Earlier this week Jod and I completed the three day in-class component of our TEFL course through Tefl.org. It was a fantastic experience and we both said afterwards that it’s one of the most fun things we’ve done together all year, so thought we would write a review for anyone else considering the course or just wanting to find out a bit more information.
There are a ton of different organisations offering TEFL certifications but we opted for a 130 hour course from Tefl.org.uk based on this video review. When you’re spending hundreds of pounds on something online, it’s always comforting to hear about someone else’s experience to reassure you that it’s not a big scam, so the video definitely helped us feel better!
We had read online that when looking for work as an English teacher overseas it’s a really good idea to have a TEFL course under your belt even if it isn’t an official requirement for that country because it sets you apart from other applicants. In the same vein it’s better to do a course that includes an in-class portion rather than an online only one as you’re able to absorb so much more information when you see it delivered in a practical way, and you can also ask questions if you’re unsure about anything. With that in mind we chose the 130 hour course because it contained the most in-class hours (30 over 3 days). You can go up to 150 hours but the extra hours are just more online modules and, as I’ll explain later in this review, we really don’t think the online portion is the best value for money.
The full cost of the course is £389 per person but they constantly have a 30% off sale for courses with an in-class component so you shouldn’t pay more than about £275. In contrast the 100 hour online only course is £259, so you might as well pay an extra £16 and go for the course with classroom hours. They also offer a course with only 20 in-class hours that’s delivered over a weekend instead of during the week, so that might be easier for those who have a more traditional working week. Our current working hours are pretty flexible, and I would say it’s worth taking holidays to do the longer course if you can because the more real life practice you can get the better.
It’s worth remembering that depending on the location of your course, you’ll have to pay transport costs too – it cost £100 between us to get return tickets to Manchester for three days. We also had to change the date of our classroom course a couple of times due to some funerals. The first change of date was free but we had to pay £75 per person for the second one, so try not to change the date unless you absolutely have to.
We attended the course Monday 4th December to Wednesday 6th December and it was held at the Manchester Conference Centre (within the Pendulum Hotel on Sackville Street). It’s a ten minute walk from Piccadilly train station and was very easy to find. The course lasts from 9-6 each day, but the first two days we were finished by about 5.30pm, I think it just depends how quickly the group is able to complete all the tasks in the afternoon. Our trainer was called Caroline and she was absolutely fantastic. She was enthusiastic, supportive, funny and had loads of great stories and advice from working as an ESL teacher all over the world.
There were 20 people on our course which initially neither of us were keen on, but it was actually great being in a big group because we got to hear so many ideas and work with loads of different people so it never got boring. There was a real mixture of people looking to change careers and move abroad, those who had already been travelling and wanted a reason to go back, existing teachers in UK schools who wanted to learn more about ESL and people looking to teach online. I’m not sure if we just got lucky but our group was fantastic; everyone was SO kind and supportive and we laughed so much over the three days. I really think you get out of it what you put in, so if you make the effort to answer questions, chat to people and contribute to group discussion then you’ll really enjoy it.
For anyone else planning to attend a classroom-based course through Tefl.org, lunch wasn’t provided on any of the days but there was lots of tea, coffee and biscuits. The Conference Centre is also only five minutes walk from Oxford road so there’s a ton of places to eat nearby on your lunch break. Here’s a little run down of what we did on each of the days:
Day One Icebreaker exercises as whole group/ break/ structure of a lesson/ warmer exercises in small groups/ lunch/ classroom management/ break/ practice immersion teaching (other students tried to teach us in languages other than english – this was really fun!)
Day Two Recapping day 1 in small groups/ whole class feedback/ vocabulary warmer / controlled practice example/ break/ grammar – tenses/ grammar lesson planning in pairs/ lunch/ planning, delivering and observing grammar lessons in pairs/ feedback
Day Three Coffee and donuts with whole class discussion about job hunting, interviews etc/ functions/ planned, delivered and observed production lesson elements in pairs/ break / levels and assessment/ lunch/ planning, delivering and observing skills lesson in pairs
- The classroom course was very practical with loads of varied tasks and tons of chances to get up a do some teaching (from a ten minute warmer on the first day to a half hour lesson on day three). The fact that we were able to plan and deliver so many lesson elements in a short space of time increased our confidence really quickly and by the end we both felt really excited to get out to Korea and start teaching.
- It was brilliant to meet so many other people from all walks of life that we could bounce ideas off and laugh with. We swapped Instagrams with a lot of our fellow students and are really hoping to meet up with some of them again around the world!
- Having a trainer who could offer real life tips that had worked for her and share experiences was so useful, and she was really flexible in her teaching style. We were encouraged to take as many or as little notes as we wanted depending on how we personally learned, and she gave us loads of ideas for what to do in real lessons and brought the (sometimes dry) theory to life. We were also provided with a magazine-style textbook that contains loads of examples of activities to try in our future classrooms.
- Because we were in a big group lots of activities had to be done in pairs and groups e.g. sample lesson planning and delivery where as in the classroom this would be done alone. This did help build confidence but it meant we had to compromise on some aspects of the lesson depending on who we were working with.
The 130 hour course is spread over four modules; the pre-course task (a general introduction that you have to complete before attending the classroom sessions), grammar, teaching methodology and video observation. Within each of these are a variety of units that break the content down into manageable chunks e.g. tenses/classroom management/teaching young learners. This makes it really easy to dip in and out of, as you can complete some of the units in as little as 30 minutes. The units are delivered through video lessons delivered by teachers talking directly to the viewer, chunks of text and also videos of real ESL lessons.
At the end of each unit there’s usually either a quiz or an assignment to complete. You need to get at least 70% to pass a quiz, although you can repeat them as many times as you like and the majority of them are just true/false answers or multiple choice. The assignments are fine too, usually around 100-200 words and once they’re submitted you get the results within 48 hours. I kind of felt like the assignments were a bit pointless because sometimes they would ask you to plan a whole lesson in 120 words which is impossible, it’s as if they just want you to write something so that they can say that the course is “tutor assessed”.
- The course introduces you to a lot of good theory (especially about grammar) and it’s given in a variety of ways.
- Some of the classroom videos were boring and there are A LOT of them to watch, especially in the video observation unit. A good portion of the 100 hours is just taken up by watching someone else teach a lesson which isn’t very exciting. I personally didn’t find it very engaging.
- The classroom videos are also 99% focused on teaching adults so as someone who knows they want to teach children, that can be annoying as the set up is very different.
- You can only submit one assignment at once which can slow your progress down if you feel like you’re on a roll. I also didn’t feel like the feedback from the assignments was particularly useful as it wasn’t detailed.
Nothing to do with the course but we did take the opportunity to go to the Christmas Markets while we were in Manchester!
Personally I feel like the value of the course comes from the In class component, and I’m glad we opted for the 30 hours of classroom time rather than 20 as spending time actually interacting is what helped build our confidence and get us really exciting about teaching. If I had paid a couple of hundred quid just for the online stuff (which is basically stuff you can get from a couple of textbooks and Youtube videos) I would be really annoyed. Overall I’m really pleased that we chose TEFL.org as our training provider and would definitely recommend them to anyone who’s planning to teach abroad for the first time, but if you’re thinking of doing an online-only course I would definitely reconsider.