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University of Limerick, Ireland
Master of Arts in English Language Teaching (MA ELT)

Dr. Freda Mishan is the Course Director of the Master of Arts in English Teaching Program, University of Limerick, Ireland. Dr. Mishan, thank you for agreeing to share some information about the Master of Arts in English Teaching Program with our readers. Many MA TESOL programs take about two years full-time to complete, with or without a thesis (dissertation). Limerick's program is full-time and two semesters and one summer long, is that correct? How intensive is the program?

FM: Yes, the programme effectively runs a full year, from September to September,
including writing and submission of the 15000 word dissertation, which is done over
the summer and submitted in September. The taught part of the programme consists of
two semesters, with 3 core modules each semester, plus one elective. Total contact
hours per semester are between 12 and 14 hours, depending on elective choice,
although of course there is a lot of work on assignments etc on top of this. Most of our visitors are English as a second or foreign language
teachers. They come to us from all over the world. Could you tell us more
about your international students? Where do your international students
come from? Why have they chosen the University of Limerick's MA ELT

FM: Over the past few years we have had students from many countries including Poland,
Latvia, Brazil, China, Japan and Spain. The MA ELT at UL is one of the few taught
MAs in ELT and has a strong practical element; teaching practice (TP) is compulsory
as an elective in at least one of the semesters for all students with less than 3
years' teaching experience. We offer TP with our groups of 'Erasmus' EFL students,
students on the Erasmus exchange programme, so our students get excellent hands-on
experience in the classroom. According to your website, your curriculum emphasizes "corpus-based
approaches to the study of language." What does this mean exactly, and how
are such approaches relevant to the program's stated mission and

FM: This refers to the application of a fairly recent yet extremely influential branch
of linguistics, Corpus Linguistics, to language learning and teaching. Corpus
linguistics is the study of language based on huge electronic databases (corpora) of
language. Many of the biggest corpora were originally created for the writing of
dictionaries, such as the Bank of English, used by Collins Cobuild, or the British
National Corpus, used in Oxford University Press dictionaries. The use of these
corpora for language research and teaching was pioneered notably by scholars such as
John Sinclair, in the 1980s. There are a number of Corpus Linguist among the
lecturers in the department of languages at UL and our sister institution, Mary
Immaculate College, and within the MA ELT section. L-CIE, the first large
Irish-English corpus, was developed here and Limerick is the headquarters of the
corpus linguistics association IVACS (inter-varietal corpus studies). This
involvement with a cutting edge area of research is clearly beneficial for the
students and is in keeping with the programme's aims for a healthy interaction
between teaching, learning and applied research. Technology (and thus, Computer-Assisted Language Learning) is becoming
increasingly important in TESOL. How does Limerick's MA in English
Language Teaching prepare ESL/EFL teachers for the challenges presented by
the rapid evolution of language education-related technology?

FM: There is a strong technology element to the programme in a number of the modules:
there is a full elective module available on ICT and language learning, on top of
which ICT is taught as part of one of the core modules, theory and practice of ELT.
ICT and particularly corpus based work is also integrated into the language systems
module. Students are therefore expected to become skilled in the use of technologies
for language teaching and for their own learning and research. One of the program's objectives, according to your website, is "to
provide students with the necessary skills to carry out research in the
area of ELT." Could you please describe in more detail the types of
training in both qualitative and quantitative research that your students

FM: One of the core modules is the research methodology module which covers such areas
as: Qualitative versus quantitative approaches, Survey research (sampling,
questionnaire design, SPSS), Classroom observation, Action research, Case studies,
Literature review and referencing, use of Endnote for bibliography-building,
planning and writing a research proposal etc. Once the student has submitted his/her
dissertation proposal s/he is assigned a supervisor who provides on-going support
and advice in these areas (and others). Empirical research, such as experience in
corpus linguistics, see above, is also integrated into other modules. Does the program emphasize empirical research, or does it emphasize
theoretical research, or perhaps both?

FM: As can be inferred from the above descriptions of the programme, we try to achieve a
balance, ranging from teaching practice to more theoretical research (for example in
the language systems module, which encourages students in empirical research in the
area of corpus linguistics). See below as regards the dissertation. A master's thesis (dissertation) is a required component of the
University of Limerick's MA ELT program. Are these studies usually
theoretical or empirical?

FM: The dissertation is expected to be a piece of original empirical research,
underpinned by theory, with pedagogical relevance and feeding back into research in
the area of ELT. Is all coursework taught only by the department's faculty, or can
students take electives from other departments? Does your program
encourage interdisciplinary collaboration?

FM: There is input from a range of faculty, mainly but not exclusively our (very large
and wide-ranging) department (Department of Languages and Cultural Studies).
Students do not usually take electives from other departments due to the intensity
of the programme, although they can on an audit basis. Where do your students usually present, locally and internationally? Is
there a graduate student forum or a graduate student conference either at
the University of Limerick or in Ireland in general where your students
regularly share ideas and present?

FM: There are many research centres in the university and within the faculty of
humanities, at which students can present and/or attend presentations and lecturers
by other faculty or visiting lecturers : The most relevant for our students are CALS
(the Centre for Applied Languages), IVACS (Intervarietal Corpus Studies), ISKS
(Institute for Knowledge in Society). UL is also the HQ of EUROCALL, the European
Association of Computer Assisted Language Learning. Many international conferences
are held at UL, this year, for example, the international IVACS conference, as well
as the MATSDA (Materials Development Association) conference were both held here. What types of financial aid are available to your MA ELT students
(scholarships, graduate fellowships, reduced fees, and so on)? Is there a
separate scholarship fund for international students? And, speaking of
conferences, does the university's Graduate School support graduate
student travel to present research papers at conferences?

FM: There are a number of internal and internal scholarships available to UL students,
these can be seen on the UL Graduate School website.

Support for students presenting at conferences can come from various sources, the
graduate school, the faculty of humanities, research centres, project funds, and the
like. Funding opportunities which arise are circulated to students on the university
intranet. According to your website, applicants must have "a second or first
class honours level primary degree or equivalent professional
qualification." For those of our visitors who are not familiar with the
Irish higher education system, could you explain what this means and why
an honors degree is required?

FM: Our post-graduate admissions office checks all non-Irish applicants on NARIC, the National Academic Recognition Information Centre ( which gives qualification equivalencies. The equivalency obviously depends which country the applicant comes from. A US 4 year
Bachelor degree is the equivalent of the Irish Honours degree required to apply to our programme. Teaching experience is a requirement for graduation, according to your
website, which is why students with no teaching experience must take a
teaching practice module. Why is this important?

FM: The teaching practice component of the MA ELT at UL is an essential feature and
selling point of the programme, which is one of the few programmes at this level
that to contain TP. The MA is designed to provide a broad basis in the theory and
practice of language teaching so it is essential that students get the opportunity
to put into practice, the theories of learning and teaching that they are studying.
For those that come to the programme already having had substantial teaching
practice, they are able to contextualize their learning within their teaching
experience. Nevertheless, most students, even those with teaching experience, do
actually opt to do at least one semester of TP. Can students who have a one-month entry-level certificate in teaching
English to speakers of other languages transfer some of their credits to
your program? How many credits are usually accepted, if any?

FM: I don't think so, although this could be checked with our admissions office. Dr. Mishan, thank you very much.

For more information, you can visit the program's website and/or contact Dr. Freda Mishan, the Course Director of the MA ELT program, directly:

Phone (in Ireland): 353-61-202432
Email: freda.mishan(AT)
Graduate School
Department of Languages and Cultural Studies
University of Limerick
Limerick, Ireland


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