Information for Faculty and Staff

Instructors are an essential component of the Supplemental Instruction (SI) program at Iowa State University. Please download our Faculty/Staff Brochure for a complete reference.

Supplemental Instruction Leaders are not Teaching Assistants. To clarify, please review this comparison of SI Leaders and TAs.

Supplemental Instruction is also different than Tutoring. This comparison of SI Leaders and Tutors clarifies how students are served by each program.

Program Overview

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is an academic support program utilizing peer-assisted study sessions to enhance student performance and retention. SI was first developed by Deanna Martin, Ph.D., at the University of Missouri at Kansas City in 1973. In 1992, Iowa State University established a SI program targeting traditionally difficult entry-level courses that result in a high percentage of D or F grades and withdrawal rates. Since its implementation, students who have attended SI sessions earned statistically significant higher final course grades and drop out of courses less frequently than non-participants.

SI offers regularly scheduled study sessions to assist students with course content and study skills. In addition, students have an opportunity to work together to compare notes, discuss readings, develop organizational tools, and predict exam questions. The SI sessions are facilitated by SI Leaders. SI Leaders are current students who have demonstrated academic competency in the subject area, and are trained in facilitating group activities using collaborative learning methods.

Key Elements of Supplemental Instruction

  • SI identifies traditionally difficult academic courses rather than high risk students; SI is not a remedial academic program.
  • SI provides an opportunity for students to learn how to learn while learning what to learn.
  • Participation in SI is voluntary, free, and open to all students in the course.
  • SI Leaders attend all lectures for targeted course.
  • SI Leaders are trained in group facilitation methods, student learning theory, and study techniques.
  • SI program is supervised by a trained professional staff member from the Academic Success Center.
  • The SI program is only offered in classes in which the academic department supports SI.
  • SI sessions begin the 2nd week of classes after students have given input for session schedules.
  • SI Leaders facilitate and encourage the group to process the material. Leaders are not considered experts in the subjects and they do not relecture to participants.

Research and Assessment

Data collected by the Center for Supplemental Instruction at the University of Missouri-Kansas City from 719 institutions in the United States and 146 institutions in twelve other countries demonstrates two key findings:

  1. Students participating in SI earn higher course grades and withdraw less often than non-SI participants.
  2. The more sessions a student attends, the higher the final course grade.

Since the implementation of Supplemental Instruction at Iowa State University in 1992, data collected supports the national trends. An extensive study conducted in 2000 revealed that SI participants in entry-level biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics courses have lower ACT composite scores than non-participants, yet achieve higher final course grades than those who did not participate in the program.

Visit our assessment webpage to learn more about assessment of SI at Iowa State.