MA TESL Handbook

The Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language (MA TESL) provides advanced professional preparation and study in the teaching and administration of English as a second or foreign language with adult learners in the U.S. or abroad.

Advising Process

At the beginning of the program, you will be assigned an Academic Advisor with whom you will meet regularly throughout your program.  

Program of Study

The MA TESL program consists of 36 credit hours of coursework that provide authentic, integrated opportunities for students to plan, teach, reflect, research, and lead ESL and EFL programs for adult learners.


9 credits (required). This group of courses is designed to develop your understandings of the social, historical, and theoretical foundations of the field of Applied Linguistics and TESL.

  • APLNG 484 Discourse Functional Grammar
  • APLNG 491 Second Language Acquisition
  • APLNG 493 Teaching English as a Second Language

Professional Core

6 credits. This group of courses provides you with opportunities to integrate your understandings with practical experiences in ESL instructional settings.

  • APLNG 410 Teaching American English Pronunciation
  • APLNG 412 Teaching Second Language Writing
  • APLNG 570 Second Language Reading
  • APLNG 583 Methods of Language Assessment

Field Experience

6 credits. This group of courses provides you with the opportunity to apply your understanding in ESL instructional settings.

  • APLNG 500 Practice Teaching in ESL
  • APLNG 595 Internship [Tutoring]

Methods of Research in Language and Language Learning

3 credits. A course in this area will enhance your understandings of and skills in doing research on language and language learning. Courses that you may choose include the following:

  • APLNG 578 Computational and Statistical Methods for Corpus Analysis
  • APLNG 581 Discourse Analysis
  • APLNG 586 Analyzing Classroom Discourse
  • APLNG 587 Theory and Research in L2 Teacher Education
  • APLNG 592 Qualitative Research in APLNG
  • other course with approval of your advisor

Additional Courses

12 credits. The courses you choose here will strengthen your understandings and skills in an area or areas in which you have special interests:

  • APLNG 482Y Introduction to Applied Linguistics
  • APLNG 511 Applied Linguistics and Health Sciences
  • APLNG 512 Language and Adult Lifespan Development
  • APLNG 571 Usage-Based Second Language Acqusition
  • APLNG 572 Communication in Second Language Classrooms
  • APLNG 574 World Englishes: Pluralizing Policy, Pedagogy, & Proficiency
  • APLNG 575 Language Ideology
  • APLNG 576 Language Socialization across Home, School and Community
  • APLNG 578 Computational and Statistical Methods for Corpus Analysis
  • APLNG 584 Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning
  • APLNG 585 Pragmatics in Language Learning and Teaching
  • APLNG 586 Analyzing Classromm Discourse
  • APLNG 587 Theory and Research in 2nd Language Teacher Education
  • APLNG 588 Design and Research of Technology-Mediated Language Learning
  • APLNG 589 Technology in FL/SL Education
  • other course with approval of your advisor

Please Note:

  1. We do not offer all courses every semester/year.  Consult LionPath each semester for course offerings.
  2. MA TESL students cannot ‘sit in’ on classes.

500-Level Courses

A minimum of 18 hours of coursework at the 500-level is required. You must maintain a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 in all coursework in order to maintain good academic standing.

Capstone Professional Development Projects

To earn your MA TESL degree, you must complete two capstone projects, the e-Portfolio and the MA Paper.

The e-Portfolio

The e-Portfolio demonstrates the depth and breadth of your accomplishments in the program. The development of the e-Portfolio is a process that starts in the first semester when you begin compiling class materials, assignments, and other records of your professional training and experience.

MA TESL Program Objectives

The e-Portfolio must provide evidence that demonstrates you have accomplished the following MA TESL Program Objectives:

  1. the ability to design and evaluate instructional materials, technology, media, and other resources that meet the specific instructional and language related needs and abilities of students
  2. the ability to reflect on, critically analyze, and evaluate your own teaching practices
  3. the ability to articulate a philosophy of language teaching grounded in current language and learning theories
  4. an understanding of the complex social, cultural, political, and institutional factors that affect language teaching and students’ language learning
  5. knowledge of research and research methods for studying language teaching and learning
  6. knowledge of the teaching field (English as a Second Language)
  7. participation in collaborative projects with others


You can use several types of evidence to demonstrate that you have accomplished the seven MA TESL Program Objectives. Please use our conceptual tool that will help you think about and design your e-Portfolio.

