Supplemental Instruction helps students succeed

By Melissa Kasiarz

College classes can intimidate students because of the advanced level of teaching, but Rider’s Supplemental Instruction (SI) sessions help replace worry with confidence.

SI sessions offer students the chance to participate in group study sessions led by a qualified student or instructor.

Jenny Scudder, assistant director of the Student Success Center (SSC), said SI was introduced on campus in 2001 to provide extra help with challenging courses. As of today, the program has helped more than 3,000 students.

“The SI Leader reviews course content and helps students develop critical thinking skills and extend problem solving skills through collaborative learning strategies,” Scudder said.

Director of the SSC Kendall Friedman enumerated its benefits in an email.

“Supplemental Instruction is an academic support program that is collaborative in approach between the faculty, the SI Leader who attends class and members of the Student Success Center staff,” Friedman said.

While not all classes offer SI sessions, Friedman recommends taking advantage of those that are available.

“Students enrolled in targeted courses attend regularly scheduled, informal review sessions during which they work in groups to compare notes, discuss reading assignments, develop review techniques and prepare for exams,” Friedman said.

Freshman Marissa Gennarelli, an elementary education and psychology major, praised SI, saying she saw positive changes in her academics.

“I’d definitely recommend it because they go over everything touched on in class,” she said. “Going to two sessions definitely boosted my grade.”

There are other benefits as well. Scudder said students who attend SI six or more times throughout the course of a semester can earn half a grade higher than those who don’t.

According to Friedman, what students take out of the sessions extends beyond one class.

“Students who attend these sessions practice integrating content with learning strategies,” she said.

These strategies have proven to be helpful for students, such as junior sociology major Alexander Gallo. He had his initial reservations abated after attending SI sessions.

“When I went, I was skeptical of how they could help me out,” Gallo said. “After I was finished with the session, not only did I feel confident, I also did better on that exam than I had done without the SI instruction.”

To teach an SI course, the instructor must first successfully pass the class with the same professor to prove he or she is qualified and understands the work that is involved in the course.

Junior global supply chain management major Alyssa Rodriguez is an SI tutor for Principles of Macroeconomics and believes that the program benefits the tutors as well as the tutees.

“Having taken this class the previous year and performed well, I was very excited to become a SI Leader,” Rodriguez said. “SI Leaders are always learning new techniques and strategies to help the students with concepts and how to analyze the content in the class.”

Freshman secondary education and English major Lori Tatum felt she benefited from the experience overall, though there is some room for improvement.

“I like how I can go and review material to get the key points,” Tatum said. “Sometimes I feel like there are too many people in [a] session and it can get off track, but it’s a really good program overall.”

Scudder stressed that SI instructors don’t do the work for the students, but they help them understand the topics better.

“Students who regularly attend SI develop strategies specific for the course but those strategies are transferable to other courses at Rider,” Scudder said in an email. “The SI leaders facilitate the sessions using a variety of approaches so students have a collection of learning strategies by the end of the semester.”

SI sessions are very popular with students because they not only get help in classes that have SI sessions, but they can also get one-on-one tutoring at the SSC.

The SSC’s website provides a schedule that shows all the weekly sessions. Classes range from Life Science-Genetics and Intro to Quantitative Methods. There are sessions five days a week, Sunday through Thursday and there is no need to sign up in advance.

Additional reporting by Megan Pendagast

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