With English being the global language it is, the provision of quality training for professional development becomes a must. In response to the growing demand in Europe and Latin America, as well as in the rest of the world, for improvement in the quality and effectiveness of English language teaching in both the public and the private sector, a number of Spanish and Latin American universities have developed an interuniversity programme in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL).
It is specifically designed for distance learning, and has been developed in collaboration with La Fundación Universitaria Iberoamericana (FUNIBER).
The programme aims to help practicing teachers, or those wishing to become teachers, address in an informed and principled way the issues and professional needs that relate to their own working environment. The type of training is thus developed to encourage the learner’s autonomy without losing sight of elements of constant but flexible interaction, tailored to the specific needs of teachers in professional development.
As a result, the material used has been designed to be accessed on the Internet by means of a special interface created for this reason. The interface is a central part of this type of teacher training since the virtual interaction, by means of e-mail, discussion groups, chats, etc., bridges the geographical gap between the different components of the course.
The Interuniversity Master, Diploma and Certificates in TEFL by Distance Education Mode represent an innovation both in the field of postgraduate education and in the field of distance education. The programme's practical focus encourages students to reflect on and interpret the relation between theory and practice, to adapt new ideas and strategies to their own contexts, and to test and appraise new teaching techniques in their own classrooms. In the case of the Master, this gives students a foundation for progressing to independent study at the end of the course, leading to a final dissertation (the Practicum/Research Project in TEFL), and, potentially, further studies at the PhD level at any of the universities taking part in this programme.
Who is the programme for?
The programme leading to the Master, Diploma (Especialización) or Certificates (Extensión universitaria) in TEFL is intended for:
- Primary and secondary level English language teachers in public or private institutions.
- Teachers of EFL working in adult education.
- Graduates with relevant qualifications intending to work as English language teachers.
Holders of all degrees, irrespective of subject, can be considered for the programme as long as the following requirements are fulfilled:
- Academic requirements
BA Honours (4 years of university studies) in a field relating to Educational Studies, Languages or Social Sciences. Degrees in other areas will also be considered for admission on the MA programme prior to completion of the entry exam.
If the candidate has ample experience in the TEFL field and holds an Ordinary degree (3-year degree), he/she may be admitted onto the MA course prior to individual evaluation by the Academic Committee.
- Diploma & Certificate:
University degree is needed in a field relating to Educational Studies, Languages or Social Sciences, except for Certificate A, B and C. Degrees in other areas will also be considered for admission on the MA programme prior to completion of the entry exam.
- Teaching Experience
For all the courses in TEFL (Master, Diploma, Certificates) a minimum of one year's teaching experience in ELT at any type of institution or in private tuition, is recommended. For the Certificates, if the candidate has no previous teaching experience, he/she may be asked to do an entrance exam before being admitted onto the course.
- Linguistic requirements
All candidates who are non-native speakers of English will have to provide evidence of having passed one of the following exams:
- Cambridge FCE (First Certificate) - grade A. (Grade B or C requires the entrance exam to be taken)
- Cambridge CAE (Advanced) or CPE (Proficiency) - any pass grade
There are 3 versions of this exam:
- Paper-based test (PBT) is out of a total 677 points, a minimum of 550 points is required.
- Computer-based test (CBT) is out of a total 300 points, a minimum of 230 points is required.
- Internet-based test (iBT) is out of a total 120 points, a minimum of 79 is required.
- Michigan Test:
ECEP (Examination for the Certification of Proficiency in English) - a pass. The Michigan ECCE (Examination for the Certification of Competency in English) is not accepted since the level is too low.
If the candidate does not have any of the above-mentioned certificates, and if he/she is not a native English speaker, then he/she will have to sit the entrance exam. English certificates from any other language schools will generally not be accepted, but may still be submitted for evaluation by the tutors on the course. If no consensus is reached regarding the qualification, the candidate will have to sit the entrance exam.
Anyway, having English as an L1 doesn't presuppose that a student has the linguistic level that this Masters demands. So, as a last resort, the company's management team of this programme can demand that the candidates pass a test that proves that they possess the level required.
Why by distance mode?
These distance education courses can be included in an educational model of a collaborative nature that encourages interaction and provides access to the teaching experience of the participants in the programme, both tutors and students alike, through discussion groups, debates and chats.
The programme designed for the Master, Diploma and Certificates in TEFL has many distinctive features compared to other in-service teacher training programmes:
- It breaks away from the limited reductionist view that is generally had concerning on-line distance education, where the student is merely provided with material and as such only encouraged to engage in individualistic learning.
