Supplemental Instruction (SI) is an academic success and retention program that focuses on historically difficult courses rather than high-risk students. A course that is considered historically difficult is one that has a D, F, and withdrawal rate of 30% or greater for several academic terms. Often, these are introductory courses in biology, chemistry, economics, physics, and the social sciences such as psychology and sociology. In general, any course may be high-risk when there is a gap between the rigors of mastering course content and the learning skills that students bring to that content.
The goal of SI is to help students learn how to learn the course content, earn higher grades, become independent learners, and remain enrolled until graduation. A major reason institutions choose SI is because it is a cost-effective and educationally effective program designed to retain and graduate students while protecting academic integrity. SI provides opportunities for all students in a traditionally difficult course to participate in a peer-led, active learning experience that integrates how-to-learn with what-to-learn.
Additional claims of SI effectiveness as validated by the United States Department of Education are:
Claim 1. Students who participate in SI earn higher mean final course grade averages than students who do not participate. This remains true even when differences in ethnicity and prior academic achievement are considered.
Claim 2. Students who participate in SI succeed at a higher rate (have lower withdrawal rates and receive lower percentages of D and F final course grades) than those who do not participate.
Claim 3. Students participating in SI persist, reenroll, and graduate from their higer ed institutions at higher rates than students who do not participate.
(reprinted with permission from the National Center for Supplemental Instruction, Kansas City, Missouri)
A faculty member who has SI for his/her course has a specific role and responsibilities, as described below:
“This is the first semester I have taught with SI and I have really enjoyed having an SI leader. They are an asset to my class and the students have nothing but good to say about them”
— Emily Hoffman, Clinical Instructor, Nutrition and Food Sciences
“My experience is that students in large classes learn better and perform better when they have access to SI, even if they attend SI sessions irregularly.”
— David Rich Lewis, Professor, Department of History
“I cannot think of another program that has had as significant effect on my students as SI”
— Tyler Bowles, Associate Professor, Department of Economics
“I have observed student performance in and out of the SI Program and have found that students faithfully associated with SI earn better grades, are more closely involved with the course, and more thoroughly comprehend course content. I firmly support the program and am totally convinced of its worthwhileness.”
— Ted Alsop, Associate Professor, Department of Environment and Society (retired)
“I am very impressed with the quality of SI leaders. They are very good student role models and are accommodating and helpful in class.”
— Susan K. Morgan, Lecturer, Department of Geology