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International Teaching Assistant (ITA) Language Screening
General Tips for Success
ITA Language Screening Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Language screening is a way to assure that International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) have the needed English language abilities to present information, read, and interact successfully with undergraduate students at the University of Kentucky. It does not screen for teaching ability.
Language screening protects ITAs from the stresses and frustrations of being in an inappropriate teaching situation, and from students who blame the ITAs' language skills for their difficulties in class.
Language screening protects departments by decreasing student complaints about instruction and providing a mechanism for documenting ITA language proficiency, by providing a neutral evaluation of language skills not subject to departmental issues and pressures, and by sending the message to ITAs and undergraduates that ITA language skills and undergraduate instruction are important.
Language screening protects undergraduate students by assuring a basic level of English language skills in instruction/grading, and by providing ITAs with resources and support for improving their language skills and developing pedagogy skills to account for any language/accent difficulties.
Language assessment scores determine the types of duties ITAs can perform (teaching, recitation or laboratory instructor, grader, non-instructional roles).
The screening committee consists of
- An undergraduate student representative
- A departmental representative (often the Director of Graduate Studies or department head)
- An ESL specialist
All screenings are videorecorded.
The screening process includes
- A 5-minute, planned presentation that simulates a discipline-specific classroom teaching situation.
- ITAs should teach introductory-level discipline-appropriate content that they enjoy or might teach early in the school year.
- Departments may provide advice on topics, but the topic is essentially the ITA's choice, as long as it is introductory and discipline appropriate.
- No PowerPoints, videos, or other technology is allowed. Use of marker board is encouraged.
- ITAs are evaluated on clarity and effectivity of communication in English.
- During and/or following the teaching simulation, committee members will ask at least one question related to the material the student is teaching.
- Questions will be basic ones (such as, Can you explain or clarify a particular term used?)
- ITAs are evaluated on responsiveness to questions and clarity of answers.
- ITAs will be asked to read aloud a short (3-4 minute) document given to them.
- ITAs may take a few minutes to read the document to themselves before reading it aloud.
- Readings come from non-technical material written for a general audience, from discipline-specific materials, or university materials.
- ITAs are evaluated on clarity of oral reading.
- The role play is an opportunity for the ITA to assume or act out a particular role in a teacher/student interaction.
- ITAs are given a brief written role-play of a typical instruction-related incident and asked to read it to themselves. They then interact accordingly with the undergraduate representative serving as the ITA's hypothetical student.
- ITAs are evaluated on the clarity of communication with the student.
The rating process
Each committee member rates ITA communication skills separately on each of the four activities (teaching simulation, question/answer, reading, role playing)
- 4 - completely comprehensible, no impediments to communication
- 3 - generally comprehensible, minor impediments to communication
- 2 - partially comprehensible, major impediments to communication
- 1 - not comprehensible
Weightings of the screening components
- Teaching simulation - 30%
- Question/Answer - 20%
- Reading - 20%
- Role playing - 30%
Determining a final score
After the screening is complete, members combine their ratings to develop an overall rating.
Approval (two levels):
- > 3.5 -- any assignment, including teaching a course
- 3.0 - 3.49 -- recitation instructor or laboratory instructor who interacts with students or a grader who makes subjective decisions of written work. ITA may NOT teach a course (i.e. may not serve in primary-instructor role).
- A rating of 1.5-2.9. With conditional approval, ITAs must be re-screened at the end of their first semester.
- ITAs may work under the "conditional approval" category for a maximum of two semesters. They may not circumvent this requirement by switching departments.
- A rating of < 1.5. Only non-teaching duties, to be funded by the department.
- With a non-approval rating, to be eligible for Teaching Assistantship funding through The Graduate School, students must be re-screened at the end of their first semester or soon thereafter and must gain at least a "conditional approval."
Official scores will be available from departments in 1-2 days. Departments may provide ITAs with unofficial scores earlier.
If ITAs want to move to a different teaching assignment, they must be re-screened if the new assignment requires a higher ranking than the one received during the initial screening.
Language screenings fall under:
Resources for improving scores