Communication and learning

Teaching assistants need to know English to effectively teach.

The basic charge of a teaching assistant is to give students an extra resource in understanding course material. But even a genius teaching assistant is worthless if language barriers prevent him or her from doing that job competently. This is why we find it troubling that English standards among teaching assistants at the University have been subpar âÄîand the University could even been breaking state law in not properly screening nonnative speakers teaching at the University. If those standards are not raised, the University will fail to live up to its very basic yet chief mission: education. Barbara Beers of the Center for Teaching and Learning stated, âÄúWeâÄôre not going for perfect, just understandable.âÄù While most international students will never speak English at the same level as a native speaker, students should expect teaching assistants to be more than just âÄúunderstandable.âÄù Being understandable in English is one matter, but effectively communicating complex theories or ideas is another. The Spoken Proficiency in English Assessment Kit test is outdated and will be phased out by fall 2010 and teaching assistants in all fields at the University will take the Test of English as a Foreign Language. The test used to measure the level of speech will change, but the standards needed to teach will remain the same. Unfortunately, teaching assistants will only need to establish proficiency, not fluency. Perhaps teaching assistants should be monitored at the University during their first year of conducting discussion sections. In addition, they should be provided with free language instruction. The University should openly encourage international students to study. Nevertheless, English speaking standards need to be raised and enforced in a measurable way. Not only is communication at stake, but so is the quality of an ever-expensive education.