Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Supplemental Instruction Improves Grades and Retention for Latinos

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Supplemental Instruction Improves Grades and Retention for Latinos

Article excerpt

Supplemental instruction (SI), a technique used by 1,800 colleges and universities to help students get through difficult courses, is showing solid results in improving grades and retention rates, especially for Latino students,

"Our data since 2007 consistently reveal that Latinos improve their chances of success when they participate in SI," said Dr, Richard Armenia, associate vice president for student success at Austin Community College in Texas.

In fact, most colleges report that all students who participate in SI do better by earning higher letter grades and having higher persistence rales than non-SI participants.

What is supplemental instruction? The official definition comes from the International Center for Supplemental Instruction, which describes SI as "an academic assistance program thai utilizes peer-assisted study sessions." The SI formal involves weekly review sessions for students taking historically difficult courses, such as biology and chemistry, which often have low pass rates.

By targeting specific courses rather than "at-risk" students, SI differs from remedial services or tutoring, which help those who are struggling with collegelevel work. The SI model offers students an opportunity to get together with people in the class, compare notes, discuss concepts and develop strategies for studying the subject. An SI leader, someone who has successfully completed the course and usually earned an A or ? grade, facilitates the group sessions.

The Iowa State University website offers a widely used explanation of SI, describing the process as one in which students learn how to learn while learning what to learn. It is an approach that works well for Torino students, many of whom are first-generation and arc not familiar with the rigors and demands of college courses.

"SI makes a world of difference to Latini) students, who often come woefully unprepared on how to study," said Armenia, "They've never learned dial skill."

Because SI is not a substitute for traditional course work, students arc expected to meet all of the requirements normally associated with the class. Students must maintain class attendance and keep up with lectures and assignments. As one participant said: "It doesn't replace going to class or reading the text. The SI leaders are not there to re-lecture die class material."

As a result, SI serves lo enhance learning in ways that produce lasting effects and improved study habits. Students say they use SI strategics in other classes and even learn how to be more effective when working in groups.

Making a Difference in Student Success

Supplemental instruction is not new. It began at the University ol Missouri-Kansas Cily (LMKC) in I973. Initial results of die program were very impressive. Tt spread rapidly within the United States and to 27 other countries. In Canada, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom it is know by the acronym, PASS (Peer Assisted Study Sessions).

Many of the courses selected for SI are considered gatekeeper courses tliat need to be completed before students can move on to higher-level courses. Although colleges and universities choose die courses and adapt SI to dieir particular needs, the International Center oilers this list of core elements for any SI program:

* Targets courses radier than students

* Develops essential learning skills iii core courses

* Participation is voluntary and open to all students in the course

* SI leaders arc trained in learning theory' and techniques

* Assistance begins during the first week of the term, before students encounter academic difficulties

* SI leaders direct collahorative learning exercises that encourage students to take responsibility for processing course content.

Results of these programs continually show that students who attend SI receive better grades, withdraw less often and graduate at higher rates man those who do not lake advantage of SI. …

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