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International Teaching Assistant Program

The International Teaching Assistant Program helps prepare non-native English speaking international graduate students to function effectively as teaching assistants in their departments.  The program facilitates an understanding of the cultural norms of the American educational context as well as the English language skills necessary for effective classroom communication. 

MSU Policy Affecting International Teaching Assistants

MSU ITAs who were required to demonstrate English proficiency or to obtain a waiver of the English proficiency requirement as a condition for regular admission to Michigan State University are required to demonstrate that they meet a minimum standard of proficiency in spoken English before they can be assigned teaching work that involves oral communication with undergraduate students. Students who have presented a TOEFL iBT score of 27 or higher are considered to have met the requirement.

Those international teaching assistants (ITAs) may meet this requirement in one of the following ways:

Oral English Proficiency Tests for ITAs

MSU recognizes scores on two oral proficiency exams for the purposes of meeting the English proficiency requirement for teaching assistants: the MSU Speaking Test and the ITA Oral Interaction (ITAOI), the latter of which is only available to those graduate students who successfully complete ITA support courses, AAE 451 or 452. 

To be eligible to take the MSU Speaking Test on campus, students must have regular admission and proof of TA status as well as the approval of their departments.  ITAs have four opportunities to meet the university proficiency requirement for ITAs free of charge.  After four unsuccessful attempts, students must pay a testing fee to take oral English proficiency tests, but they may only do so with the approval of their departments. In some cases, the department may decide to pay the fee on behalf of the student.

Students who do not receive a sufficient score on the MSU Speaking Test may opt to retest, but they are not permitted to retest within two months of a previous test.   Students with an MSU Speaking Test score of 40 or 45 are also eligible to enroll in the ITA support courses, AAE 451 or 452.

For more information on how to request an MSU Speaking Test and the current ITA Testing Schedule, visit the ELC Testing site.

ITA Language Support Courses AAE 451 & AAE 452

AAE 451 and 452 are ITA support courses designed to help graduate students who have not yet met the university minimum oral proficiency requirement for teaching assistants and who would benefit from additional language instruction.  These courses meet three times per week for ten weeks.  Tuition is calculated at the rate of a 3-credit course and students may use part of their tuition waiver if they have one.  The prerequisite for enrolling in either course is an MSU Speaking Test score of 40 or 45.  Priority in enrollment is given to students who already have TA appointments. To enroll, eligible students must first make a request through the MSU Speaking Test System online. Prospective students will then be contacted by the ITA Program coordinator with further information and instructions for setting up a meeting with an ITA Coordinator to determine which ITA support course best meets their skills and needs. For more specific information on objectives, policies, and registration for AAE 451 and AAE 452, please click on the course numbers above.

ITA Oral Interaction (ITAOI)

Successful completion of AAE 451 or 452 makes a student eligible to take the ITAOI. This test is administered and scored by the ELC Testing Office.  Students who receive an ITAOI score of 50 or higher satisfy the TA English requirement and can be cleared for teaching. Students who score below 50 on their first ITAOI may retake this test only once to try to meet the language proficiency requirement for teaching; however, retaking the ITAOI counts as one of a student's four opportunities to meet the requirement free of charge.  Students who do not successfully complete AAE 451 or 452 are not eligible to take the ITAOI.  For more information on the ITAOI or ELC testing policies, please visit the ELC Testing Office ITAOI website or email the office at testing@elc.msu.edu.

ITA Language Support Course AAE 453

The ITA Program also offers AAE 453, a seminar course designed for international graduate students who have already met the English proficiency requirement for international teaching assistants and who seek additional language and pedagogy support concurrent with their teaching assignment. In some cases, a student with a conditional waiver who is engaged in classroom teaching may also be admitted with the permission of the ITA Program Coordinator.  AAE 453 meets for 1.5 hours once per week for 10 weeks.  Tuition is calculated at the rate of a 1-credit course and students may use part of their tuition waiver if they have one.  To enroll, eligible students must first make a request through the MSU Speaking Test System online.  Prospective students will then be contacted by the ITA Program coordinator with further information regarding their eligibility and enrollment. 

For FAQs about AAE 451, 452, and 453, click here, or contact ITAprogram@elc.msu.edu