It comes down to the same three things that make or break any learning experience: the teacher, the course and the students. Let’s start by looking at the teacher.
Aristotle said “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” Terry Pratchett, said “No useful skill or talent whatsoever? Have you thought of going into teaching?” How can you make sure the tutor on your course is more ‘Greek Philosopher’ than ‘English Fantasy Novelist’?
Find your tutors’ qualifications. Look for a Trinity Diploma in TESOL or a Cambridge DELTA. Both contain practical teaching components, which make them more valuable than an MA (Masters) in TESOL. Tutors also get bonus points for training experience, teaching experience and having worked in a multitude of locations. Without the qualifications, the rest is meaningless.
Next the “what”, “how” and “why” of the course.
Check what the course covers. Look at the syllabus. Compare this to the syllabi for the most widely accepted teaching certificates (Trinity’s CertTESOL and Cambridge’s CELTA).
Check how the course is run. Look for variety in interactivity, assessment and types of input.
Check the “why” of the course. Is your course provider out to make a quick buck or is there a mission behind their enterprise?
Finally, the most important person in the learning process is you, the student. If you’re motivated and excited to learn, you’ll get a lot out of a mediocre course. If you’re looking for a bit of paper to land you a job, you’ll get little out of a great course. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
All educational experiences affect the teachers we go onto become. To paraphrase Phil Collins (yes, that Phil Collins) “In learning you teach and in teaching you learn.”
Good luck choosing the right TEFL course for you.