Talking Matters

Key Information

Talking Matters: Research on Talk and Communication of International Teaching Assistants, Edited by Greta Gorsuch

2015 [ISBN: 1-58107-284-8; 382 pages, 6 x 9, soft cover] $39.95


TMB1covWPInternational Teaching Assistants are (largely) Chinese, Indian, and Korean biology, chemistry, math, and physics graduate students in the U.S. and Canada who are supported by teaching undergraduate courses in their areas of study. In 2010, their numbers increased to 242,061 in the U.S. and they comprised 15.5% of all graduate students. Many undergraduate science, math, and engineering courses are taught by ITAs. Indeed, ITAs make undergraduate education possible, and as instructional faculty are active contributors to the learning of North American undergraduates.

ITAs teach in English, which is often their second language. This presents formidable challenges for ITAs’ ability to engage in sustained talk and communication as they explain difficult content and manage classrooms in an educational culture different from their own. Talking Matters authors take ITA research into new areas using new perspectives with the purpose of improving the communication skills of ITAs and undergraduates, thus enhancing undergraduate learning outcomes.

The book:

  1. Showcases recent applied research on the professional talk and communication of ITAs, and their interactions with undergraduates.
  2. Was developed for on-the-ground use by ITA educators, faculty members in academic departments, and other staff members charged with ITA support.
  3. Includes “In a Nutshell” sections which highlight action points that can be taken on the basis of each chapter’s findings and recommendations.
  4. Provides photocopiable learning materials offered by chapter authors.

The Contents

Introduction: International Teaching Assistants Learning to Talk in Academic Departments

What Academic Departments and ITA Programs Need to Do

Contributors, Reviewers, and Acknowledgements

Part One: ITAs’ Talk in and out of Classrooms

Spoken Parentheticals in Instructional Discourse in STEM and Non-STEM Disciplines: The Interaction of the Prosodic, Ideational, and Interpersonal Resources in Signaling Information Structure

Achieving Successful Instructional Interaction in a Chemistry Laboratory: Participant Perspectives

Interaction and Discourse Markers in the ITA-led Physics Laboratory

>Classroom Learning Material: The Location and Function of Okay and So Worksheet

Judgments of Non-standard Segmental Sounds and International Teaching Assistants’ Spoken Proficiency Levels

Cohesion and Perceived Proficiency in ITA Oral Communication across Engineering and the Sciences

>Classroom Learning Material: Sample Lab Procedure

>Classroom Learning Material: Schema for Explanation Plus Example

Part Two: University Community Entry and Creating Contexts for ITAs’ Talk and Participation

Communication Enhancement Through Positive Contact Activities Between International Teaching Assistants and U.S. Undergraduate Students

ITAs’ Perceptions of ITA Teaching and Training: The Importance of Ongoing and Contextualized Training and Mentoring Programs

A Study of International Teaching Assistant Recruitment Practices in Academic Departments

Working with International Graduate Students as New Instructors in a Chemistry Department During a Department-specific Summer Orientation
Supporting International Teaching Assistants: A Benchmarking Study of Administrative and Organizational Structures

Part Three: ITAs, Tests, and Language Politics

Native and Non-native English Speaking ITA Performance Test Raters: Do They Rate ITA Candidates Differently?



The Editor

Greta Gorsuch is a Professor of Applied Linguistics & Second Language Studies at Texas Tech University, and has researched educational programs and ITA education for fifteen years. Her publications have appeared in English for Specific Purposes, Journal of Faculty Development, The Journal of Graduate Teaching Assistant Development, and Education Policy Analysis Archives, among others. She edited Working Theories for Teaching Assistant Development (New Forums Press, 2012) and has guest edited special issues of System and TESL-EJ.

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