English Faculty Publications

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Talking Matters: Research on the Talk and Communication of International Teaching Assistants


International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) often require additional instruction because their speech is not easily understandable. This lack of perceived proficiency may be attributable to mistakes in sentence level grammar or pronunciation, but may also be affected by discourse level structures including overall organization and coherence of talk. This chapter examines spoken data from an ITA proficiency test to better understand the relationship between cohesion-the linguistic property used to build coherence-and perceived comprehensibility of ITAs.

The study analyzes the use of cohesive ties (such as pronouns and conjunctions), across different proficiency levels in order to characterize and describe how ITAs at varying levels of language proficiency use different patterns of discourse in their talk. Results indicate that although ITAs at lower proficiency levels do use cohesive ties, they display difficulty using certain types correctly, and are more likely to have unproductive pauses when attempting extended discourse. These results have significant implications for ITAs teachers and mentors interested in developing strategies to help lTAs use extended discourse for the professional purpose of teaching.

The strategies include consciousness-raising activities for ITAs as well as sample outlines of organizational schemas from science and engineering with particular importance placed on framing words and cohesive ties.

Inclusive pages




Document Version

Published Version


This chapter is provided for download by permission of the publisher. Permission documentation is on file.


New Forums Press

Place of Publication

Stillwater, OK