If you have an initial qualification in TESOL, like a Trinity CertTESOL or Cambridge CELTA and a couple of years of experience in the classroom, you may be wondering where to go next with your teaching. There are a lot of Continuous Professional Development options out there, some more formal than others, but if you are looking for a qualification which will help you to hone what you are doing in the classroom, and get a greater understanding of your students and their learning, then a Diploma in TESOL is a very strong step in your development in the industry.
What is a ‘level 7’ qualification?
Not all courses and qualifications labelled ‘diploma’ are at the same level of academic study. Many online providers and other training centres call their TEFL courses diplomas, and they are in that they result in a piece of paper (a certificate or diploma) which shows that you have completed the course. However, the commonly understood meaning of ‘Diploma in TESOL’, ‘DipTESOL, or simply ‘Dip’ is a qualification which appears on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) laid out by the UK’s governing body for academic and professional qualifications, Ofqual.
A Level 7 Diploma in TESOL such as the Trinity DipTESOL or Cambridge DELTA has to be accredited at this very high level in order to call itself ‘level 7’. This badge makes it equivalent to the first year of a post-graduate degree such as an MA in TESOL, and many universities and other academic institutions accept these qualifications as course credit, significantly reducing the amount of time (and therefore money) you need to spend on your future career development.
According to the RQF’s requirements, Level 7 qualifications in TESOL must include real-time observed teaching practice, academic research performed to rigorous academic criteria, and the development of practical skills based on current theoretical developments in the industry. In addition, courses leading to this level of qualification must involve around 600 hours of study (Total Qualification Time). This means that many candidates choose to take Diploma courses in a part-time or blended mode of study lasting between 6 months and just over a year.
The benefits of taking a course leading to this level of qualification in TESOL are many, so what can this type of development do to improve your teaching and develop your career in the long term?
Academic teacher development
Like most initial qualifications in TESOL, there is a balance of theory and practice involved with DipTESOL courses, and different courses give weight to different areas within theories of teaching and learning, language awareness and development of classroom skills. The Trinity College Diploma in TESOL, for example, puts special emphasis on phonology, with a specific assessment related to teaching and transcription in this area. The Cambridge DELTA, by contrast, requires teachers to experiment with new approaches more, and contains more assessed classroom observation.
Whichever course you are looking at, however, you will receive expert guidance from approved (and often internationally renowned) tutors, including successful authors, trainers and education developers from around the world. You will be required to take an academically sound approach to the work you do, including research into theories of language and learning, specific aspects of language usage and development, sociolinguistic and psycholinguistic theories of how language is acquired by individuals, and case study research into individual learners or groups that you teach in order to address their needs in the most efficient ways possible.
In addition to the application-based content of Diploma courses, there is also the requirement to consolidate what you have learnt from the course in lengthy examinations. Diploma exams run to around 4 hours of writing, and include extended essay questions and focused paragraph summaries of theories of teaching and learning, classroom solutions and the evaluation of methodological conventions in different teaching settings.
Practical teacher development
The main focus of the practical components on Diploma courses in TESOL is based around your observed classroom teaching. In order to be successful, you must show not only that you have a very tight knowledge of the language you are teaching, through your research and experience, but that you can cater to the individual and group needs of your students. Personalising what you do to the class is of utmost importance, raising engagement levels and showing that you can work with language in an empowering, dialogic, enabling your learners to participate authentically in the tasks and procedures you use.
To prepare a Diploma-level lesson, you will need to present a stage-by-stage plan detailing rationales, interaction patterns, anticipated problems, and related solutions for everything that you do in the lesson, making reference to research that you have done on the course. This is time-consuming and can feel like you are putting yourself into a pressure-cooker, but in fact the skills you develop by thinking this deeply about everything you do and say in the lesson will set you up for better practice in every aspect of your day-to-day work as you move through the course.
Far from being a prescriptive ‘do what we say’ approach to your development, TESOL Diploma courses aim for you to show your individual style of teaching and communicating with learners, so that they can engage with you and each other more openly, and with authenticity in their language and attitudes in class. In this way, DipTESOL teaching simultaneously tightens up your technical ability and loosens your grip on the power over the students and their learning, enabling them to fly free with their language while getting the support and the input that they want and need.
Specifying within the TESOL industry
Another aspect of DipTESOL curricula which can help you in your development is its focus on diversifying what you do in your role as teacher. DipTESOL courses require that you complete core modules in methodology, language awareness and theory, but also offer a range of optional modules whereby you can focus on an area of the industry which you would be interested in pursuing. You will receive advice on the various pathways that are open to Dip-qualified teachers, from school management to teacher education and other industry specialisations which require technical knowledge and skills.
Common pathway positions for Diploma-qualified teachers include: moving into academic or school management, teacher training on Certificate-level courses, acceptance into specialist teacher roles at much more generous rates of pay, moving towards academic positions in Higher Education, and becoming competent as a specialist in disciplines such as English for Academic Purposes, Professional English, English for Specific Purposes or with Young Learners.
As a stepping stone in your academic and professional development, a DipTESOL qualification can open up doors into many different areas of the industry, making for increased responsibility, better financial packages and credit towards further study such as Masters and Doctorate-level qualifications. If you would like further advice about how to develop through a Diploma in TESOL, contact us through the Language Point website or ask us about the opportunities we can provide through our relationships with DipTESOL providers around the world (see below).
Tom Garside is the founder of Language Point Teacher Education Ltd., which works in partnership with Oxford TEFL, a world-renowned Trinity College London DipTESOL provider which operates in many regions around the world.
Oxford TEFL are currently offering a EUR100 discount for applicants who quote Language Point Training and use their discount code #languagepoint100 when they apply. If you want to know more about dates and fees for DipTESOL courses, subscribe to the Language Point newsletter, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the Oxford TEFL website to find out more.