The Personal MA TESOL: Introduction

“You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for a buck fifty in late charges at the public library.” – Will Hunting (played by Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting)

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.” – Isaac Asimov

In the past two weeks I have read about four books, one of which was Josh Kaufman’s “The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything…Fast“. While reading the book, he mentioned another book he wrote called “The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business“. This book is billed as an alternative to business school and gives a condensed but in-depth look at the foundational ideas needed to succeed in business. I haven’t read it yet, but I did read Kaufman’s personal MBA manifesto and his list of the 99 best business books, broken down by category. It reads like a MBA program curriculum.

As I read it, I wondered what a personal MA TESOL would look like? Would that be interesting to someone? Is that such a crazy idea? While you don’t need an MBA to succeed in business or make money – you just need the know-how,  you do need an accredited MA degree to break through a very thick glass ceiling and start a serious career in language education. Then again, not everyone measures success by money. If you measure in terms effectiveness in the classroom, then a personal MA TESOL is not such a wild idea.

In fact, with the world of open education, MOOCs, Coursera, Udacity, edX, and a plethora of free online courses and programs, it really isn’t such a crazy idea after all. People all over the world are learning things on their own these days. Lifelong learners are now the norm.

A personal MA TESOL won’t get you a degree, a high paying job, a yacht, or beautiful women (the things usually associated with it), but the ideas, concepts, methodologies, and techniques you would learn could prove pretty beneficial in the classroom.

I don’t know much (or anything) about business, but I do know something about language education (I have one of those accredited degrees in the field, technically an MSEd). So, inspired by Kaufman, I’d like to start a mini series of posts about the Personal MA TESOL. Every week or so, I’ll make a post on a category of language education, akin to a course of study in graduate school. In each post, I will recommend books and online resources that I have personally read or used. The comments will be open for readers to suggest additional resources. I will start with the foundations and work my way up from theory to praxis, focusing on practical skills and methodologies. After a few months, we’ll have a nice, well rounded Personal MA TESOL for newbies, dedicated teachers, and lifelong learners.

Here’s my rough personal MA TESOL outline. I’ll make the first post sometime this week. Leave a comment if you think I am missing something important:

  1. Learning Theories – the psychology behind learning
  2. Second Language Acquisition – how we learn languages
  3. Bilingualism – what it means to be bilingual
  4. The English Language – its history, grammar, and pronunciation
  5. Applied Linguistics – lingustics, sociolinguistics, semantics, pragmatics and other large words
  6. Materials and Assessment – crossword puzzles and word searches for the serious teacher
  7. Pedagogy – a fantastic voyage from grammar translation to dogme
  8. Evidence-based Pedagogy – notes from the experts
  9. Language Fun – a break from seriousness
  10. Educational Research – qualitiative and quantitative
  11. Practical Teaching Skills  – how to teach reading, writing, listening, speaking and more
  12. Task-Based Learning – authentic and meaningful tasks in the classroom
  13. English for Specific Purposes – and not just general purposes
  14. Instructional Technology in ELT – beyond PPTs and Twitter
  15. English as a Lingua Franca – that means world language
  16. Rethinking TESOL – a critical analysis of the world’s greatest job

Looking it over, it’s quite the load!

4 thoughts on “The Personal MA TESOL: Introduction

  1. David Harbinson says:

    I like the idea of a personal MA. I completely agree that for personal intrinsic value, learning about these things to improve as a teacher is a great idea. It’s good if you aren’t interested in the qualification, or if you already have one but want to continue learning. I know on my MA there was a lot more I wanted to learn about, but could only cover so much.

    I wonder how effective MOOCs are. I am signed up to start a couple of courses (not TESOL related) on EDx and Coursera next week, now that I finally have more time to do so. I wonder how far I will get.

    I think the outline you have provided is quite comprehensive. There seems to be some overlap between some of the topics, for example is there much of a difference between 1 and 2 or could they be combined together?

    A few things I might add, which could probably quite easily fit into some of the categories you’ve already mentioned are: Teacher education, YLs, ELT management, intercultural communication, ELF, materials design which I think is different from course design.

    I look forward to your upcoming posts and hope I can contribute in the future.

    • Anthony Teacher says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      I have only done one MOOC course on Coursera. I’m trying to get through it, but it’s starting to get pretty boring. It’s the Introduction to Computer Science course.

      As for the personal MA TESOL, I have probably missed some essential categories. I’d like to pare it down a little, and I only want to referenc books that I have read or areas that I have enough experience in, so I can’t include everything. I’ll take your comments into consideration as I work these out. I completely missed materials design and ELF!

  2. Ramintessah Aihara says:

    Discovering your site came in the most perfect time. I am an English teacher here in Japan and Im at the point where I want to improve my teaching styles and learn more about how my role as an English teacher could be of better use to my students learning. I didnt have any formal education on how to be an English teacher (as I graduated with a degree in Political Economy) and Ive always felt that I need to learn more about teaching English as a second language.

    Another reason why I want to study is to improve my English skills especially my grammar and writing skills. A lot of “what if” questions hinder me to finally committing to an online MA TESOL course … “what if my English skills are not enough to finish this course?” etc… After reading your post, I decided that I might be better off doing self study and trying the personal MA TESOL route.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to have it outlined for beginners like me. Thank you so much for inspiring me to do this! At first, I was so sad when I discovered that you had not updated this post as you didnt have any links for the courses you outlined. But a quick search on your blog showed me the posts that I wanted. You may want to add link of your new posts to the above course outline as you go along so that visitors who would land on this page for the first time would not miss their track. (just my 2 cents)

    I’ve just read your post for the first course and was able to find the syllabus of the actual class you took. Im so pumped out to start the course. My question is (pardon me if it will sound more of a demand),how do we approach the study part of the other two courses? There are resources and books provided but how do we do the actual “studying part”? Is reading the books,while taking down notes, enough to finish the course? Im so sorry if Im being so thick and naive. But I would love to hear your thoughts about how we newbies should approach these courses.

    Thank you in advance!


    P.s. Kudos to a great site!

    • Anthony Teacher says:

      Thanks for commenting!

      Please remember that a personal MA TESOL in no way replaces an actual Master’s degree. If you just want to improve your teaching, then the MA TESOL is for you. If you want to improve your teaching and job prospects, you should be considering a real TESOL program.

      I update the list above and realized how little I had actually done! I will try to do a few more before the year is up. Things, as usual, are busy and I don’t always have time for blogging.

      As for how to study the course, reading books certainly helps but it doesn’t guarantee retainment of the knowledge or being able to use it. If you are a teacher, try out the ideas in your classroom. If you are not a teacher, try to get yourself into TESOL-related discussion (face-to-face or on the web), as these will definitely reinforce and augment the ideas you will be reading about. Also, if a topic interests you, do some research on Google Scholar and find related articles to learn more.

      I hope my comments helped. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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