On-Campus/Zoom Evaluation of English Proficiency
NOTE: Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 language evaluations were conducted online via Zoom. The process largely remained the same as described.
Will your students be able to understand you? We need to know. Any international graduate student whose first language is not English must demonstrate proficiency in English before assuming teaching responsibilities, as mandated by the state of California ( Assembly Concurrent Resolution #41 of 1987). Potential international teaching assistants (ITAs) who have not demonstrated proficiency with a TOEFL iBT speaking subsection score of 26 or higher will participate in an on-campus test - a teaching demonstration - that takes approximately 20 minutes. You will not need to bring anything to the test facility when this is in person; we provide a whiteboard and markers for your use. The following information will help you know what to expect and how to prepare for this evaluation, with details for the Zoom version.
The test is divided into three sections, recreating classroom-teaching practices.
Step One (about 1-2 minutes, not graded):
- Introduce yourself, providing information that would be appropriate in a classroom (e.g., name, major, home country)
- Participate in small-talk with the audience (trained undergraduates and staff)
The first section requires no preparation on your part, but allows you time to relax and get comfortable with the audience.
Step Two (3-4 minutes, graded):
- Present course information from a syllabus provided to you ahead of time
- Answer student questions about that information
For the second section, we will provide you with a highlighted syllabus typical of a class you might be a TA for before the day of microteaching, just as you would have your syllabus before the first day of class. If you have any questions about the material you are to present, be sure to contact the ELI staff (ELI@ucmercedmedu) to assure you understand your responsibility for this segment. Be sure that your presentation covers the highlighted information on the syllabus. You should expect that the questioners might ask for clarification of a point, just as an undergraduate would if you were teaching. Your ability to handle the students' questions - even ones you don't know the answers to - will contribute to your overall score. If a question does not relate to the information you have in the syllabus, it will be acceptable to make up an answer (e.g., a professor’s phone number or office hours).
Step Three (7-8 minutes, graded):
- Present a mini-lesson from your field to a small group of undergraduates, as if you were teaching UC Merced undergraduates in a basic or entry-level course (This mini-lesson does not have to relate to any courses you have been assigned for the upcoming semester or to your PhD topic. YOU get to choose the topic.)
- Define/explain a term common in your field as part of the lesson
- Answer questions that would be typical of undergraduates in such a course
You should prepare this lesson carefully before your microteaching demo. For microteaching lessons conducted through Zoom, plan to turn on your video camera so the students can see you, and plan to share your screen. You may use the Zoom whiteboard, and/or up to five (5) PowerPoint slides to support your lesson. Plan to present on your basic topic for approximately 6-7 minutes, leaving 2 to 3 minutes at the end to answer the undergraduates’ questions. Remember, this is like an interactive class discussion section, not a conference presentation. Zoom microteaching demos will be recorded and available for you to view later in the semester by request.
During the last two steps, you will be evaluated for your English language ability. Both sections contribute equally to your score. For each section, you will be evaluated on these features:
- Speech flow (fluency)
- Vocabulary (not talking "above the heads" of students)
- Organization of your presentation
- Listening comprehension
- How well the students understand you
If you are one of the international TAs who need to do microteaching, you will receive your appointment time and location, as well as more detailed information about this test, at the beginning of August 2021, approximately two weeks before Graduate Orientation Week (GROW). This test, based on a microteaching language assessment developed at UCLA, together with your score on the TOEFL iBT, IELTS, or other proficiency exam, determines whether you will need additional language support before or while you work as a teaching assistant.
Spring 2021 Microteaching dates:
- Wednesday, January 6 (afternoon)
- Thursday, January 7 (afternoon)
- Thursday, January 14 (morning)
If you have questions about this process, you can email ELI staff at ELI@ucmerced.edu.
Bohao X. teaching undergrads about fuel cells - with a smile - in January 2019
Louis A. explaining the equation of continuity... and Laxmi P. answering a question about speech recognition
Scene from a microteaching lesson about water splitting