Teacher Training in Taiwan: Expanding Your Teaching Skillset Without Leaving the Country
Updated: Jan 3, 2022
The picture isn’t related to the article unless you want to get very metaphorical.
When I first arrived in Taiwan, opportunities for professional development as an English language teacher were rare beyond workshops of varying quality through cram schools. Though I can’t speak for local English teachers in the formal education system, the lack of professional development options was also an issue for local teachers in cram schools.
I honestly regret coming to Taiwan as an unskilled random white person and starting out in a cram school job – a situation I sought to change as soon as I could afford to – and I think part of that regret is what drives my desire to contribute more to Taiwan than I take from it. As my profession is education, I feel that’s where I might be able to make a real impact.
With that in mind, I’ve hoped for some years that new paths to teacher development could be opened in Taiwan, so that a new generation of English teachers might simply, well, be better teachers and not have to go abroad for that training, as I did. Fortunately, due to the efforts of people who want to effect real change, there have been real improvements and I hope and believe this will improve the overall situation of English language education in Taiwan.
Since joining the community of teacher educators (teachers who develop other teachers), I’ve been asked a few times about teacher training and development opportunities in Taiwan, and I wanted to consolidate a list of resources for English teachers here – foreigners and locals alike – who want to develop themselves professionally, while staying in Taiwan.
There’s another good post on this topic here, but there are some things not covered in that post, so I’m writing this one.
Full disclosure: I train on some of these courses, but not all of them. There’s no sales motive, and this is not any kind of sponsored post. I receive nothing, and if anyone signs up for a course due to this post, I honestly wouldn’t even know.
All of these are open to both native and non-native speakers, so I hope Taiwanese readers of my blog who may be interested in teaching will also consider these suggestions. One way to end white supremacy and native speakerism in language teaching is to make professional development more accessible to local teachers, which I very much hope to do. Although the TESOL world still discriminates against non-native speaker teachers, the international qualifications (such as the TKT, CertTESOL) will be an advantage for any Taiwanese looking to teach English abroad.
It’s worth noting that most of these programs are not officially recognized by the Taiwanese government. Different schools have different requirements: public schools generally want a teaching license but will sometimes take permanent residents with other qualifications. Private schools are more open in what they can accept, and international schools vary quite a bit. Your average cram school often requires nothing (which honestly is a problem), but better jobs in the cram school system either appreciate or require basic certifications. These also provide a good filter when job-hunting: if the school you are applying to doesn’t know or care about the certifications listed here, they might not prioritize education. It’s good to know that up-front.
I’ve organized the list roughly by lowest to highest barrier to entry. The first few items are simply online resources and readings, not classes per se. Actual courses you can take will be discussed later on.
Online and Reading Resources
Online resources There’s a whole world out there of webinars and other online teacher development resources, most of which is free or very low-cost (though some is of much better quality, and some is questionable – use some critical thinking to deduce what’s what).
Joining an international community of practice through IATEFL membership
If you want to take an online course that isn’t quite as intense as, say, a Trinity CertTESOL or CELTA, there are many options. Nile, International House and Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education are generally well-regarded providers. These courses tend to focus on particular areas (e.g. Business English, CLIL, Teaching Young Learners), and can be done with no certification, or after an initial certification. More than one initial certification is now available face-to-face in Taiwan; these are discussed below.
Again, there’s a whole world of reading out there, so I’m just going to provide a short list of books I’ve found useful in my own development.
About Language – Scott Thornbury: crucial language awareness for English teachers, especially native speaker teachers who don’t know how their own language works
Teaching English Grammar – Jim Scrivener: a resource breaking down how to teach key grammar concepts, including common issues and points to remember
Learning About Language Assessment – Kathleen Bailey: if you’re interested in knowing about what makes a language assessment worthwhile and useful
Teaching Collocation – Michael Lewis: this changed my whole approach to lexis as a system, and how I approach it in the classroom. Lewis’ other work such as “The English Verb” are also highly recommended
How Languages Are Learned – Patsy Lightbown and Nina Spada: a short and engaging introduction to the field of SLA (Second Language Acquisition)
Grammar For English Language Teachers – Martin Parrott: this is not something to read so much as a resource every serious English teacher should have (Swan’s book is fine too but I prefer Parrott)
A good learner’s dictionary (any publisher, whichever level suits your learners): this will help you develop your ability to clarify language and concept-check. Big Bad Wolf’s 7-day sales often include them at steep discounts.
The Cultural Politics of English as an International Language – Alastair Pennycook: If you don’t have time to read Orientalism (Said), Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Friere) and Teaching English as an International Language (McKay), this book provides a useful introduction to all of those ideas, and takes them further. A word of warning: it was written in the ’90s and needs an update, and takes a postcolonial perspective that doesn’t always fit Taiwan’s situation (colonized more by China than any Western nation).
