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Students from many different countries have come to UAB to pursue a master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MA-TESOL). Most of these students have native languages other than English. We value these students because of their previous experience with learning English, their diverse educational backgrounds, and their different perspectives on teaching and learning. Those who come with student visas (e.g., F-1, J-1) pursue their studies as international students. Those who had originally come as immigrants pursue their studies as permanent residents or U.S. citizens.

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International students often meet outside of class to talk about their MA-TESOL studies at UAB and to share about their experiences living in Birmingham, Alabama.
Pictured left to right: Guli Tuerxun and Yuehui Huang from China and Sridevi Ram from India.

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Mr. Xinyu Zhai (center) graduated from UAB in 2016 with a Master's degree in TESOL. Now he works for INTO UAB. Here Xinyu is helping graduate students Swapnil Sharma (left, from India) and Yi Pan (right, from China) use the online system to make tutoring appointments and register for workshops.

Testimonials from MA-TESOL Students

SrideviI personally feel great about having class together with American students who are regular UAB students. It gives me the feeling that I am part of UAB's larger community. The warmth and love showered by my American friends, my fellow students and my professors have helped me overcome the culture shock I experienced when I first arrived. My professors and American classmates have helped me better understand the American academic system. They have helped me cope with the stress of being away from my family and of becoming adjusted to a new way of life.
~Sridevi Ram (from India); started INTO UAB's TESOL Pathway in January 2018; MA-TESOL August 2019 

GuliI feel excited and honored to be a UAB student. My professors and classmates from all backgrounds, especially my American classmates, always help me with my classes and also with my adjustment to living in the United States. With the help of my beloved professors, I continually gain more confidence. Their ongoing support has given me the courage and motivation to reach my goals. The UAB TESOL community is active and lovely; I am glad to be part of this great family.
~Guli Tuerxun (from China); started INTO UAB's TESOL Pathway in August 2017; MA-TESOL April 2019

What is the MA-TESOL?

At UAB, the MA-TESOL is one of the three tracks in the "Master of Arts in Education: English as a Second Language" program. The MA-TESOL track prepares graduate students to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to adult learners in the United States, such as in community programs, community colleges, and university-based English language institutes. It also prepares graduate students to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) to children and adults in non-English speaking countries, such as in schools, language institutes, and universities. NOTE: This MA-TESOL track does not provide P-12 certification for teaching in Alabama schools.

Into UAB's TESOL Pathway

International students usually begin their UAB graduate studies with a Pathway program offered by INTO UAB English Language Programs. MA-TESOL students can start either in August with a Fall TESOL Pathway or in January with a Spring TESOL Pathway. Depending on their TOEFL or IELTS score, students do the Standard Pathway for two semesters or the Accelerated Pathway for one semester. During each Pathway semester, students take academic English courses and also MA-TESOL courses. In addition to taking courses, Pathway students receive a comprehensive orientation to UAB and life in Birmingham as well as ongoing linguistic and cultural support. After successfully completing their Pathway courses, TESOL Pathway students automatically become MA-TESOL students. UAB's TESOL Pathway was launched in August 2017.

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During its first year, the TESOL Pathway program welcomed the following students, who initiated their pursuit of the MA-TESOL in 2017-18: Pictured left to right: Yuehui Huang & Guzainuer Tuerxun (from China); Thu Nguyen (from Vietnam); Sridevi Ram & Parth Purohit (from India) 

Purpose of the MA-TESOL

The main purpose of our MA-TESOL is to guide future ESL/EFL teachers in meeting the evolving needs of language learners within the diverse societies of today's world. Another purpose is to provide cutting-edge instruction to UAB graduate students through a standards-based, inquiry-focused approach that prepares teachers for using state-of-the-art instructional strategies. An indirect benefit of this approach is that our alumni are then able to use these ESL/EFL strategies for teaching their native languages (e.g., Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Russian, Spanish) to English-speaking students.

Course Delivery

English is the language of instruction for all courses in UAB's School of Education. In the MA-TESOL program, courses are taught through a variety of delivery formats. Course delivery may include weekly evening classes, professional learning communities, an innovative summer schedule, and blended learning (i.e., face-to-face instruction alternating with online). Because three of these courses are only offered during the summer semester, all MA-TESOL students must study at UAB for at least one summer during their five-semester program.

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Guli Tuerxun (right), a TESOL Pathway student from China, is doing an in-class group activity with American classmates Tricia Merritt (left) and Peg Lawrence (center) as well as with Gwyneth Dean-Witte who attended class by video conference from 2,000 miles away in South Dakota.


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INTO UAB students Guli Tuerxun from China (right) and Parth Purohit from India (center) are giving their course project presentation on applied phonology, together with their American classmate, Caroline Chadwick (left). 

Visa Regulations for Student Status F-1, J-1

If admitted first to INTO UAB's TESOL Pathway program, students in F-1/J-1 status must take all courses required for their respective Pathway. They must pass all of these Pathway courses in order to maintain their student status and progress to the next semester. After being admitted to the Graduate School, students in F-1/J-1 status must take a minimum of 9 graduate credit hours (3 courses) per semester of which 6 credit hours (2 courses) must be face-to-face instruction. Each semester, the remaining 3 credit hours (1 course) can be online, blended, or face-to-face.

