Michigan State University
Michigan State University
English Language Center
International Teaching Assistant Program
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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 are not native speakers of English 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. 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 Interview (ITAOI), the latter of which is only available to those graduate students who complete AAE 451 or 452, ITA courses. 

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 45 are also eligible to enroll in the language support course, AAE 451 or 452.  Those with a score of 40 may be admitted to the class with the permission of the ITA Program coordinators.

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 and the ITA Oral Interview (ITAOI)

AAE 451 and 452 are 3-credit courses in English pronunciation, fluency, and classroom culture and communication skills for current or prospective ITAs. The prerequisite for enrolling in the course is an MSU Speaking Test score of 45. Students with an MSU Speaking Test score of 40 may be admitted to the course with the permission of the ITA Program coordinators. 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 in the course will then be contacted by the ITA Program coordinators with further information and instructions for reserving space in the course. 

All AAE 451 and 452 students take the ITA Oral Interview (ITAOI) at the conclusion of the class as part of the course requirements. 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 complete AAE 451 or 452 are not eligible to take the ITAOI.

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.

For questions about AAE 451, 452, and 453, contact ITAprogram@elc.msu.edu