MSc programmes in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL/TESP/TEYL/EMT)

Why choose this course?

  • Theorize your practice through developing your understanding of current thinking on key TESOL issues.
  • Extend your professional skills and knowledge as a result of researching your own learning and teaching context.
  • Gain the confidence to take an active part in the global TESOL community.

Aston University runs the following MSC programmes in English teaching:

  • MSc in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
  • MSc in Teaching English for Specific Purposes (TESP)
  • MSc in Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL)
  • MSc in Educational Management in TESOL (EMT) 

Accreditation of prior learning: 
If you have done work at an equivalent level to masters work (for example a DELTA or the IH Diploma in Educational Management) you may be eligible for upto 60 credits of accreditation of prior learning (APL) towards the MSc. This does not necessarily correspond to any module in particular, it just means that you would fewer modules. You would normally still have to do the core modules for your chosen programme. The APEL credits would also give you a fees discount calculated pro-rata by the Finance department prior to enrolment. All APL requests must be made prior to enrolment.

Duration of programme: the normal duration of part-time PG taught programmes is 3 years although up to 5 years may be possible in some circumstances and with payment of a continuation fee. 

Start date(s):
April and October

Distance learning available: Available

Intake: Approximately 50 per year

Fees for 2014/15*: 
UK/EU: £7,900
Overseas: £7,900
(£2000 continuation fee per year applicable after three years on the programme)

*These figures have not been confirmed, but they are expected to be approximately as stated. 

Apply for this course online

Our Masters programmes in TESOL by distance learning are designed to meet the academic and professional needs of experienced teachers of English to speakers of other languages. 

The course offers you a flexible and situated learning experience which is both academically rigorous and professionally rewarding. Once completed, you should have a firm grasp of key issues in the field of TESOL and be thoroughly acquainted with the literature. You will be able to make informed decisions on any aspect of TESOL and to support these with reasoned argument.

MSc Awards

We offer four strands to allow you to structure your Masters programme as effectively as possible and to ensure that your studies provide the required knowledge and skills to enable you to excel in your area of expertise. Each strand has a core module which you must successfully complete in order to be considered for the named award. Your dissertation must be focused on an area pertinent to the named award.

The four stands and their core modules are:
  • MSc TESOL (Core module: Methodology and Grammar)
  • MSc TESP (Core module: Course and Syllabus Design and Corpus Linguistics)
  • MSc TEYL (Core module: Teaching Young Learners and Lexis)
  • MSc EMT (Core module: Education Management and Analysing Spoken and Written Discourse)

Sample module options: The following module descriptions are indications only - the modules on offer and the content of the modules is subject to change.

Core modules (for specific programmes):

As you would expect, the Foundation Module (FND) sets out to introduce you to the MSc, both in terms of building a familiarity with the content of the course, and in terms of helping you become an effective participant in a distance learning program. If the processes of reflective practice and action research are already apart of your everyday experience, then there will be little here to surprise you, although we hope that we can still lead you further into them. If they are not, then we hope that they become as transformative for you as they have been for so many participants. Here are a couple of quotes from participants completing the FND that give the flavour of what we mean:

‘The question of becoming theoretical is interesting for me because of the reaction of several colleagues when I told them I wanted to do an MSc course. 'Why? It's all just theory!' Indeed, when I started the first module, I presumed that the approach taken would involve learning about the theory and then looking at ways of applying it to practice.’ Nikola Gökalp, Turkey

‘My notion of 'theory', which I suppose I had been carrying around with me since the RSA Dip, defined it more as an externalised body of knowledge to be imposed upon practice, so it is profoundly empowering to realise that pedagogic theorising actually arises out of reflective practice with one's own local context.' Andrew Packett, Portugal

The module will give all participants a grounding in research methods in Applied Linguistics, which they will then be able to draw on in the design and implementation of research projects in the other modules on the programme.

The module will cover the major areas of research methods in applied linguistics including different methods of data collection associated with ELT, the ethical dimension within any research project and different ways of analysing data. Specific topics addressed are, for example, Action Research as an approach to research in ELT, fieldwork, interviews, questionnaires, data analysis, referencing and avoiding plagiarism. 

