What is Supplemental Instruction?

What is Supplemental Instruction?

Supplemental Instruction is a form of peer-to-peer instruction that facilitates the development of academic skills in the context of a specific course at the post-secondary level (Hurley & Gilbert, 2008). In Supplemental Instruction, a model peer, a student who has previously been successful in the course, structures study sessions that allows students currently taking the course to learn how to study effectively (Wilcox & Jacobs, 2008). With the skills developed, these students will build their independence as learners (Burmeister, 2013).

Supplemental Instruction is typically used for courses that are identified as high risk, rather than targeting students who are at-risk of not being academically successful at the post-secondary level (Jacobs & Stone, 2008). High risk courses have historically had at least 30% of students earning a D or F grade, or withdrawing from the course (Jacobs & Stone, 2008). Other common characteristics of courses classified as high risk are summarized in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Characteristics of high risk courses (Jacobs & Stone, 2008)
The course has a high enrollment
The course has few opportunities for students to interact with each other and their instructors
The course is perceived by students to be challenging
The course is prerequisite to other higher level courses

Supplemental Instruction study sessions are available to all students in the high risk course, rather than catering only to identified at-risk students (Jacobs & Stone, 2008). Attendance at these sessions is voluntary and attendees should not be assessed based on their attendance (Burmeister, 2013).

Who are the Supplemental Instruction Leaders and what do they do?

Supplemental Instruction Leaders are students who have previously been successful in the course and may have been recommended to be Supplemental Instruction Leaders by their Course Instructors (McDaniel, 2008). These students are trained in a variety of active and collaborative learning strategies which allows them to facilitate the development of note taking, organization, critical thinking, and problem solving skills in the context of a course (McDaniel, 2008 and Zerger, 2008). The Supplemental Instruction Leaders also re-attend all the lectures for the course that they support and complete all required readings (McDaniel, 2008). This enables them to further model the skills needed to be successful in the course for other students and to reinforce discipline specific learning skills (Zerger, 2008). Supplemental Instruction Leaders also work with the Course Instructor to develop session plans, discuss challenges that students are facing, and develop best practices to improve student learning (Hurley & Gilbert, 2008).

What are the learning concepts behind Supplemental Instruction?

Through peer-to-peer instruction, students have the opportunity to actively discuss and apply their understanding of the course material and construct their own knowledge (Hurley & Gilbert, 2008).

The Supplemental Instruction Leader engages students in an active conversation about the course content to learn about student preconceptions (Zerger, 2008). Through discussion and active engagement, students will come to recognize various misconceptions in their thinking which leads to cognitive dissonance (Zerger, 2008). With the facilitation of the Supplemental Instruction Leader and discussion with their peers, students will be able to accommodate new information into their schemas and co-construct new understandings by re-consolidating their understanding and forming logical connections (Zerger, 2008).

The Supplemental Instruction Leader serves as a model peer. As this individual has previously been successful in the course and has been trained in a variety of active and collaborative learning strategies, they serve to model the academic skills that facilitate academic success (McDaniel, 2008). The Supplemental Instruction Leader can assist students in learning different academic skills such as note taking, critical thinking, and problem solving through scaffolding and modelling (McDaniel, 2008). As a result, students in the sessions observe these behaviours and can replicate them in their own studying. Through observations and discussions, students can reinforce their learning and further develop their self-efficacy and independence as learners.

What research supports the use of Supplemental Instruction?

The goal of Supplemental Instruction is to reduce the rates at which students earn D and F grades or withdraw from the course (Burmeister, 2013). Research in the effects of Supplemental Instruction often compares student marks for attendees versus non-attendees. This research has shown that students who regularly attend Supplemental Instruction sessions are more likely to earn higher marks in the course that the Supplemental Instruction supports and in general as compared to students who do not use Supplemental Instruction resources (Burmeister, 2013 and Blanc et al, 1983). In addition, students who do use Supplemental Instruction resources are less likely to earn D or F grades or withdraw from the course (Burmeister, 2013 and Blanc et al, 1983). Research also demonstrates that there is no significant correlation between student motivation and the observed increase in grades in courses supported by Supplemental Instruction (Burmeister, 2013).

Overall, Supplemental Instruction assists students in developing skills that facilitate their academic success.

References:

Blanc, R. A., DeBuhr L. E. & Martin, D. C. (1983). Breaking the attrition cycle: The effects of supplemental instruction on undergraduate performance and attrition. The Journal of Higher Education, 54 (1), 80-90.

Burmeister, S. (2013). Supplemental instruction: An interview with Deanna Martin. Journal of Developmental Education, 20 (1), 22-26.

Hurley, M., & Gilbert, M. (2008). Basic supplemental instruction model. In M.E. Stone & G. Jacobs (Eds.), Supplemental instruction: Improving first-year student success in high-risk courses (Monograph No. 7, 3rd ed., pp 1-10) Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Hurley, M., & Gilbert, M. (2008). Research on the effectiveness of supplemental instruction. In M.E. Stone & G. Jacobs (Eds.), Supplemental instruction: Improving first-year student success in high-risk courses (Monograph No. 7, 3rd ed., pp 11-20) Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Jacobs, G., & Stone, M.E. (2008). Introduction. In M.E. Stone & G. Jacobs (Eds.), Supplemental instruction: Improving first-year student success in high-risk courses (Monograph No. 7, 3rd ed., pp i-vi) Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

McDaniel, A. (2008). Recruiting and training supplemental instruction leaders. In M.E. Stone & G. Jacobs (Eds.), Supplemental instruction: Improving first-year student success in high-risk courses (Monograph No. 7, 3rd ed., pp 39-56) Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Wilcox, F.K., & Jacobs, G. (2008). Thirty-five years of supplemental instruction: Reflections on study groups and student learning. In M.E. Stone & G. Jacobs (Eds.), Supplemental instruction: Improving first-year student success in high-risk courses (Monograph No. 7, 3rd ed., pp vii-x) Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Zerger, S. (2008). Strategies for adapting supplemental instruction to specific academic disciplines. In M.E. Stone & G. Jacobs (Eds.), Supplemental instruction: Improving first-year student success in high-risk courses (Monograph No. 7, 3rd ed., pp 57-66) Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Zerger, S. (2008). Theoretical frameworks that inform the supplemental instruction model. In M.E. Stone & G. Jacobs (Eds.), Supplemental instruction: Improving first-year student success in high-risk courses (Monograph No. 7, 3rd ed., pp 21-28) Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.