A teaching assistant collaborates with an instructor to deliver educational material directly to students and parents. In addition to helping with the design and methodology of lessons, assistants help to ensure that students understand lessons by supervising them and coordinating activities. A teaching assistant may also prepare demonstrations, presentations, lessons plans, and projects, while enforcing governing administration rules and regulations pertaining to students.
The term international teaching assistants (ITAs) usually refers to graduate students who have recently immigrated to the United States, both to learn and teach. In recent years, more and more university-level teaching assistants have come from non-English speaking countries abroad. Although these individuals must usually pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Graduate Record Exam (GRE), concerns abounded about their English fluency and overall teaching ability. In response to the growing concern and pressure from education-related groups, many states passed laws and universities crafted policies mandating that ITAs receive further instruction in English and U.S. pedagogy. Thus, ITA preparation programs were created.
ITA preparation programs are usually comprised of two components: ones focusing on language skills, the other on teaching skills. ITAs may be exempt from the language portion of their training program if they prove to be adequately competent in English. If not, they receive instruction in pronunciation and academic speaking. The teaching skills portion of an ITA preparation program is usually mandatory as it helps foreigners become acquainted with the conventions of American schooling. This portion of the course teaches ITAs classroom expectations and student interaction, usually by pairing them with undergraduate students who can show them the ropes.