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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/cultural requirements for teaching assistants, graduate instructors and postdoctoral teaching scholars.


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

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 or postdoctoral scholar start date (e.g., during a campus visit, summer).

ITAP provides on-campus, computer-assisted assessment called the MACCS (Mizzou’s Assessment of Classroom Communication Skills.) Students will be given resources to prepare for the assessment and a practice test when they are enrolled for testing.

The MACCS is given each month and additional dates are provided at the end of each semester. When testing must be expedited, ITAP will work with academic departments to accommodate their needs.


Please note that students cannot enroll themselves. Academic departments must enroll international graduate students in ONITA through the ITAP Canvas site. Please contact ITAP at or 573-884-1762 with any questions.


Assessment results are given as a proficiency level from 1 to 4. A minimum of 2P is needed in order to qualify for a teaching-related role (roles vary based upon proficiency levels). 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. The presentation should include in-depth explanations of concepts or ideas.  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

TOEFL iBT speaking scores less than 2 years old can be substituted for a language assessment.

TOEFL (IELTS) Speaking Score ITAP Proficiency Level TA/GI Responsibilities ITAP Course Recommended
28-30 (8.5, 9) 4 Graduate Instructor N/A
26-27 (8.0) 3 Recitation, Discussion, or Advanced Lab Leader GRAD 9304
24-25 (7.5) 2 Laboratory Assistant GRAD 7303
23 (7.0) 2P Laboratory Assistant GRAD 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.

Students with a Level 3 language assessment and two semesters of end-of-semester student evaluations with at least 4.00/5.00 average for ”overall teaching effectiveness” and “communication of subject matter,” may apply for the “Alternative Path to a Level 4.” To learn more about this program or to apply, please see the Alternative Path Application Form. The form and related documentation should be sent directly to the ITAP Coordinator.

Oral English Language Development

ITAP encourages all non-native English speaking graduate students and postdocs 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 dual focus on explicit oral-language development and classroom cultural/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 those with Level 2P language assessment)
  • GRAD 7303: Communication and Culture for American College Teaching (recommended for those with Level 2 language assessment)
  • GRAD 9304: Instructional and Communicative Strategies for Effective College Teaching (recommended for those with Level 3 language assessment)

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.

Orientation for New International Teaching Assistants (ONITA) & Graduate Instructors

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

Orientation Activities

At the orientation, participants will:

  • Review principles of effective teaching
  • Develop familiarity with the cultural expectations of most U.S. college classes/labs and the communication strategies
  • Apply principles in microteaching sessions

Orientation instructors include expert faculty and instructors, experienced international graduate instructors and those with teaching assistantships (ITAs), and MU undergraduate students. Participants have found the orientation sessions to be extremely helpful in preparing for their actual teaching assignments.

Although attendance is strongly encouraged, in rare circumstances, ONITA can be successfully completed online. Contact ITAP for more information.

Orientation Registration

Academic departments must enroll international graduate students in ONITA through the ITAP Canvas site. Please contact ITAP at or 573-884-1762 with any questions.

ITAP Early Feedback

ITAP provides several programs to support new ITAs as they begin teaching. These programs are confidential and not shared with the ITA’s academic program.

Support programs include:

  • Early feedback on teaching
  • A videotaped teaching observation
  • An individual consultation on teaching (for new and experienced ITAs)

ITAP staff members use these programs as tools to guide ITAs in evaluating their own performance and offer suggestions for teaching development and improvement. In addition, ITAs may use the consultation time to discuss any topics related to their teaching in a confidential environment.

Early feedback and teaching consultation

All first-semester and second-semester ITAs must participate in ITAP’s Early Feedback program before the end of the fifth week of teaching as a continuation of their required orientation. Feedback will be solicited via a survey from undergraduate students in the ITA’s class. After the close of the survey, ITAP will meet individually with the ITA to review the feedback in a confidential environment. This gives the ITA the ability to reflect on teaching effectiveness and consider ways to become a stronger instructor.

ITAP will review the feedback with the ITA in a confidential environment. This gives the ITA the ability to reflect on teaching effectiveness and comprehensibility.

Class or lab observation and teaching consultation

ITAP video records new and experienced ITAs and reviews videos with them. The decision to require video evaluation and review may stem from low early feedback, a course/practicum requirement, or a request by the ITA or the department for which the student is an ITA.


ITAP is happy to support all international students. However, those who have had their entire primary and secondary education in a nation or territory listed below, where English is considered the primary language, are not required to be assessed or attend ONITA. Students who have completed a postsecondary degree (including a graduate degree) in the USA are also not required to attend ONITA.

Antigua and Barbuda





Canada (except Quebec)






New Zealand

St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Lucia

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Trinidad and Tobago



Residency Requirement Waiver

Waiving the residency requirement

Missouri law and University policy require that international teaching assistants (ITAs) meet language and cultural 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 the Orientation for New International Teaching Assistants (ONITA) prior to the beginning of the semester they are to begin teaching.
  3. Representatives of the hiring academic department have provided evidence of the ITAs experience with the culture of the U.S. university classroom.

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

Hiring Department Responsibilities

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

  • Registering students/postdocs for assessment and orientation through the ITAP Canvas page (Departments should contact if they need to be added to this organization.) (N.B., Postdocs are not required to participate in ONITA.)
  • Ensuring the student/postdoc 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 ONITA: the Orientation for New International Teaching Assistants before they take on their duties
  • Ensuring the student/postdoc does not teach or assist with instruction in their first semester at Mizzou without a waiver of the residency requirement
  • Ensuring the student/postdoc is enrolled in ongoing professional development activities, such as the ITAP Early Feedback Program
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