Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Larry H. Ebbers


Since the mid-1980s, controversy has surrounded the issue of undergraduate instruction at large research universities by teaching assistants who are not native speakers of English and who have received their undergraduate training outside the United States. Despite administrative endorsement of the importance of diversity on campus, the interaction between undergraduates and teaching assistants from abroad (now commonly called "international teaching assistants" or "ITAs") is a strained one, often threatened by misunderstandings and miscommunication;The current study used a survey, Questionnaire about International Teaching Assistants (QUITA), developed by Fox (1991), to collect background information about undergraduate students; inquire about their depth of experience with ITAs; and assess their attitudes toward teaching by ITAs, their cross-cultural awareness, and their willingness to take some of the responsibility for the interaction in ITA classes. The survey was administered in 62 sections of required communication courses (n = 1,819). A subset of survey respondents participated in focus group interviews (n = 20) in which they discussed their experiences with ITAs and offered opinions about how ITAs could be better prepared and how they would rank the ITA issue in a list of other possible academic problems;This study was modeled on an earlier Ph.D. investigation by Wanda Fox (August 1991, Purdue University). Findings at Iowa State University were compared with Fox's data and many similarities found. Over 72% of undergraduates in the sample had had courses with one or more ITAs. Based on an attitude scale of 21 statements (to be agreed or disagreed with), the effects of 16 student background characteristics (e.g., year of enrollment, academic college, age group, sex, hometown size, etc.) were tested and found to be statistically significant;Synthesis and interpretation of the findings led to recommendations for intervention strategies with undergraduate subsets most likely to encounter ITAs and/or who held negative attitudes toward ITAs. Ideas for future research included a four-year longitudinal study and the replication of the study at universities in different geographical regions.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Barbara Sweeney Plakans



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

180 pages