have seen a huge increase in the availability of MA TESOL/Applied Linguistics programmes (or similar titles), the majority of which do not have a teaching practice component. The global and evolving nature of ELT, together with the variety of modes of provision (e.g. private language schools, state colleges and universities) has led to a situation wherein nobody can say with any accuracy which course is going to help teachers advance their careers or gain more stable working conditions, given the enormous variety of possible teaching contexts.
Many teachers are tempted to take the “MA route” because it has more kudos than a diploma, and because, if it does not include a teaching practice element, it may be seen as easier to pass, or perhaps one takes less of a professional and financial risk in choosing this path. However, many employers still insist on teachers having the DELTA (or equivalent) and certain accreditation schemes still look for a percentage of teachers who are so qualified.
Within the field of EAP there can often be added resistance to the DELTA from teachers who have reached the stage where such a course would be appropriate for their career development. There can also be resistance from their more experienced, and occasionally DELTA-qualified colleagues. Such resistance usually centres round the relevance of what is perceived to be an EFL training course to an EAP teaching situation. It has been argued that the provision of university and college-based EAP requires teachers who are accomplished in this specific area of ELT, and that the DELTA casts its net too wide for the development needs of these teachers.
In the writer’s experience, however, many who level such criticisms at the course do so without reference to the syllabus, and often have an outdated or otherwise misinformed conception of what the course entails. Common beliefs include the idea that the course requires one to teach in a certain manner, or that communicative teaching techniques cannot meaningfully inform EAP teaching.
However, if we examine different units of the course, we can see that it does not preclude EAP teaching, and in fact can work with many different situations, encouraging, as it does, teachers to investigate their own circumstances in some depth.
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