International Teaching Assistants Program

A graduate seminar specially designed for teaching assistants and graduate students who speak English as an additional language. The seminar helps students' academic communication and teaching skills.

What is the seminar about?

As an international graduate student at Simon Fraser University, you may have a high level of proficiency in standard formal English, but still encounter other communication problems on campus. These problems may be perceived as language-related, but sometimes it's just a lack of understanding of the society, culture, attitudes and assumptions that prevail in the classroom and throughout the university.

The International Teaching Assistants (ITA) Seminar will help you with spoken English as well as its social and cultural context, and will allow you to practise skills that will help you be a better TA.

International graduate students who expect to become teaching assistants should enroll in this program as early in their graduate program as possible in order to gain the greatest benefits. Homework is an essential part of the course structure and includes talking to and interviewing Canadian English speakers, listening to the radio, watching TV, and reading newspapers.

The ITA Seminar courses focus on two themes:

  • Improved ability to use and understand spoken North American English, particularly colloquial and idiomatic usage. Activities include group and individual work in class and may include individual tutoring when more intensive help is appropriate or desired
  • Increased general communication and comprehension skills in the context of the duties and responsibilities of a teaching assistant

Classroom activities are designed to improve the following:

  • Skills in formal presentations and in leading and participating in tutorial-style group discussions
  • Understanding of academic culture in Canada and undergraduate students' backgrounds and expectations
  • Understanding of North American life, society and culture through the analysis of authentic language and cultural materials including those presented by various news media and popular culture sources

Our seminars are free to all new and current SFU grad students in all disciplines. Registration is required.

If you are not an SFU student, you are welcome to join the course if spaces are available. There is a $600 fee for the 10-week seminar course and a $300 fee for the three-week seminar course. Please contact us before applying.

“This seminar was a great platform to understand and cope with the new acadmic settings and culture. This really gives a good transition to start at TAship in North American context. Group discussions, video presentation, video recording and augmentation of presentation skills are awesome!”


“I learned much that is not possible from the usual textbook.”


“Did you know that I am a TA now? I'm dealing with real people and—surprise—I'm not scared at all (as I supposed I would be).”

Contact us

Email: ita@sfu.ca

Phone: 778-782-5224