This is a module which encourages you, as a teacher, to account for what you are currently doing in your classroom is seen as an empowering starting point. This is one reason why it can be a good idea to take the Methodology course at the beginning of the MSc. You start by looking in and articulating a personal methodology. You are then in a position to look out and explore a theoretical perspective.

The units encourage you to begin a process of action research in order to increase your understanding of what lies behind the numerous decisions and choices that face a classroom teacher. This constructive and critical process establishes a theoretical perspective, and at the same time encourages an interest in and awareness of a range of issues related to a pedagogic environment that facilitates learning.

Several of the units incorporate a section which highlights a piece of action research from a previous MSc participant. These are included primarily to give you a taster of action research, and help get you started on the process of exploring your own teaching context.

Many teachers start out on their language teaching careers teaching in an institution where there are set syllabuses and/or course books to be followed. But even at classroom level there are decisions that teachers need to take that concern content of lessons and involve appraisal and evaluation of the existing syllabus or course book. Some institutions run short courses and involve teachers in the management and design of these. With ESP courses and special groups, the ability to design and evaluate suitable courses (often very fast) is essential. Selecting a course book, writing or commissioning course materials, designing a language project, assessing language teaching provision, planning a future curriculum – all these situations demand professionals with a wide repertoire of course and material design skills and an understanding of the underlying theoretical principles and practical issues of innovation and implementation.

Teaching English to Young Learners has become increasingly popular, with children as young as two years old now having classes in English. This module examines the theoretical underpinnings of discourses surrounding teaching young learners, such as the Critical Period Hypothesis and literacy, and it invites a critical discussion of current research into teaching young learners. It also presents a number of approaches to teaching the young and aims to support teachers of young learners to make effective decisions about appropriate pedagogy in local contexts.

Many managers in TESOL have been promoted into a management role largely because of their teaching skills and qualifications rather than because of their management skills and qualifications. Increasingly, however, middle and higher level managers are involved in a range of tasks and operations which are far removed from the classroom, and consequently from the skills they may have developed. We feel that an understanding of the principles of management in the broad sense is becomingly increasingly important to those of us who currently work, or who hope to work at a managerial level in the field of TESOL. Familiarity with issues such as finance, marketing, budgeting and resource management is becoming more and more necessary for educational managers. As language providers are operating in an increasingly competitive environment, understanding of how your organisation operates and is structured, and how effective this is, can make the difference between your organisation meeting its aims and objectives and failing to meet them.

Elective modules (for all programmes):

Number of credits: 20

Module content: This module:                                                           

  • Develops  methods of description and analysis in  linguistic variation and change;

  • Introduces methodological tools and their application in the context of linguistic variation and change; 

  • Develops understanding of the role of models and paradigms in sociolinguistic  research;

  • Analyzes linguistic and extra-linguistic factors which influence or trigger a language to change.

a) Why do languages change?  
This part of the course will look at sociolinguistic factors such as class, gender, region, bilingualism and language contact, which can lead to a distinct use of a certain language by certain groups of speakers and thus contribute to the ongoing process of linguistic change and development.

b) Case Studies 
This part of the course will analyze linguistic variation and change in different variants of English and other varieties.

Method of Assessment: By 4000 word Essay 100% to be submitted at the end of the teaching period (see assessment package for exact date).

Essential Reading

Chamber, J.K. & Trudgill, Peter & Schilling-Estes, Natalie (eds.) (2002) The handbook of language variation and change. Oxford: Blackwell

Chamber, J.K. (1995) Sociolinguistic theory. Linguistic variation and its social significance. Oxford: Blackwell

Heine, Bernd & Kuteva, Tania (2005) Language Contact and Grammatical Change. Cambridge: CUP

Number of credits: 20

Module content: This module aims to introduce students to context-based understanding of written and spoken discourse. It will provide students with a grounding in the major theories and methodologies of discourse analysis, and provide practical experience of their application. It will enable students to make informed methodological choices when conducting their own analyses.

The module will provide students with an introduction to the fundamentals of text analysis, beginning with a consideration of the nature of ‘text’ and ‘discourse’, and of differences between written and spoken text. We will then look at some of the key traditions and approaches to discourse analysis, such as genre and register, systemic functional grammar, pragmatics, conversation analysis and critical discourse analysis. These approaches will be applied to the analysis of spoken and written discourse in a variety of contexts such as classroom interaction, cross-cultural communication and media discourse.

