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Q&A with Aki Tsunemoto

Aki graduated from the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in-service MA in 2017 and is now earning her PhD in Canada.

Aki Tsunemoto, TESOL MA alumna

Why did you choose to study the TESOL MA and what made you choose the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)?

I used to work as an English teacher in Japan but I felt I did not have enough support in how to teach and assess students’ performance in my pre/in-service training. Particularly, I wanted to know how students can best improve their second language speaking skills. I decided to pursue an MA in TESOL and started to look for programmes which could help accomplish my goal.

An IOE alumnus recommended the IOE to me as one of the best universities in the world for education. In fact, the IOE has been chosen as the world's best university in education in the QS Rankings for consecutive years and it keeps developing its wonderful reputation.

I found the TESOL MA taught course would best suit with my goals to: understand theories and research which could inform classroom practice; earn a degree in a short time (I already had an MA in education back in my country); learn from peer students from various background; meet researchers in the field through conferences and workshops.

Do you have any tips or helpful advice for incoming students?

I would suggest setting goals to achieve is very important. A one year MA is very short: we had lots of assignments during the terms and had only a short period for conducting a research project for the dissertation. Therefore, thinking of what knowledge and expertise one would like to attain during the programme is crucial.

In terms of life in London, there are so many wonderful places to visit and things to see. As winter in London may be a bit depressing (with less sunshine and many assignments) I recommend finding some favourite places and things you can chill with.

How did you get to where you are now in your career?

I am now continuing my study in a PhD programme at Concordia University in Canada. My time at the IOE was definitely valuable for continuing the research in the field. The knowledge and experience I gained throughout the TESOL MA now help me tremendously to conduct research and to further expand my knowledge in the field. Furthermore, the connections with friends and teachers I established during the programme has been a precious one that I still work with them in research projects together.

The network you establish in the programme is truly precious."


How have you applied the learning from your degree?

As I am aiming to become part of university faculty in the future, I found my IOE experience considerably valuable in terms of gaining specialised knowledge and research skills. For the specialised knowledge, I learned fundamental theories in second language acquisition, how to design teaching materials and research related to language assessments, which all are important for the studies I am conducting now.

For research skills, although I did not have a background in social scientific research before, I learned how to write proposals, how to design and conduct research, how to analyse the data and how to write up the paper. 

What did you enjoy most about your programme?

The lecturers gave us ample opportunities to communicate and discuss with peer students and it was always wonderful to learn from others. For instance, I learned that some Greek and Indonesian teachers strove to use different techniques and to design materials for effective teaching while teachers from the east Asian countries may have a stricter curriculum so have less freedom of what to teach.

The comparison across the contexts allowed me to think how we could learn good points from others. Also, the programme provided us with the end of term parties, which was a lot of fun!

Is there anything else you would like to say about your time at the IOE?

I definitely recommend future students to study at the IOE because you gain fundamental knowledge and experience in the field of education in addition to more specialised fields you might be interested in such as second language acquisition, teacher education or language assessments.

In addition to gaining relevant experience which are important for continuing research or for implementation in classroom practices, the network you establish in the programme is truly precious. You will learn from your peer students and have fun with them while the faculty members support your research with their profound knowledge.

I am glad that I chose to study at the IOE and will continue to cherish the time I spent there.