The William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) administers the SPEAK (Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit) Test to all international graduate students whose first language is not English. The SPEAK Test must be taken prior to the beginning of a student’s assignment as a graduate teaching assistant (GTA).
The test is administered year round, but most incoming students take it during fall orientation week. Students are encouraged to take the SPEAK Test as early as possible after they arrive on campus so that if they do not pass the test and need to improve their English language skills, there will be adequate time to do so before departments make funding decisions for the following year. Practice SPEAK Tests are available for students to review prior to taking the actual test. Students wanting to take the test should contact the Center for an appointment.
The SPEAK Tests are administered and evaluated by trained CTL staff. Students who do not pass the test may not take it again. Instead, they are referred to the International Graduate Teaching Assistants Assistance Program (IGTAAP) for help in improving their English skills, presentation strategies, and cultural understanding. The IGTAAP has many resources for increasing vocabulary, improving pronunciation, understanding slang and idioms, and practicing conversation. In working one-on-one and in small groups with undergraduate coaches, the international graduate students gain insight into what students from the United States expect from their instructors. IGTAAP is coordinated by Sylvia Matthews in the Humanities Writing Center and is supported by the CTL for this purpose.
IGTAAP has many requirements that are clearly explained to the students who are referred to this program. Once those requirements are met, the student can schedule a mini-lesson presentation which is observed by a committee consisting of a faculty member (or designee) from the student's home department, an undergraduate student whose first language is English (preferably one majoring in the graduate student's home department), and a representative from the CTL. The committee must reach a consensus that the candidate is ready for instructional duties for the student to receive a "pass" on the mini-lesson. However, if the observers feel that the student's English skills need further improvement, the committee can make a variety of recommendations to the department chair—all of which include the student’s continuing with IGTAAP. In either case, "pass" or "continue work", a letter will be sent to the student's home department chair with the committee's recommendations.
Because the SPEAK Test is a test of conversational English, passing it provides only partial assurance that the student will perform adequately in an instructional setting. The ultimate responsibility for assuring a GTA's adequacy in classroom teaching rests with the academic units. And in all cases, funding decisions rest with the academic units and the Graduate School.
Please contact the Center for Teaching and Learning:
- Phone -- 487-2046
- Email -- Contact Gay Schultz at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Our office -- 219 in the Van Pelt & Opie Library
We can provide you with more information about the SPEAK Test and arrange a time to take the test.