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Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Master of Arts in English as a Second Language (MA ESL)
Today we are interviewing Dr. Ann Mabbott, the director of the online/onsite
MA in ESL program offered by Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the United States of America.
MATESOL.info: Thank you for agreeing to share some information about
the program with our visitors. Could you please briefly introduce the
AM: Our mission is to improve the education of English language learners, both in the US
and abroad. Our program has been providing professional development for ESL
teachers since 1984.
Graduates from our MA in ESL program:
-have a strong background in the systems of language and how they relate to instruction
-understand the relationship between language and culture and how it effects learning
-have the knowledge they need to take leadership and advocacy roles in schools
-are able to incorporate technology into their teaching
-become reflective practitioners, able to pose questions related to their
instruction and systematically investigate those questions.
MATESOL.info: What makes Hamline University's MA in ESL program truly unique?
AM: There are several things that we are known for:
-tying theory to practice. Our professors all had extensive classroom experience
teaching English in the US and abroad before they became teacher educators, and
they specialize in tying theory to practice.
-the licensure portion of our program which has National Recognition status from TESOL
-giving students both on campus and online options. Our entire program can be
MATESOL.info: The MA in ESL program offers four paths to the degree, so to speak,
according to your website. What are these four strands, and what are the
conceptual differences between them?
AM: We are fortunate to have a relatively large program, as it allows us to offer
specialized courses for different audiences. The foundational courses such as
linguistics and basics of modern English are the same for all students, but we
differentiate the methods courses. The specialty areas are: teaching English as a
foreign language, for teachers who want to teach abroad; K-12 licensure, for
teachers who want to teach in elementary or secondary schools; ESL for adults, for
teachers of immigrants and refugees who are adults; and the international strand, for
practicing EFL teachers.
MATESOL.info: One of the strands relies exclusively or almost exclusively on distance
learning. Does this mean that a student can earn his/her MA in ESL from
Hamline University without ever actually visiting the campus, or does this
strand include residential sessions?
AM: All but the TEFL strand can be done completely online. Although students do not have
to come to campus, they do have to have teaching experience to get the MA in ESL
degree. If they are not currently working as teachers, we set up a practicum for
MATESOL.info: How popular is the online option, especially with EFL/ESL teachers
living and working in other countries?
AM: Enrollment in the online courses has been steadily increasing every year. The
online option is not only popular with distance students, but also with some who
live in our neighborhood. Students find they can save time and money by not driving
to campus. Many also take a mixture of courses, some online and some on campus.
Some students prefer the real time classroom experience, but others actually find
that they learn better online. The online format gives a voice to the quiet
students who don't normally participate as actively on campus. Having time to
reflect and think before participating in a discussion works well for many.
MATESOL.info: According to your program's stated objectives, "teachers will have a
strong background in the systems of language." How much emphasis is placed
on theoretical linguistics by the faculty, and will not having a formal
background in theoretical linguistics be a problem for prospective
AM: We allow up to 16 graduate credits to be transferred into our program for students
have had courses in the systems of language, but we provide the foundations courses
for those who don't. All of our courses tie theory to practice. Our introductory
course, for example, is called: "Linguistics for Language Teachers". We
deliberately connect linguistics with teaching practice. The same is true for the
"Basics of Modern English", which is a grammar course that also addresses how to
teach grammar. Methods courses are very practical in nature, but are also tied to
MATESOL.info: What types of research do your students usually engage in, primarily
qualitative or quantitative, empirical or classroom-based, or perhaps
strictly theoretical research? What types of research are taught?
AM: Our students do a variety of projects for their capstone experience, but most do
something related to the classrooms in which they teach. The research methodology
course, which prepares them to do their final projects, covers a variety of
qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
Some of our Hamline graduates have gotten their capstone work published. Leah
Rempel researched and wrote a novel called "Hey Hmong Girl, Wassup?". Mohamed
Farid and Don McMahon wrote a guide for educators on working with Somali students.
