Policy Regarding the Appointment of Non-Native English-Speaking Teaching Assistants

Since 1980, at the direction of the Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the monitoring of non-native English-speaking teaching assistants has been the responsibility of each academic unit. Effective fall 1988, only those non-native English-speaking students who passed initial, prescribed oral English proficiency screening assessments and who participated fully in the pre-semester training programs are eligible to teach. The following policy was created to respond to Illinois law and applies to all non-native English-speaking TAs regardless of instructional venue (e.g., face-to-face instruction, office hours, accompanying/coaching, and blended or online courses). Exemption: Graders are exempt from demonstrating oral English proficiency if they have no oral interaction with students. Graders who have oral interactions with students (e.g., through office hours) must demonstrate oral English proficiency.

The Illinois policy incorporates three major programs:

  • Screening
  • Development and Improvement
  • Monitoring

Screening Program

All non-native English-speaking students applying for appointments as teaching assistants at Illinois must first satisfy the English proficiency admission requirements of the Graduate College and the appointing academic unit. In addition, the students must be screened for oral English proficiency, either off-campus or on-campus.

Off-Campus Screening

Prospective international teaching assistants (ITAs) are strongly encouraged to take off-campus oral proficiency exams before applying for assistantships. The following chart provides minimum score requirements for ITA consideration (effective Spring 2006)*:

English Proficiency TestMinimum score required for International Teaching Assistants
TOEFL iBTspeaking sub-section score: 24
IELTS (academic exam)speaking sub-section score: 8

* Please note: TOEFL iBT and IELTS scores must be less than two years old from the first day of class at the proposed term of entry in order to be valid. In addition, individual academic programs may require a higher score; contact your proposed program of study office for the minimum TOEFL iBT or IELTS requirement.

The costs of that assessment (fees imposed by the testing service) may be borne by the prospective teaching assistant or the admitting academic unit at Illinois.

On-Campus Screening

In those cases when a prospective teaching assistant has not taken or passed the required proficiency tests specified above, he or she may take the Oral English Assessment Interview (OEAI). Additional information regarding the OEAI is available on the Department of Linguistics website.

Development and Improvement Program

There are two components to this program: the campus-wide Graduate Academy for College Teaching, and the on-going campus, oral English proficiency activities and classes.

  1. The Graduate Academy for College Teaching. All prospective non-native English-speaking teaching assistants who have passed one of the oral English proficiency tests as described above are required to participate in the Graduate Academy for College Teaching the semester before they teach. This training program takes place before every fall and spring semester.
  2. Ongoing Campus Improvement Activities. All prospective ITAs who have not passed the screening program are not qualified to teach in the classroom. These individuals are required to participate in at least one semester of language improvement activities before they are eligible to retake the OEAI. The activities can include one or more of the following:
    • Registration in ESL courses which are specifically designed for current and prospective non-native English speaking teaching assistants, e.g., ESL 504, ESL 506, and/or other courses that may be recommended in individual cases by the Department of Linguistics.
    • Special tutoring programs arranged by the student or the department, with verification of an acceptable level of participation.

Mentoring Program

The non-native English-speaking teaching assistant’s oral English proficiency is to be monitored and documented by the academic unit in which instruction takes place. It is recommended that the faculty member selected to supervise the non-native teaching assistants be responsible for the following monitoring activities:

  1. Visit or videotape the instructional setting, e.g. laboratory, lecture, discussion, recitation, studio, office hours, of the non-native English-speaking teaching assistant during the first two weeks of the semester in which they provide instruction. Follow-up sessions with evaluation and feedback by a faculty member, supervisor or CITL/Linguistics staff member is essential.
  2. Distribute, collect and summarize student feedback surveys at the end of the first three weeks of the first semester in which the non-native English-speaking teaching assistant provides instruction. The feedback forms must include items which address the oral English proficiency of the teaching assistant. CITL has surveys designed to assist in this monitoring activity.
  3. Collect, review and respond to student comments (solicited or unsolicited), early semester surveys and end-of-semester evaluations. If a problem in oral English proficiency is detected, it is to be dealt with immediately by the academic unit providing the instruction. Assist the teaching assistant in reviewing the feedback and modifying oral English use which might be significantly and negatively affecting instruction. Follow the “Procedures for Review of Instructor’s Ability to Communicate in English” in the Illinois Student Code.
  4. File all screening, improvement and monitoring information in the office of the academic unit in which the non-native English-speaking teaching assistant provides instruction.

Revised 9/01; 11/08; 4/10; 11/14; 5/17