Trinity Diploma: an overview


September 5, 2013 by gemmalunn

I’ve read a lot of useful, informative posts recently about the Delta, by Sandy Millin, Chris Wilson and Lizzie Pinard. As I’m about to complete the Trinity Diploma I thought it deserved some blogging space.

Similarly to the Delta there are a number of ways you can take the Diploma: intensive, online, distance or a mix of these. I choose to go down the distance route as when I signed up I was in the process of applying for jobs in South Korea and the thought of being able to work at my own pace really appealed to me. I’ve been taking the diploma through St George’s International (SGI) based in London; you have up to 2 years to complete the course or for an additional fee you can extend this by 1 year. The course is distance but you do have to spend 2 weeks at SGI at the end to do the teaching practice and phonology interview. The written exam can also be taken at this point but it doesn’t have to be; there are colleges around the world where you can sit the exam.

Why the Diploma?
Like most people who choose to engage in further study, specifically the Delta or Diploma, I was at a point where I’d been teaching for over 2 years and thinking about TEFL as more than just a temporary job. I also needed a challenge and felt I was lacking some deeper knowledge and confidence in the classroom and wasn’t as good a teacher as I could be. I choose the Diploma over the Delta as, as far as I could see, it looked like a much more flexible option (please correct me if I’m wrong) and I wouldn’t have to worry about finding someone to observe me whilst I was in Korea as this is included in your 2 week practical block at the end of the course.

What is the structure of the Diploma?
As mentioned before, different schools offer different structures so I’ll just talk about the distance course that I’ve been doing, I won’t go into too much detail but more information can be found here:
Course overview –
Syllabus & validation requirements:

The Diploma comprises of four units:
Unit 1: The written exam.
Unit 2: Portfolio which consists of three pieces of coursework.
Unit 3: Phonology presentation and interview.
Unit 4: Teaching practice.

Unit 1: Written exam
To prepare you for the written exam you are given 8 workbooks, in succession, which contain information and practice questions on all the areas of the exam: language, i.e. grammar and lexis; learning and teaching, this includes approaches and methodologies;  professional development. The workbooks also have reading and activities on phonology, which help you prepare for the presentation and interview. How long you spend completing the activities, reading and doing the practice questions in each workbook is totally up to you, it sometimes took me a few weeks and occasionally a few months! SGI recommend between 4-8 weeks on each workbook, any longer and you won’t be able to complete the course within 2 years.  I found the workbooks extremely student friendly with the right level of difficulty and challenge. You feel a sense of achievement with every completed workbook and this combined with the tutors feedback helps maintain motivation. The written exam itself is hard! You have to do 4 short questions on language then 1 on learning and teaching and 1 on professional development and you only have 3 hours to do all this. Therefore, doing plenty of timed practice essays is a must. Also, compiling a list of useful quotes as you go through your workbooks will really help as to get a higher grade you must use references from a variety of sources.

Vital study materials: stationary, text books and tea.

Vital study materials: stationary, text books and tea.

Unit 2: Portfolio

This unit consists of three pieces of coursework: observation instrument, developmental record and an independent research project. These are perhaps the most beneficial to your everyday teaching as they involve reflecting on your own and others’ pedagogy as well as researching and analysing various aspects of teaching. Each piece of coursework must be a maximum of 3,300 words which, whilst its no thesis it still allows you to go into some depth.

Unit 3: Phonology presentation and interview
I am currently preparing to do this unit which takes places during the 2 week practical block at the end of the course. It involves giving a 5 minute presentation on a phonology point of choice, usually talking about a problem encountered by your learners and how you have taught this specific point. Next is a 5 minute transcription and finally a 15 minute discussion on the theory and practice of phonology.

Unit 4: Teaching Practice
I think this part is going to be the most challenging and stressful part of the whole course (I’ll let you know if I’m correct in a few weeks – UPDATE – I was correct!). During the practical block you teach for 90 minutes every day, 5 of these classes are observed and 4 of these are assessed. I’m currently gathering past ‘successful’ lessons and materials for this so once I’ve completed the practical block I’ll blog about how it went!

Why I would wholeheartedly recommend the Diploma
I’m not saying anything against the Delta or other forms of studying the Diploma but for me this course has been perfect. I’ve been able to take my time, enjoy all the reading and studying, apply what I’ve been learning to my classes and had plenty of time to reflect on all of is. It has definitely changed my outlook as a teacher and I feel much better equipped and more confident now as I have a far broader knowledge base and skills set. I am also already reaping the benefits of the course despite not having completed it as I took a Senior Teacher role over the summer; something I would have struggled to get without the Diploma.