Method of Assessment: Research project of 4000 words, chosen by the student from a selection of set topics. (100%).

Module Content:

a) Literary linguistic theories  and methods  
This part of the course will examine principles of literary linguistic analysis and theory, including core topics such as modality, transitivity, speech act analysis, representation of speech and thought; politeness theory and presupposition and cognitive poetics, and their application to written texts across a range of genres.

b) Application of  literary linguistic theories and methods 
This part of the course will be concerned with the application of literary linguistic theory and method to a specific set of texts.  

Method of Assessment: By 3000 word Essay (75%) and  text analysis 25%

Essential Reading

Clark, Urszula & McRae, John (2004)   ‘Stylistics’  in A Handbook of Applied Linguistics, eds. Alan Davies & Catherine Elder. Oxford: Blackwell 2004

Culpepper, Jonathan (2001) Language and Characterisation London: Longman

Fowler, R. (1996) 2nd Edn Linguistic Criticism  Oxford: Oxford University Press

Number of credits: 20

Module content: This  module provides a selective introduction to different aspects of English grammar, both written and spoken; equips students with methods of description and  analysis of English;introduces students  to methodological tools  which will allow them to investigate grammatical patterns and uses; helps students to explore a range of relationships between grammar  and other aspects of linguistics, e.g. lexis, semantics, text analysis and  gives students insights into the relationship between the study of grammar and its application in various fields, e.g. language pedagogy, and translation studies.

The module extends students knowledge of English grammar as applied to speech and writing. In considering written grammar, extensive reference will be made to functional grammar. In considering spoken grammar, extensive reference will be made to Carter and Mccarthy’s Cambridge Grammar of English. Specifically the module introduces grammatical terms and definitions; explores aspects of syntax; explores the relationship between syntax and semantics (ideology, metaphor, loanwords, variations in grammar, global English, gender, language variety, dialect, ethnicity); explores beyond the sentence (discourse analysis) and explores grammar and applications (pedagogy, translation)

Assessment: Assessment is via a written assignment of 4,000 words plus appendices to be submitted at the end of the teaching period (see assessment package for exact date). For their assignment, students choose a specific topic or piece of linguistic data to research or analyse according to the tools suggested in the units, under the guidance of the module tutor.                         

Essential Reading

Bloor, T & Bloor, M (2004) An Introduction to Functional Grammar Hodder Arnold

Carter, R, Hughes, R, & McCarthy  M (2000) Exploring Grammar in Context  Cambridge University Press

Carter, R (2005) Language and Creativity Routledge

Thompson, Geoff (2004 2nd edn) Introducing Functional Grammar London: Hodde

Number of credits: 20                                              

Module content:
This module provides a selective introduction to different aspects of lexis; introduces students  to methodological tools (including corpus tools and techniques) which will allow them to investigate word meanings, patterns and uses;explores a range of relationships between lexis and other aspects of linguistics, e.g. grammar, semantics, text analysis; develops  understanding of the role of models and paradigms in lexical research and  provides insights into the relationship between the study of lexis and its application in various fields, e.g. lexicography, language pedagogy, and translation studies.

The module  introduces:

  • lexis (terms and definitions: what is a ‘word’; exploring what ‘knowing/learning a word’ entails);

  • Within the word (internal constituents of words - morphology)

  • Methodology (corpus analysis)

  • Dictionaries (selection and categorical organisation of word types, trends in dictionary design, evaluation; concepts underlying the dictionary: main principles: word lists, families, headwords, derivatives and terminology)

  • Beyond the word (multi-word-units, chunks, collocation, fixed expressions, idioms; colligation, lexico-grammar)

  • Words and meaning (ideology, lexical relations, metaphor,  loanwords, terminology, variations in lexis (global English, gender, language variety, dialect, ethnicity)

  • Applications (lexicography, pedagogy, translation)

Assessment: Assessment is via a written assignment of 4,000 words plus appendices, to be submitted at the end of TP1 (see assessment package for exact date). For their assignment, participants choose a specific topic or piece of linguistic data to research or analyse according to the tools suggested in the units, under the guidance of the module tutor.                  

