Teaching English as a Second Language

Graduate Program HeadTommaso Milani
Program CodeTESL
Campus(es)University Park (M.A.)
Degrees ConferredMaster of Arts (M.A.)
The Graduate Faculty


The M.A. program in Teaching English as a Second Language is designed to provide professional development for teachers and administrators in English as a second or foreign language. The program is problem focused, integrating theory and practice from the fields of applied linguistics and teaching English as a second language to address issues of second language acquisition/teaching and program development, with special focus on English in a wide range of both domestic and international contexts.

Completion of this degree program does not automatically provide teacher certification in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Further information on teaching certification is available from the College of Education. Students who desire to continue their studies in ESL at Penn State may apply to the Ph.D. program in Applied Linguistics through the Department of Applied Linguistics.

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are required for admission.

All applicants are also required to arrange for three letters of reference to be submitted along with a one- to two-page statement written by the applicant describing the applicant's goals and professional objectives.

The language of instruction at Penn State is English. English proficiency test scores (TOEFL/IELTS) may be required for international applicants. See GCAC-305 Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.

Applicants to the Teaching English as a Second Language graduate program must have a minimum TOEFL score of 100 with a 23 on the speaking section for the Internet-based test (iBT), or 600 for the paper-based test. The minimum acceptable composite score for the IELTS for applicants is 7.0.

Degree Requirements

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

The department offers two paths to the MA/TESL. Students may complete the entire program in residence at University Park, or they may pursue a hybrid path to the degree, including 12 credits of 800-level online courses, followed by 24 credits (plus M.A. paper and teaching e-portfolio) in residence at University Park. Students pursuing the residential path to the degree may also take the department’s 800-level online offerings, and these count as electives in their program of study.

The M.A. in TESL requires 36 credits, of which 18 credits must consist of 500-level courses. In lieu of a thesis, students must prepare a M.A. paper and compile a teaching e-portfolio.

Required Courses
APLNG 484Discourse-Functional Grammar3
APLNG 491Theory: Second Language Acquisition3
APLNG 493Teaching English as a Second Language3
Professional Core
6 credits from among the following:6
Teaching American English Pronunciation
Teaching Second Language Writing
Introduction to Applied Linguistics
Methods of Language Assessment (required in the Hybrid Path)
Field Experience
APLNG 500Practice Teaching in ESL3
APLNG 595Internship3
Research Methods
3 credits from among the following:3
Language Analysis
Discourse Analysis
Seminar in Approaches to Language Use
Analyzing Classroom Discourse
Qualitative Research in Applied Linguistics
Experimental Research on Language
12 credits from among the following:12
Health and Aging in Multilingual Contexts
Language and Adult Lifespan Development
Second Language Reading
Communication in Second Language Classrooms
Language Ideology
Language Socialization across Home, School, and Community Contexts
Sociocultural Theory and Second Language Learning
Theory & Research in L2 Teacher Education
Design and Research of Technology-Mediated Language Learning
Technology in Foreign Language Education: An Overview
Seminar in Second Language Acquisition
Other courses with approval of the adviser
Culminating Experience
All students must also complete an M.A. paper and teaching e-portfolio.
Total Credits36

Residential Path

With guidance from their advisers, students who are enrolled in the Residential Path take 12 credits in electives. Any 500-level 3-credit course not taken as a requirement of Research Methods can be counted as an elective in the resident MA/TESL program.

Resident Path students are allowed to take any or all of the APLNG 800-level courses as electives in any sequence during the MA/TESL program. If 12 credits of APLNG 800-level courses are taken, resident path students are required to take APLNG 583 and, in consultation with their academic adviser, substitute two 500-level electives (6 credits) for appropriate courses listed under Foundations and/or Professional Core.

Hybrid Path

Students who choose to take the hybrid path to the degree will have already taken APLNG 802, APLNG 804, APLNG 806, and APLNG 808 online, and these online courses take the place of the 12 credits of elective courses. Hybrid path students are required to take APLNG 583 and, in consultation with their academic advisers, substitute two 500-level electives (6 credits) for appropriate courses listed under Foundations and/or Professional Core.


A graduate minor is available in any approved graduate major or dual-title program. The default requirements for a graduate minor are stated in Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies and GCAC-700 Professional Degree Policies, depending on the type of degree the student is pursuing:

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.


Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

Applied Linguistics (APLNG) Course List

Learning Outcomes

  1. Graduates will be able to design and evaluate instructional materials, technology, media, and other resources that meet the specific instructional and language related needs and abilities of students.
  2. Graduates will be able to reflect on, critically analyze, and evaluate their teaching practices.
  3. Graduates will be able to articulate a philosophy of language teaching grounded in current language and learning theories.
  4. Graduates will be able to critically evaluate the complex social, cultural, political, and institutional factors that affect language teaching and students' language learning.
  5. Graduates will be able to articulate an understanding of the research and research methods for studying language teaching and learning.
  6. Graduates will be able to demonstrate knowledge of the teaching field (English as a Second Language).
  7. Graduates will be able to participate effectively in collaborative projects with others.


Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Tommaso M Milani
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) Celeste S Kinginger
Program Contact

Nicole Marie Schwindenhammer
234 Sparks Building
University Park PA 16802
(814) 867-4284

Program Website View