The “How To” series (various authors) This is a whole series of books – they are not very long and not particularly academic, making them perfect for new teachers finding their way. Each book is clearly titled (e.g. How To Teach Speaking, How To Teach Business English, How To Teach Reading, How To Teach Grammar) and easy to read. Other than How To Teach With Technology (not recommended), these are useful introductions to whatever area you feel you might need to improve. They aren’t cheap so choose judiciously. If you are really new to teaching and need a grounding in the basics, How To Teach English from this series is a good start.
Everything above is a targeted online course, or a self-access resource. Let’s leave those for now, and talk about coursework and general teaching certifications that can be done in or from Taiwan.
The first two on the list – the TKT and local TESOL certification – are more directly aimed at local teachers and other non-native speakers. However, every course after that (the CertTESOL, TYLEC and DipTESOL, etc.) are also open to all teachers, and I specifically encourage non-native speaker teachers who think they would be valuable to look into them. A community of talented local teachers is a powerful weapon in fighting for equity in the field.
This is the least expensive option among all of the non-free choices, though it’s not a course. It’s a three-module test aimed more at local (non-native speaker) teachers, though native speakers can take it as well. It’s a good way to put an internationally-recognized teaching qualification on a resume and the knowledge that is tested is all worthwhile. With no practical element (that is, no real teaching), however, consider this to be mostly a way to gain some formal recognition of your teaching knowledge, though not necessarily your ability in the classroom.
It’s possible to self-study for this test if you have experience and were trained on the job, so a study book (The TKT Course: Modules 1, 2 and 3 by Mary Spratt is a good choice) and the cost of the exams are the only financial layout.
Of the certification courses that require practicums, this is the most affordable. It’s a 35-hour course with one teaching demo at the end and covers all of the basics, and is open to people with no teaching experience. The cohort is mostly local, but foreign teachers do take it, and more than one has said that their school specifically recommended it.
The curriculum includes a basic knowledge of methodology, foundational knowledge for teaching various skills (speaking, writing, reading and listening) and systems (grammar, lexis and pronunciation) including demonstrations, and incorporates classroom management, lesson planning, assessing learner needs and more. Assessed content includes a short lesson taught by the trainee as well as several written assignments, two observations and an online component.
This course is taught in English but specifically designed to be accessible to both foreign and local English teachers, non-native and native speakers alike.
The course is offered mornings over 2 weeks (occasionally two weeks plus one Monday), or all day Saturday or Sunday for 6 weeks, all in Taipei. Once a year or so, the Sunday course is offered in Taichung.
Trinity CertTESOL and CELTA
For many years, it was impossible to take this course – or the equivalent CELTA – in Taiwan. That was a major gap in development opportunities for teachers here, as these are internationally-recognized certifications that are required for many teaching jobs outside Taiwan. I had to go abroad to get mine. That has finally changed – the CertTESOL is here!
It’s a longer course – Monday-Friday mornings over a semester – with more teaching practicums, which does mean it’s more expensive (though divided by input hours, it is technically better value for money). There are other assessed areas too, including exams.
The CertTESOL is a more challenging course. Having done the equivalent CELTA was so beneficial for my teaching practice that my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner, and I can usually tell the difference between a teacher who’s taken a course like this and one who hasn’t.
CELTA is not offered in Taiwan, but can be done online or through blended learning through various providers. I did mine in-person at ITI Istanbul and can vouch for the quality of the face-to-face course.
TYLEC (Teaching Young Learners Extension Certificate) and other Young Learner Courses
I know less about this program, as I don’t train on it and don’t teach children, but if you do teach children and want to become amazing at it, this is the course for you. It costs the same as a Trinity CertTESOL – that is, expensive, but cheaper than doing a whole teaching license. It’s offered based on demand. It involves input sessions, a written assignment on materials and five hours of assessed teaching practice (I’m not sure how the assessed practice is organized).
Theoretically, other similar courses are also possible to take in Taiwan, specifically the CELT-P (for teachers of primary school students) and CELT-S (secondary school). I’m not sure what stage of development/availability they are at yet, but check this space for updates, or join the Teacher Training in Taiwan Facebook groups above to hear about the latest developments.
Trinity DipTESOL and Cambridge Delta
This is the next level up from the CertTESOL, and is also finally available in Taiwan starting this year. It is a higher-level certification, meaning you need to meet certain educational and experience requirements. A basic TEFL certification is also highly recommended.
It is equivalent to the Cambridge Delta, meaning that in Europe it’s recognized at the same level as a Master’s degree (though it isn’t one). The DipTESOL is organized into four units and in Taiwan, I believe that three of those four are taught intensively over a number of weeks – ask directly for more information. The first unit – an exam – can be taken after the course. The DipTESOL includes four practicum hours and several written assignments and a research project.
