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Instructional Support Services Program/Tutoring

Supplemental Instruction

History of Supplemental Instruction

SI was created by Deanna C. Martin, Ph.D., at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1973. Dr. Martin was assigned the task of decreasing the attrition rate of minority students in the schools of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry—and given a grant of $7,000 with which to do so. After initially offering SI at the health science professional schools, it was extended throughout the university. After a rigorous review process in 1981, the SI Program became one of the few postsecondary programs to be designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an Exemplary Educational Program. The National Diffusion Network (NDN), the national dissemination agency for the U.S. Department of Education, provided federal funds for dissemination of SI. Although the NDN was discontinued by the U.S. government, national and international dissemination continues. Faculty and staff from over 1800 institutions from 30 countries have been trained to implement their own SI programs. Outside the United States, SI operates in Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Egypt, Grenada, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mexico, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the West Indies.

Definition, Purpose, and Participants

Definition: Supplemental Instruction (SI) is an academic assistance program that utilizes peerassisted study sessions. SI sessions are regularly scheduled, informal review sessions in which students compare notes, discuss readings, develop organizational tools, and predict test items. Students learn how to integrate course content and study skills while working together. The sessions are facilitated by “SI leaders”, students who have previously done well in the course and who attend all class lectures, take notes, and act as model students.


  1. to increase retention within targeted historically difficult courses
  2. to improve student grades in targeted historically difficult courses
  3. to increase the graduation rates of students

Participants: SI is a “free service” offered to all students in a targeted course. SI is a nonremedial approach to learning as the program targets high-risk courses rather than high-risk students. All students are encouraged to attend SI sessions, as it is a voluntary program. Students with varying levels of academic preparedness and diverse ethnicities participate. There is no remedial stigma attached to SI since the program targets high-risk courses rather than high-risk students.

How SI Works

The SI model involves key persons:

  1. The SI Coordinator is a trained professional who is responsible for identifying the targeted courses, gaining faculty support, selecting and training SI leaders, as well as marketing and evaluating the program on an ongoing basis.
  2. The faculty members of the identified historically difficult courses invite and support SI. Faculty members screen SI leaders for content competency and approve selections as well as collaborate with the SI leaders and Coordinator on a regular basis.
  3. The SI leaders (“near peers”) are students who have been deemed course competent and have been approved by the course instructor and the SI Coordinator. They are trained in proactive learning and study strategies as well as facilitation skills. SI leaders attend course lectures, take notes, read all assigned materials, and conduct three to five out-ofclass SI sessions a week. The SI leader is the “model student”, a facilitator who assists students to integrate course content and learning strategies.
  4. Students participating in the SI sessions, although mentioned last, are the most crucial component of SI. SI is introduced to specific historically difficult courses. These courses frequently are introductory or “gatekeeper courses” but also include upper level undergraduate courses and courses in professional schools.

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