How not to design a syllabus

A timely blog post for those of you thinking about your Module 3 Assignments



The Steve Brown Blog

After many years of working in this business (and yes it is a business), I am still frequently frustrated by a lack of awareness of good practice when it comes to language programme design. Different institutions do it in different ways, but not that many (in my experience) do it well. In this post I’m going to describe a few popular approaches to syllabus design and tell you what’s wrong with them. In a subsequent post I’ll go on to give some alternative suggestions on what principles to adopt when designing or developing a curriculum for language learning.


Bad syllabus No. 1: The global coursebook

Coursebooks look amazing – they have great pictures, they appear to be well-organised, and they come with all sorts of add-ons – workbook, CD-Rom, DVD, website, references to dictionaries by the same publisher etc. However, I’ve said it before, I’m saying it now…

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The Learning Style Debate

Great post on this debate and David Petrie takes a stance with some very good arguments and a good review of existing literature. What do you think?


Make sure you click on “view the original” to read the rest of David’s blog post.


I am sceptical about learning styles.  Much is made of them, CELTA and DELTA trainees are required to learn about them and to plan their lessons taking into account activities that cater to the visual, auditory or kinaesthetic sensibilities of their students, or at least to show evidence of having intended to….  Personally, I don’t doubt that people learn in different ways or have different preferences for processing information, but what I’m not sure about and have yet to see any evidence confirming, is whether changing my teaching to cater for these various styles actually has a positive effect.  Which is why I was very interested to read Katie Lepi’s “The Myth of Learning Styles” on the Edudemic blog, which presents the arguments against.  The fantastic infographic from her piece is reproduced below.

teflgeek learning styles

The original learning styles model came from the work of David Kolb, who, in the…

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Exemptions and credits to DELTA holders on related MA level courses

creditsOfqual, the exams regulator of the UK government, has confirmed that Cambridge ESOL’s Delta qualification for teachers is at the same level as a Master’s degree or a professional diploma in the European Union. This is a result of Delta being placed at level 7 of the UK government’s Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF), making it the only English language teaching diploma currently included at this level.

Welcoming this new recognition, Cambridge ESOL’s Chief Executive Dr Mike Milanovic says: “Teachers holding this qualification demonstrate a very high level of expertise indeed and we’re delighted by this acknowledgment from Ofqual. This reflects the quality standards associated with the Delta qualification which is great news for teachers and the millions of students around the world learning English.”

N.B. The DELTA on its own does not constitute an MA qualification but is considered to be at the same level, which makes holders eligible for exemptions, credits, and fast track options in a variety of UK based universities.  

The following UK institutions offer credits or exemptions to DELTA holders, for the courses listed. We make every attempt to keep this information up to date – however, applicants should always check with the institution, as they do change their requirements, and these may differ for individual applicants.

Please use Google to verify the information below and do leave a comment if you have information about other universities not included here – we have added total number of credits where this was available and easy to find from the university website.

Institution Courses with credits/exemptions Further information  Total Credits
Aston University MSc in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages (TESOL)

MSc in Teaching English for Specific Purposes (TESP)·

MSc in Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL)

MSc in Educational Management in TESOL (EMT)

Exemption from the Methodology module plus 20 credits toward an additional module  4 modules
Bath, University of MA ELT Fast track available: exemption of two core units (from total of 5).  5 core units
Bath Spa University MA/Teach TESOL Exemption from first semester equal to 60 credits  180 credits
Birkbeck, University of London MA TESOL

MA Language Teaching

30 credits
Bristol, University of MSc in TESOL 40 credits.
Bedfordshire, University of Applied Linguistics MA (TEFL) Exemption from assessed teaching practice (30 points)
Canterbury Christ Church MA TESOL Exemption from first two modules (40 credits).  5 modules
University of Derby Education MA DELTA holders offered up to 60 credits upon consultation
East London, University of MA English Language Teaching (ELT) Exemption from one 30-credit module
Edinburgh, University of MEd TESOL Students may request accreditation for prior learning for the core course in TESOL Methodology.2 core modules  6 core modules
Exeter University Med TESOL DELTA holders offered up to 60 credits  Link to info
Institute of Education, University of London MA Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (campus-based) Exemption from one 30-credit optional module.  180 credits
King’s College London MA in ELT & Applied Linguistics (part-time programme only) Fast track option – exemption from one core module (Principles and Practice in ELT) and one option – 30 credits in total.  180 credits
Leeds Beckett University MA English Language Teaching 60 credit exemption   Direct entry to semester 2
Leicester, University of MA TESOL & Applied Linguistics (campus-based and distance learning versions) 30 credit exemption  6 modules
Northumbria University MA in Applied Linguistics forTESOL·       MA TESOL Exemptions of up to 3 modules, or 60 credits, equivalent  to 1/3 of the MA  180 credits
Nottingham, University of MA ELT distance Exemption of two core modules running from May to end of year (January start recommended)  40 points/credits
Open University, The Masters degree in Education (Applied Linguistics) 60 credits
Oxford Brookes University MA in Education One module only worth 20 credits  180 credits
Portsmouth, University of ·       MA Applied Linguistics and TESOL (both on site & distance modes) 30 credits at M-level.  180 credits
Reading, University of ·       MA in English Language Teaching Language Curriculum Design (10 credits) and one of: Written Language (20 credits), Spoken Language (20 credits), Language Testing Principles (20 credits). This equals a total credit transfer of 30 credits towards this 180-credit degree.  180 credits
Sheffield, University of MA Applied Linguistics Exemption from 15-credit core module on Language Teaching Methodology.  8 core modules
Sheffield Hallam MA TESOL 60 credits to DELTA holders (i.e. they are exempt from the Postgraduate Certificate, which forms the first part of the MA).  180 credits
York St John University MA English Language Teaching Exemption from 30-credit core module on Practical English Language Teaching
Warwick University MA ELT Exemption of 60 credits from an 180 credit course  Link to info