Integrated Practicum Experiences

An important feature of UAB's MA-TESOL is that the practicum experiences are integrated throughout the program. During each successive semester, MA-TESOL students assume greater responsibility and meet higher expectations for teaching English in actual ESL classrooms. A brief overview of these practicum experiences is listed below:

  • First Semester: MA-TESOL students teach several lessons in the Community English Program offered by the School of Education. They do this to meet requirements in their MA-TESOL courses: EESL 610 Second Language Acquisition and EESL 637 Methods for Teaching English as an International Language.
  • Second Semester: MA-TESOL students co-teach a weekly English class in the Community English Program. They do this to meet requirements in EESL 007 Community English Teaching and EESL 657 Instruction and Assessment: Listening and Speaking.
  • Third Semester: MA-TESOL students teach a weekly English class in the Community English Program. They do this to meet requirements in EESL 007 Community English Teaching and EESL 615 Grammar and Linguistics for ESL Teachers.
  • Fourth Semester: MA-TESOL students are lead teachers in a weekly English class in the Community English Program and also "shadow" a professional ESL teacher during the teaching of an academic ESL class. They do these activities to meet requirements in EESL 007 Community ESL Teaching and EESL 677 Field Studies.
  • Fifth Semester: MA-TESOL students complete a teaching apprenticeship outside of the School of Education and assume full responsibility for planning, teaching and assessing an ESL class in that setting. They do this to meet requirements in EESL 697 ESL Practicum and EESL 698 Apprenticeship Teaching.

Tuerxun PillayGraduate students Guli Tuerxun (from China) and Huvanya Pillay (from South Africa) are the teachers of UAB's Level 4 Community English Class in Summer 2018.

Ram SpearmanAs part of their integrated practicum experiences, graduate students Sridevi Ram (from India) and Matthew Spearman (from Alabama) teach a Level 1 Community English Class.



Employment of Alumni

We are very proud of our alumni from other countries who, after graduating, have become employed as teachers. Of the alumni who studied at UAB with student visas, most are now teaching English in their home countries. Of those who studied at UAB as permanent residents or U.S. citizens, most are teaching here or in another country.
Alumni from other countries and their current employment

Highlights of UAB's ESL Education Program

Students and Alumni

  • ESL education alumni testimonials
  • Oscar Garcia from Mexico (MA 2012) was selected to give a TED Talk, Let's Build Bridges, not Walls, in Birmingham, Alabama
  • Frankie Perez from Venezuela (MA 2012) was selected to give UAB's graduation speech
  • Sarah Hicks (MA 2013) was honored as a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow
  • Several alumni are employed by the Title III division of the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE):
    • Cheryl Michele Lee (MA 2006; EdS 2017) is the ALSDE's ESL specialist for all P-12 schools in Alabama
    • All five of the ALSDE's ESL coaches for P-12 schools are UAB alumni

 Program and Faculty

  • The largest ESL teacher education program in Alabama
  • Fulbright Scholar to Paraguay: Dr. Susan Spezzini (2021-2023)
  • UAB President's Award for Excellence in Teaching: Dr. Susan Spezzini (2009) and Dr. Josephine Prado (2018)
  • UAB's campus-wide Diversity Award for Faculty: Dr. Susan Spezzini (2013)
  • Internationally renowned professor and scholar Dr. Rebecca L. Oxford, author of many ESL/EFL books and articles
  • $15 million in federal grants since 2002 for training P-12 teachers to provide effective instruction for English language learners in Alabama P-12 schools
  • Workshops presented to Fulbright fellows from Colombia (2015) and Egypt (2016)
  • Joint research project with professors at the Nayarit State University in Tepic, Mexico
  • Leadership roles in the Alabama-Mississippi TESOL affiliate, the regional Southeast TESOL Council, and the TESOL International Association

Other Programs in UAB's School of Education (SOE)

  • Six of eight recent Alabama Teachers of the Year were SOE alumni
  • Approximately 1,800 students currently enrolled in education programs
  • 22,000 alumni have earned their education degrees at UAB
  • UAB's teacher education process is illustrated in this video: Growing a Teacher

Admission Procedure for International Students

Prospective international students must meet the following qualifications:

  • Passing scores on an English language exam to be considered for direct admission:
  • Bachelor's degree (4 years) with a grade point average (GPA), on a scale from 1 to 4, of 3.0 for direct admission or 2.5 for admission to a Pathway program; and
    • 20 on each of four TOEFL subscores (listening, speaking, reading, and writing), or
    • Minimum of 6.0 on each of the four IELTS subscores with a combined average of at least 6.5
  • Passing scores on an English language exam for admission to the Standard Pathway:
    • 16 on each of four TOEFL subscores (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) or
    • Minimum of 5.0 on each of the four IELTS subscores with a combined average of at least 5.5.

International students must submit their applications on the INTO UAB application form. They must complete all sections except Section 3. Prospective students must pay an application fee and submit all documents required by INTO UAB. Depending on their TOEFL or IELTS scores, applicants will be considered for admission to INTO UAB's Academic English (AE) program, for admission to INTO UAB's graduate pathway program for the MA-TESOL, or for direct admission to the UAB Graduate School.

Upon arriving in Alabama, all international students must take the English placement test administered on campus during the orientation for international students. As determined by their scores on UAB's language placement test (and not by their scores on the TOEFL or IELTS), they will be placed in the AE program, a Pathway program, or Direct Admission.

  • If international students are placed in the AE program, they will take AE classes each semester until completing all of the AE classes for Level 4. After that, they can progress to the Standard Pathway for the MA-TESOL program.
  • If international students are placed in a Pathway program, they will take the corresponding Pathway courses for either two semesters (Standard Pathway) or one semester (Accelerated Pathway). Upon finishing their Pathway program, they will progress to being full-time MA-TESOL students in UAB's Graduate School.
  • If international students pass all parts of the English language placement test upon arrival at UAB, their projected admission for the Pathway program changes to full admission for the MA-TESOL program (regardless of their TOEFL or IELTS score). In this case, the international students will start at UAB as full-time graduate students.