International Teaching Assistants Program
International Teaching Assistants (ITA) graduate seminars and workshops are specially designed for teaching assistants and graduate students who speak English as an additional language. The free courses are designed to improve your academic communication and teaching skills.
Register for seminars and workshops
Our free program is only offered to current SFU graduate students in all disciplines. If you are not currently enrolled as a graduate student at SFU, please contact us. You may be required to provide further documentation before registering or being waitlisted for the program.
What is the program 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 ITA program will help you with spoken English as well as its social and cultural context, and will allow you to practise skills to 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.
What you will learn
The ITA 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
Class 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
Effective Cultural Communication course
During the 10-week ITA seminar, you could also participate in the Effective Intercultural Communication (EIC) online course. This free self-paced online learning opportunity provides interactive lessons on intercultural communication, a skill that is crucial to Canadian employers today. Leaving this course you will have an increased awareness of how your cultural influences can affect your intercultural interactions, you'll learn to think differently about your experiences and others’ experiences, as well as understand the impacts of colonialism on Indigenous cultures in Canada.
“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).”