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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

All international students are unique in their linguistic backgrounds and experiences. If you are not from a country on the exemptions and waivers list (where English is the native language) but are a long-time speaker of English or have recently attended a university in the U.S., you may fill out this alternative assessment request form to provide more information about your linguistic background. Once reviewed, you will receive an email from the ITAP coordinator to schedule a conversation via Zoom to determine if you are eligible for exemption from a structured, formal assessment in order to be a teaching assistant or graduate instructor. If you are determined to have native-like oral English skills, you will need to participate in Graduate Teaching Orientation (GTO) before you start teaching. If you are not, then you will need to be registered by your department for formal assessment.

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 language assessment via Zoom each month.

Students cannot register to take the MACCS directly. They should contact their DGS or departmental contact who will then register them. 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., 2.5, 3.5). 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 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 four months before being reassessed. 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.

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 8300
24-25 (7.5)2Laboratory AssistantGRAD 8200
23 (7.0)1.5Laboratory AssistantGRAD 8100

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.

(2) This path is designed for TAs who have already taught at ITAP Language Level 3 in an undergraduate, for-credit class for an entire semester (in roles such as leading recitations, discussion sections, or studio classes) and whose program or department is seeking Level 4 status for the TA to teach independently as a Graduate Instructor. 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 8100: Graduate and Professional Communication Strategies for Global English Speakers-I. This class focuses on the development of complete clauses and sentences that incorporate linguistic strategies for clearer articulation with more effortless language production. It provides strategies for effective oral explanations of concepts, procedures, and methods for reinforcing/organizing ideas. This course is appropriate for ITAP level 1.5 (formerly 2P) students wishing to concurrently hold office hours or lead a basic laboratory. It is also appropriate for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who wish to improve their language skills. This course is listed as zero credit hours for the purposes of billing; however, the workload is equivalent to a 3 credit course. Consult your advisor and/or international center about recommended number of hours to take in addition to this class. Graded on S/U basis only. Click here for more information or to request permission to enroll in this course.
  • GRAD 8200: Graduate and Professional Communication Strategies for Global English Speakers-II. This class emphasizes development of rhythm and pitch in oral communication, and compensation strategies to increase Global English efficacy when exchanging messages between listeners and speakers. It provides information on student-centered learning, teacher engagement, and overview of learning objectives in the context of creating a teaching presentation. It explains the process of facilitating discussion in the classroom and the mechanics of language for Global English Speakers during discussions. This course is appropriate for ITAP level 2 students wishing to improve their communicative skills to take on TA positions to lead recitations, discussion or review sessions, or studio classes. It is also appropriate for others seeking to improve fluency and ease of interaction for professional development. Click here for more information or to request permission to enroll in this course.
  • GRAD 8300: Graduate and Professional Communication Strategies for Global English Speakers-III This class focuses on the development of extended speech including phrasing, mood, and complex grammatical structures. It provides strategies to tailor speech to specific audiences including varying structure, vocabulary, grammar, and tone to engage, structure, interact, and inform. It includes strategies to identify and navigate difficult situations in the classroom. This course is appropriate for ITAP level 2.5 (formerly 3P) students wishing to concurrently lead recitations, discussions, reviews, or studio classes. It is also appropriate for graduate students/postdoctoral scholars who wish to improve their interpersonal communication and interactive presentation skills for professional development. This course is listed as zero credit hours for the purposes of billing; however, the workload is equivalent to a 3 credit course. Consult your advisor and/or international center about recommended number of hours to take in addition to this class. Graded on S/U basis only. Click here for more information or to request permission to enroll in this course.

All courses 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 should provide returning international graduate students who have not yet completed GTO with this web address for upcoming events. Please contact ITAP if you have any questions.

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 restricted from a teaching appointment during their first semester of enrollment at an accredited public college or university in the state of Missouri. 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 four 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:

  • 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.