Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Impact of the Supplemental Instruction Experience on Science SI Leaders

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Impact of the Supplemental Instruction Experience on Science SI Leaders

Article excerpt

The high failure rate of students in lower division science courses is well known. Many capable students are driven from science by the inability to tolerate traditional learning approaches (Webster & Hooper, 1998). In Achieving Educational Excellence (1985), Alexander Astin argues that improving the teaching/learning process among college students relates to one central issue: student involvement.

Pascarella and Terenzini (1991) focused on how college affects students and reported that academic achievement is highest for students who experience favorable interactions with faculty and staff in the college setting. Tinto (1989), identified four significant factors in the dropout of students: Many students felt socially isolated on campus, had difficulty in adjusting to the new environment, were not able to link the knowledge received in the class lectures to what they already understood, and had difficulty in the college environment. In an effort to empower students to successfully persist in science, a Supplemental Instruction (SI) program was implemented in a variety of freshman- and sophomore-level science courses at Saint Xavier University beginning in Fall 1989.

The Saint Xavier SI program is a collaborative enterprise that draws students into interactive relationships with peers and faculty using small groups to facilitate learning. Collaborative learning makes a strong contribution toward students becoming active learners rather than passive recipients of information (Tinto, 1998). Cooperative learning is "a subset of collaborative learning" according to Arendale (2004, p. 28). He has identified SI as one of six postsecondary peer cooperative learning programs that "intentionally embeds learning strategy practice along with the review of academic content material" (p. 27). The other five programs are Accelerated Learning Groups (ALGs), Emerging Scholars Program (ESP), Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL), Structured Learning Assistance (SLA), and Video-Based Supplemental Instruction (VSI).

Overview of Supplemental Instruction

Supplemental Instruction, developed by Deanna Martin at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in the 19705, is a nonremedial academic support program which targets high-risk courses defined as courses with a 30% or greater rate of D, F, or W grades (Blanc, DeBuhr, & Martin, 1983; Martin & Arendale, 1992; Ogden, Thompson, Russell, & Simons, 2003). In 1981, the United States Department of Education recognized the validity of the UMKC SI Program by designating it to be an Exemplary Educational Program. Key collaborators in the SI model are the SI leader, the SI supervisor, and the course instructor. Offered to all students in courses with high failure rates, SI provides assistance on an outreach basis in regularly scheduled out-of-class study sessions that begin the ist week of class. The study sessions are led by the SI leader, a student who has successfully completed the "high-risk" course. The SI study sessions provide a forum for students to discuss and process course content. A key philosophical component of SI, therefore, is that terms such as "high risk" are assigned to the course rather than to the students. In the SI sessions at Saint Xavier the SI leader facilitates the development of problem-solving skills, appropriate learning strategies, and active involvement of students in the language and content of science courses. On the basis of a national study of SI programs at 735 U.S. postsecondary institutions, Arendale (2001) has indicated that maintaining fidelity to the following program activity components of the UMKC SI model positively correlated with student outcomes and satisfaction with the SI program: SI supervisor involvement, SI leader involvement and SI leader training. Further information about the SI model is discussed by Arendale (1994) and Burmeister (1996).

Impact of Supplemental Instruction on Enrolled Students

Previous studies have established that SI is an effective strategy for improving student performance as measured by final course grades in arts and sciences courses (Blanc, DeBuhr, & Martin, 1983; Doty, 2003; Arendale, 1997; Martin & Arendale, 1994), a biology course (Moore & LeDee, 2006; Shaya, Petty & Petty, 1993), chemistry courses (Lundeberg, 1990; Van Lanen & Lockie, 1997; Van Lanen, Lockie & McGannon, 2000; Webster & Hooper, 1998), a history course (Wolfe, 1987), mathematics courses (Burmeister, Carter, Hockenberger, Kenney, McLadren, & Nice, 1994; Kenney & Kallison, 1994; Lazari & Simons, 2003), and physical science and social science courses (Kochenour, Jolley, Kaup, Patrick, Roach, & Wenzler, 1997). …

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