Interview: Debra M. Hardison, Associate Professor at Michigan State University


Debra M. Hardison, Associate Professor at Michigan State University, joins us today to discuss Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

1. Can you tell us about the Masters in TESOL (MATESOL) program offered at Michigan State University?

At MSU, we have a well-established program with eight core faculty members, who have a wide range of teaching and research interests. Each year, we welcome students from across the U.S. and other countries. We strive to provide our graduate students with the theoretical foundations and practical experience they need to become professionals in teaching English as a second or foreign language. At the same time, we encourage a critical exploration of the research in the diverse fields of language learning and teaching, and provide research opportunities for those students wishing to pursue a Ph.D. in related areas such as second language studies.

Some of the goals we have for our students include:
• understanding the nature of second language learning
• understanding and interpreting current research as it applies to language teaching
• examining and evaluating current language teaching materials and practices
• critically reflecting on their own teaching.

2. How long does a typical MATESOL program take at Michigan State University? What is the maximum and minimum time of completion?

The program generally requires two academic years (four semesters) of full-time study. It is possible to study on a part-time basis but the program must be completed within 5 years. We also have a Linked Program which allows an undergraduate major in linguistics at MSU to complete the MA degree in TESOL in three semesters of full-time study.

3. What do you think makes your MATESOL stand out from other similar programs?

We feel strongly that professionals in the field of TESOL should have a combination of theory and practical experience. The MA TESOL program at Michigan State University seeks to maintain that balance by providing coursework that focuses on the link between theory and practice. In this way, students gain an understanding of the principles of the field as they prepare to develop their careers in language learning and teaching.

Students also have the opportunity to pursue more in-depth study of one or two topics in the field through special courses we can offer because of the diversity of faculty in terms of specializations in research and teaching.

Another asset of our program is the supervised teaching practicum. Students teach an English course for which they have planned the curriculum and developed the materials. This English course is open to the ESL population on campus and in the surrounding community. As such, it also functions as a community outreach project.

In addition, there are other units at MSU such as the Center for Language Teaching Advancement (CeLTA) and the English Language Center that provide a series of workshops throughout the academic year to enhance the professional development of language teachers. Topics include teaching techniques and applications of technology for a variety of target languages.

4. What are the advantages to earning a MATESOL degree in general?

It is important for teachers to have a sound knowledge base on which to build as they progress through their careers. That base is informed by an understanding of research and theory in the field. In other words, we believe that teachers should be able to evaluate critically what they read and hear about language learning and teaching as part of their decision-making processes in lesson preparation and classroom teaching.

5. Does Michigan State University offer job placement for students who graduate in MATESOL?

The TESOL program offers a workshop on CV preparation and ideas on job hunting. We also encourage our students to become professionally active by attending conferences such as MITESOL, TESOL, and AAAL. Our graduates are employed throughout the United States and the world in positions involving language teaching, teacher training, materials development, assessment, and program administration.

6. What type of financial aid packages are available for students in TESOL? Are there any fellowships, grants and scholarships available?

Qualified applicants may apply for ESL teaching assistantships with the English Language Center on campus. These assistantships provide a tuition waiver and stipend.

7. Do you have any advice for students enrolling in a MATESOL program for the first time?

At MSU, we encourage students to take advantage of opportunities such as guest lectures, workshops, and professional networking in addition to their coursework.

8. What do you enjoy most about your position at Michigan State University?

Throughout my career, I have enjoyed the link between research and teaching. I particularly enjoy working with students.

For more information on the MATESOL programs offered at Michigan State University, visit them online at

Thank you Debra Hardison, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!