TEFL, TESOL, ELT, CPD explained

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TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is the Irish and UK acronym for ELT (English Language Teaching) in private language schools. It is TEFL schools that bring the many thousands of ‘foreign’ tennage students to English-speaking countries every summer. However, TEFL is also a year-round business where mostly adult students spend a few weeks in an English-speaking country learning English and enjoying the social; and cultural aspects of a holliday. TEFL is typically referred to as TESOL or TESL in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and also in the UK; however, TEFL, TESOL and TESL are essentially the same thing.

Although, ‘legally speaking’, it is not correct to state that there is an international standard or recognition for TEFL/TESOL – due to the absence of a single international body/authority for TEFL/TESOL – there is a clear ‘de facto’ international professional standard for TEFL/TESOL. This professional standard applies to TEFL schools in what is known as the ‘recognised sector’ of quality-assured language schools, in other words schools that are inspected by a government authority which monitors standards and quality.

The common professional standard TEFL courses exemplified by the well known ‘CELTA/DELTA’ brands – is the guiding benchmark common for Quality Assurance authorities/schemes in English-speaking countries internationally: QQI/ACELS, The British Council, TESOL International Association (US), TESOL Canada, NEAS (Australia), NZQA (New Zealand), and TEFL Malta. The ‘CELTA and DELTA’ euphemisms are more accurately described as: Cert TEFL/TEFL-I and Dip TEFL/TEFL-Q respectively.

The minimum requirements for TEFL in the recognised sector:

The minimum standard for teaching EFL/ESOL in the ‘recognised sector’ or quality-assured sector is an initial qualification in TEFL/TESOL (Cert TEFL or TEFL-I) this is usually a four-week, full-time programme with a minimum of 100 hours of input or training, 6+ hours of assessed teaching practice (TP) with real language learners, and 6+ hours of teacher observation of experienced and TEFL-qualified teachers. In addition the main stand-alone assignment in a TEFL-I programme is a detailed learner profile of a real language learner. The TEFL-I qualification maps to the UK QCF at level 5 and NFQ (QQI) at level 7 or ordinary degree level. It is normally a requirement that EFL teachers in the recognised sector also hold a major award at level 7 e.g. a degree in any discipline delivered via English.

The TEFL-I qualification is a starting or initial qualification and it is generally expected that teachers who wish to gain a permanent position in the recognised sector progress to a full, professional teaching qualification, the Dip TEFL or TEFL-Q, where this option is available. Confusingly, there are two different levels of qualification which lead to TEFL-Q/Dip TEFL status; incidentally this two-level pathway also existed in the state school teacher teaching sector in the form of the NFQ level 8 (honours degree level) H.Dip.Ed. and the NFQ level 9 (Masters degree level) PME.

Requirements for full, professional status in the recognised TEFL sector:

The most well-known TEFLQ qualifications are the Cambridge DELTA and the Trinity DipTESOL, both of which are QCF level 7 (NFQ level 9 equivalent, Masters level) programmes, there are also university Masters and Grad Dip TESOL (NFQ level 9) programmes available throughout the EU, such as those in UCD, TCD and UL.

TEFLQ qualifications, as defined by the British Council, are QCF level 6 or 7 (NFQ level 8 or 9 equivalent) validated programmes with a minimum of 100+ hours of input and 5+ hours of TP. This does not normally include academic Masters programmes, e.g. Applied Linguistics, that do not have a TP component. Examples of QCF level 6 (referenced to honours degree level) programmes which confer TEFLQ status are: the SQA ‘PDA TESOL Applied Practitioner Studies’ and the Cambridge English Language Assessment ICELT.


Further/specialised CPD programme options:

The above ELT programmes are all teacher training programmes there are also specialised programmes offering further training in specific areas of ELT such as: CLIL (e.g. Cambridge TKT CLIL module), Business English (e.g. the Cert IBET), teaching young learners (e.g. TYLEC), and teacher management qualifications (e.g. IDLTM or DELTM), and E-moderation (e.g. IH Cert E-Mod).

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In addition to the above substantial CPD programmes there is also a variety of short and online CPD courses and webinars available from such reliable sources as: Cambridge English Teacher (CUP online); Oxford Teacher’s Academy (OUP online); British Council Teach English all of which offer a wide selection of online and interactive courses and webinars. In addition the big ELT publisher websites usually have a CPD section with self access resources and webinars e.g. Pearson ELT, Macmillan ELT, NGL/Cengage ELT etc.

ELT associations and CPD:

There are many face-to-face, ELT seminars and workshops available internationally via local ELTO (EFL schools) representative bodies (e.g. MEI, English UK), QA authorities (e.g. British Council, QQI/ACELS), Publisher book launches, and professional associations (e.g. IATEFL, ELT Ireland). You can typically find details of these on the relevant websites, and school staffroom notice boards.  Alongside local face-to-face seminars and workshops there are also many online communities of practice which enable ELT professionals to meet online and share ideas and resources (e.g. ELT Chinwag).


Most accredited EFL schools (ELTOs) will offer in-house CPD sessions (in-service training or INSET) led by the DOS or senior teachers as part of their teacher support and quality management procedures. INSET workshops also offer experienced and developing teachers with particular interests an opportunity to present workshops both to share their practice with the academic team and to develop their professional profile and mentoring skills.

Teachers should expect their school to foster an environment where CPD and communities of practice – the professional sharing of ideas – and professional reflection and discourse can flourish. A school should be a learning environment for teachers as well as learners.

Self access:

Teachers should be supported in their schools with an evolving resource library of self-access reference resources to enable self-access CPD; in addition teachers can find a variety of high quality, self-access resources online from the British Council Teach English website, One Stop English, quality ELT publisher websites e.g. OUP, CUP and Macmillan, and well-regarded ELT blogs. The EPOSTL and EAQUALS TD FRAM docs are useful self-reflection tools for teachers to manage their own CPD needs.