Master of Arts in TESL
The MA in Teaching English as a Second Language is designed for individuals seeking advanced professional preparation in the teaching of English as a second or foreign language in the U.S. or abroad. The program is theory-based, that is, it is grounded in theories that emphasize the functional nature of language. Therefore, students in this program engage in teaching practice throughout their degree program in order to be prepared to work in diverse multilingual contexts around the world in the future. All professional core coursework includes field experiences in various ESL instructional settings.
There are two possible ways to earn the 36 credits required for the MA TESL degree:
- Campus Option. In this option, students complete all coursework, teaching and tutoring practicums, and other degree requirements while in residence at Penn State.
- Online + Campus Option. This option allows students to begin their MA TESL studies by taking up to 12 credits of coursework online before moving to the Penn State campus in State College, Pennsylvania to complete the degree. For students who are working, or who cannot relocate immediately, this option provides the opportunity to begin master-level studies from home. Click here to see the on-line courses available for this option.
Regardless of which pathway is chosen, all students must complete 36 credit hours, or 12 courses, choosing classes from the following areas: foundations, professional core, and methods of language study/research. Click here to see the list of classes offered in each area.
Besides completing the required foundation and professional core classes, students can choose elective courses in one or more areas of special interest. As they progress through the program, they select either a pedagogical or research concentration which determines their capstone project (the final evaluation component of the degree).
- The pedagogical concentration requires an e-portfolio that describes a student’s teaching philosophy and experience.
- The research concentration requires students to complete an MA paper.
All M.A. TESL students complete a one-semester teaching internship as part of the degree, carried out in an appropriate ESL instructional setting. The experience includes working closely with a mentor teacher and with the internship supervisor; the focus is on creating and adapting instructional and assessment activities, and doing practice teaching.
Summer teaching opportunities exist in our ESL Program and at the Intensive English Communication Program on campus. Post-graduation Teaching EFL Abroad opportunities also exist with exchange programs established in South Korea, Turkey, Chile, and Mexico. The MA TESL coursework, field experiences, and teaching internship strengthen students’ abilities to create educationally sound, contextually appropriate, and socially equitable learning opportunities for English language learners in the instructional settings in which they will eventually teach.
Outside of coursework, a variety of department-sponsored activities enhance the intellectual and professional lives of both faculty and graduate students.
- Regularly scheduled departmental roundtable sessions bring graduate students, faculty members, and visitors together for panel discussions, presentations about research-in-progress, and professional development activities. Click here to see some video footage of past roundtable events.
- Another opportunity to gain deeper knowledge about the field happens in the guest lecture series. Distinguished speakers from all over the world come to campus to talk about their latest research interests; besides being intellectually stimulating, these events allow graduate students to meet and talk informally with leading figures in the field. Click here to see a list of guest lecturers who have been invited in previous years.
- The graduate student body also organizes regularly scheduled social events that bring faculty and graduate students together in more informal settings to share ideas and develop affiliations.
For more detailed information on the M.A. TESL program, please view our graduate handbook.
Please note: This program does NOT provide certification to teach ESL in U.S. public schools. If you are seeking certification to teach in Pennsylvania K-12 schools, please visit the Curriculum and Instruction Department in the College of Education.