ITA Language Screenings
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 inappropriate teaching situations, as well as from students who might blame the ITAs' language skills for their difficulties in class.
Language screening protects departments by decreasing student complaints about instruction and 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 difficulties.
Language assessment scores determine the types of duties ITAs can perform (teaching, recitation or laboratory instructor, grader, non-instructional roles).
The Screening Committee
- An undergraduate student representative
- A departmental representative (often the Director of Graduate Studies or department head)
- An ESL specialist
The Screening Process (Note: All screenings are video-recorded)
- A 5-7 minute, planned lesson that simulates a discipline-specific, classroom teaching situation.
- ITAs should teach introductory-level, discipline-appropriate content that they might teach early in the semester.
- 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. Board and marker use is encouraged.
- ITAs are evaluated on comprehensibility of communication in English.
- During and/or following the teaching simulation, committee members will ask questions 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 appropriate responsiveness to the questions asked and comprehensibility 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 or university material written for a general audience.
- ITAs are evaluated on comprehensibility 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 description 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 comprehensibility of communication with the student.
Each committee member rates ITA communication skills separately for the four activities (teaching simulation, question/answer, impromptu reading, role play)
- 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 Play - 30%
After the screening is complete, members combine their ratings to calculate 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 about written work. The ITA may NOT teach a course independently (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 and earn at least a "conditional approval."
Official scores will be available from departments in 1-2 days following the screening. Departments are asked not to provide ITAs with unofficial scores earlier as these must be verified for mathematical accuracy.
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. Only two such non-mandated screenings will be permitted per ITA.
Language screenings fall under:
- KY state law (KRS 164.297)
- UK's "Policies on International Teaching Assistants" (AR 5.3)
- SACs accreditation criteria (see 4.8.4).
Resources for improving scores
- ESL 090 and ENG 098 -- speaking courses for international TAs
- ESL Courses through UK's Center for English as a Second Language
- Lexington Public Library
- Bluegrass Community & Technical College (BCTC) ESL Offerings
- Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning offers ESL workshops
- UK 's International Conversation Hour offers informal conversation between native speakers and English language learners