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Policy 5.2: Conditions of Appointment for TAs who are not Native Speakers of English

As stated in Section 3 of Executive Order 28 and Policy 5.1, the University expects that newly appointed Teaching Assistants (TAs) receive appropriate training, supervision and support. Graduate students who are not native speakers of English as indicated in the applicant profile may be appointed as TAs with teaching duties if the student fulfills the three requirements below.

Teaching duties are defined as direct interactions with students for instructional issues. Examples include: holding office hours; reviewing test or paper scores with students; working with students one-to-one in study centers, such as writing, mathematics, chemistry, etc.; tutoring; conducting labs; leading discussions; helping students solve problem sets; commenting on studio work; lecturingm.

5.2.1     Requirements

The following requirements must be satisfied before receiving the graduate appointment with teaching duties.

1. Meet the general English language proficiency (ELP) requirement as stated in Policy 3.2.

2. Meet the additional spoken English language proficiency requirement in one of the five following ways:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States, or hold a bachelor’s degree from an institution in Australia, the Bahamas, Canada, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, or the United Kingdom, where English is the medium of instruction. While enrolled at the degree-granting school, the student must be in residence on campus. (Note: A master’s degree does not satisfy this requirement).
  • Hold a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Juris Doctor (JD) from a regionally accredited institution located in the United States where English is the medium of instruction.
  • Demonstrate spoken English proficiency with a test score on file at the University of Washington of at least:
    • 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL-iBT
    • 7.0 on the speaking section of the IELTS
  • Pass a one-time appeal interview. If a student has one of the scores below on file with the University of Washington, a graduate program can submit an online request for a one-time appeal interview.
    • 23-25 on the speaking section of the TOEFL-iBT.
    • 6.0-6.5 on the speaking section of the IELTS
    • Note: students who have not satisfied the general English proficiency requirements as stated in Policy 3.2 are not eligible for an appeal interview.
    • An appeal candidate must receive an overall score of 34 (out of a possible 45) points to pass and be immediately eligible to assume TA responsibilities without taking ENGL 105.
  • Pass English 105. This course is designed specifically for International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) and is offered by UW’s Academic English Program (AEP). While a student is completing English language proficiency requirements, that student can be assigned teaching duties that do not include direct interaction with students. Such duties can include, but are not limited to, grading, setting up labs, preparing instructional materials, running equipment in classrooms.

3. TAs who are not native speakers of English as indicated in the applicant profile and do not hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States are required to participate in additional TA-specific training from the Center for Teaching & Learning prior to the TA appointment. See the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Teaching@UW: Strategies for TAs for details.

5.2.2     Exceptions

An academic unit teaching modern spoken languages may apply to the Graduate School for a program-level waiver to #2 under Policy 5.2.1 that may be used for specific graduate students enrolled in a doctoral program when the following two conditions are met:

  • the teaching assistant’s teaching duties are conducted exclusively in a non-English target language of the academic unit
  • the teaching assistant is a native speaker of the language of the assigned courses. Requirements #1 and #3 of the general policy must still be met.

Policy 5.2 revised: December 2021

Policy 5.2.1, section 3 revised: February 2023

Policy 5.2 and 5.2.1 revised: August 2023

Policy 5.1: Departmental Responsibilities Regarding Instruction by TAs

Ensuring the quality of instruction offered by UW Teaching Assistants is not solely the responsibility of individual TAs, but also involves responsibilities and activities at the levels of the department, the school or college, the Graduate School, and the university.

This policy describes and delineates the minimum responsibilities that the Graduate School expects of departments for supporting and assessing instruction by TAs during the first two quarters of teaching, and makes explicit the methods by which TAs and the TA’s students can provide input to these processes.

5.1.1     Departmental Procedures

  • Training and supervision: In keeping with Executive Order 28, all TAs are to receive appropriate training and close faculty supervision while performing TA duties.
  • For TAs assigned to labs, studios, study centers, quiz sections, and those who teach their own courses, supervision is to include at least one observation by supervising faculty as early as possible during each of the TA’s first two quarters of teaching at UW. The purpose of this observation is to confirm that TAs are teaching content competently, to provide guidance regarding content, presentation, and student involvement, and to assess TAs’ needs for further training or assistance. Criteria for teaching competence and procedures for observations are to be determined by each department.
  • If the observer concludes that the TA is not meeting departmental criteria for teaching competence, then supervising faculty will work with the TA to determine a specific, written plan for addressing the TA’s teaching difficulties. To the extent that funding permits, possible options include:
    • Increase training, observation, and/or supervision by a faculty member or experienced TA mentor.
    • Employ a more experienced teacher to team teach with the TA.
    • In exceptional cases where other responses cannot adequately address the issues that have been identified, re-assign the TA to another role. Acquire a more experienced teacher to fill the role from which the TA was removed, and provide additional training to prepare the TA for re-assignment during subsequent quarters.

Supervising faculty should follow up on the specific plan during that quarter, and at the end of the quarter, should confirm the extent to which the plan was followed and what results were achieved.

5.1.2     Informing TAs of Departmental Procedures

  • Criteria for teaching competence and procedures for observations are to be determined by each department and are to be communicated to the TA prior to the observation, at the beginning of the quarter. Departments are also to specify procedures by which TAs can give input to the observation process, and if they choose, appeal the outcomes of any decisions based on observations.
  • Reports to TAs in the TA’s first two quarters of teaching: By the end of the fourth week of the following quarter, departments will provide the TA with a report summarizing the TA’s performance of TA duties. Departments are to use departmental forms for these reports.

5.1.3     Informing Students How to Communicate Concerns about TAs

  • In all classes in which TAs are assigned teaching duties, departments are to make explicit to students a policy regarding student responsibilities and specific procedures to follow if they are having trouble working with or understanding the TAs.
  • Teaching duties are defined as interactions with students over instructional issues. Examples of teaching duties include holding office hours, reviewing tests or paper scores/evaluations with students, answering questions in special centers such as those focused on assistance with writing, math, chemistry, etc., tutoring, conducting labs, leading discussions, assisting students to solve problem sets, commenting on studio work, or lecturing.
  • Departments should also specify the methods by which the policy will be communicated to students (for example, announced by the professor, included on the syllabus, posted in the department and on the web, etc.). The following example illustrates one way a department might choose to communicate with students, bearing in mind the importance of encouraging students to approach the TA first:
    • If you have any concerns about the class or your TA, please see the TA about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the TA or not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact (immediate supervisor) in (room number) (building), or at (phone or e-mail).
    • If you are still not satisfied with the response that you receive, you may contact (department chair) in (room number) (building) or at (phone or e-mail.) .
    • For your reference, these procedures are posted on the (name of department) Bulletin Board, next to the Departmental Office in (room number) (building).
  • It is up to departments to determine to what extent departmental communication to students addresses only instruction by TAs, instruction by both TAs and faculty, or broader issues in addition to instruction.

Policy 5.1 revised: January 2000; November 2010; December 2022