Continuing education is recommended for ESL teachers at all levels and in all setting whether they teach in a public school system, a university, a private language school, a corporate setting or some other environment. Ongoing professional development ensures that ESL teachers remain abreast of current pedagogy and also get the opportunity to learn and share ideas and feedback about teaching with others. This could be particularly valuable for teachers who work in settings where they may be the only ESL instructor.
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Graduate Degrees or Certificates
ESL teachers in some environments may have relatively little specific training in the field. Many people enter the field of ESL with an undergraduate certificate or coursework on the field or after obtaining private certification so they can teach abroad. After a year or two of teaching, some may decide that they want to make ESL their career and may begin to look at opportunities available for graduate degrees. There are a number of different options. Some programs may have a more practical orientation while others may be more oriented toward theory. Some programs offer a graduate degree in ESL teaching as a master of arts degree while others offer it as a master of science degree in teaching. Various certifications may also be available. Teachers should research programs carefully and choose one that is compatible with the career path they envision.
TESOL is the international organization for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. It offers a number of opportunities for professional development including TESOL online courses and seminars, certificate programs and leadership training. These opportunities allow teachers to move at their own pace while developing their skills and learning about the latest research. TESOL is also active in the conference world, and its international conferences and regional conferences and symposiums are excellent opportunities for teachers to learn about the latest research in the field, add some teaching skills to their professional toolboxes and network with other ESL professionals.
How to Choose
The specific continuing education that is recommended for ESL teachers will vary depending on what skills the teacher wants to strengthen, the population the teacher works with and the environment in which the teacher works. For example, teaching ESL to kindergarten students varies greatly from preparing international university students for admissions exams or teaching adult learners. However, one important element to look for in choosing a course is whether the methods taught have a solid grounding in pedagogy and research. Teachers may also want to use professional development to shift their career focus. For example, they may want to move into teacher training, and professional development courses can provide the opportunity to explore this.
Importance of Professional Development
An article in the journal Professional Development in Education argues that professional development is critical for ESL teachers. A study looked at a professional development program that included elements of pedagogy, cultural awareness, theories regarding the process of learning a second language and more and found professional development sessions to be effective for both teachers and for student learning.
ESL teachers need professional development courses just as teachers of other subjects do. There are numerous opportunities available, and the types of continuing education recommended for ESL teachers will depend upon the teacher’s focus, needs, and career path.