College of Education and Human Development - George Mason University

School of Education Faculty Awarded Grant to Deliver “Teaching English to Young Learners” Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

March 20, 2024

Joan Shin
Joan Shin

Dr. Joan Shin, Associate Dean for Faculty Success, and professor in the ESOL Education and Foreign Language Education programs within the School of Education at George Mason University, has received a grant in support of the development and delivery of a massive open online course (MOOC) titled “Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL).” The Mason Global Online Teacher Education Center (GOTEC), for which Dr. Shin serves as Director, has developed the content of the TEYL MOOC as part of a suite of programming for the U.S. Department of State Online Professional English Network (OPEN) Program. The TEYL MOOC is administered by fhi360, a nonprofit organization that mobilizes research and resources to provide people with access to opportunities needed to live full and healthy lives. The MOOC will be offered April 8 - May 20, 2024, and is open to any individual worldwide who wants to participate.

This MOOC introduces educators in the international community to current methods and evidence-based approaches to teaching English as a foreign language to young learners, ages 3 to 10. Much of the content covered in the MOOC draws from Dr. Shin’s own research and published works. The teaching strategies presented in this MOOC highlight the benefits that can be derived from teaching English to young children at an early age, a trend that is being seen more and more worldwide as English language instruction is starting at primary and pre-primary school levels.

Collaborating with Dr. Shin on this MOOC are Drs. Anya Evmenova (professor, Special Education), Jered Borup (associate professor, Learning Technologies in Schools), Woomee Kim (GOTEC Postdoctoral Fellow), and doctoral students Bilgehan Ayik and Dildora Khakimova.

The MOOC includes videos and readings that connect research to practice.

The MOOC is structured as a series of weekly modules that include videos and practical readings connecting research to practice while providing teaching ideas that can be used in the classroom. Participants will explore approaches for teaching English that are not only effective but also fun and engaging for children. Specific course topics will include the characteristics of young learners, classroom management, teaching the four language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in an integrated and communicative way, and lesson and thematic unit planning.

Because the English language teachers taking this course teach at different grade levels, this MOOC includes the following discussion forums where questions on teaching English to children of various age ranges can be addressed:

  • PK-K: Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten (ages 3-5)
  • G1-2: Grades 1 and 2 (ages 6-7)
  • G3-4: Grades 3 and 4 (ages 8-9)
  • G5-6: Grade 5 and 6 (ages 10 and up)

Dr. Shin explains that through participation in these discussion groups, English language teachers can share ideas with peers and apply course content to their own learning environment. She states, “We tell them at the beginning of the course, ‘Get ready to learn about Teaching English to Young Learners’ and be part of an international learning community with teachers around the world!’”

She adds, “This MOOC provides professional development to English language teachers that otherwise may not be available to them. Our approach respects the local teaching environments of our course participants and offers them an opportunity to share and exchange ideas about their educational and classroom contexts and resources.”

The high completion rates of MOOCS offered by GOTEC reflects their success.

Upon successful completion of the MOOC, participants receive a certificate from the U.S. Department of State OPEN Program which has the Mason logo on it. The current MOOC developed by GOTEC was offered two other times previously—in the spring and fall of 2019. The completion rates for each of those sessions were 73% and 63%, respectively, of all active users. This is well beyond the typical 5% MOOC completion rate and demonstrates the success that GOTEC has achieved in designing a course that is easily accessible and supportive of English language teachers across the globe.

GOTEC has developed many externally funded programs on teaching English.

The current MOOC is one of many programs at the core of GOTEC’s activities. Chartered in 2021, GOTEC has secured over $4 million in externally funded projects that provide teacher professional development outreach throughout the international community in places such as Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, and Tajikistan.

The GOTEC team also provides a “Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) Global Online Course (GOC)” for the OPEN Program. This global online course shares much of the same content as the current MOOC but is taught by an instructor with 25 participants per class. In describing this initiative, Dr. Shin stated, “We have received grant contracts since 2017 to provide multiple sections of the Global Online Course to teachers around the world. Our most recent grant received for the 2023-2024 academic year supports the development of 21 sections of the course, and we are currently wrapping up seven sections for the winter term.”

Dr. Shin shared her thoughts on the extensive reach that these professional development initiatives have had. She stated, “Since the start of our work with the U.S. Department of State and fhi360 on the Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) Global Online Course and the Massive Open Online Course, we have reached approximately 35,000 teachers from 135 countries. Our approach encourages these teachers to reflect on how research-based practices can be applied and adapted for their classrooms and learners.” For more information on GOTEC projects, please visit the center website at https://gotec.cehd.gmu.edu/projects.