As the TESOL teaching profession becomes more and more competitive, finding a good teaching job requires higher qualifications. In Europe, the TESOL teaching certificate is the base qualification. There are a number of different names for this teaching certificate including the TESL teaching certificate and TEFL teaching certificate. After that, teachers who are committed to the profession will usually go on to take the TESOL diploma. The TESOL Diploma is a full year's course and is currently highly valued in Europe. I would like to share my experiences of taking the Trinity College Licentiate Diploma for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages with you. For an introduction to the teaching job market please refer to my feature on ESL/EFL employment.
This main purpose of this diploma (besides, let's be honest, improving career qualifications) is to give the TESOL teacher a broad overview of the principal approaches to teaching and learning English. The course serves to raise the teacher's consciousness as to what learning processes are taking place during language acquisition and instruction. The basis is on an underlying teaching philosophy of "Principled Eclecticism". In other words, no one method was taught as being "correct". An inclusive approach was taken; giving each school of thought its due, while also examining its possible shortcomings. The objective of the diploma was to give the TESOL teacher the necessary tools to evaluate and apply different teaching methods to meet each student's needs.
Taking the Course
The distance learning method has both its positive and negative side. In my own case, the sheer logistic impossibility of completing an intensive course in England while raising a family, and trying to win some of the bread made this distance course a wonderful solution. However, there is a massive amount of information to get through and it takes quite a bit of self-discipline (which I sometimes lacked) to complete the coursework effectively. Certain areas of study also seem to play a larger role than others. Thus, phonetics and phonology play a leading role in the make up of the course (30% of modules and ¼ of the exam), while other, some would say more practical subjects such as reading and writing, play a relatively minor role. In general, the emphasis is on teaching and learning theory and not necessarily on the application of specific instruction methods. However, the practical part of the diploma does focus very specifically on teaching theory, which I found very helpful in improving the quality of my teaching.
Logistically, the support and help from Sheffield Hallam and the course directors at English Worldwide was excellent. The final intensive course of five days was essential for the successful completion of the course. This session was in many ways the most satisfying part of the course, and served to unify all the various schools of thought studied, as well as providing practical exam writing practice.
Self-discipline and good pacing throughout the entire academic year are of absolute importance in order to deal with all the material presented.
As the exam itself concentrates not on single areas of instruction, but rather on global issues, relate parts to the whole on a continuing basis.
Get some kind of holiday break in before the final intensive week and exam preparation. After having taught for an academic year, I was exhausted and found it very difficult to find the energy to complete this crucial, final section of the exam.
The following other articles and accounts of studying for various teaching certifications.