A Short History About TESL Ontario Certification

Compiled by Renate Tilson, Executive Director
March 10, 2005

The TESL Ontario Certification project officially started at a September 1994 meeting at the Bickford Centre with representatives from Ministry of Education and Training, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and TESL Ontario. While not present at that meeting, a representative from the Ministry of Citizenship had already agreed to give the Ministry’s approval.

The TESL Ontario President, Elizabeth Taborek, gave an overview of the rationale in establishing a certification process of Adult ESL Instructors, saying that TESL Ontario felt it imperative to begin work on standards with the development of a certification protocol for instructors. The question of "What Is a Qualified ESL Instructor" could not be readily answered, and teacher training courses within Ontario at that time ranged from 5 weeks to 2-3 year credit courses, some included a practicum, others did not.

While the certification project actually had five phases, three were presented at that meeting:

Phase 1 - gathering survey data describing the qualifications of instructors teaching non-credit adult ESL courses in Ontario as well as gathering survey data on teacher training programs issuing ESL teaching certificates throughout the Province.

Phase 2 - a second, province-wide survey gathering information on all education programs providing ESL teacher training and ESL certificates. Emphasis was on describing various aspects of these programs, including admission requirements, number of hours of instruction, course content, length and nature of teaching practica, and types of certificates issued upon completion of programs. The data gathered in Phases 1 and 2 were then used in Phase 3.

Phase 3 - developing and validating a protocol and standards for the certification of instructors who teach ESL to Adults in non-credit courses in Ontario. This was handled through Focus Groups examining issues associated with the development of standards and considering ESL certification standards and protocols implemented in other provinces and other countries as well as examining models for professional certification adopted by other professions in Ontario. The third step was the formulation of a set of principles to guide the development of a protocol and standards for certification most appropriate to the Ontario context. Further, a Steering Committee would be appointed to develop a protocol and standards for certification.

The findings were then validated through a pilot study, with a sample of ESL instructors identified in the initial survey being selected for participation.

TESL Ontario organized a symposium at the 1994 November TESL Canada/TESL Ontario Conference to bring together representatives from Alberta and British Columbia (B.C. Teal, TESOL, Manitoba and Alberta were all at various stages of establishment of a standards protocol. LINC programs at that time required teacher “accreditation” and used a very loosely worded definition to review issues related to lack of certification in Ontario.

The Certification project funding started at that point. After Razika Sanaoui finished her research and published the Directory, i.e. after Phase 2, a project coordinator was hired on a contract basis. We finished Phase 1, funded by the Ministry of Education and Training and financially assisted by the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation, in 1995. The project involved surveying ESL Adult Instructors in noncredit programs in Ontario to gather data on their professional experience. 1196 instructors completed the survey questionnaire, a very high return rate.

Phase 2, funded by the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation and CIC, was started at the same time and completed a year later. It involved gathering information on all education programs which issue certificates or diplomas in TESL. We sought additional funding for printing and dissemination of the Directory, and the publication date of the Directory of ESL Teacher Preparation Programs in Ontario was January 1997.

At the 1997 AGM we reported on Phase 3 of the project, funded again jointly by CIC and the Ministry of Education and Training. Phase 3 encompassed selection of a focus group. Letters were mailed out to various stakeholders groups, and candidates for the focus group were selected from the replies received. The following sectors were represented:

  • Adult Instructor
  • Adult Instructor trained outside Canada
  • Adult Instructor, OSSTF member
  • Adult Instructor, CUPE member
  • College
  • University
  • Community Organization
  • Faculty of Education
  • Learner
  • LINC
  • Private Agency
  • Project Coordinator
  • TESL Ontario
  • Funders: CIC, Ministry of Education and Training, and Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.

Four focus group meetings were held and subsequently a Steering committee was formed. The focus group fulfilled the following mandate:

  1. examined academic, professional, legal, financial, social and political issues associated with the development of standards and a protocol for certifying teachers of adult non-credit ESL.

  2. considered ESL certification standards and protocols implemented in other Canadian provinces, in other countries, and models for professional certification adopted by other professions in Ontario.

  3. generated guiding principles for the creation of certification, standards and a protocol appropriate to the Ontario context and the situation of instructors who teach ESL to Adults in non-credit programs.

  4. established a Steering Committee responsible for defining standards for certification and developing a protocol conforming to the guiding principles generated by the focus group.

The Steering committee prepared a first draft of a document in February 1998 which was submitted to teachers, service providers, stakeholders and the Ministries for comments. The draft was circulated widely by people in the field, discussed at Affiliate meetings and conferences and debated in small group sessions. Based on the feedback received, the Steering Committee met again on two separate occasions to revise the document to include a number of the very constructive suggestions that were sent in. The approved (by TESL Ontario’s Board) text appeared in the 1998 Fall issue of Contact and on our website.

Phase 4 was labeled as Development of Information and Support Packages to Implement the Certification Standards for Non-Credit ESL Instructors in Ontario, again jointly funded by MET and CIC. The following was accomplished between May 1999 and July 1999:

  • Determination of TESL Ontario’s legal right to certify instructors: Certification is voluntary and not mandatory for employment in the unregulated profession of ESL instructor, therefore professional associations are not required to gain governmental approval for the accreditation process.

  • Development of an information booklet and checklist for a portfolio process. (The portfolio application feature was discontinued in 2001).

  • Certificates were developed and printed.

  • Detailed mailing lists of ESL public and private service providers, as well as TESL training providers were compiled.

  • Certification timelines were established.

  • The Professional Standards Advisory Committee (PSAC) was struck as well as an Appeals Committee, which was to function at arms-length.

Phase 5, building on the first four phases, involved the implementation process and certification of Adult ESL teachers. It was again funded jointly by CIC and the Ministry of Education and Training. During 2000 and 2001 the following was accomplished:

  • Presentations were made to various affiliates throughout the province from March 2000 to October 2000. Information was available on the TESL Ontario website and in hard copy from the TESL Ontario office.

  • All committee positions in PSAC (Certification Review Board (CRB), TESL Training Institution Recognition Advisory Committee ( TTIRAC) and Appeals) were filled through nominations solicited from various stakeholders and the applications received to March 31, 2000. There were Briefing and working sessions consisting of development of procedures, familiarity with the certification and recognition processes, consistency of assessment of certification applications and recognition of programs.

  • By June 30, 2001, 1360 instructor applicants were certified and by October 31, 2001 13 institutional applications were recognized as meeting TESL Ontario’s Standards.

The Standards and Certification Project was officially completed on March 31, 2001 and all public funding ceased. The TESL Ontario certification process is now self-sustaining.