Teaching Assistants You Can't Understand

Undergraduates have complained for decades about their teaching assistants. If you attend a university, chances are excellent that you will have at least some classes where a graduate student will serve as the teacher.

TA’s are cheap and when they are teaching introductory courses, the professors don’t have to do it. And tenured professors love shirking that responsibility.

This is a touchy subject, but plenty of students have complained that they can’t always understand foreign-born teaching assistants. Teaching assistants of any nationality aren’t selected because of their teaching skills; they are chosen simply because they are in graduate programs. So there are plenty of inept home-grown teaching assistants, as well as those from overseas.

A study completed a few years ago focused on an interesting question. Are undergrads who take classes from foreign-born teaching assistants hurt academically? The researcher concluded that the grades of these students do suffer slightly.

You can learn more about the findings by visiting a blog called Pure Pedantry, which is written by a guy who is obtaining a PhD and medical degree.

An article in The New York Times three years ago also discussed what undergrads are up against when TA’s command of English is shaky.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.com.

Read more:

Don’t Write Like a College Professor

Why College Professors Are Failing Students

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One Response to Teaching Assistants You Can't Understand

  1. Joan July 6, 2008 at 6:08 pm #

    I certainly agree. I was no whiz in math but taking Statistics from a teacher who I could understand almost nothing was impossible. He was eventually pulled for his own safety since he was Iranian and this was during the Iranian hostage crisis and replaced with as Caucasian a guy as they could find. However, by then I was so far behind I ended up dropping the class. Yes, TA’s can be inept teachers, but I feel that in certain careers language capability should be a requirement, among them teachers, doctors, and Pharmacists. Teachers would include TAs of course!

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