Institute for International Teaching Assistants

Institute for International Teaching Assistants

ITA Institute Participants

Above: 51 students from 15 countries participated in the 2018 Summer Institute for International TAs.

2024 ITA Institute Dates

ITA app opens

April 1 — how to apply


August 5-16

Final assessments

Aug 15-16

Fall classes begin

August 26

About the Institute

In keeping with its commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has established a minimum level of English language proficiency for all international graduate students with instructional assignments. International graduate students for whom English is not their native language and who expect to receive instructional assignments must successfully complete the Institute for International Teaching Assistants.

The Institute prepares international graduate teaching assistants from various UNL departments to teach American undergraduates. Participants attend a two-week intensive training program that focuses on instructional strategies, classroom management and active learning, English pronunciation and intonation, and cross-cultural communication. Morning sessions are devoted to teaching and language development, while the afternoon sessions consist of micro-teaching practice where participants receive immediate feedback on their teaching skills from ITA faculty, undergraduate students, and ITA peers.

The Institute requires a genuine commitment to participate and to be successful. Students are expected to be on time and attend all sessions. Students whose attendance, participation, or performance during the Institute is below standard may be dropped from the program.

For more information on the ITA Institute, contact Lisa Rohde.

Eligibility and application

Who participates in the Institute

If the student is or was required to submit evidence of English proficiency to Graduate Studies as part of their admission to graduate study — i.e., English is not the student's native language and the student has not completed a degree from a US college or university — the student must complete the Institute and be certified as "ready to teach" by a final panel before the student can be appointed as a graduate teaching assistant.

Eligibility for employment as a teaching assistant is determined by Graduate Studies and the employing department after the international graduate student is certified "ready to teach" by the final panel. Academic departments will determine who they would like to offer TA positions to and help identify who should complete this training.

To be eligible for the ITA Institute, applicants must:

  • Have international student status
  • Be admitted to UNL Graduate Studies
  • Be recommended by their department chair/head, graduate chair, or TA supervisor
  • Score at least 22 on the TOEFL iBT speaking section or 6.5 on the IELTS speaking section
    • Students with a TOEFL iBT speaking score of 18 to 21 may be granted eligibility on the basis of an oral interview. To schedule an oral interview, contact Lisa Rohde.
    • Students who score below 18 are not eligible and must seek further language training before they can attend the Institute.
    • Duolingo scores will be accepted but will generally require an oral interview before being officially admitted to the program.

How to apply

ITA Institute applications are completed and submitted online by a department representative. Applications are not accepted from students.

For instructions and a link to the application contact Lisa Rohde. We begin accepting applications in early April.


A waiver from attending the Institute can be granted if the student

  1. Receives a 28 or higher on the speaking section of the TOEFL iBT (or 8.5 on the IELTS)
  2. Receives a recommendation based on a final panel presentation
  3. Either
    1. Has successful teaching experience at a U.S. college or university, documented by a letter from their former supervisor
    2. Is enrolled in a college teaching related course that is equivalent to the Institute

   ITA Waiver Request Form

Requests for waivers must be submitted in writing by a student's academic department chair or graduate chair. Students who receive a waiver for the Institute must still complete a final panel and be certified as ready to teach.

Completion and follow-up

Final panel

To be considered for a teaching assignment by their departments, ITA candidates must be considered "ready to teach" by a panel consisting of a faculty member from the candidate's department, an ESL rater, a faculty person from an unrelated department, a faculty person with teaching expertise, and an undergraduate student. Candidates present a 10-minute lesson on a topic assigned by their departments. Candidates who demonstrate spoken English proficiency and the ability to present their topic in a clear and organized fashion are judged ready for a teaching assignment.

If not ready: If a student is not recommended as “ready to teach” by the final panel, a department may file an appeal with the ITA coordinator and request an opportunity for the student to make a second panel presentation. If the department chooses not to file an appeal, the student is encouraged to either seek further language training or get help with his or her teaching skills. The department should contact the ITA coordinator for more information.

If ready: Departments determine the type of assignment an ITA receives. Common assignments include grader, tutor, laboratory assistant, and recitation leader. In some cases, ITAs are given full responsibility for a class. Each department exercises its own judgment about content readiness and sets its own standards for performance in the classroom. Although Institute graduates are not guaranteed a student contact assignment, approximately 80 percent of the students who are recommended receive assignments during the following year.


When requested by departments, the Office of Graduate Studies provides detailed follow-up for any Institute participant who receives a classroom-teaching assignment at the conclusion of the Institute (summer and fall).

Classroom observations are conducted and student surveys used to provide the new ITA feedback on his or her language, teaching, and intercultural skills. One-on-one consultation focuses on the ITA's strengths and areas for improvement, identifying areas needed attention, and when appropriate, alternative teaching strategies.

Departments interested in this follow-up should contact Graduate Studies to schedule visits and consultations. Follow-up visits are normally scheduled for approximately five weeks after the semester begins.

Frequently asked questions

Is the ITA Institute mandatory?
Yes. See eligibility and requirements.
How is an ITA's eligibility for the Institute determined?
The speaking score from the TOEFL iBT or IELTS is used.  See eligibility details.
What if an ITA does not meet the required score?
Students with marginal scores may be granted eligibility based on an oral interview; students with low scores will be required to seek further language training. See eligibility details.
How often is the ITA Institute offered?
The summer Institute is offered during the last week of July and the first two weeks of August.
How are the panel recommendations made?
The student presents a 10-minute lesson to a panel of three faculty members, an ESL rater, and an undergraduate student.  The panel determines whether the student can be certified "ready to teach". See panel details.
What if an ITA is not recommended by the final panel?
A department may file an appeal; otherwise the student is encouraged to seek further training.  See panel details.
Who determines an ITA's eligibility for employment?
Graduate Studies and the employing department after the student is certified "ready to teach" by the final panel.  See completion information.
When does a waiver apply?
Waivers from attending the Institute can be granted by the Associate Director of Teaching and Research Development or the Associate Dean of Professional Development. See waiver policy and request form.
Does an ITA who is granted a waiver still have to make a final panel presentation?
Yes. See waiver policy.
What developmental support is available to new ITAs in their classroom assignments?
At the request of the department, an instructional consultant will follow up with a new ITA roughly five weeks into the semester.  See follow-up information.
Who staffs the ITA Institute?
The ITA program, which generally enrolls 35-60 participants, is staffed by two full-time teaching skills instructors and two ESL instructors. Student assistants, one graduate and one undergraduate, help facilitate microteaching sessions and give feedback. Additional undergraduate students are recruited to serve as “classroom consultants” who give feedback to the ITA candidates.
Who sponsors the ITA Institute?
The summer ITA Institute is funded and administered by the Office of Graduate Studies.