A good reason to do the DipTESOL in Taiwan is that you won’t have to find a local tutor for the teaching practicums – it’s all handled here, so there’s no need to go around asking qualified teachers if they’ll take on that role for you. I was lucky in that someone offered. I’m not sure how the teaching practicums are organized (whether they are your own classes or organized by the course).
I have a Cambridge Delta, obtained in Taiwan via distance learning. This can be done entirely through Nile, (yes – the Nile Delta) Bell or The Distance Delta. ITI Istanbul also offers Modules 1 and 3 online.
Module 1 is an exam – you can study for this on your own, but I recommend taking an online course for a few hundred pounds.
Module 2 is teaching practice and written assignments: four hours of assessed teaching practice plus one diagnostic lesson and one experimental lesson (not assessed). The papers for these are killer as the word limits are tight, but you’ll learn a lot doing them. There’s also a professional development assignment and observation requirements. You can do this in Taiwan through a local tutor, whom you have to find yourself. The fourth assessed lesson is done externally, which may involve flying someone in, which you pay for. They do try to keep costs down, often sending one external assessor across Asia, so you only have to pay for a regional flight and a night in a hotel.
Module 3 is an extended written assignment based on real learners – meaning you need a group of real learners to work with. You write about a sub-field of TESOL, assess their needs and create a course based on the fundamental principles of syllabus design and assessment.
Various teaching license programs
I won’t say much about these, as the level of recognition given by Taiwan’s Ministry of Education is variable. Online searches bring up a few options, but I’ve only found one that seems to still be available in Taiwan and comes recommended by people I know: the global teacher certification and Master’s program offered by the College of New Jersey in Hsinchu, with courses (and coursework) happening every few weeks. This is a real program through a legitimate university in the United States, and can land you some better jobs. It also qualifies you to take the Praxis II (teaching qualification exams in the US), available on a very limited basis in Taiwan.
The program requires you to be teaching more than English as it’s not specifically a TESOL course but rather one for general young learner education, and your practicums are done at your own work location. The program doesn’t require a dissertation but it does require you to take the edTPA.
If your goal is an international school job, you might also consider doing a British PGCE online. Here’s just one way to do that (there are surely multiple providers). This won’t qualify you for public school work but will still be a step up and is likely to be accepted at some international schools.
Master’s programs Most people don’t realize that relevant Master’s programs can be done in Taiwan. English language programs are held at various universities, including NTNU (National Taiwan Normal University), NCCU (National Cheng-chi University) and NTUST. Others exist – including those at Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages and National Tsinghua University – but I am not sure of the proportion of classes taught in English.
Framingham State University is also looking into (once again) offering courses in Taiwan, though these are not set yet. The course would lead to a Master’s in Education with a focus on international education, but does not include a teaching license. You can get on the mailing list here, if you are interested in future courses.
Nile also offers a modular face-to-face MATESOL accredited through the University of Chichester. As you would not actually reside abroad, but rather take courses over a 2-3 week intensive period, I am not sure how or whether this would be recognized in Taiwan.
There used to be other ways to get a face-to-face Master’s in TESOL while living in Taiwan – such as the summer intensive program I am wrapping up at the University of Exeter, but most of them seem to have ceased operations (Exeter is closing its MEd summer program, for example).
Online options exist, but can be expensive. These aren’t generally recognized in Taiwan, though any exams you take in person might be. It’s worth checking with your current or potential employer – I can’t provide any guarantees.
PhD and EdD (Doctorate of Education) degrees
If you’ve come this far, you might be wondering about PhD and EdD degrees. Here’s the thing, though: if you’ve gotten through a Master’s, you probably have a clear idea of where you want to go in terms of a doctorate and there’s not much I can tell you. Several options do exist that would let you live in Taiwan while doing some coursework abroad, but I can’t specifically recommend one, and I doubt any are widely recognized in Taiwan.
All I can say is that PhDs are more widely recognized than EdDs, and as with Master’s programs, official recognition generally requires full-time residency and in-person classes.
I’d also say that if you really want to do a PhD, you should not be paying for it. This might not be a big deal if you go to a public university in Taiwan where tuition is low (NCCU offers a PhD in TESOL – same link as above), but I wouldn’t plop down the tens of thousands of US dollars that programs abroad charge.
Honestly, either get funded or don’t go. I mean it.
About the Author
Jenna Cody is an American teacher and teacher educator living in Taipei and currently doing a Master’s in Education at the University of Exeter. She writes about being a female expat and women’s issues in Asia, as well as travel, hiking, photography and food. You can find more of her articles on her blog, Lao Ren Cha.