A Flexible Professional Development Program for International Instructors and Its Suitability for a Brazilian Context

Ginessa Payne, Brandon Cooper, Xueyan Hu, Bruno Figueiredo, Gardenya Felix

Abstract


International instructors are an asset to a university when they are adequately prepared, linguistically and culturally, to teach in the new environment. For decades, international graduate students have been employed as teaching assistants in research universities in the United States. To ensure effective communication in the classrooms and labs, many universities have established programs that provide training to international teaching assistants (ITAs) in the English language, pedagogy, and local university culture (Kaplan, 1989) (Madden & Myers, 1994) (Chiang, 2009) (Zhou, 2009). One such program is Texas A&M University’s English Language Proficiency program housed within the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE-ELP). Time-tested best practices from the field of ITA training have been implemented (Smith, Meyers, & Burkhalter, 1992), as well as innovations. The result is a model of professional development for international instructors that leverages existing resources to provide flexible, individualized training at a fraction of the cost to the trainee. While measuring the effectiveness of individualized training is challenging, data (in the form of survey responses from trainees as well as improved test scores compared to a control group) indicate that the CTE-ELP program is effective. There are remarkable similarities between the environment in U.S. universities and that in Brazilian universities: both are desirable destinations for international scholars, including those fleeing political or economic upheaval. These scholars bring content knowledge and a willingness to accept labor-intensive teaching assignments without tenure, but they face the challenge of teaching in another language and culture. For example, Spanish speakers from Venezuela hired by Brazilian public universities as professores horistas -- non-tenured temporary faculty paid by the hour -- must teach in Portuguese. Moreover, educational systems (and students’ expectations of their instructors’ behavior) vary from one country to another (Gorsuch G. , 2003) (Arshavskava, 2015). However, little or no formal preparation for international instructors is currently provided at Brazilian public universities. If the Texas A&M University (TAMU) model were to be adopted in the Brazilian context, international instructors would be better equipped with the language and cultural knowledge necessary to be effective instructors, ultimately benefiting not only international instructors but their Brazilian students as well. The need is acute, given the unprecedented number of Venezuelan migrants in Brazil and the shortage of Brazilian faculty members holding advanced degrees. This article discusses the benefits and feasibility of establishing such a program.


Keywords


International teaching assistant, teacher education, ESL, ESP, faculty development, Brazil

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