22 SES 09 B, University Teaching & Supervision
The increasing number of international teaching assistants (ITAs) brings cultural and linguistic diversity to American undergraduate courses. Yet this trend also comes at a cost as ITAs encounter continued linguistic, sociocultural, and pedagogical challenges. These challenges have resulted in an unprecedented demand for ITA training/preparation programs. Many ITA training programs are language-training orientated because among all the challenges, ITAs’ language proficiency is regarded as the most common and critical problem in existing studies (e.g. Hinofotis & Bailey, 1980; Hoekje & Williams, 1992). Halleck and Moder (1995) suggest that a threshold level of English proficiency might be necessary for ITAs to benefit from ITA training focusing on compensatory teaching strategies. Other researchers, however, place doubt on language-training orientated ITA programs by noting that the cultural, institutional, and pedagogical differences between the US higher education and ITAs’ educational backgrounds are also critical, if not more important than ITAs’ language barriers. Kim (2009), for example, notes that when ‘sociocultural adaption difficulty’ that ITAs encounter decreases, the effect of their perceived English fluency on their teaching performance decreases. Hoekje and Williams (1992) suggest that grammatical language training fails to enable ITAs to transform linguistic knowledge into a ‘teaching language.’ Thus, what ITAs need are actual communicative skills rather than linguistic competency. Therefore, despite the traditional focus on developing competence in English, more and more ITA programs have attempted to offer not only linguistic training but also an orientation to American classroom culture and communication styles (Kim, 2009).
However, little research has directly examined whether we can provide ITAs a training program that can increase ITAs self-efficacy, develop their teaching skills and increase student satisfaction without specific language training. In order to fill this gap, this study investigates an unconventional model for ITA training provided by the Teaching and Learning Center (TLC) of a north-east Atlantic university. This one-year long program (International Teaching Fellows - ITF) differs from other conventional ITA programs in three respects: 1) ITF does not provide particular language training for ITAs. 2) ITF does not separate sociocultural, communicative, and pedagogical training into three individual sections. Instead, it provides holistic teaching training that actually integrates sociocultural, communicative, and pedagogical learning and practicing. And 3) ITF does not emphasize what ITAs cannot do, instead it is an asset-based approach that inducts ITAs to make advantage of what they have.
Two frameworks guide this study: Communicative competence (Hymes, 1974) and pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987). Communicative competence highlights the important distinction between linguistic skills and communicative abilities. Pedagogical content knowledge is based on the manner in which teachers relate their pedagogical knowledge (what they know about teaching) to their subject matter knowledge (what they know about what they teach). Guided by these two frameworks, this study examines the effectiveness of the ITF program by specifically answering two questions
1. Can ITF increase ITAs’ self-efficacy and develop their teaching performance without particular language training?
2. How does ITF develop ITAs communicative skills without language training?
Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative enquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Halleck, G. B., & Moder, C. L. (1995). Testing Language and Teaching Skills of International Teaching Assistants: The Limits of Compensator Strategies.TESOL Quarterly, 29(4), 733-758. Hinofotis, F., & Bailey, K. (1980). American undergraduates’ reactions to the communication skills of foreign teaching assistants. On TESOL, 80, 120-133. Hoekje, B., & Williams, J. (1992). Communicative Competence and the Dilemma of International Teaching Assistant Education. TESOL Quarterly, 26(2), 243-69. Himes, D. (1974). Foundation in sociolinguistics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Jia, C., & Bergerson, A. A. (2008). Understanding the international teaching assistant training program: A case study at a northwestern research university. International Education, 37(2), 8. Kim, E. (2009). Beyond Language Barriers: Teaching Self-Efficacy among East Asian International Teaching Assistants. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 21(2), 171-180. Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4- 31.
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