English Language Program for International Instructors

Our mission is to:

  • help nonnative English speaking instructors improve their language and cultural awareness in order to teach effectively in the US.
  • help departments screen graduate students who have been proposed to work as teaching assistants.
  • support the wider university community by helping faculty and staff respond to the increasing cultural and linguistic diversity on campus and foster a productive learning environment for all students.

As part of this mission, we implement the UC San Diego Graduate Division policy (in compliance with the California English Proficiency in Higher Education Act) that international graduate students who are nonnative speakers of English be certified as having requisite language skills before they can serve as teaching assistants (TAs). The English Language Program for International Instructors (ELP-ii), based in the Teaching + Learning Commons, is designed to assist international students proposed as TAs in meeting that requirement. 

Language Testing & Training Services

English Language Certification Exam

All international graduate students who are nonnative speakers of English are required to demonstrate a high level of oral competence in the English language before they can be employed as Teaching Assistants (TAs). In order to assess the level of language proficiency, UC San Diego is required to screen prospective TAs. Exemptions to this screening requirement, which must be applied consistently, include

  1. international graduate students with a speaking subscore of
    1. 28-30 on the TOEFL iBT,
    2. 8.5-9.0 on the IELTS, or
    3. 83-90 on the PTE.
  2. international graduate students who serve as language assistants in courses conducted in their native language. [See FAQs: Hiring Departments, Sections 4, 5 and 6, for details on ELCE exemptions.]

Graduate Division guidelines state that a screening consists of a live 10-15 minute impromptu interview and teaching simulation, during which the student must respond to general and discipline-specific questions typically asked in courses for which the student is a prospective TA. The testing panel, consisting of at least one faculty representative from the department and an ELP-ii linguist, reviews, evaluates and scores the responses for level of communication skill ability and overall language proficiency, including

  • pronunciation accuracy,
  • listening comprehension,
  • use of general and technical vocabulary,
  • speech flow,
  • grammatical accuracy, and
  • organizational clarity.

The testing panel then makes a recommendation as to whether the TA candidate qualifies to TA.

Who schedules the test: The hiring department first notifies the ELP-ii of ELCE-qualified TA candidates who must be screened. The ELP-ii coordinates screening dates and times with the hiring departments. The hiring departments coordinate the exam schedule with the prospective TAs and faculty representative. Students DO NOT schedule the exam.

In-Class Language Assessment

The ELP-ii provides prospective TAs with extensive testing for language assessment, which includes the ELCE and in-class audio and video recording of students using both general and discipline-specific English. The assessments are designed to give a clear picture of an international student's strengths and weaknesses in speaking and understanding the English language. The results of the assessment are used in the development of an individualized language program so that the student can achieve at least the minimum language proficiency required to qualify for a teaching assistantship as soon as possible.

Language Classes and Teaching Performance

ELPii Language Classes

International graduate students who do not pass the English Language Certification Exam (ELCE) are given the opportunity to improve their language skills by attending language classes offered by the ELP-ii. The classes entail a program of performance training including ESL proficiency, accent modification, public speaking and presentation skills, classroom management and leadership skills, and cross-cultural training.

International graduate students who do not qualify to take the ELCE (those with a TOEFL speaking score below 23, IELTS speaking score below 7, or PTE speaking score below 65) are encouraged to take English language courses offered in the English Language Institute and/or the English for Academic and Professional Development Program.

Teaching Simulations

In order to help international graduate students prepare for the rigors of the classroom, the ELP-ii organizes a series of teaching simulations. These are actual classroom forums wherein the international graduate student prepares and presents a lesson to a class of select undergraduates. The goal of the teaching simulation is to provide the student "TA" with a comfortable, monitored teaching experience with an undergraduate community interested in teaching, culture, and language learning. The undergraduates listen to the lesson, participate when appropriate, and finally offer advice and suggestions about the performance of the prospective TA. This is particularly useful for international graduate students whose language is acceptable but who have trouble in other areas of teaching, such as communicative style.

Audio and Video Recording

International graduate students are audio and video recorded to help them better understand their language and teaching skills. The video recordings are then uploaded to the Teaching + Learning Common's private YouTube site for the student to track and review their performance in detail. Each student receives a private YouTube link to each recording.

Apprenticeship Teaching

This is a highly effective program designed by the ELP-ii to help provide international graduate students with a more practical and personal form of teaching instruction. International graduate students are assigned to more experienced TAs as apprentice teachers. These experienced TAs will help the international graduate students with their teaching by pointing out areas for development, suggesting alternatives, and above all by serving as positive role models. All assignments are coordinated and monitored by the ELP-ii in conjunction with the international graduate student's home department.

For more information please contact elpii@ucsd.edu or cet@ucsd.edu.