In 2012 we conducted a survey to find out more about teachers’ experiences of TEFL courses. We asked them what kind of course they studied, why, and what they thought of it. Over two thousand teachers took the survey. Here’s what they said.
Have you done a TEFL course?
More than one in three teachers who responded have not taken a TEFL course but intend to do so. Of these, 35% are already working as teachers and 65% are new to the profession.
For those who have already taken a course, the CELTA and Trinty Cert TESOL proved the most popular, with 36% choosing one of these two courses. 28% chose another classroom-based course and 17% chose an online course, with or without a classroom component.
A high proportion of those who haven’t yet taken a course are thinking of taking an online course, with 40% saying they will probably go down this route. This is far higher than the 17% of those who’ve taken a course who actually studied online.
Just 18% are thinking of taking a CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL. Again, this is very different to the 36% of those who’ve taken a course. This suggests that a large number change their minds while researching courses, choosing a classroom-based rather than online option.
26% don’t know yet which type of course they want to take.
Why do you want to take a TEFL course?
We also asked the respondents who haven’t taken a course yet why they intend to take one. For 68%, the main motivation is to pursue a serious teaching career. 17% said the main reason was professional development or to improve career prospects, and 12% wanted to try out teaching to see where it leads. The opportunity to travel is the main motivation for just 6%.
Why did you choose your course?
Next, we asked which factors influenced teachers in their choice of course. The most important factor turns out to be whether or not the course has accreditation. The cost of the course, the location and the course content come in next.
Here are some other answers:
- “I was already a qualified teacher teaching foreign students, so only needed the TEFL qualification on paper.”
- “It was offered by the school I was working for at the time.”
- “Tutor – highly respected in the field.”
- “The school was well known for its high standards.”
- “Additional extras eg. free gym, 1 week free Spanish lessons.”
- “Reputation of the course internationally.”
- “I wanted the convenience of home-study.”
- “Lots of good job offers asked for same / similar qualification.”
Interestingly, if we look just at the answers given by those who haven’t yet taken a course, 32% cited cost as the most important factor, with accreditation next at 30%. The professionalism of the website of the course provider came in third at 15%.
How did you find out about your course?
We asked those who have taken a course how they found out about it and how much teaching experience they already had. The vast majority found the course through the internet (40%) or by a recommendation (35%). About 39% had no experience, but over 50% were already teaching when they took the course, and 23% had been teaching for more than 3 years.
How did you find the duration of the course?
Of those who took a 4 week course or longer, 40% studied part time. 80% thought the duration was just right, and 13% thought it was too short. Just 2% thought it was too long. Some of the reasons people thought the course was too short were:
- “Too much information to absorb in such a short time. Six weeks would have been better.”
- “Not enough time to be confident in the practical work.”
- “They were interested in getting you through the class in the minimum amount of time.”
- “The amount of work crammed into such a short time period was really exhausting.”
- “In retrospect, I was NOT ready to teach all levels. However, as a result, the learning curve ON THE JOB was steep.”
- “Because it’s such a vast subject that we only touched the surface.”
- “Too much pressure. Madness.”
- “Great resources and information, but as you know, you don’t become a teacher in four weeks!”
We asked everyone how much opportunity they had to put theory into practice (including writing lesson plans, creating materials and actual teaching practice) during the course. We asked them to rate this on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being 100% theory, and 10 being 100% practical. Here are the results for those who took a CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL:
15% of these thought that there was not enough theory.
4% thought there was too much.
23% thought there was not enough practical content.
1% thought there was too much.
Other classroom-based courses show a similar emphasis on practical content. However, 41% thought that this practical content was not enough, and 19% thought that the amount of theory was too high.
For those who took an online course, 51% thought that there was not enough practical content.
One in three paid between £500 and £1000 for their course, with significant number (23%) paying over £1000. 15% received either partial or total funding for their course. 7% of those who took a CELTA or Trinity Cert TESOL didn’t think it was good value for money. This figure rises to 10% for other classroom-based courses and 12% for online courses. Some of the reasons given include:
CELTA / Trinity Cert TESOL
- “Too many in the class – we were 18 crammed into a small classroom.”
- “The pay back period is too long for me.”
- “It soon became clear that as long as you complete the course you will pass.”
- “There was little individual attention from course tutors.”
- “CELTA is just a name. I got equivalent teaching instruction and practice in a course in another course for free. That course didn’t have the right letters though.”
- “There were lots of other things to pay for, photocopying etc for the classes.”
Other classroom-based courses
- “The theoretical content was disorganised and poorly delivered by this course provider.”
- “The feedback we got was really poor, especially at the end. Half of the course participants failed without any prior warning.”
- “The actual contact with staff fell far far short of the time ‘bought’ by the students collectively.”
- “The location and classrooms were terrible… and they did nothing to help place you with a job. I was not looking for them to hold my hand but a 30 minute career day was a joke.”
- “The range of materials was either Mickey Mouse or way beyond the requirements of a pre-teaching course.”
- “I got very little assistance in my studies apart from feedback when I turned in my exercises.”
- “The promises of help to find a placement were non-existent.”
- “I didn’t feel I actually got much out of it and felt that the instructors didn’t know much more than me.”
- “Modules were too short and the content of some was very poor.”
- “Lots of info could be accessed free on internet.”
After the course
We asked teachers if they felt ready for the classroom after their course. 68% of those who took an online course felt ready for the classroom by the end. This figure goes up to 72% for other classroom-based courses and 83% for CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL.
We then asked if teachers experienced any difficulties with employers not recognising or accepting their qualification. Of those who looked for a job, only about 6% of CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL graduates experienced difficulties. For other classroom-based courses the figure is 9%, and 14% of those who took an online course experienced some difficulty with employers.
Finally, we asked teachers if they would choose the same course again, and whether or not they’ve taken another qualification since their initial one.
36% have taken a further qualification of some kind, ranging from CELTA (for those who took an online or other classroom-based course), to TKT, to Diploma in TESOL, to MA in TESOL.
76% would take the same course again.
88% for CELTA / Trinity Cert TESOL.
67% for other classoom-based courses.
63% for online courses.
Of those who took an online course and wouldn’t choose the same course again, 59% would choose a CELTA, 12% would choose a different classroom based course and 18% would choose an online course again.