SI program improves grades

By PAT BOWDEN Reporter

As of recent additions, the Supplemental Instruction program is at a comfortable level in terms of what classes it includes. 

The SI program is not looking to add any courses at this time. The program offers help to students with the mission of making students individual learners and helping students in histoically difficult classes.

SDSU adopted this program when it began trending among other universities in the country. SI’s main purpose to serve as an extra study assist to younger undergraduate students enrolled in larger, more difficult classes that had higher DFW rates – that is, when a class saw 30 percent or more D’s, F’s or drops.

“One of the TRiO (student support services) retention advisers started the program and saw the need for academic support that were historically difficult … SI offered the opportunity to interact in a smaller group setting and it’s really kind of taken off from there,” said Wintrode tutoring coordinator and co-coordinator of the SI program Linde Murray. 

While the program has expanded to other classes since it’s beginning, the program does not plan on taking on many more courses because its goal does not pertain to upperclassmen, but more toward underclassmen in terms of helping them learn how to study and learn more efficiently. 

“[We look for] higher enrollment courses, such as Rotunda D courses, and tend to focus on the 100 and 200 level courses, but we have SI in two 300 level classes which are typically taken by sophomores,” Murray said. “We also look for supportive faculty members to see the value in SI in his or her course.” 

According to Murray, SI mostly covers science courses because of the high number of pre-professional students that the school typically has at one time. SI currently encompasses five biology courses, eight chemistry courses, one accounting course and one microbiology course.

On average, attending SI will improve a given students performance, according to studies done by comparing students success from those who attend SI and those who do not. Sign in sheets are passed around each SI session in order to keep track of those who attend, which benefits the SI program’s funding. 

“[The data we collect] legitimates the funding that we do receive but it has continually grown for the past five years so there really aren’t any gaps in the courses that we’re covering,” said TRiO retention adviser Christopher Wease. “The taking of student attendance is bookkeeping for students themselves, but we have graphs that show the average GPA of a student in a class that goes to SI versus a student who does not go to SI … Often it is a letter grade difference.” 

According to one SI leader, the program allows students to ask questions among peers that they normally wouldn’t have asked or may have been discouraged. 

“In big lectures often it’s intimidating to ask questions, but even in larger sessions it’s all peers who they are more comfortable with,” said SI leader and junior psychology major Michelle Holbeck. “By coming to SI, I really do see them improve a lot and they kind of get an idea of what the important topics are.” 

Another recourse that students can use to improve their study habits and potentially their grades is the Wintrode Tutor Program, which offers free tutoring to students by appointment in classes that SI sessions cover as well as a number of non-science courses not offered through SI. 

“They [Wintrode and SI] both follow the same philosophical approach, which is our end goal, which is to turn our students into individual learners. SI doesn’t require an appointment where tutoring requires an appointment in advance,” Murray said. “I think students figure out what they like best and gravitate towards that.”

Even though SI is not necessarily looking for a large expansion any time soon, class DFW rates are constantly being monitored in order to find what the next course to next add to the SI umbrella. 

“When we’ve asked to expand SI we get support to do so, I don’t know if it’s the highest priority on campus but I don’t know that it needs to be. From a management perspective we are where we should be and it’s growing every year,” Murray said.

 SI covers 16 courses currently, but any large enrollment class has the possibility of being eventually grandfathered into the program later on.

“Psych 101 does have a lot of concepts and some people do struggle in it … Right now it’s pretty well in the sciences so I could see them expanding beyond. I’ve had some friends who have struggled with physics courses [so they could expand there too],” Holbeck said. 

SI sessions keep pace with the lecture that the class is currently on, and helps students practice current knowledge and problems as well as giving students the opportunity to collaborate with peers in the same course.

“When you look at these numbers, the story for SI is the huge number of students that it serves and the difference in letter grades,” Wease said. “SI is part of the larger commitment to retention that the university makes.”