ACES Summer Program banner featuring a deck of MSU-branded playing cards and four aces

Academic Culture and English Skills (ACES) Summer Program for ITAs

Summer 2021: July 26-August 13

ACES is a three-week intensive English and academic culture program aimed at helping incoming international teaching assistants (ITAs) adjust to the American university teaching and learning context prior to their first semester at MSU.  The course focuses on strengthening oral communication skills in English and developing an understanding of the American educational system in general and the roles and expectations of TAs and undergraduate students at MSU in particular.  

In Summer 2021, ACES will run online and will consist of a combination of interactive, synchronous class meetings and daily asynchronous tasks which involve a high degree of online interaction and peer and instructor feedback. 

Registration Deadline: May 21, 2021

ACES is open to incoming international graduate teaching assistants at the request of their departments.  Departments wishing additional information on registering their students should contact Alissa Cohen, ITA Program Coordinator, at cohenal@msu.edu no later than May 21st

The ACES Program is made possible through generous funding from the Graduate School with contributions from the College of Natural Sciences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Incoming international graduate students who have been awarded a teaching assistantship and have been recommended or required to participate by their department are eligible for ACES. In addition, in some cases, current international graduate teaching assistants who are in their first year of studies may also be accepted into the program. If you are a student who is interested in participating, please contact the ITA Program Coordinator at cohenal@msu.edu and she will inquire with your department as to your eligibility.

There is no cost to ACES participants or their departments for Summer 2021. The ACES Program is made possible through generous funding from the Graduate School and contributions from the College of Natural Science. 

Students must be registered by their departments. They are not able to register themselves. This ensures that only eligible students are registered and that information regarding student and TA status are accurate. If you are a departmental secretary or graduate program director wishing to register students, please contact the ITA Program Coordinator at cohenal@msu.edu .

 

In 2021, The ACES program will take place online for three weeks through a combination of interactive, synchronous class meetings and daily asynchronous tasks, which involve a high degree of online interaction and feedback. Participants will be divided into sections of up to 16 students and will meet synchronously with their instructor and classmates for two hours per day twice per week and with undergraduate program assistants for one hour per week. In addition, students will work on daily asynchronous tasks designed to provide additional content, interaction, and practice opportunities.

Participants will have many opportunities to use their oral language skills and receive feedback throughout the program. In addition to receiving an oral language diagnostic assessment of their strengths and weaknesses in English, students will participate in large and small group class discussions with their peers, interactive audio/video recording assignments, interviews and small group discussions with undergraduate students and experienced graduate teaching assistants, one-on-one meetings with their instructors, and more.

The exact days and times of synchronous class sessions will be determined once registration closes and it is clear where students will be located for the duration of the program. Every effort will be made to provide reasonable synchronous class times that can accommodate students in a variety of time zones. Participants will receive a survey that asks them to identify their choice of section based on the days and times provided and preferences will be honored to the best of our ability. While the exact days and times cannot be determined yet, it is likely that there will be an early morning and later evening section as well as possibly a mid-day section. These decisions will be made in early to mid-June.

The ACES program is designed to involve a time commitment of approximately 15 hours per week for 3 weeks. This includes time spent in synchronous class sessions as well as on asynchronous tasks. Please note that this is not a self-paced program. Participants should expect to complete daily tasks and meet assignment deadlines each weekday of the program. Daily tasks build on one another and prepare participants for many of the synchronous class activities, so it is important for participants to work each day to meet daily assignment deadlines.

The university requires that all TAs demonstrate oral proficiency in English in order to receive teaching assignments requiring interaction with undergraduate students. Incoming international teaching assistants can meet this requirement by receiving a score of 27 or higher on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT, presenting an IELTS Speaking Section score of 8.0 or higher, or by receiving a score of 50 or higher on the MSU Speaking Test. Participating in ACES does not waive this requirement. For more information on this requirement, see the MSU Policy Affecting International Teaching Assistants.

The ACES Program does, however, provide an overview of language skills and strategies for improving effective oral communication and opportunities to practice using these skills and strategies. Students with stronger oral proficiency who practice and implement the strategies they learn in the program may find that three weeks of practice is enough to boost their confidence and enhance their performance on an oral proficiency test such as the MSU Speaking Test. However, it is important to realize that underlying proficiency cannot be significantly impacted in such a short time. The goal of the program, therefore, is for students to become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses in oral communication and leave with a set of tools to facilitate further improvement with continued practice.

For more extensive language and classroom teaching practice, the ITA Program offers semester-long ITA support courses in Fall and Spring semesters. Some ACES participants may find it helpful to enroll in one of these courses following the conclusion of the ACES Program. For more information on these courses, please visit the ITA Program Course Offerings Page.

The ACES Program is designed to allow incoming international graduate students an opportunity to ease into studying and teaching in the English-speaking environment of MSU for the first time. It provides an overview of language skills and strategies for improving effective oral communication and an awareness of the context in which students will be serving as TAs and the roles and expectations of TAs and MSU undergraduate students.

For more extensive language and classroom teaching practice, the ITA Program also offers semester-long ITA support courses in Fall and Spring semesters. While these courses overlap with the ACES Program in terms of general content, students enrolled in ITA support courses are able to dive deeper into the language and culture of instruction and gain extensive practice making mock-teaching presentations, conducting office hour role-plays, working one-on-one with a tutor, etc. For more information about ITA support courses, please visit the ITA Program Course Offerings Page. Depending on students’ language skills, educational background, and previous instructional experiences, some ACES participants might benefit from taking an ITA support course upon completing the ACES Program.