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SU Program Overview (PDF)

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why my course?

SI typically supports 100 and 200 level introductory, core curriculum, or “gatekeeper” courses. SI is part of your class for several reasons, none of which has anything to do with your ability to teach. The primary reason is because the class is a historically difficult course or “killer course” wherein many students struggle and fail, thus producing a high DFW rate for the course. Rest assured you have not been singled out because someone out there thinks you need support. The focus of SI is the difficulty inherent within the course itself.

2. Why do students struggle?

There are a number of factors to consider. Some students have difficulty in certain courses because the subject was not taught, or was taught differently, in high school. For others, the depth and breadth of the course make it difficult for students to organize; the material may be too conceptual when they are used to dealing with things on a more concrete level. Still others may have difficulty with the class size, sensing anonymity and obscurity with a new classroom format and structure. The rigors of college-level courses often catch students off-guard. And lastly, some students may need to further develop their study skills.

3. How much work will it be for me to have SI support?

SI is coordinated through the Center for Student Achievement. All we ask faculty in SI-supported classes is that they provide the following:

  • A few minutes at the beginning of class for the SI Leader to make weekly announcements.
  • Time to meet with the SI Leader, allowing him/her to keep faculty apprised of what’s happening in the SI sessions.
  • If needed, test/exam scores for the students enrolled in the course.

4. Will I have to change my teaching style?

No! SI attempts to help students learn how to be successful in the course, regardless of the way you teach. It is not our intention to dictate how you should teach your class. SI will support your teaching. The SI Leader will provide you with student feedback on a weekly basis. Because they regularly meet with the students in smaller groups, the SI Leaders may have insight into concepts that are troubling students, misunderstood test questions, or unclear assignments.  If you would like, your SI Leader can share this information with you.  Understand, however, this information is not intended to be a criticism of your teaching.

5. Will SI leaders just help students complete their homework?

Absolutely NOT! SI Leaders do not facilitate the study groups so students can complete homework together, write group papers, or complete take-home exams. On the contrary, the purpose of SI is to help students become successful and independent learners. By doing their work for them SI Leaders run the risk of making the students believe that it is not necessary for them to understand the work or how to go about completing their assignments. Instead, SI Leaders may discuss typical problems, create new problems, or work problems that were not assigned. SI Leaders may discuss how to organize material, how to prepare for assignments or exams, or how to develop problem-solving abilities. 

SI is intended to supplement what the students do on their own time. After attending SI sessions, students should be better prepared to work problems alone, write a clear paper, or prepare for an exam. SI supports students, not by doing the work for them, but by helping them figure out how to do it successfully on their own. 

6. What goes on during SI sessions?

A typical SI session is an hour-long meeting in a classroom on campus and might include a review of lecture and assigned readings, group work and discussion, problem-solving and critical thinking activities, or a mock exam. The SI Leader’s primary focus is to assist students in understanding the course material while helping them to develop effective study skills that are applicable to the content. The SI Leaders will never structure SI sessions as a forum to re-lecture to students who missed class. 

7. Isn’t SI simply a test preparation study group?

No. While some students may attend SI prior to an exam, national data suggests that students who regularly attend SI improve their class standing by one-half to one whole letter grade. With this understanding, SI Leaders constantly promote SI as guaranteed study time, encouraging students to participate in SI on a weekly basis. 

8. What does the SI leader do in my class?

The SI Leader’s class attendance has a twofold purpose:

  • To model effective classroom behavior by arriving on time, listening, taking copious lecture notes, reading assigned chapters prior to lecture, and observing what’s happening in the classroom.
  • To gather information which will help him/her gain a sense of what you expect from your students regarding concepts and ideas you emphasize in lecture. It also helps the SI Leader to process the information he/she will use during SI.

9. Are SI Leaders teachers?

No. SI Leaders are typically undergraduate students. They happen to be excellent students, but they are still students. They do not have to know everything about the subject because they are neither teacher nor expert. The SI Leader’s job is to lead small group study sessions in an effort to help others learn how to be good students in the class. 

SI Leaders have taken the course, so they know what students need to do to be successful. SI Leaders lead discussions about the course content not only to help students focus and better understand but also to help them learn how to figure it out on their own. SI Leaders help student learn how to identify key points, problem solve, organize and remember, prepare for exams, etc. 

While they may talk about the lecture, review the textbook, and identify important concepts and topics, SI Leaders are not the “answer people.” Their focus is on helping students develop the skills they need to succeed. SI Leaders are not there to teach the lesson; they are there to help students figure out how to learn the lesson. 

10. What is the SI leader NOT permitted to do?

The SI Leader is NOT available for grading exams or papers, or to proctor exams. As a rule, we request that you not ask SI Leaders to run copies or errands or to distribute exams, graded papers, and other class literature. It’s important for the SI Leader to maintain his/her peer status among the students in the class. SI Leaders are paid to attend class, keep up with the material, and run study group sessions. 

SI Leaders typically do not answer questions you ask the class; they are not there as a student. The SI Leader is in class to get a better sense of the area emphasized during lectures so that they can design and develop more focused SI sessions 

11. What if I have concerns about the SI leader?

 Call the Coordinator of Supplemental Instruction (410-677-4842) to discuss your concerns and to resolve the issue. 

