Supplemental Instruction introduced to improve Students’ Learning Skills
Supplemental Instruction (SI) has been introduced as an academic support programme in the College of Science, Engineering and Agriculture to assist students who need to improve their learning skills.
This was done after the College recognised that many first year students had particular learning needs because of different backgrounds, previous learning experiences and under-developed learning skills.
The University Teaching and Learning Office (UTLO) recently hosted SI workshops on the Howard College campus for staff and SI student leaders.
The workshops were co-ordinated by a Lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Physics, Dr Vino Paideya, , and facilitated by Ms Liesl Smith, a Senior Academic development professional and Head of the SI National Office at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), who was assisted by a colleague and co-trainer, Mr Philip Kitching.
SI, developed in 1973 by Dr Deanna Martin of the University of Missouri in Kansas City, is a student academic assistance programme that seeks to increase student performance and retention. It is voluntary, student-driven and places focus on ‘high-risk’ courses rather than on ‘high-risk’ students.
In SI sessions, students work collaboratively to understand course concepts, brainstorm ideas, engage in discussions on how the concepts relate to each other and reflect on the assigned tasks, with support from SI leaders.
In 1993, NMMU adopted the SI programme as it met the holistic needs of their students, had a proven track record, was cost effective and could be implemented on ‘high-risk’ courses across the institution. Since then, NMMU has established the SI National Office providing SI support and training to various institutions.
Reflecting on the UKZN workshops, Smith said: ‘SI is different from other programmes in that we don’t work with red-flagged or “at risk” students. If there are many-red flagged students in a module, we say let’s label the module as “at risk”.
‘SI must be used in conjunction with other academic assistance mechanisms. It is one strategy of many, it cannot run in isolation and requires mentoring and support of SI leaders by SI supervisors.’
Paideya’s PhD thesis - titled: “The Phenomenon of Learning: Engineering Students’ Engagement with Chemistry Supplemental Instruction, was aimed at determining the impact of the SI programme on engineering students in Chemistry”.
This study, completed in 2011, revealed that SI leaders encouraged engagement with Chemistry concepts through the motivation of students by creating spaces for metacognitive development, engaging in activities that required higher-order thinking, and encouraged students to reflect on concepts learned through peer learning.