Sorting out a good in-classroom course requires a bit of research and we start that process here.
Even though there is no agreed-upon standard in the world for what you learn in a TEFL Certification course, many nations have formed their own requirements that such schools must meet.
The government certification process of a TEFL Certification school can range in intensity to a just-for-show rubber-stamp review to a complex and detailed checklist of course content and trainer qualifications.
To help you narrow down which in-classroom TEFL Certification course is right for you, here’s a handy list of questions I think all TEFL course participants should ask schools before they sign up (or pay!) for a program:
1. Where does the school’s license come from? Is it issued by the national Ministry of Education, by a local education department or simply by a city business licensing agency?
Clearly, this can give you an idea as to how arduous the evaluation process is.
2. How many hours of in-class instruction will the course include? Most TEFL Training schools world-wide offer 100 or more, so you might be able to call this an “international standard.”
3. Will the course cover grammar? If so, what exactly will you practice or learn?
You want a TEFL Training course that not only reviews the proper structures with the trainees (most of us need a brush-up when we’re starting out) but also explains and illustrates how to teach, correct and explain grammar to your students.
Of course, most native speakers will be able to intuit correct (and incorrect) grammar when they hear it, however they might not be able to explain clearly and simply to students why a sentence is right or not.
4. Will you learn teaching methodology in the course?
This is critical. A good TEFL Training course must include methodology.
5. How many hours of observed teaching practice (OTP) will the course include?
Most programs around the world offer a minimum of 6-8 hours—another informal “international standard.”
6. When you do OTP, who will observe and evaluate you?
It’s best for you to get your OTP feedback from teachers who have some experience under their belts—ideally five years’ worth or more. At some schools, you’ll find student teachers evaluating each other, which – while helpful – is not optimal.
7. Who will your OTP students be?
It’s best to teach “real” students so you get a feel for the true experience of Teaching English as a Foreign Language. You’ll find some schools just have mock students (your student-teacher peers, for example) for OTP.
8. For what common learner difficulties will you be trained (for that country/area)?
As I like to tell new TEFLers, the best reason for taking your TEFL training course in the country in which you wish to teach is that you’ll learn what errors and problems are typical of that country’s students. This gives you a leg up when you get to your first job. However, your TEFL course should also teach you how to anticipate and correct common problems from all over the globe, not only your destination country. What if you want to move one day?
9. Will your OTP students be the same for all of your sessions?
There are pros and cons to having the same students for all of your OTP sessions. If you have different students each time, then you’ll get to experience an assortment of student problems and levels, while if you teach the same students over a number of classes, then you’ll experience and understand how to plan and organize sequential lessons so your students continue improving.
10. How old will your students be?
If you can get a chance to experience teaching both adults and children, or at least a variety of ages, you’ll come out better for it. However, in practice, not all training schools can offer you this.
(The next question is a follow-up to number 10:)
11. If you’re specifically interested in teaching one age group (i.e., kids or adults) after you obtain your certificate, will you be able to teach them during the OTP? If this isn’t the case normally, would they be able to arrange it for you?
12. Does the listed cost of the course include books and materials?
It’s best to know this before you go, as books and materials are not cheap. Many schools only require that you bring your own board markers or other stationery-type materials, while others will give you some suggestions as to books or other learning tools that would be useful, but not mandatory, for your course.
TED’s Tips™ #1: If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t sign up for the course, and certainly don’t pay for it! These questions are simple, and should be easily answered. If a school can’t or won’t answer them, then buyer beware!
TED’s Tips™ #2: If you live near the school, ask if you can go to the course and sit in for a day for that fly-on-the-wall experience. However, be forewarned that not every day of your TEFL course will be full of fireworks and excitement, some days will be spent poring over lesson plans and doing other time-consuming but necessary work.