What you have to think carefully about before starting a distance Diploma
As with any distance learning course you have to be self-motivated. There are no deadlines or tutors constantly chasing you up on this course, you are responsible for completing the sections yourself and you have to make time and make sure you do this. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not totally on your own the tutors on the course have been fantastic, they respond to any queries almost immediately and return written work within a few days with extensive and helpful comments. There is a forum for students to use and communicate with each other and I did use this at times but it is massively underused and definitely not taken advantage of. I’m not sure whether most people get advice from other sources, like I did, i.e. twitter and Facebook groups or they just get on with it themselves.

You also need to make sure you have the time each week to dedicate to the course, it is flexible and allows you to take a week or two off here and there but you must ensure that generally you have enough time.

The final thing or maybe the first, depending on your circumstances, is money. If your school aren’t willing to pay for your diploma and you have to pay yourself you have an extra consideration. The total cost through SGI is £1740 which can be paid in installements.

I’ll be posting a few more Diploma related posts in the run up to, maybe during  (if I have the time) and then when I recover from the practical block!

If anyone has any questions/ similar or conflicting experiences with the diploma it’d be great to hear from you.

11/09 update- I just found this amazing blog which goes into great depth on all areas of the Diploma and provides great tips especially for the Unit 4 – the phonology interview –

10 thoughts on “Trinity Diploma: an overview

  1. Hi, I found this on Twitter and I am also thinking of doing the Diploma at SGI as I got my Cert there in 2009. How many hours per week on average do you have to dedicate to the diploma?
    Best of luck!

    • gemmalunn says:

      Hi Natasha,

      I think on average about 8 but like I said some weeks I didn’t do much then I’d do more the next week plus depends on how thorough you are.

      Let me know if you have any more questions, I’d be happy to help.


  2. Sandy Millin says:

    Hi Gemma,
    Thanks for linking to my posts, and I’m glad you’ve written about the Diploma. I think that was one of my problems before choosing Delta: I really didn’t know about the different options, and in hindsight it looks like this may have been a better course for me.
    I look forward to your posts about the phonology and the teaching practice. Do you know Laura Patsko already? She’s on Twitter, and may well be one of your tutors at SGI.
    Good luck!

    • gemmalunn says:

      Thanks for the comment Sandy, I only found out about the Diploma through a colleague otherwise I probably would have gone for the Delta too! Yes I do know Laura, will tweet her!

      Good luck with your move.


      • laurapatsko says:

        Just stumbled across this post! Great review, Gemma.

        Sorry I didn’t catch you before you left SGI – was off last week, then at a conference. Hope yours & Rose’s on 12 Oct goes well; and hope to see you again some time!


      • gemmalunn says:

        Thanks Laura was great to meet you.

        Hope the conference went well?


  3. Hi Gemma,

    As your piece above is such a good advert for SGI, I just wrote a blog about your blog! 🙂

    Just a quick tip about the 2 week practical teaching block. I also planned to bring past successful lessons to that assessment. However, after a short sharp shock of army-like stripping you back down to nothing and rebuilding up from the ground again, the old successful lessons just weren’t cutting it anymore. Take them along by all means, but like me, you may find that you want to go back to the drawing board. 🙂

    The 2nd week is much easier after you get over the early shock of thinking “hold on, I”m a terrible teacher” – It’s absolutely not the case, but it’s very easy to think like that when initially faced with the much higher level of classroom practice scrutiny that the Dip requires.

    The assessment team at SGI are sooooo experienced at what they do and incredibly helpful with their guidance, that it really is a blessing to have them on your side.

    You will enjoy it, despite the hard work and focus that the practical block necessitates for the whole 2 weeks. Once it’s done, you will feel EXTREMELY proud of yourself.

    And just a final word about the Phonology interview… I bet you a million pounds that 5 mins after you leave the interview you will NOT be able to remember the sentence that they gave you to transcribe – nobody ever does… it’s really weird! 🙂

    Good luck with the rest of the course.

    • gemmalunn says:

      Hi Bren,

      Thanks for the advice and reassurance, I am looking forward to the two weeks but obviously a bit nervous too! Also, thanks a lot for the mention on the SGI blog. I’ll let you know re the transcription!


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