International teaching assistants at universities: A research agenda

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International teaching assistants (ITAs) are Indian, Chinese, Korean, Turkish, etc. international students who have been admitted to graduate study at universities in the U.S.A. and Canada, and are being supported as instructors of undergraduate-level classes and labs in biology, chemistry, physics, and math. For the past 30 years, the number of ITAs has been increasing, and many departments at universities have come to rely largely on ITAs to cover their undergraduate teaching needs. As high-intermediate and low-advanced second language learners who must use their second language for professional purposes, ITAs face linguistic, social, professional, and cultural challenges. This is a learner population that deserves more attention, as I hope to establish here with this presentation of six research tasks. I have organized proposed research projects in such a way as to increase readers' familiarity with this little publicized field, and also to relate the projects to different contexts of inquiry. By 'contexts' I mean 'who is asking what and for what reasons.' The two contexts of inquiry are: (1) Established areas of ITA program concern, including acquisition of fluency, prosody, and vocabulary; and (2) Working with 'outside' theories, such as the Output Hypothesis, and deliberate practice theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-290
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage Teaching
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


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