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International Teaching Fellows Testing & Training

A student talks as his classmate listens

The ALP offers specialized language and teacher training for International Teaching Fellows (ITFs) earning their doctoral degrees through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

GSAS requires all departments with ITFs whose first language is not English to have them screened by the ALP in order to ascertain their readiness to begin their teaching duties. See section A.3 of the Graduate Student Teaching Guidelines


Placement into the advanced level training course is determined by testing of spoken English.

Online Screening Test

During orientation week in Fall, the ALP runs a 30-minute proctored screening test. This test screens out those who do not need our support, and indicates those who would clearly benefit from it.

The screening test is computer-based and requires test-takers to respond to four scenarios by speaking.  Responses are rated by trained ALP faculty on the basis of intelligibility, sociolinguistic ability, grammar and vocabulary, and effective task completion.

Test-takers with low scores on this screening test are advised to take the ITF training course, in accordance with the GSAS guidelines. Those with high scores are waived.  Those with mid-range scores are asked to return for a face-to-face teaching demonstration.

Face-to-face Teaching Demonstration

During week one of the fall semester, the ALP further tests ITFs with mid-range scores on the screening test. This second test provides a final determination as to whether the course would be beneficial.

The teaching demonstration consists of a brief unscored introduction, an explanation of part of a syllabus, and a prepared presentation.  The syllabus excerpt is provided to test-takers when they arrive for the test, and they have 5 minutes to plan how they will present it.  The prepared presentation is a 10-minute explanation of an introductory concept in their field. This presentation is prepared by the test-takers in advance. Test-takers have access to a blackboard for visual support.

Two trained ALP faculty members are present for the teaching demo.  They interact with the student, asking questions and requesting clarification as students might during a recitation or office hours.  They simultaneously rate the student’s pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, rhetorical organization, and question-handling.

Test-takers whose scores fall below 7.5 on a 10-point scale are advised to take the ITF training course, in accordance with the GSAS guidelines.

Training Course

Course description

The purpose of the course is to help ITFs to be effective teachers and participants in academic life within their departments and across the university community. In class, ITFs will study and practice pronunciation, including individual sounds, stress in words, rhythm, and intonation in order to improve intelligibility in a global English context.  They also study and practice teaching techniques, conversation and discussion skills, cross-cultural communication strategies, and presentation skills.  Presentations and practice activities in class, as well as recorded homework assignments, help ITFs progress toward the learning objectives.  Extensive feedback is given in class, on assignments, and in individual meetings with the instructor.  If an ITF is teaching during the semester that they take the course, the instructor will visit the lab/recitation/office hour and provide detailed feedback on teaching to the ITF.

This course is pass/fail and non-credit. The final exam is a face-to-face teaching demonstration.

Dates and Times

ITF training classes meet twice per week during the Fall and Spring semesters.

Those beginning their teaching duties in the current academic year are prioritized for the Fall classes.

Class time varies depending on demand, but there is usually one section offered in the evenings.

Classes begin in week two of the semester, and final examinations take place during reading week.


Only those ITFs directed by their department are eligible for testing and instruction at the ALP. Talk to your departmental advisor if you are not sure if you are included.


This course is tuition-free and is funded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. 

For More Information


For questions about ITF testing and instruction, please contact the ALP’s Assistant Director, Evan Chan: cme2122 [[at]] columbia [[dot]] edu (cme2122[at]columbia[dot]edu) or the Associate Director for Curriculum and Assessment, Maria McCormack: mm624 [[at]] columbia [[dot]] edu (mm624[at]columbia[dot]edu) 

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