As a former EFL teacher in Thailand, I’ve met thousands of teachers who hold TEFL certification during my 10 years in the country. While the majority hold a TEFL certificate that includes passing at least 10 hours of observed teaching practice, some teachers do not. To say this has been somewhat of a detriment to their TEFL career is an understatement when it comes to the certificate they hold compared to those of others. Why? Put simply, a TEFL certificate, usually one studied for online, that did not include observed teaching practice does not qualify you as well as one that did.
What is observed teaching practice? – It means that sometime during your TEFL training course you taught a class of real student learners and were evaluated by a licensed evaluator. Most TEFL certificates that include observed teaching practice have each student complete 10-12 hours of observed teaching by the end of the course.
Why is observed teaching practice so important? – The majority of people that teach English overseas don’t have any teaching experience whatsoever. That means, if they don’t get any observed teaching practice before they graduate with a TEFL certificate, then the first class of real students they will ever teach is their first class in the country they choose to teach in.
Now, look at it this way. Every student you teach while you teach English overseas is paying to learn English. For many it is a huge amount of money compared to the monthly salaries of them or their families. So how fair is it that, in response for the payment, they get a ‘teacher’ who has never taught a class in their life but thinks by taking an online TEFL course and being a native English speaker they are now qualified to teach?
Besides, when you first begin teaching English, you will make a lot of mistakes. Everyone does. Mistakes that, if a qualified person pointed them out right after you did them, chances are you wouldn’t repeat them again. Without observed teaching practice, however, you have no idea which mistakes you are making nor how to correct them, so those mistakes will be visited upon your students. Hardly fair now, is it?
Schools often require observed teaching practice – Not only schools but also countries’ licensing bodies often require a TEFL certificate to include observed teaching practice in order for you to get a work permit. So, when you go for an interview for your first teaching job, you may just be asked “How many hours of observed teaching practice did your TEFL certificate include?”
I’ve interviewed for around eight teaching jobs in Thailand over the years and been asked about observed teaching practice in at least half of them. In all cases, the interviewer was extremely happy the TEFL certificate I hold included at least eight hours observed teaching and that I had completed ten. It meant applying for a work permit for me would be just that little bit easier as the Ministry of Education in Thailand tended to look more kindly on TEFL’s certificate’s with observed teaching practice.
If you want to be sure you are able to get the job you really want too, make sure the TEFL certification course you sign up for includes observed teaching practice. If it doesn’t, you could find yourself severely disappointed down the road when that school or language school you want to work for won’t hire you.
TEFL certificate courses that count a ‘teaching practicum’ – In my travels around the internet, I’ve come across several online TEFL schools that talk about including a ‘teaching practicum’ as part of their TEFL certificate course.
What this means is, at the end of your online TEFL course, you will be required to teach 10-20 hours as a volunteer teacher, at a language school, in a primary school or one-on-one with a private student in your home town. Thus ostensibly giving you ‘teaching practice’.
Worse than useless hardly starts to describe this practice as, without being evaluated by an examiner while you’re teaching, you have no idea what you’re doing wrong or if, in fact, you’re even doing anything right.
That is one of the reasons why if you see an online TEFL course including a ‘teaching practicum’ with no actual observed teaching practice, you can all but guarantee it’s not as good a certification course as those TEFL courses that do include it.
Be sure also to check out any TEFL certification course before you sign up and consider very carefully if you want to take one without any observed teaching practice. Your future career could depend on it.