Interview: Lesley Painter-Farrell, Associate Director, MATESOL, The New School


Lesley Painter-Farrell, Associate Director, MATESOL at The New School, joins us today to discuss Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

1. Can you tell us about the Masters in TESOL (MATESOL) programs offered at the New School?

The MATESOL is a 30-credit graduate program with two one concentrations: Curriculum Development and Teaching.

The overarching objective of the program is to develop adaptive, reflective practitioners, who continue to raise the standards of the English language teaching profession as a whole.

The program comprises of five core courses which are the foundation of the field:

  • Principles of Language Learning and Teaching (Second Language Acquisition),
  • English in the World,
  • Sociolinguistics of English as a global language,
  • Language Analysis: Phonology, Lexis and Syntax, and
  • Language Analysis: Grammar and Discourse.

Each concentration then requires a further three courses. For the teaching concentration: Methods and Materials: Systems, Methods and Materials: Skills and the Practicum. For the Curriculum Development track: Curriculum development, ESOL Materials Design and Learner Assessment. Students also take electives to reach thirty credits.

Each course is informed by the most recent research and the most current issues in the field such as language ownership, English as a lingua franca and globalization.

The program can be taken entirely online or in a combination of online and on site classes. The on-site classes in the fall and spring are in the evenings. The summer on-site classes constitute the summer intensive, which is a combination of up to 4 classes taken in eight weeks during the day along with a teaching practice component.

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

Typically, students take classes part time i.e. two classes per semester, which means that they complete the program in five semesters (18 months). If students take the summer intensive and take classes full time in the fall and spring, they can finish out the program in one year (12 months). The longest period of time to take the MATESOL is five years.

3. What do you think makes the New School MATESOL stand out from other similar programs?

The MATESOL stands out for many reasons, the most prominent being the university’s Deweyan tradition of theory always leading to practice, and its urban location, which provides a rich resource for both research and teaching.

Dewey maintained that education should be experiential, that learning should be ‘active’ and informed by current practices in the field thus ensure course content is relevant and graduates are work ready. The content of the program is cutting edge and grapples with contemporary concerns such as English as a political entity, language ownership, lingua francas, and empowerment through language learning.

In the MATESOL  it is fundamental to provide students with opportunities to teach, research and experience the English language classroom. To this end, the MATESOL program runs a vibrant Outreach program which are free classes for immigrants living in a around New York. This provides MATESOL students with invaluable in class experiences, enhances their resumes and ensures that students experience first hand how learning English can empower and give agency to the underserved in New York.

Our program also stands out because some of the leading figures in the field make up the faculty, including Scott Thornbury and Jeremy Harmer.

4. How important would you say accreditation is when choosing a MATESOL program?

I think very important. We are accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools; this means that prospective students can feel assured that standards are critical to ensure the overall quality of the learning experience, which are overseen by an external body.

5. There is some debate as to whether or not Online MATESOL degrees are as worthwhile as traditional MATESOL degrees. What steps does the New School take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they'd receive in a classroom? 

The New School began online teacher training programs over twenty years ago. Over these years, the key to successful online study has been researched and delineated. Our findings are that online discussion boards are the equivalent of physical classrooms, they should be vibrant and both student and instructor participation needs to be highly active in order for all participants to co-construct new knowledge and negotiate meaning.

We have stringent discussion board rubrics for participation, which we monitor and uphold. We make the program expectations clear at the online orientation stage and invite alumni of the program to help new students orient into the program.

In many ways, an online discussion which may run over four or five days is more in depth and more instructional than an in class discussion, which may on last thirty minutes. In addition the program advisor works very closely with students to ensure that the online students feel a part of the university and the MATESOL community.

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

Earning an MATESOL degree improves job prospects as well as leads to a greater awareness of the field.

7. Does The New School offer job placement for students who graduate in MATESOL?

Only informally. We have a vibrant and active community of students (alumni and current students) who are very active on Facebook, Linked in, and on campus. They network constantly and help one another in job searches as do faculty and the program administration. I post jobs regularly to the MATESOL listserv.

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

We offer merit-based tuition scholarships that cover a percentage of tuition. These competitive awards may cover from 10 percent up to 50 percent of tuition. They are offered for each of our semester starts: spring, summer, and fall. (Our 2015 application is now available.) Applicants indicate on their application if they would like to be considered for scholarships by responding to the appropriate questions on merit aid.

US Citizens and permanent residents are strongly encouraged to apply for federal loans by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. They can find an application at www.

They should use the application found on the US Department of Education site. It is a free application and is submitted at no cost to the student.

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

I suggest all potential MATESOL students research the English language teaching field well before beginning a masters program- a helpful web site is

On this site, prospective teachers can look at job and career opportunities. They can consider what their work life goals are and ensure a master’s program is the right step for them.

10. What do you enjoy most about your position at the New School?

The University’s well-known traditions of being cutting edge, experiential and innovative are things I am proud of. I enjoy seeing teacher transform during the program from initial practitioners to reflective, confident practitioners.

For more information on the MATESOL program offered at The New School, visit them online.

The New School was founded in 1919 and is located in New York City.

Thank you Lesley Painter-Farrell, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!