Supplemental Instruction (SI) is an informal, peer-led academic support program used in colleges around the country, including UC Clermont. SI is about retention and aiding students in “high-risk courses” that many students find difficult to succeed in or successfully complete. It is a free program that has numerous benefits to the students who decide to take advantage of it.
Professor Sharon Burns is the SI Coordinator at UC Clermont for the 2017-18 academic year. In 2008, Professor Burns initiated the SI Program and was asked to come back and reorganize it this year. She explained that SI is a wonderful resource tool not only because it’s free and aids students in high-risk courses, but because it’s led by a group of highly qualified peers. As Prof. Burns stated, “Who understands this [material]better than another student who has already been there?”
Professor Burns enjoys working with the SI leaders because she gets to know them in a new environment and “under very different circumstances,” separate from the classroom. She leads them in SI trainings each semester and gets to see their personalities and how they work together. SI leaders get to know one another and also come to understand their roles and how to strengthen their teaching and leading abilities. Prof. Burns explained, however, that being an SI leader can also come with some pressure, since these leaders “typically take on the anxieties of the students they’re trying to help.” Professor Burns understands that each SI leader’s top priority is being a student him or herself, but these leaders are also students who “have a heart for others,” and she enjoys helping them with their SI responsibilities.
For SILs, the job has many benefits. Of course, many of them enjoy being paid for helping students, as well as the chance to gain more experience in disciplines they love. While these SILs do take on some additional stress, student leaders know that it’s their responsibility to be able to understand the material well enough to be able to competently help others. SILs must also be willing to explore different learning styles in order to help their students.
Madeline Walls, a current SI leader, enjoys the position because she can use the knowledge she gained when she took the class, and she knows that she’s “helping other people with the struggles I had last year.” Lindsey Marquez is also an SI Leader who understands both sides of Supplemental Instruction. She attended Truc Vu’s past organic chemistry SI session, so she understands the benefits that come from Supplemental Instruction. “Going to SI Sessions gives me more security in this famously difficult course, and I feel like I can understand the benefits from the SI program. This inspires and motivates me as an SI leader to really help the students attending,” Marquez explained.
Students who participate in the SI sessions feel like they clearly benefit from this resource. There are different kinds of students in SI sessions: Some are there to reinforce their security and comfort in the class, while others attend to get help with understanding the confusing concepts in their courses. Along with the SI leader, this collaboration results in peers supporting one another and getting more practice in these traditionally difficult courses.
To Dr. Burns, “SI is not an afterthought.” The program is based upon research and data from many institutions across the country. Additionally, a valuable resource to Prof. Burns—one that can help SI improve at UC Clermont—is time. She believes that SI coordination should be full-time because of all of the “paperwork, systems knowledge, training details, and liaison energy that goes into coordinating this program.” With the college’s newest addition, Associate Dean Dr. Mona Sedrak, Dr. Burns hopes that together, their vision of “revitalization” of Supplemental Instruction will help improve UC Clermont’s retention.