Job, schooling opportunities created with MPEd degree in field of TESOL

By: Gerry Rucchin

Doors open and opportunities beckon with the Master of Professional Education degree in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

The one-year Master’s degree from the Faculty of Education is a teacher-training program for experienced teachers. The curriculum helps students acquire innovative skills and language pedagogy and enhances their English proficiency. Program coordinator Dr. Stuart Webb said teachers either don’t have the theoretical knowledge or they don’t know why their teaching techniques are working – or not working – in the classroom.

“They’re not confident of what they’re doing is correct,” said Webb.

Former TESOL student Paula Schwartz agrees. She said the degree helped her as a teacher in two ways. First, she had a preconceived notion of how to teach when she started the program. However, she learned that it’s different teaching students who don’t understand the same language.

Schwartz added the degree gave her theoretical knowledge by showing her different ways to teach English. She learned teachers teach differently depending on the audience. In one example, Schwartz said teachers would approach teaching academic English in a different way than they would if they taught English to an immigrant community.

“I didn’t have this notion before. People view it as you speak English, fine, you just go and teach. This isn’t true. I didn’t have a clear idea of all the skills that encompasses teaching English,” said Schwartz.

“It’s a very good program. You can really learn how to teach English,” added current graduate student Xi Yu. She said that students can take what they learn from the courses and apply it to the classroom. She’s enjoying her academic journey because she’s learning more vocabulary and new pedagogy.

In its third year, the MPEd in TESOL has grown from 42 students to 102 students and has expanded to include six faculty members.

“We’re becoming a very good program. We expect that most applicants will see us as the top program in Canada and within the next few years be internationally recognized,” said Webb.

The MPEd in TESOL has been so popular that a second intake of students will take place in January 2019. The January intake creates flexibility for international students who may have a different school year, such as in Asia where the school year runs from April to January.

“It allows us to make the program more accessible to students from different international contexts,” said Webb.

Both Yu and Schwartz had challenges when starting the degree. For Schwartz, she was one of the oldest students in her class and she had to reacquaint herself with going back to school, such as learning in a new country and having new classmates.

Yu’s challenge was that it was her first time studying in an English-speaking country. While adapting to a new country wasn’t a problem for her, she said critical thinking skills are needed more for the MPEd than in undergraduate studies.

The program’s benefits extend beyond job prospects. Western and London also benefit from the MPEd in TESOL degree. Webb said students volunteer in the community and many of them stay longer than they planned because they enjoy it here.

Yu is one student who enjoys London because it’s quiet and a good place to study. She also thought she would return to China and start her career when she completes her MPEd. Now, she’s thinking about taking a PhD or another Master’s degree at Western.

Schwartz discovered Western Education’s MPEd during a tour of Western. Once she graduated with her degree, it provided her with teaching opportunities. After graduation, she became a teacher at the Western English Language Centre and King’s College KEY program. She also created and taught an academic writing program for international students, courses on presentation skills and adapting to an academic environment at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and at Science Communication. She also taught the BOOST program, wrote an English textbook for Brazilian students and designed an English textbook for a Thai hospitality course.

The Master’s degree has helped Schwartz become an effective teacher and she takes great pride in seeing her students succeed. In one instance, a student of hers was accepted into a PhD program.

“It makes me feel amazing. It’s one of these moments that the MPEd TEOSL and coming here was the right choice.”