Evidence can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Documents you produced in your courses. These may include seminar papers, reaction papers, exams, assignments, and/or completed projects.
  • Documents you produced outside of any specific course that analyze and synthesize your various experiences in the program.
  • Documents you produced in your field experience courses, including handouts, exams, journal entries about your teaching experiences, reflections on tutoring interactions, interviews with students or teachers, and so on.
  • Documents about your participation in the program written by someone else, including written observations/evaluations completed by a supervisor, a cooperating teacher, or a peer observer; formal course evaluations, and so on.

Designing the e-Portfolio

We offer workshops that will help you design your e-Portfolio.

Evaluation and Presentation of the e-Portfolio

In your final semester, your e-Portfolio will be reviewed by your Academic Advisor, MA Paper Advisor, or Second Reader.  Please work with your Academic Advisor to determine which faculty member will evaluate your e-Portfolio.

Your e-Portfolio will be evaluated on how well the evidence you have selected illustrates that you have met each MA TESL Program Objective.  We ask that you include all seven objectives in the e-Portfolio, provide evidence from your coursework and professional experiences that shows you met each objective, and write a brief comment with each piece of evidence explaining why it illustrates that you met the particular objective. 

You will be expected to present your e-Portfolio to the APLNG community at the end of the semester in which you will graduate.

MA Paper

The MA paper is required of all MA TESL students. It represents your research interests and is usually developed from work completed in one or more courses. Examples of MA papers completed by former students are kept on file in the Department office, and you are encouraged to review these.


Choosing a topic for your MA paper may take some time and thought, so plan to consult with your MA Paper Advisor during your second semester of study. There are several options for this project:

  1. Critical Literature Review: Select a contemporary academic topic that is of particular interest to you. Review the pertinent literature (primary and secondary sources) that lay out the central issues and claims about this topic.  Conclude your paper with your stance on the topic and implications this has for the field of TESOL/APLNG.
  2. Curriculum Development:  Develop a curriculum for a particular group of language learners or language teaching context.  Your curriculum must include a literature-based rationale for both the content and the skills covered in the course, a complete course syllabus, as well as all curriculum materials necessary to teach the course.
  3. Data-driven Project: Develop an analytic empirical research paper based on oral, written, and/or computer mediated discourse.  Ground your research in a relevant theoretical perspective, provide a critical review of the most relevant literature, and apply relevant methodologies in working through the data.  Your paper must involve some level of analysis and not simply line-by-line descriptions or paraphrased accounts of the data.  

Timeline for MA Paper

Please note that this timeline is general.  You will be provided with specific deadlines by the department.

  • By end of your third semester in the program
    • decide on a topic and timeline for completing the paper in consultation with your MA Paper Advisor
  • At least six weeks before the end of semester in which you are to graduate
    • submit draft to MA Paper Advisor
    • advisor will provide feedback within one week
  • At least four weeks before the end of the semester in which you are to graduate
    • submit revised draft to MA Paper Advisor and Second Reader
    • both will provide feedback within two weeks
  • At least one week before the end of the semester in which you are to graduate
    • make final revisions, construct title and signature pages, collect required signatures
  • Upon completion
    • submit a bound, signed copy of your final MA Paper to each of the following:
      • MA Paper Advisor
      • Second Reader
      • APLNG Department
      • Optional: You may want to make a bound copy for yourself.
  • Poster Presentation
    • All MA TESL students are expected to prepare and present a poster of their MA paper at the APLNG event held at the end of the semester in which they graduate.
    • The purchase of a three-panel display board is recommended so the poster will be self-standing. 


Professional Development for MA TESL Students

APLNG Roundtables and Lecture Series

In addition to the coursework, you are strongly encouraged to participate in regularly scheduled APLNG roundtable sessions and the guest lecture series sponsored by the Center for Language Acquisition. The sessions include presentations and discussions of research-in-progress by members of the APLNG community as well as presentations by visiting scholars and invited speakers. See News and Events on the department website for a schedule of events.

APLNG Alumni Outstanding MA TESL Student Award

The purpose of this annual award is to recognize MA TESL students in the Department of Applied Linguistics whose academic and professional accomplishments are deemed to be exceptional and who have made significant contributions to the department.

Award:  A certificate of merit and $200, to be presented to the selected student at the department’s end-of-the-year party.

MA TESL students are nominated for the award by APLNG faculty.  In order to be eligible for nomination, a student:

  • must be a currently registered MA TESL degree candidate
  • must have completed one full year of the MA TESL program
  • must have a minimum Grade Point Average of 3.0 in his or her own graduate work.

Social Events Sponsored by APLNG Community

MA TESL students are encouraged to participate in all social events sponsored by the APLNG community.  All students and faculty are expected to provide a small financial contribution to the Social Committee to help fund social events.  Announcements are sent out on the APLNG Listserv and posted on the News and Events on the department website.