Janelle Fischler wrote a book called "Stress Rulz!", which shows teachers how to
use rap to teach sentence stress and pronunciation.
MATESOL.info: What opportunities exist at Hamline for the MA in ESL students to
collaborate with peers within the department and with peers from other
departments, receive peer feedback, present locally, and so on? Do you
personally and other professors encourage your students to participate in
such interdisciplinary research networks nationally and internationally?
AM: Both our online and on campus courses establish cooperative learning communities
within in each class. Classes are highly interactive, requiring student
collaboration. Professors also encourage and mentor students with outstanding
project. Our students have presented at local, national and international
MATESOL.info: Are your MA in ESL students required to write a thesis?
AM: Not all MA programs require a thesis, but ours does. Advising theses is very time
consuming for faculty, and we consider that work to be a gift to our students.
Going through the process of writing a thesis makes the student a more reflective
practitioner and a better writer. Being a good writer helps to make one a better
teacher of writing, which is probably the most challenging part of the ESL teaching
requirements. Being able to systematically think through and research issues related
to practice also prepares students for more demanding professional duties and Ph.D.
programs, should the graduate decide to take that route.
MATESOL.info: Students without teaching experience are required to take a teaching
practicum. How does this work in the international online strand?
AM: Our international strand is really designed for practicing teachers who have
teaching experience. If an international student doesn't have teaching experience,
the applicant would have to convince us that they can arrange for a high quality,
supervised practicum. We would require a qualified local cooperating teacher, and
would also supervise the student via video recordings of their teaching.
MATESOL.info: The program appears to have been designed for educators teaching
part-time or full-time. Are many of your students full-time teachers, and
if so, where do they teach?
AM: Most, but not all, of our students are teaching full time. They teach in K-12
schools, adult basic education programs, colleges and universities, private schools,
international schools and for social service agencies. We provide practicum
experiences for those who need it.
MATESOL.info: Many of our visitors working with refugees and minorities overseas
will perhaps find this interesting. According to your website, you believe
that it is your job "to make sure that teachers are well-prepared to work
with Hmong students in the public schools." How does the MA in ESL program
prepare students for future work specifically with the disadvantaged, in
the United States and also in other countries?
AM: ESL teachers in the US and many other countries typically work with a variety of
cultural and linguistic groups. Hmong students, refugees from Laos as a result of
the Vietnam War, and Somali students, who came as a result of war in Somalia, are a
large part of the population in Minnesota, where our university is located. We are
currently also seeing in influx of Karen students, refugees from Burma (also known
Our sociolinguistics course, "Language and Society", prepares teachers to work with
all kinds of different linguistic and cultural groups so that our graduates are
prepared for no matter who their students are.
MATESOL.info: What publishing opportunities exist for your students at Hamline
AM: Hamline Uiniversity Press will publish outstanding work from our students if it is
determined that there is a large demand for the work. Students also get published in
our local professional organization newsletter and journal.
MATESOL.info: What types of financial aid is available to your students (graduate
fellowships, scholarships, and so on) from the department and from the
graduate school? Does the university financially support student travel to
present at national and/or international conferences? How can our visitors
learn more about such financial aid opportunities?
AM: Students who are US citizens or residents can qualify for loans through FAFSA. Go
to www.fafsa.ed.gov to apply. Some of our students who end up teaching in K-12
schools are able to have their loans forgiven through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness
Program. Check for eligibility at www.eac-easci.org or call 1-800-592-1802. Some
of our students have employers who pay their tuition.
MATESOL.info: Thank you very much.
AM: We are very proud of the personal attention that each of our students gets. If you
want to know whether our program is right for you, contact me at amabbott(at)hamline.edu
For more information, please contact Dr. Ann Mabbott and visit Hamline University's
MA in ESL page.
Ann Mabbott, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Second Language Teaching and Learning
School of Education
MS- A1790, 1536 Hewitt Ave. St. Paul, MN 55104
Phone (in the US): 651-523-2446
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