- Along the lines of the above idea, special attention is paid to the processes that are essential to ensure the quality and effectiveness of the training (collaborative and constructivist learning).
- The materials and the didactic resources have been specially designed to help you monitor and assess your own progress.
- Access is offered to all bibliography that can be considered compulsory readings.
- Efficient and flexible channels of communication are available to deal with your queries (telephone, fax, e-mail, and Internet).
- Students are offered constant support and multiple ways in which to communicate with tutors and peers, both in relation to academic matters and to those of personal interest.
- You can apply your developing knowledge and skills to your work immediately.
- You can combine the programme parallel to your own commitments.
- You do not have to attend classes.
- There is no fixed time table.
- You have flexibility to study whenever you wish.
Distance education stands out as a powerful option in the present and future of our society. Being able to offer quality on-line university degrees provides the universities with the dynamism and prestige that prevents them from remaining static vis-à-vis this new, more democratic, concept of education.
Why an interuniversity programme?
The TEFL Programme is the result of the collaboration between The Fundación Universitaria Iberoamericana (FUNIBER) and the Spanish and Latin American Universities listed below:
- Universidad Europea del Atlántico (España)
- Universidad Internacional Iberomericana (México)
- Universidad Internacional Iberomericana (Puerto Rico)
FUNIBER has its origins in university projects for collaborative development set in the framework of UNITWIN-UNESCO and EU Chairs and Networks.
FUNIBER follows the conclusions of the World Conference on Higher Education in the Twenty-first Century: Vision and Action (Unesco, Paris, 1998), in which the need for intercultural education based on quality and international co-operation through university networks is proclaimed.
The currently available systems of communication, which facilitate, among other things, quality distance education, provide the universities with a means to extend their offer by bringing areas of higher social demand at the best academic level to the students. The way to preserve these extremes is found in the construction of University Networks.
FUNIBER has developed the TEFL programme, together with the collaborating universities, in response to the demand for continuous education and in order to encourage the ability to act in real contexts.
A team of teachers and specialists in English language teaching, Applied Linguistics and Foreign Language teacher training, is responsible for the making and actualization of the course content and have helped to develop a very comprehensive study programme, which takes into consideration the needs of each geographical area.
The overall objective of the programme leading to the award of the Master, Diploma (Experto) and Certificates (Extensión universitaria) in TEFL is to provide a base for the development of the academic and professional skills required to teach English in any of the various teaching-learning contexts that exist. The aim thus being to complement professional practice with contemporary knowledge and insights, concerning the nature of foreign language learning and teaching, and to develop the perceptions, knowledge, resources and practical skills necessary to build on this theoretical base.
The promotion of critical reflection is one of the aspects, which define the very nature of the project, and bridges the gap between a solid theoretical knowledge and its required practical application.
- To provide a comprehensive understanding of the English teacher's work and to help develop strategies for dealing with major aspects of this work, as much as possible within the context of your own current or anticipated work situation.
- To acquaint you with current approaches to the study of language that are relevant to the field of English language teaching and to help you develop, in the context of these approaches, a deeper understanding of and sensitivity to the nature of language, language use and language development.
- To emphasize individual professional growth and to enable you to pursue in greater depth new aspects of English language teaching that are of particular interest, concern or relevance to you personally.
- To provide students with the necessary support to be able to carry out action research in an autonomous manner and, as a result, promote professional development.
In this way the programme's practical focus encourages you to:
- Reflect on and interpret the relation between theory and practice.
- Adapt new ideas and strategies to your own classroom situation.
- Test and appraise new teaching techniques in your own classrooms.
- Apply your analytical skills to specific problems or issues.
- Demonstrate your capacity to review and criticise current relevant literature and research within ELT.
- Assess the advantages and disadvantages of particular strategies and programmes, which are characteristic of current practice.
- Apply the knowledge and skills gained in the programme in a continuing process of improving your own teaching and your students' learning.
A guiding principle of the programme is that the participating English teachers are viewed as professional practitioners who through the course are involved in a process of professional development that is directly related to, and located in, their current work situation.
The programme does not consist simple of the delivery of content, but rather, just as in the case of face-to-face courses, it includes a series of pedagogical aspects aimed at promoting collaborative learning (between peers and tutors). All the courses are based on the following methodological concepts:
- Learning as a collaborative undertaking.
- A dynamic and constructivist concept of teaching and learning.
- Promotion of critical reflection on one’s own teaching practice and beliefs.
- An approach based within the framework of action-research.
- Cohesive and multicultural groups.