Essential and Indicative Reading

Singleton, D. 2000. Language and the Lexicon: An Introduction  London: OUP.

Biber D. Conrad S. and Rippon R. 1998 Corpus Linguistics.CUP (esp Appendix pp281-296).

Hunston, S. 2002. Corpora in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge. CUP.

Willis, D. 2003. Rules, Patterns and Words: Grammar and Lexis in Language Teaching. Cambridge: CUP.

Number of credits: 20

Module content:

  • History and background of corpus linguistics

  • Corpus design and creation: data selection, design, copyright, acquisition, computer input

  • Corpus tools: frequency, concordance, collocation, grammatical tagging and parsing

  • Corpus analysis techniques and interpretation of results

  • Applications of corpus linguistics (lexicography, translation, language teaching)

  • Case study of one application in more detail

  • Designing a practical project and carrying it out

  • Latest developments and future possibilities

This module aims to:

  • help sutdents  to understand the history, methodology, and academic and practical goals of corpus linguistics

  • give participants insights into various issues involved in corpus creation (size, design, data selection, copyright, data acquisition, computer input)

  • introduce participants to the main analytical tools and techniques of corpus linguistics (frequency, concordance, collocation, grammatical tagging and parsing, etc)

  • provide participants with a grasp of the basic linguistic disciplines involved in interpreting the analytical results (morphology, lexis, semantics, lexico-grammar, syntax, pragmatics, text analysis, discourse analysis, and genre analysis)

  • enable participants to apply these disciplines to the analysis of linguistic data

  • develop participants’ understanding of the role of models and paradigms in linguistic research

  • provide a selective introduction to various applications of corpus linguistics (lexicography, translation, language teaching, etc)

  • look more closely at one of the applications (lexicography, translation, language teaching, etc)

  • allow participants to practice using corpora and corpus tools in a linguistic project

  • to enable participants to reflect on the nature of the linguistic data, the tools and methodology, and the analyses and interpretations

  • to motivate participants to develop corpora, tools, and methodologies for more effective linguistic analyses and applications

a) a written assignment of 2,000 words. For their assignment, participants choose a specific topic or piece of linguistic data to research or analyse according to the tools suggested in the units, under the guidance of the module tutor. Proposals for assignments and texts for analysis can, if the participant wishes, be vetted at a preparatory stage by the tutor. 50%.

b) a practical project, involving all the steps from corpus design and creation to use of tools, analysis and interpretation, aimed at investigating one aspect of a linguistic model, enhancing translation, or enriching language teaching or learning. The report on this project will be of 2000 words.50%.

Essential Reading

Barnbrook, G. (1996) Language and Computers. Edinburgh: EUP

Biber D., Conrad S., and Rippon R. (1998) Corpus Linguistics  Cambridge: CUP

Hunston, S. (2002) Corpora in Applied Linguistics. Cambridge: CUP.

Kennedy, G. D. (1998) An Introduction to Corpus Linguistics. Harlow: Longman.

Stubbs, M. (1996) Text and Corpus Analysis. Oxford: Blackwell

Teaching is via distance learning  course materials, additional required reading,
assignment tasks and virtual learning environment discussion groups.

All assessment is by written assignment. The Foundation Module must be completed by the end of the first year of registration and participants must complete at least one module per year. The dissertation is based on research on a chosen topic.

Dr Fiona Copland, Course Director MSc TESOL Programmes

''This is an academically rigorous and professionally rewarding programme. Graduates have gone on to full leading roles in local, national and international TESOL communities. Many have published work produced on this programme in key international journals too."

Graduates of our Distance Learning TESOL programmes work as teachers in TESOL all over the world.
You will have access to:
  • Our Virtual Learning Environment – Blackboard – to support your studies, including Blackboard discussion groups
  • The University Library, including over 25,000 books and a wide range of electronic journals.  The library has special provision in place to help part time and distance learning students access their resources: www.aston.ac.uk/lis/studentinfo/parttime
  • University wide facilities such as the Careers Service, Students’ Advice Centre,

Students’ Jobshop, Counselling Service, Sports Facilities, and Chaplaincy.



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