TESOL Cert Program Embraces Online Classroom in New Blended Learning Format
by Nori Kato
The TESOL Certificate program is accepting applications for their extended part time fall-spring program. Visit the TESOL Certificate program website to apply. Check back with the A&H blog as we follow TCP students through the summer full-time, accelerated program happening now!
Now more than ever, the internet and technological advances have changed the way educators and students alike view the classroom as a learning space, both in its physical form and synchronous online incarnation. The TESOL Certificate Program (TCP), a non-credit program which leads to a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), has embraced this new learning space with the launch of a blended learning format.
This new format allows local, national, and international students greater flexibility of study through rigorous online courses culminating in a practical, hands-on teaching experience at Teachers College. The TCP is available in a full-time summer accelerated program as well as a part time program in the fall and spring to serve a wide array of students.
“Our field has tended to offer more online courses,” said Dr. Vivian Lindhardsen, Director of Language Programs. “This is the direction that it’s going in this field, and I think not just in this field. I think in general, people want to have a little more of a say in when they’re going to do their work, so of course a blended learning format facilitates this independence.”
Students are required to take at least five courses, including Classroom Practices, Second Language Acquisition, Pedagogical Grammar, Second Language Assessment, and Intercultural Communication. Each of the five required courses contain interactive lessons which were carefully designed by Dr. Lindhardsen, the program fellows and Applied Linguistics/TESOL doctoral students. The online portion of the lessons are dynamic, and include discussion forums, small assignments, lectures and reflection pieces.
“Whatever you do in the classroom, you do online,” continues Dr. Lindhardsen. “And not just like you clicking on something and then there is a lecture. It’s really also very interactive and they need to actively contribute to discussions and things like that.”
A large part of the new blended program has been a partnership with Canvas by Instructure Inc, a new state-of-the-art instructional platform, to serve as the Learning Management System. “We believe it caters a little bit better to online instruction,” compared to other options Dr. Lindhardsen and her team explored, noting its flexible format and user-friendly design.
By directly partnering with Canvas on everything from instructional design to working with online modalities, the blended format seamlessly integrates the pedagogical expertise of Dr. Lindhardsen and her TESOL colleagues at TC, with the student-centered, digital expertise of Canvas. Moreover, a dedicated team of doctoral students, including TCP Doctoral Fellows, have rounded out the development of the curriculum.
“It’s really been a very detailed design process: review, design, review, design. So I have directed this curriculum development group that has developed the strands, the lessons within the strands, what is going to Canvas and so on,” she said.
A key component of the TCP’s success is its partnership with the Community Language Program, the TC language school for adults. Along with course-work, students in the TCP take part in a practicum in which they are assigned a class of adult ESL students at the CLP, providing English as a second language instruction to adult learners of diverse nationalities and backgrounds. To help bridge the gap between learning and practice, students are guided by senior mentor teachers that help with lesson planning, classroom management, and task design. Mentors also observe each student in the classroom and provide individualized feedback and support.
The practicum is one of the most unique features of the TCP, effectively preparing students with real-world teaching experiences and fulfilling the teacher training requirements for most language schools in the States.
With the new blended format, TCP students are learning pedagogical theories and techniques grounded in practical experience from leading experts in the TESOL field — all through rigorous and dynamic, yet flexible, learning spaces.