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The International Teaching Assistant Program’s (ITAP) mission is to empower international graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to achieve their academic and career goals through cultural and communicative support.  This includes fulfilling linguistic requirements for teaching assistants and graduate instructors.


ITAP offers many services to assess and develop communication skills and provide cultural development as a basis for a rewarding and enriching experience at Mizzou. These include:

Language Determination

Because all international students are unique in their linguistic background and experiences, the University of Missouri does not base native language determination on students’ home countries listed on their admissions application or where they attended school as a child and young adult.

If you are a lifelong primary speaker of English and may meet the requirements of the Missouri statute and University policy for a TA/GI appointment at Mizzou, please complete the Native Language(s) Determination Form to provide us more information about your linguistic background.  Please note: If you applied for admission after August 1, 2022, information for this form was collected during the admissions process. Once reviewed, you will receive notification of your status by email from the ITAP.

Oral Language Assessment

As stated in Missouri statute 170.012 and University policy, every non-native speaker of English must have sufficient oral-English proficiency before taking on a teaching position. Teaching assistants who have no direct contact with students (e.g., responsible only for grading assignments) are not required to complete the language proficiency assessment. It is recommended that departments schedule assessments for candidates as soon as possible so appointment decisions can be made in a timely fashion. These assessments can be completed prior to enrollment, but after a student has been formally admitted, or postdoctoral scholar start date (e.g., during a campus visit, summer).

ITAP provides on-line assessment called the MACCS (Mizzou’s Assessment of Classroom Communication Skills.) To ensure a positive testing experience, a virtual orientation to the assessment is required. In addition, students will be given resources to prepare for the assessment and a practice test when they are enrolled for testing. If computer and internet access are limited, please contact ITAP.

The MACCS is given each month and additional dates are provided at the end of each semester. In addition, ITAP will work with academic departments to expedite testing when necessary.

Please note that students cannot enroll themselves. Academic departments must enroll international graduate students in ONITA through the ITAP Canvas site. Please contact ITAP with any questions.

Assessment results are given as a proficiency level from 1 to 4. A minimum of 2 is needed in order to qualify for a teaching-related role (roles vary based upon proficiency levels).

Students may receive a provisional score (e.g., 2P, 3P). Those with provisional scores must receive additional support during their first semester; this may include successfully completing an ITAP course. At the end of the semester, the score will be modified to reflect that the provision has been met.

To find out more about the responsibilities a student/postdoc can take on with their current communication skills, please see the assessment result levels.

A candidate who does not receive the assessment results needed to accept a teaching appointment may not work in that teaching appointment and must wait six months before being reassessed. However, because language skills improve faster through consistent effort, students who enroll in an English language development course at Mizzou (see “Oral English Language Development” below), complete an individual development plan, or take an off-campus English language course can be reassessed at the end of the semester in which the language improvement work is completed. Students/postdocs can be assessed no more than six times during their time at MU.

Considerations Before Requesting a Review

Every MACCS assessment is evaluated by two or more trained raters. Two scores must be in close agreement before the final result is given. Therefore, requests for test score review should be reserved for exceptional cases and are limited to:

  • a maximum of one request per academic unit each semester,
  • only once for a particular graduate student candidate, and
  • only graduate student candidates who are no more than one level from the department’s desired outcome.

How to Request a Review

A request for the review of a test score must come from a department director/chair or Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Students may not make requests. The department/program representative must submit the ITAP Appeals Form within two weeks of receipt of the test score.

To make the appeal, the director/chair or DGS will submit the following via email to the ITAP Coordinator:

  • An unedited 8 to 12-minute audio or video recording of the applicant teaching an undergraduate-level academic concept to a live audience either in a face-to-face or virtual classroom. The presentation should include in-depth explanations of concepts or ideas and responses to spontaneous questions from the class.  The department is expected to facilitate the presentation including providing an appropriate audience, location, and technology,
  • The completed appeal form, and
  • Two letters of support, no more than pages in length, from MU faculty who have reviewed the presentation. The letters should describe how the recording demonstrates the applicant’s abilities to independently develop ideas; set up and support logical arguments; and convey detailed arguments clearly, logically, and with appropriate register.  They should include examples from both prepared and spontaneous speech.

Appeal Process

The ITAP Coordinator, Dean of the Graduate School, or their designee will forward the appeal request to the ITAP Appeals Committee to review the appeals request, video artifact and the evaluator’s comments taken from the original MACCS assessment and they will meet to finalize their decision.  The committee may either choose to:

  • to deny the appeal,
  • to grant an early MACCS retest, or
  • use the artifact as an alternative assessment and assign an ITAP level to it.

Appeals Committee

The Appeals Committee is an ad-hoc committee of faculty serving on Graduate Faculty Senate. Faculty from the student’s department may not serve on the Appeals Committee. Likewise, faculty who know the student may not serve on the Committee. The charge of the Appeals Committee is to review each ITAP Assessment Appeal Request and make a determination as noted above.

Once the Appeals Committee receives the materials for review, they will have 15 business days to make a determination. The department/program will be notified as soon as possible after a determination is made.

Assessment Alternatives for Students

(1) TOEFL iBT or IELTS speaking scores less than 2 years old can be substituted for a language assessment.

