Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Effect of Supplemental Instruction on Timely Graduation

Academic journal article College Student Journal

The Effect of Supplemental Instruction on Timely Graduation

Article excerpt

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is a national program designed to aid college student learning. Many researchers have noted that analysis of the impact of the SI program on student achievement is problematic as a result of the inherent self-selection bias. We apply a sufficiently sophisticated statistical technique that controls for the self-selection problem and test the effect of student SI attendance in freshmen level courses on graduation success. Our analysis suggests that SI attendance in freshmen level courses has a statistically significant influence on graduation success. Indeed, SI attendance, everything else held constant, increases the probability of timely graduation by approximately 11%.

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Supplemental Instruction (SI) is a widely-implemented academic-support program designed to provide optional, informal, peer-mentored leaning support to students in large, survey, or general education courses (International Center for Supplemental Instruction, 2006). The program was designed to combat course-level attrition and improve performance in traditionally difficult courses, and more generally to increase retention and graduation rates. Specifically, the dual goals of the SI program are to improve performance and reduce attrition (Blanc & Martin, 1994).

This paper addresses the issue of whether SI attendance affects graduation rates and is organized as follows: The following section discusses the SI program and the literature concerning its effectiveness. The data and methods applied in the instant research are then presented followed by a section that provides the empirical results. The paper concludes with a discussion of these results.

Supplemental Instruction Program

The SI program was founded at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in the early 1970s by Deanna Martin, PhD (Widmar, 1994) and in 1981 was designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an Exemplary Educational Program (Martin and Arendale, 1994). The International Center for Supplemental Instruction at the University of Missouri-Kansas City defines the program as "an academic assistance program that utilizes peer-assisted study sessions. SI sessions are regularly scheduled, informal review sessions in which students compare notes, discuss readings, develop organizational tools, and predict test items. Students learn how to integrate course content and study skills while working together" (http://www.umkc. edu/ cad/si).

Through the mid-2000s, the SI program has been implemented in more than 50 universities nationally--and staff from "hundreds" of universities nationally and internationally have been trained in the program (International Center for Supplemental Instruction, 2006).

There are four important role-players in the standard SI program: an SI administrator, specific course instructors, SI leaders, and the students themselves. SI leaders attend course lectures, take notes, read all assigned materials, and conduct three to five out-of-class SI sessions a week. SI is a so-called peer cooperative learning program (Arendale, 2005) as the SI leaders are generally more advanced students who have a history of success in college generally and in the targeted course specifically. That is, the SI leader is the "model student," a facilitator who helps students to integrate course content and learning/study strategies. SI sessions include (but are not limited to): reviewing material covered in lectures or in the course-text, hands-on exercises that are unlikely to be utilized in large lecture-classes, discussion based learning that is more difficult to accomplish in large lecture halls, question-and-answer periods that are difficult to accomplish in large lecture halls, and study skills training (e.g., note-taking, textbook use, and exam-taking strategies).

The efficacy of the SI program has been studied since its inception; two recently updated annotated reviews of this literature are available (Arendale, 2005 and International Center for Supplemental Instruction, 2006). …

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