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American University was one of the first universities in the United States to offer a Master's degree concentration in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), which was launched in the mid sixties. In addition to the Master's program, a Graduate Certificate in TESOL option soon followed. In 1995, the program was extensively revamped to include new course offerings and a greater emphasis on methodology, as well as the addition of the TESOL Summer Institute – two 7-week sessions of intensive summer courses and a special 3-day Summer Intensive Workshop with a different focus each year. In 1997, the MAT: ESOL program was initiated, which is a joint program with American University's School of Education, Teaching, and Health that leads to K-12 certification. In 1999, the TESOL Program entered into collaboration with the Peace Corps' Master's International Program (MIP), whereby students can earn up to nine credit hours of course work at no cost based on their Peace Corps experience. In 2000, the program introduced another innovation: its one-credit courses. These courses meet 4-5 times over the course of the semester and allow students a greater variety of course offerings, so that each student has the opportunity to tailor his/her program to individual interests.
The AU TESOL program aims to be more than just a graduate program, and believes in the importance of creating a community of learners as well as connecting our students to the expanding ESL community in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. During their course of study, students gain practical, hands-on teaching experience through involvement with local ESL institutions, public schools, or community-based volunteer teaching programs. Additionally, the program regularly hosts a variety of professional development events and conferences, attended by both students and professionals currently working in the field of ESL.
Through its professional development events, working relationships and network of alumni, the AU TESOL program has grown to be an integral part of the ESL community in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
The program typically has around 80 students—20 to 25 students in the Graduate Certificate program, 35 to 40 in the Master's program (including MIP students), and the rest in the MAT: ESOL or other joint programs with the School of Education, Teaching, and Health. Some students begin in the Graduate Certificate program but decide to continue on and complete the Master's program (all TESOL courses taken at AU are fully transferable to the MA in TESOL). Class size is usually between 15 to 20 students, although some of the beginning required courses may have 20 to 25 students. Many of the one-credit or advanced level courses have 10 to 15 students.
Our student body is as diverse as the audience who wishes to learn English. Traditionally, our program has had a significant number of mature students; these include students who have taught ESL/EFL but want to gain teaching credentials, or career switchers, including CIA trainers, former military officers, lawyers, business executives, and diplomats. These days, a larger proportion of our students are traditional graduate students who have recently completed their undergraduate degree programs. Our students bring diverse experiences to the classroom and find that they learn a great deal not only from their professors, but from their peers as well.