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Sharpening specialist skills

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Claudia Civinini on how a masters can take teachers to the next level

Some teachers have a second life that students don’t know anything about. In a school where I taught, for example, the English teacher was also a crime novelist, and the Year 11 coordinator a local theatre star. Where they found time to do that is anybody’s guess, but I think students benefitted from their interests as well – after all, teachers bring a lot more to the classroom than just a subject, and even subject-related expertise can come from a variety of sources.

Specialist ELT-related masters can contribute to the richness of experience that teachers can bring to the classroom – either by allowing them to pursue an interest parallel to teaching or to acquire insider knowledge necessary for career progression.

We talked to some providers that offer specialist ELT masters courses and asked them how the specific specialism empowers students with broader teaching skills, plus what job their students could aspire to should they get tired of report writing and detention duties. We then divided courses into four groups according to the broad interests they cater for:

ICT: With the educational potential of digital technologies in the spotlight, ICT is certainly a specialisation that could help any teacher’s career. On ICT-specialised masters, novice and experienced teachers can investigate, evaluate and experiment with a range of technologies and acquire a deeper appreciation of their potential for second language pedagogy and education in general. Employment avenues other than classroom teaching are media production, publishing, consultancy, training and doctoral research.

Linguistics: Other than theoretical and applied linguistics, students fascinated by language itself and its links to society and culture can pursue specialised masters that look at global Englishes and sociocultural linguistics. Although not primarily aimed at teachers, they can give Teflers some valuable skills: for example, the implications of globalised use of English on language policy, teaching, learning and testing, or a theoretical knowledge of how language works, together with an under-standing of the relationships between language, culture and society. Other possible job aspirations include journalism, advertising, policy making and doctoral research.

Literature: Closet novelists who wish to match their literary ambitions with their teaching vocation can choose courses that combine ELT and creative writing or translation. The masters will enhance students’ language skills, giving them a specialised knowledge of forms and functions of the language. Creative writing will inspire teachers who wish to use drama, literature and poetry in their classroom. In my experience, translation studies could also gift teachers with a culturally sensitive approach to semantics and pragmatics. Alternative occupations span from journalism and publish-ing to translation – and creative writing, of course.

Insider knowledge: For qualified and experienced teachers, masters focusing on trainer or materials development offers a ‘springboard’ to the next level, qualifying them for positions of responsibility – and to inspire the next generation. Masters with a focus on trainer development give students skills and knowledge to design, conduct and evaluate impactful teacher education programmes. Creative teachers on materials development courses will acquire not only background knowledge and practical skills to select, devise and evaluate teaching material, but also an expertise in course design. Teachers on these courses can aspire to become materials writers, teacher trainers or directors of studies. Or the next ELT guru.

Full details of these specialist masters courses will be available in our comprehensive listing next month.

Many thanks to: Goldsmiths, University of London; Norwich Institute for Language Education (Nile); University of Brighton; University of Manchester; University of Stirling; University of Southampton; University of Warwick; University of Westminster.

Pic courtesy: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Australia Goverment