Ten Essential Elements of Supplemental Instruction
1. SI Targets Subjects Rather Than Students
While education has historically created academic improvement programs that follow the medical model of attempting to diagnose students who may have academic difficulty, the SI program serves classes where a large portion of students will experience academic difficulty. SI avoids a remedial stigma by focusing on classes rather than individual students. The SI program provides systemic change in the learning environment for all students enrolled in the targeted subject. While all students may not take advantage of the voluntary service, it attracts an equal proportion of students from differing ability and cultural groups. SI does not segregate students based on prior academic performance or predictions of academic success. Participating students receive higher measures of academic achievement in comparison to their nonparticipating counterparts.
2. SI Sessions Are Peer-Facilitated
The ideal SI Leader is a student who has recently taken the class from the same instructor and received a high final subject grade. All SI leaders should be approved by the class professor for content competency. The SI leader neither lectures nor introduces new material; instead the SI leader’s responsibility is to organize and add structure to the SI sessions. The primary function of the SI leader is to facilitate discussion among SI participants and model successful learning strategies at key moments in the SI sessions.
3. The SI Leader Serves as a Model Student
The SI Leader functions as “model student” of the discipline rather than authority figure. This process helps students develop a more sophisticated approach to learning while maintaining the focus on content mastery.
4. SI Sessions Integrate Content and Learning Skills
The SI sessions integrate the review of lecture notes, textbook readings, outside supplemental readings along with appropriate modeling of learning strategies. “How to learn” is embedded into SI sessions along with “what to learn.” Through practice and mastery of effective learning strategies, students can adopt and transfer these strategies to other subjects and content areas. Collaborative learning strategies are used in SI sessions as a means of creating a more active learning environment for student participants.
5. The SI Leader Attends the Targeted Class Lectures
Because the SI Leader attends all lecture sessions, the SI leader is knowledgeable about what is occurring in the class sessions and has an opportunity to model “good student” behavior in the subject. The SI Leader’s presence in the classroom also serves to market the SI program to students. If the potential SI Leader cannot attend class, it is best to identify the academic assistance sessions as something other than SI, e.g., group tutoring.
6. SI Leader Receives Training
The SI leader receives training prior to the beginning of the term. In-service training continues throughout the academic term. These training sessions include specific teaching/learning theory and strategies.
7. The SI Program Is Supervised
A trained professional staff member supervises the SI leader and the SI program. Among other duties, the campus SI Coordinator regularly attends SI sessions throughout the academic term, facilitates Leader training, hires all Leaders and provides helpful feedback for the improvement of the program. To assure the success of the SI program, the professional staff member follows the model created by UMKC, as well as, individual program policies for UNC Charlotte.
8. Faculty Support the Program
The instructor of the targeted class should both understand the SI program and support its attachment to his or her class. Faculty members generally are encouraged to find ways to fully integrate SI into the overall subject, but are allowed to choose their level of involvement with the SI program. Faculty also plays a role in selecting and screening SI leaders for content competency.
9. Regularly Scheduled Sessions
SI is in place from the beginning of the academic term and sessions begin on the second week of classes. Generally three or more sessions are offered each week but the number of weekly sessions will vary depending on student demand or specific issues related to the subject. Students attend SI sessions on a voluntary basis.
10. Program Evaluation
There are two reasons to evaluate the SI program each academic term: (1) to continuously improve the overall quality of the program by gathering information about its strengths and weaknesses and; (2) to inform college administrators about the overall impact of the program. The SI program should be evaluated appropriately by assessing institutional outcome measures (e.g., final subject grades, subject withdrawal rates). Assessment is an increasingly important issue in academic life and has a direct link to funding.