• Tom Garside

TEFL basics: Where do you want to teach?


You may have decided which country or continent you want to teach in, but have you decided which setting you'd like to teach in?


Coming into the TEFL industry, you will be faced with a range of different specialisms within English language Teaching.


Each requires a different skill-set and an understanding of the kinds of students that you will meet in these different classrooms.


Here is a breakdown of the most common types of teaching and learning settings, and the qualifications and skills that are typically required.




Very Young Learners (VYL)


Student age: 3-5 years old


Settings: English-language kindergarten, pre-school or early primary, depending on the education system of the country


Teaching and learning focus: basic literacy and motor skills, play-based learning, learning through stories and songs, project-based learning, creative play, emotional development


Skills required: Understanding of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and language acquisition, approaches to classroom management and discipline, patience, empathy and the ability to manage time between physical and seated activity types, understanding of safeguarding and pastoral care practices


Relevant qualifications: graduate and post-graduate qualifications in ECE, experience working with very young children, Trinity TYLEC.

Young Learners (YL)


Student age: 6-15 years old


Settings: National primary and secondary schools, after-school English lessons, weekend English lessons and tutoring in private language schools, often in large, monolingual groups (where students share the same first language)


Skills required: approaches to classroom management and discipline, patience, understanding of school curriculum and assessment requirements, development of a variety of physical, visual, cognitive and other activity types to raise engagement and participation levels, play-based learning, gamification, project-based learning, Content-Language Integrated Instruction (CLIL)


Teaching and learning focus: Typically balanced between the 4 skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing), vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar, often in preparation for national language assessments or international exams (see exam preparation, below)


Relevant qualifications: Bachelors in Education (BEd), Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE - UK), initial language education certificate (Trinity CertTESOL, Cambridge CELTA or similar), Trinity TYLEC extension certificate

International schools


Student age: 6-18 years old


Settings: International English-language primary and secondary schools, typically multilingual groups of international students


Skills required: As in Young Learners, above, and specific knowledge of the curriculum and assessment methods of the nationality of the school (commonly British, Australian, Canadian, American), the International Baccalaureate (IB) system, or specific examination suites that a school uses, good administration skills and record-keeping


Teaching and learning focus: The 4 skills, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation, often organised according to topics and skills from a formal curriculum (iGCSE, IB, international A-level or similar)


Relevant qualifications: Bachelors in Education (BEd), Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or Post-Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE - UK), initial language education certificate (Trinity CertTESOL, Cambridge CELTA or similar), Trinity CertPT

Adult general ESOL


Student age: 18+ years old

Settings: Private language schools and tutoring centres


Skills required: The ability to use and adapt course books and other materials, application of a variety of approaches and activities, needs analysis and knowledge of different levels of language proficiency


Teaching and learning focus: The 4 skills, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation


Relevant qualifications: Initial language education certificate (Trinity CertTESOL, Cambridge CELTA or similar, often with a bachelors degree required in certain countries)

ESOL and Skills for Life


Student age: 18+ years old


Settings: Government-funded further education organisations, working with migrant communities and people with refugee status, perhaps in detention centres or similar


Skills required: Knowledge of safeguarding and pastoral care procedures, cultural awareness and sensitivity, the ability to tailor material to the diverse life needs of learners


Teaching and learning focus: ESOL skills and language as above, English-language literacy skills, employability and digital skills development, skills for integration into the host culture.


Relevant qualifications: Initial language education certificate (Trinity CertTESOL, Cambridge CELTA or similar), Trinity CertPT

International English language exam preparation


Student age: dependent on the assessment being taken


Settings: International schools (as above), learning centres and exam preparation centres


Skills required: Good understanding of the specific exam being prepared for, the mechanics of different question types, usually focused on the 4 skills, grammar, pronunciation and especially vocabulary teaching methods, exam strategies for success in different exam sections


Teaching and learning focus: Topic-based language - vocabulary related to exam topics, reading texts of different lengths, writing genres appropriate to the exam being taken, listening to genres of text which appear on the exam, speaking skills in individual and group speaking tasks


Relevant qualifications: Initial language education certificate (Trinity CertTESOL, Cambridge CELTA or similar), Trinity CertPT

Business and Professional English


Student age: adult


Settings: classes held in training centres or on company premises, working with staff and management in corporate settings


Skills required: Knowledge of the features of the industry where learners are working, needs analysis and curriculum design, understanding of business terms relating to the industry where learners work,


Teaching and learning focus: functional skills and language for the workplace, usually relating to international communication, meetings, recruitment, marketing and international trade. Formal language and industry-specific vocabulary, explaining business processes in English, analysing data in English


Relevant qualifications: Initial language education certificate (Trinity CertTESOL, Cambridge CELTA or similar, Trinity CertPT, Business English teaching extension certificates such as the CertIBET)

English for Academic Purposes (EAP)


Student age: 17+ years old


Settings: International university pathway programmes, pre-sessional language support programmes, university departments and associated study centres with large intakes of international students


Skills required: Strong understanding of assessment frameworks and academic expectations of specific EAP programmes, understanding of the structure and features of academic genres of text, administration and record-keeping, delivery of different types of academic assessment


Teaching and learning focus: Academic language and skills for success (listening and note-taking, research skills, referencing and dictation of academic sources, essay and report structure), academic level vocabulary and grammar, critical and analytical thinking.


Relevant qualifications: Initial language education certificate (Trinity CertTESOL, Cambridge CELTA or similar, Trinity CertPT, post-graduate qualifications in TESOL - Trinity DipTESOL, Cambridge DELTA, Masters in TESOL or applied Linguistics), usually 2-3 years of experience required.

So these are the most common types of teaching that happen in the global EFL industry. As you gain experience, it is well worth thinking about which area you want to move into, to stay engaged in the job and to bring the most benefit to learners according to your skills.

Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 5 Trinity CertTESOL in a totally online mode of study, and the RQF level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with specific courses which focus on online language education or online methodology.

If you are interested to know more about these qualifications, or you want take your teaching to a new level with our teacher education courses, contact us or see our course dates and fees for details.

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