ITA Language Screenings


General Tips for Success

ITA Language Screening Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Language screenings are a way to assure that International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) have the needed English language abilities to present information and interact successfully with undergraduate students at the University of Kentucky. They do not screen for teaching ability.

Language screenings protect:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Undergraduate students by assuring an appropriate level of English language skills in instruction/grading, and by providing ITAs with resources and support for improving their language skills as well as developing their 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, or 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 2-4 minute interview between the ESL specialist and ITA will begin each screening.
  • The ESL specialist will ask general interest questions rather than specific questions about content in the ITA’s field of study.
  • The ITAs’ language skills will NOT be evaluated for this portion of the screening. Rather, interviews are being phased into language screenings, and thus for Spring 2020, they are being run as a pilot for future screenings.

Teaching Simulation

  • 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 listening comprehension and the comprehensibility of their answers to the questions asked.

Impromptu Reading

  • ITAs will be asked to read aloud a short (1 page, double spaced) 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 their oral reading.

Role Play

  • The role play is an opportunity for the ITA to act out a typical instruction-related interaction similar to office hours. The undergraduate representative will serve 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, and role play)

Rating scale

  • 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

  • Interview - 0%
  • Teaching Simulation - 30%
  • Question/Answer - 20%
  • Reading - 20%
  • Role Play - 30%


After the screening is complete, members combine their ratings to calculate an overall score.

Approval (two levels):

  • Category I, or a rating of > 3.5 -- any assignment, including having primary responsibility for teaching a course
  • Category II, or a rating between 3.0 - 3.49 -- recitation 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).

Conditional Approval:

  • A rating of 1.5-2.9 -- With conditional approval, ITAs may serve during the first semester of appointment as a “Non-Interactive” lab assistants with minimal student contact or graders for objective tests only.    
  • ITAs may work under the "conditional approval" category for a maximum of two semesters and must be re-screened at the end of their first semester. They may not circumvent these requirements by switching departments.


  • A rating of < 1.5. Only non-teaching duties, to be funded by departments.
  • 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 business days following the screening. Departments are asked not to provide ITAs with unofficial scores prior to this as these scores 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.

Language screenings fall under:

  • KY state law (KRS 164.297)
  • UK's "Policies on International Teaching Assistants" (AR 5.3)

Resources for improving scores