Course specific features
The main features of the programme are the individual flexibility and the continuous feedback provided by the tutors as well as the ample possibilities to communicate with both tutors and peers alike by means of the Virtual Campus. These aspects foster motivation and allow each student to adapt and plan the coursework according to his/her specific needs and available time. There are also a number of ways for students to communicate with each other, such as the Group Discussion Lists, the VC e-mail and the Coffee Shop.
Flexibility of study
Most people choose distance education programmes because they are looking for more flexibility than conventional, full-time study offers, so the Master, Diploma and Certificates in TEFL programmes are designed on the assumption that you may want to vary the time you spend on it. Tools such as the discussion groups, debates and chats, in addition to the tutor support, constitute motivational factors in the learning process.
Another important feature of the courses is the continuous support and guidance offered by the tutors. The new system of tutor distribution where each tutor is responsible for one whole term also ensures that students have an added stability in their studies. In addition to the tutor guidance, the student will also find ample support by the other students on the course by means of the various means of communication that the programme offers. In this way, the student is never alone in the learning process, having access to both peers and tutors at all times. Collaborative learning is considered to be the essence of academic development, and in this case, also of the professional development the students take part in on the course. Following this same line, students are also encouraged to form study groups.
Despite contact between students and tutors being mainly via the Virtual Campus, if need be the tutors can also be reached by telephone and/or fax.
The Virtual Campus
As a pioneer in the field of distance education La Fundación Universitaria Iberoamericana, has set up a Virtual Campus, which is accessed via the Internet. The Virtual Campus offers you the possibility of making direct contact with peers working on the course at your own and other universities, and discussing issues and questions arising from the course materials. Tutors also regularly participate in discussions, monitoring and synthesising participants’ contributions on topics, and informing participants of websites where additional information (such as articles published in on-line ELT journals, or webcasts) may be found.
Apart from the enormous potential for making direct and continued contact with peers and tutors, you will be able to access the course materials themselves on-line, and to submit assignments via the Virtual Campus (VC).
The virtual campus has been developed following a definite pedagogical approach, according to the criteria detailed below:
- Students can use the Virtual Campus as a complement to the written material, as well as accessing the compulsory readings, with no additional cost.
- The Virtual Campus is a complement to the actual learning experience in that it provides access to a number of additional resources such as the course materials, bibliography, recommended web sites, self-evaluation and feedback, glossaries, etc.
- The Virtual Campus provides you with the means to exchange opinions and experience with students and tutors alike by means of the discussion lists, the VC e-mail and the Coffee Shop (a space provided for you to interact with the whole student community), consult the Events Calendar, where you can find information on which EFL events are taking place all over the world, and you also have the possibility to participate in the on-line chats and debates that are held for each subject and that will, without doubt, prove to be an enriching and useful experience.
At the beginning of the course, each student is provided with an individual password and a user name to allow access to the Virtual Campus.
In addition to this, the first two weeks before the course officially starts consist of an orientation period to the use the VC. Consequently, you do not need any previous IT-knowledge to enrol on the course. During the Orientation Period, students take part in a series of socialization tasks in order to get to know each other while learning how to use the virtual campus (sending internal mails, opening and sending attachments, read on-line articles etc.). These two initial weeks of orientation have proved to be extremely useful, and at times even crucial for the establishment of group dynamics.
Finally, those students who do not have the possibility to access the internet on a regular basis, can still follow the course using the conventional written material in normal fashion and contacting the tutors by telephone, e-mail, fax or ordinary post. However, in order to get the most out of the programme we strongly advise that you try to use the Virtual Campus as far as possible since it allows you to get a more complete and immediate feedback from the tutors. Whichever the case, those students who have no means to access the Internet, will still be provided with a password and a username, in the event that they should get an opportunity to connect.
Feedback on assignments
In the context of distance education, feedback on written work is extremely important, as it provides direct contact with a tutor, and serves as an index of your progress on the course. As such, it is an essential part of the programme and one that we devote a lot of time and effort to.
Our aim in giving detailed feedback is to provide you with the opportunity to improve future assignments, and, in more general terms, to be able to grow and develop professionally via the course.
To summarise: these programmes in TEFL, aimed at further teacher development, allow for a flexible and autonomous learning experience while at the same time providing the student with a range of means to communicate and interact with tutors and peers on the course. All this is possible using the multimedia base of the Virtual Campus that not only provides an important access to the course content and academic resources, but also a means to bridge the geographical gaps between all the components on the course, providing the student with continuous support and guidance.
Without doubt, enrolling on any course in professional development will influence your career and expertise. If on top of that you can do so in your own time, at the place of your choice and allowing you to fuse your personal duties with your academic ones while still having access to quality material and qualified tutors, then the experience is bound to be a success!