There’s a lot to consider when writing your Delta Module 2 background essays (BEs). Some things might be more explicit than others. I provide a list here of some of what needs to be done when writing a BE.
Always respect the word count. Cambridge is strict when it comes to word count. If they say 2000-2500 words, that is exactly what they mean. There is no 10% tolerance or anything else. Don’t go over or under it, not even by 1 word!
Do specify your area, the genre (if you think you need one,) the subskills/language structure in the title.
Don’t just come up with a title like “teaching past tenses for English learners” this title has a wide scope and it is too vague for the reader. For more information about the titles of BEs, check out my other post here.
The evaluation of suggestions mustn’t be just a sentence or two. You need to evaluate a suggestion critically, and not only mentioning its strengths. For example, comment by saying something like ‘this activity will not work with lower level learner because …’. You need to support your evaluation with your reading from research. You need to quote someone to back up your evaluation. There is a criterion about this, and it won’t be ‘met’ if you don’t evaluate it well enough.
Cambridge guidelines suggests that the minimum should be 3 book in the bibliography. However, you need to use more than that to be able to analyze the area well enough. Use key sources that are credible such as books and professional journals. Avoid using any titles that are written for language learners. Avoid quoting blogs unless the author is someone who has been published in the ELT world like Jermey Harmer or Scott Thornbury, i.e., someone credible.
Use your own voice when writing and try to paraphrase rather than direct quoting. A mistake that I made when paraphrasing (and had to spend 3 hours rewriting) was changing just some of the words and using fronting or another grammatical structure. However, it turned out that you need to write the whole thing with your own words when paraphrasing, which is actually, paraphrasing. Do check this page to be able to differentiate between quoting and paraphrasing so you won’t be accused of plagiarism. Even if you think you know the difference, I urge you to check it to be on the safe side.
Link each issue to a source from your own teaching context(s). Meaning, what is the source of the issue, is it the learners’ L1, the level of the learners, or confusing the target structure with other similar structure?
Here is a part of what I mean that should be done, associating the issue with its source (this is from a background essay about reading sub-skills.):
When I am teaching lower-level learners, they quite often stop the reading task to ask me, their classmates, or to check a dictionary for the meaning of each word that is new to them. They tend to do this regardless of the reading task assigned, which, in turns, affects the subskills and the general aim behind the task.
Don’t write anything related to language learning and learning problems in the analysis. The analysis should be only about what proficient language users do with the skill/system. The learning process and the problems can be discussed in later parts, issues and suggestions.
Don’t write about the teaching process from your own perspective. Meaning, don’t use phrases like ‘I will teach the learners’ or in the title ‘teaching learners…’ rather use the learners’ perspective by using phrases such as ‘helping the learners to use,’ ‘enabling the learners to recognize,’ and ‘developing learners’ reading subskills.’
Don’t insert images of text in the body of the essay without including the words in the images in the word count. What I was told is that the background essays are scanned by programs that count every word in the body of the essay including the ones in the images. So, if you want to insert a table from a book, try to write it in the word processor in order to be clear on the word count.
Do not write 2000 words and stop. This is a mistake that some trainees commit. You need to use those words to analyze the area, and to write about problems and suggestions. If you end up writing toward the low end of the word count, then you probably haven’t analyzed the area well enough.
In the issues and suggestions, do not write about 2 issues. A minimum is 3, though I was advised against it. And was recommended to go with 4 or 5. If you write more it means that you are not giving enough details, back up from research, and critical evaluation. When writing the issues vary the type. For example, if you are writing about a grammar structure, come up with an issue with meaning, another with form, and one with pronunciation. You can write two about form/meaning/pronunciation, however, you need to provide an issue for each aspect.
Hope you find the tips helpful. Feel free to ask any question or add any other tips in the comments.