TOEFL (IELTS) Speaking ScoreITAP Proficiency LevelTA/GI ResponsibilitiesITAP Course Recommended
28-30 (8.5, 9)4Graduate InstructorN/A
26-27 (8.0)3Recitation, Discussion, or Advanced Lab LeaderGRAD 9304
24-25 (7.5)2Laboratory AssistantGRAD 7303
23 (7.0)2P (Provisional)Laboratory AssistantGRAD 7302

The department needs to contact ITAP about the student to be exempted and ITAP will confirm their scores through MyZou. Please note: this is an exemption of the language assessment only; it does not exempt an incoming student with a teaching assistantship or graduate instructor responsibilities from participating in the required orientation and early feedback program.

(2) This path is designed for TAs who have Level 3 course responsibilities and whose program or department is seeking Level 4 status. The goal of this path is to allow students to have their English language communicative skills assessed in a more natural, intuitive environment (i.e., their own classroom with undergraduate students present).

Applicants will submit the Alternative Path Application and a video with high quality audio of them leading an entire class session (at least 45 minutes). There should be multiple examples of prepared and spontaneous speech (e.g., answering questions from students) and it should demonstrate the applicant’s ability to provide clear explanations and ideas that are supported with data and course content. The evaluation tool uses the same rubric and external evaluators as the MACCS test. The application and related documentation should be sent directly to the ITAP Coordinator.

Oral English Language Development

ITAP encourages all non-native English speaking graduate students to practice English speaking and listening skills with peers, faculty, and MU undergraduates through informal conversation, academic activities and more intensive programs and classes.

Because language skills improve best through the consistent, focused effort of the classroom experience, the ITAP program offers three courses with a focus on classroom communicative skills. These courses open to all international graduate students who want to improve their oral communication and presentation skills, have TA/GI responsibilities, and are preparing for future professional activities. Students interested in enrolling in an ITAP course must complete the ITAP application and return it to the ITAP office.

  • GRAD 7302: Tools for Teaching American Students (required for students with  a Level 2P (Provisional) language assessment who are performing Level 2 TA responsibilities. When the course is completed successfully, the language assessment result will be amended to reflect that all provisions have been met; the student may continue to work at Level 2 with no additional requirements.)
  • GRAD 7303: Communication and Culture for American College Teaching (recommended for those with a Level 2 language assessment)
  • GRAD 9304: Instructional and Communicative Strategies for Effective College Teaching (required for students with  a Level 3P (Provisional) language assessment who are performing Level 3 TA responsibilities. When the course is completed successfully, the language assessment result will be amended to reflect that all provisions have been met; the student may continue to work at Level 3 with no additional requirements. This course is also recommended for students with  a Level 3 language assessment)

All courses are graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory and will appear on students’ transcripts. No tuition is assessed for these courses. Although these courses are listed in MyZou as zero credit hours, the workload is equivalent to a 3 credit course and should be considered as part of a student’s academic training and responsibilities.

There are also a wide variety of language-development opportunities at Mizzou, including through the Center for English Language Learning, and in the larger Columbia community.

Graduate Teaching Orientation (GTO) for Teaching Assistants & Graduate Instructors

GTO takes place during the week prior the start of any regular semester. This orientation is required for all  graduate students before the first semester of teaching or assisting with teaching at MU.

At the orientation, participants will:

  • Review principles of effective teaching, including communication strategies
  • Develop familiarity with classroom and lab culture
  • Apply principles in microteaching sessions

Orientation instructors include expert faculty, staff, and experienced graduate instructors and teaching assistants.

Contact ITAP for more information.

New students will receive an invitation prior to the start of the semester with a link for registration. Academic departments may enroll returning international graduate students who have not yet taught in GTO through the ITAP Canvas site. Please contact ITAP for more information.

Residency Requirement Waiver

Waiving the residency requirement

Missouri law and University policy require that international teaching assistants (ITAs) meet language and teaching orientation requirements in order to teach at the University of Missouri. International graduate students are also required to have completed at least one semester at a public college or university in Missouri before taking a teaching appointment. Under certain conditions the chancellor can waive the residency requirement. ITAP can request a waiver from the chancellor on behalf of an ITA.

Waivers are not automatically granted and they are given only under the following conditions:

  1. The international student received a language assessment and has strong language skills for the type of teaching assignment they are receiving.
  2. The international student attended Graduate Teaching Orientation (GTO) prior to the beginning of the semester they are to start teaching.
  3. Representatives of the hiring academic department have provided evidence of the ITAs experience with the U.S. postsecondary classroom.

In order to be considered for a waiver, the student must complete testing and the program must submit the waiver request at least two weeks prior to the start of the semester.

Hiring Department Responsibilities

Hiring departments and programs interested in having international graduate students teach or assist with instruction are responsible for the following:

  • Registering students enrolled before August 2022 for assessment and orientation through the ITAP Canvas page. Departments should contact if they need to be added to this site.
  • Ensuring the student completed a language assessment through the ITAP program and that the results are appropriate for the duties of the position
  • Ensuring the student has completed GTO before they take on their duties
  • Ensuring the student does not teach or assist with instruction in their first semester at Mizzou without an approved waiver
  • Strongly encouraging the student’s ongoing professional development activities, such as enrolling in ITAP courses.