College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences


Students pursuing the M.A. in the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) option will be exposed to theoretical approaches to second language acquisition, grammar, pronunciation, and ESL composition, as well as their practical classroom applications. Students completing this intensive course of study will have the theoretical and pedagogical understanding required to teach English as a second/foreign language effectively in a variety of contexts, including the four-year university or college, the community college, and the secondary school in the US and overseas. Students completing course work for the option along with the comprehensive exam or thesis will also have a strong foundation for pursuing further graduate work leading to a Ph.D. in TESL or applied linguistics.

Click on the titles below for details on the required courses...

Required Courses

TESOL (24 units)

ENG 521: Intro to TESL

ENG 522: Second Language Acquisition

ENG 523: TESL Grammar

ENG 524: American Pronunciation

ENG 525: TESL Composition

ENG 526/A: Practicum

Directed Electives

A student electing the TESL Option must choose among the following groups of directed electives:

Literature (24 units)

Rhetoric & Composition (24 units)

TESL (24 units)

ENG 500: Intro to Literary Studies

ENG 581: History of Rhetoric

ENG 584: Theory/Practice of Modern Rhetoric

ENG 318: Conversation Analysis (or ENG 691 if satisfied as an undergrad)

Two historical sequences

ENG 551/552: Studies in English Literature

ENG 561/562: Studies in American Literature

ENG 541/542: Studies in World Literature

Three of the following:

ENG 582: Rhetoric & Poetics

ENG 583: Composition Theory

ENG 585: Special Topics

ENG 589: Pedagogies of Reading

ENG 319: Pragmatics (or ENG 691 if satisfied as an undergrad)

One Genre Course

ENG 570: Literary Theory

ENG 571/572: Fiction

ENG 573/574: Drama

ENG 575/576: Poetry

One of the following:

ENG 586: Teaching High School Composition

ENG 587: Teaching Basic Writing

ENG 588: Teaching Freshman Composition

Two electives from the following:

ENG 531/532: Multicultural American Literature

ENG 541/542: World Literature




Teaching Courses:

ENG 588: Teaching Freshman Composition

ENG 587: Teaching Basic Writing

Students in the TESL option must complete a two-part comprehensive exam.

  1. A 4-hour sit-down exam in three areas: Grammar, Pronunciation, and Second Language Acquisition (SLA)
  2. Three take-home exams in three areas: Grammar, Pronunciation, and SLA.

Students receive the take-home exam when they finish Part 1 and are given four days to write an in-depth analysis or synthesis.

Students may also choose to write an M.A. Thesis, a directed, in-depth research project. For more information, see the guidelines (PDF). Then speak with an advisor before filling out the petition (DOC).

TESL Certificate

The Certificate Program in TESL (or optional TESL/TEFL) offers students in the Master of Arts in English the opportunity to acquire training in teaching TESL without taking the specialized theoretical courses required of graduate students in the TESL track. The Certificate in TESL is not a teaching credential. It is recognized abroad as advanced training in English language teaching. In conjunction with an M.A. degree or a state teaching credential, it may be helpful in obtaining employment as an ESL teacher in the US. Universities throughout the area have recognized the demand for improved teaching for second-language students at all levels, from elementary, secondary, to post-secondary, as well from vocational/adult studies.

The certificate is designed for students in the Literature or Rhetoric & Composition option who might not be interested in specializing in TESL, but who want to show potential employers, especially community colleges, that they are trained to teach TESL.

While completing the TESL certificate program, a student may work towards a Master's degree in any option, with any group of directed electives, except TESL. The Certificate requires 24 units comprised of 300-level and 500-level courses in TESL. Students who obtained their undergraduate degree at Cal Poly may already have completed some or most of these courses and may be required to take only the two graduate-level courses mandated. Students from other programs may be required to petition for articulation of undergraduate coursework. Please check with Dr. Russikoff for equivalency.

Modern English Grammar ENG 321 4
Language Acquisition ENG 323 4
Grammar for TESL ENG 523 4
ESL Writing /Composition ENG 525 4
TESL Practicum ENG 526/A 4

Required for TEFL

Teaching English Abroad ENG 499 4


One course (4 units) from the following:

Analysis of Conversation ENG 318 4
Applied Pragmatics ENG 319 4
Structure of English ENG 320 4
History of the English Language ENG 322 4
Multimedia Practicum ENG 464 4
Intro to TESL Research ENG 521 4
American English Pronunciation ENG 524 4

Students fill out an application for the TESL certificate upon completion of all six courses (24 units). Students may obtain an application by contacting the graduate secretary in building 24, room 207.