International Teaching Assistants

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Southern Illinois University Carbondale is committed to providing quality testing, training, and support for the International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) that have been hired to teach classes, facilitate labs and discussion groups, and provide instructional support to SIUC faculty. The Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) began assisting the Graduate School with testing and training in the early 1980s and has expanded the support it provides over the years.

Testing and Training

  • A week before the fall semester, ALL graduate assistants are required to participate in a pre-teaching orientation sponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence. Potential graduate assistants should speak to their department about this.
  • All ITAs who plan on teaching begin by taking the ITA Oral Proficiency Test. The sponsoring department must schedule the test. For testing information, click here.
  • Participating in the ITA workshop may be recommended or required for ITAs who do not pass the ITA test.

For more information, contact Elisa Hunt at the Center for English as a Second Language by email at or by phone at 453-2265.

Proficiency Testing
Why does SIU have to do it?

First and foremost, English language proficiency is mandated by the State of Illinois.

Proficiency testing ensures that each international teaching assistant (ITA) has the English language skills that are necessary to successfully convey information to students. The test does not have a “teaching ability” component. The test certifies a specific language ability so students cannot use an ITA’s language skills as an excuse for poor academic performance.

International teaching assistants do not function in isolation. They must interact with departments and students within the confines of American academic culture. Recognizing that the emphasis of a graduate degree is on the acquisition of key content, teaching is one part of the graduate student’s professional preparation.

The Center for Graduate Teaching Excellence wishes to ensure that:
  • ITAs are placed in situations where they have the language skills to convey information to students.
  • Departments can be confident that ITAs have the necessary language ability to convey the needed information to the intended audience in order to avoid complaints about ITAs being difficult for students to comprehend.
  • Students accept responsibility for their own learning, knowing that ITAs have been certified as language proficient.