12. Can I give extra credit for SI attendance?

As a rule, we do not support providing extra credit to students for attending an SI session for the following three reasons:

  • Some students may not be able to attend SI because of schedule conflicts. As a result these students would have no way to participate in the extra credit.
  • Asking the SI Leaders to police the sign-in sheets gives conflicting messages. For example, if a person attends the SI session for five minutes – signs in and then leaves – should the SI Leader report it or ignore it? Having to monitor attendance in such a way takes the SI Leader’s attention away from the purpose of SI.
  • Lastly, in an attempt to analyze the effects of SI participation, it would be undesirable to have a student’s grade artificially enhanced by “bonus points” given merely for having a name show up on an attendance sheet. If there is any effect to be gained through SI attendance, we would like to be able to say with greater confidence that is was the result of what was experienced during SI.

13. What’s the difference between SI leaders and tutors?

There are number of things that differentiate the two peer positions:

  • Instead of working one-on-one within a particular subject (e.g., chemistry), SI Leaders support a specific course (such as Chem 121: Chemistry) and facilitate small group study sessions.
  • SI Leaders also attend class with the students and then develop SI sessions that support or supplement the lectures for that course.
  • Whereas students go for tutoring with particular questions in mind, SI leaders design and facilitate their session agenda, focusing on key course concepts.

14. How are classes selected for SI?

Historically difficult courses are identified simply by virtue of their high rate of unsuccessful completions (Ds, Fs, Ws). Over time these courses have demonstrated their difficulty regardless of the faculty who teach them or the material that is used. At SU there is the sense that these courses are difficult for any student, although some students struggle more than others. To support a difficult course with SI, the Coordinator first seeks departmental approval. 

15. How can students find SI sessions?

SI support is promoted in a variety of ways: SI Leaders make introductory SI announcements, distribute program brochures, and post SI Flyers. Following that, SI Leaders make weekly announcements reminding students of the session schedule and offering “teasers” about SI session activities. Additionally, the master SI session schedule is always posted on our website and shared during class times.

Students can also seek additional information about SI (session locations, days, and times) in the following ways:

16. Is the Center for Student Achievement interested in SI Leader referrals?

Absolutely! We use a variety of publicity methods to attract qualified students for SI leader positions, but we need faculty’s help. Courses have the greatest chance of offering SI support when a student is identified as a potential candidate in the preceding semester. Faculty recommendations are our most important and valuable source of applicants. 

17. How are the SI Leaders trained?

Each year SI leaders are mandated to attend an intensive two-day SI training program which is always held just before the start of the term, so SI Leaders are ready to begin working and attending the lecture on the first day of class.

Training topics include:

  • The role of the SI Leader
  • Developing working relationships with faculty
  • Planning and conducting SI sessions
  • SI sessions samples and demonstrations
  • Study skills development and collaborative learning techniques
  • Public speaking: SI announcements in the classroom
  • Policies & Procedures
  • Evaluation Procedures

Throughout the term SI Leaders also receive in-service training in areas such as the following:

  • Building rapport with students
  • Group facilitation and leadership
  • Diversity
  • Handling Q&A and questioning techniques
  • Communication skills
  • Creative thinking and planning

18. What’s in it for the SI Leaders?

Working as an SI Leader is a great part-time, on-campus job with flexible hours. SI Leaders not only receive valuable training, they also get excellent teaching and tutoring experience that can only help solidify their own foundation, subject knowledge, and core understanding of course concepts. Moreover, the SI Leaders can expect secondary benefits such as improved skills (interpersonal, communication, problem-solving, leadership, and time management), involvement in friendships, knowledge of the campus layout and student resources, plus an overall connection to the University. 

19. How is the SI Program evaluated?

The Center for Student Achievement has an extensive semester-end and year-end evaluation process for the SI Program that includes the following:

  • SI Leader Evaluation – During the semester, the SI Leader is observed facilitating sessions on 2 or 3 separate occasions by a SI Coordinator.  A student evaluation is administered to students enrolled in an SI-supported class have an opportunity to evaluate the SI leader and the SI program at the end of each semester.
  • SI vs. non-SI data – The CSA analyzes data from each course, total number of visits to SI and final course grades of each student enrolled in the SI-supported class. A data summary is then shared with faculty and SI leaders and often used to promote and market the SI program.

20. How can I promote SI participation?

There are many ways to support students' participation in SI sessions! As a general strategy, we try to emphasize to students that they can get the most benefit from SI by attending early and often! Please consider helping us share this message via the following strategies:

  • SI Syllabus Statement –  Consider adding a short description of SI to your syllabus as a way to show students that you support their engagement with this program.
    • Supplemental Instruction (SI) is offered for this course and provides you with the opportunity to attend up to 3 hours of structured study sessions per week. SI sessions are facilitated by an undergraduate student who has taken this course and excelled in the course material. Your SI leader will facilitate discussions and activities that encourage you to practice, discuss, and ask questions about the most recent lecture material. Your SI leader will give you the days and times of each session.  You can also find more information about your SI leader and session information at, or by stopping by the Center for Student Achievement (Academic Commons 270).
  • Class Announcements – While your SI leader will promote sessions each class, we often find that students feel greater motivation to attend sessions when their instructor also promotes the benefits of sessions.  Please remind students of session times and highlight the positive feedback you have heard about students benefiting from SI.
  • MyClasses/Canvas SI Page – Consider adding a module to your course's Canvas site as a homepage for information about SI, the SI leader, and sessions.  Your SI leader will be added to your course's site, so you could adjust their access to allow them to manage the page, themselves!

For additional questions about the SI program, please contact Heather Porter, Assistant Director for Academic Support & Supplemental Instruction, at or 410-677-4842.

Need help or have questions about this page? Please visit our Ask a Question or Report a Problem page.
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