Benchmarking with Peer Public Research Universities.
When the University of Massachusetts Amherst provides English second language courses for ITAs, the University will act in concert with the other top public research universities such as Ohio State University, Purdue University, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, all of which provide ESL ITA courses. During the December 2004 Commission on Diversity hearings, Professor Robert L. Ringel, a professor of audiology and speech sciences at Purdue University, asked why there were no ESL ITA courses offered by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He then commented, “You really should develop courses for the international graduate students, especially the ITAs. This is what we have done at Purdue.”
International Teaching Assistant courses, designed by second language specialists in the ESL Program, are in line with those offered by leading peer public research universities. Such courses will strive to reflect the commitment that the University of Massachusetts has made to maintaining high standards of teaching and to supporting exceptional research initiatives. Certainly, ITA courses can make an invaluable contribution to the academic community by helping ITAs garner the respect of their undergraduate students. These students may then better value the teaching and research contributions of the ITAs as well as better appreciate their linguistic and cultural diversity.
Support for International Teaching Assistants at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
The Center of Teaching at UMass Amherst has supported the creation of new English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses for International Teaching Assistants: two for 2006-2007 and two others for 2007-2008.
Professtional Considerations for ITA Courses
The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) is the professional association of English language educators who work with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. The organization promotes “professionalism in language education, the interaction of research and reflective practice for educational improvement, and respect for diversity and multiculturalism.” TESOL provides “a coordinated, knowledgeable response to issues affecting institutions that foster the development of effective human communications.” English second language specialists conduct Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning research. This ever-growing, cutting-edge body of research is used by TESOL professionals to inform their teaching practices. While English second language learners share some important characteristics with English first language learners, they demonstrate many distinct characteristics of their own. That is, they have particular language teaching requirements that are effectively addressed by TESOL teaching approaches and practices. Examples of these specific requirements include promoting changes in a learner’s interlanguage, the individual’s incomplete, shifting knowledge of a new language. Another example of a requirement of a particular language speaker is the need to deal with interference and transfer from the first to the second language. TESOL professionals are trained to understand and deal with the special language and culture requirements of second language learners.
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