About the Author

MARISAMarisa Constantinides, Dip.RSA, M.A. App Ling

A teacher, teacher educator and materials writer, Marisa Constantinides is the head of CELT Athens, a teacher education centre established in 1993, She is responsible for the design and training on all courses including Cambridge CELTA and DELTA, face-2-face and online. Marisa has a strong presence in Social Networks, moderates #ELTchat, a weekly discussion on Twitter (recently nominated for an ELTons award in Innovation in Teaching Resources). Marisa maintains a number of blogs (TEFL Matters#ELTchatTeaching & Learning Languages, the DELTA course blogthe CELTA course blog). She has published materials for young learners as well as for B2 and C2 level classes.

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The End

Scott Thornbury closes down his A-Z Blog with an insighful last post

Make sure you visit this blog often – not clear from last post if it will be taken down or not

An A-Z of ELT

So this is it, folks: I’m closing down the blog for the summer… and for good. After 3 years, 150 posts, nearly 7000 comments, and innumerable hits, visits, views, however you want to describe and count them, plus one e-book spin-off (but no sign of a second edition of An A-Z!), I think it’s time to call it a day.

But that’s not the end of blogging.  In the autumn (or in the spring, if that’s your orientation) I’ll be resuming with an altogether different theme and format, provisionally titled The (De-)Fossilization Diaries.  Watch this space!

At some point between now and then I’ll lock the comments on this blog, but it will hang around a little longer. If you think you might miss it if it suddenly disappeared, you could always buy the book! 😉

Meanwhile, thanks for following, commenting, subscribing, tweeting… I have so enjoyed hosting this…

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The effect the Delta has had on my teaching and learning

After I finished my M.Ed in Tesol I thought to myself, “ok I have studied a lot, I have conducted research, written some assignments. I am ready to teach!” And I did. I have been doing so for some years actually.

Then I found out about the Delta. Whatever I thought about my teaching style, my materials, the way I planned my lessons automatically changed and I started viewing everything more critically.

Teaching my diagnostic lesson

In fact, this is probably the biggest effect. I look at my lessons more closely. I question the effectiveness of my materials,my tasks, what my aims are and how I will achieve them. I now look closely at my lessons and reflect on them. I then make an action plan and try to improve any weaknesses of my lessons. I have become better informed about my own teaching and believe I can observe others too and make suggestions regarding what could be done to make a lesson more effective for the students.

The contents of the course has been extremely beneficial. The background reading has informed me about approaches/ methodologies and educational matters which as a result have affected my teaching. My tutors’  input and feedback have steered me towards more skilled teaching and guided me throughout this whole experience. The workload is heavy and at times overwhelming. This has been an intense experience that has made me step out of my comfort zone and experiment with new teaching techniques and tools. No pain, no gain. This experience is so rewarding and the effort my tutors and I have put into it so far, has paid off.

At a more personal level, this course has given me the opportunity to meet some marvelous people who have become part of my PLN. I started attending conferences, I  have my own reflective blog and often tweet about ELT matters. All this because of the Delta.

The delta is a teacher training course which does exactly that. It trains you. No matter how many hours I have spent reading or in a classroom, the training I received during the course has truly changed the way I view myself as a teacher.

I think the key words here are: Learn- be trained-reflect and take action.

How the DELTA has shaped my thinking about teaching and learning so far.

Having done the CELTA back in 2000 I felt it was time to upgrade my knowledge and skills.

The DELTA has helped me to take a closer look at how I conduct my lessons and to learn about the theory that underpins a lot of what we teachers do in the classroom.  It has, in fact, forced me to critically examine my current beliefs about teaching and learning, which in turn has made me more aware of the teacher I want to be for my students.

2013-06-06 14.37.54

Over the past few months, I have gained great depth and breadth of knowledge and this as make me feel more confident and empowered as a teacher.  This has included new approaches, methods, techniques and activities, many of which have been incorporated into my teaching repertoire. I also feel that I am more sensitive to my learners’ needs and can give feedback in a non-threatening way.

The DELTA has also given me the opportunity to read a variety of books and academic articles, all of which have stretched my mind and brought me up to date with current trends in ELT; a must for any serious ELT teacher.

The background reading for the assignments for Module 2 has been very educational, as have the detailed lessons plans I had to produce.   I think the most useful thing I have learnt is how to make informed choices about what to teach and in what order, selecting material that is appropriate for my particular class.  The tutors I have worked with have offered constructive feedback and then by reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of a particular lesson from the teaching practice, I have planned a course of action towards better and more effective teaching.

Being very near the end of the course, I feel I now have the skills to go on developing as a teacher by exchanging ideas with my Personal Support Network – colleagues who feel very passionate about what they do, and who are always forthcoming with innovative ideas and support.   When I finish the DELTA, I truly believe I will be in a position to apply for more senior teaching roles and I will also be eligible for Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) which means I will be able to transfer credits onto an MA in ETL/TESOL.

All in all, I would say the DELTA has been a worthwhile investment of time and my only regret is that I did not do it earlier in my career.

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