New center helps international
students polish their English skills
University has long helped international students pursue academic
success by offering courses to strengthen their English skills.
This summer, the program expanded its reach.
by the recommendations of the Virginia
2020 Commission on International Activities, the University
created the Center
for American English Language and Culture, which absorbed
the 20-year-old English as a Second Language program and broadened
its offerings. Growing numbers of international graduate students,
many of whom serve as teaching assistants, boosted demand for
English classes for non-native speakers over the past few years.
students who come to U.Va. generally have very high [Test of English
as a Foreign Language] scores, but many of them have strong accents
that hinder communication, said Dudley Doane, referring
to a standard exam administered to foreign students as part of
the application process. Doane recently took over as director
of the new institute, while Marion Ross, who ran the ESL program
for years, continues as the new programs academic director.
when international students enter at the graduate level, where
they are expected to teach whether small discussion groups,
science labs or one-on-one tutoring their ability to make
themselves understood in spoken English matters, Doane said.
demand for our programs has increased with the growth of U.Va.s
student body, both undergraduate and graduate, he said.
new Center for American English Language and Culture will take
over responsibility for the Speak test, which the
Teaching Resource Center has administered to about 100 international
students from across Grounds each year, Doane said. Based on their
scores on this test of spoken English, prospective TAs are assigned
to appropriate classes in oral English proficiency and teaching
skills. Those deemed fluent in English are excused from language
Teaching Resource Center
will continue to offer a selection of workshops and courses in
oral English and classroom skills to native and foreign-born instructors,
foreign students speak fluent English. Of the 15 percent
868 of graduate and first-professional students who are
international, just over 100 are currently enrolled in English
language classes through the new center, University officials
said. Those taking ESL classes come from all disciplines, Doane
over the impact of the spoken English abilities of foreign-born
teaching assistants on undergraduate education seems to be particularly
acute in engineering and the sciences. This fall, half of the
entering graduate students in physics were not native English
speakers, said Peter Arnold, assistant professor in physics and
graduate adviser for the department.
pay close attention to the spoken English of our foreign graduate
student TAs who have a wide range of competence, from perfectly
fluent to very much in need of improvement, Arnold said.
Based on the results of the Speak test, our
foreign graduate students take whatever courses, if any, the Teaching
Resource Centers International TA program recommends. That
seems to work pretty well for us.
nearly half of the 600 graduate students in the School
of Engineering and Applied Science are international, according
to Kathryn Thornton, assistant dean for graduate programs, and
J. Milton Adams, associate dean for academics. With a 30 percent
increase in the Engineering Schools undergraduate population
in recent years, the demand for skilled graduate teaching assistants
Engineering School teamed with the Teaching Resource Center and
the Center for American English Language and Culture to create
new classes this fall to meet its burgeoning needs. With the Teaching
Resource Center, the Engineering School has designed a semester-long
class Engineering 897 (for M.S. students) and 997 (for
Ph.D. students) coordinated by William McAllister and taught
by award-winning teachers on the Engineering School faculty. The
course helps prepare graduate teaching assistants for classroom
teaching, with emphasis on the demands of engineering classes.
the Center for American English Language and Culture, the school
created Linguistics 107, Oral Communications for Engineers, a
non-credit course that helps graduate engineering students develop
the oral communication skills they need to succeed academically.
new E.S.L. classes this fall include:
Writing 107 aids international undergraduates in the College
of Arts & Sciences in meeting their English writing requirement
offers students at the McIntire School of Commerce opportunities
to develop their skills in oral communication, especially for
Linguistics 110 concentrates on accent modification for
international graduate students slated to be teaching assistants
whose foreign accents are so strong they interfere with communication.
new classes, which were launching in cooperation with the
Engineering School, could be expanded and tailored to other departments
as we move forward, Doane said.