S.I. leaders help students with tutoring

Their goal is to help MCCC students become independent learners.
Supplemental Instruction (S.I.) leaders have been around since 1975 when the University of Missouri in Kansas City first started the program.
The program reached MCCC in 1991.
The program works by assigning an S.I. leader to a course that he or she has taken and excelled at. The S.I. leaders then attend the classes they are assigned to, take notes, and host two one-hour study sessions per week, usually directly before or after the class. Their study sessions cover what went on in that week’s class. 
All S.I. sessions are voluntary.
“The S.I. sessions are student-directed,” Beth Kamprath, faculty specialist and S.I. liaison, said. “The more they participate, the more successful they become. A student can’t be a sponge, they have to be an active participant.”
S.I. leaders get students involved in sessions by having them participate in asking/answering questions, encouraging them to create their own quizzes, drawing diagrams and explanations on the board, and creating an informal environment where students can feel comfortable discussing and questioning. This creates interaction between the students themselves and the S.I. leaders.
“It’s a social thing even,” Lisa Scarpelli, associate professor of Geoscience at MCCC and instructor with an S.I. leader assigned to her class, said. “It brings students together in a way that they may not have the opportunity to at a community college.”
“I think that because there’s this group of students who know each other outside of class people feel more comfortable in class.”
The S.I. sessions not only provide social-interaction amongst students, they also provide a collaborative learning environment, which on average produces a 10-point grade increase for the students who attend.
“We find that students who attend S.I. sessions on a regular basis score a half to one letter grade higher on the exams,” Kamprath said.
The reason, she said, is that it reinforces what students learn during lecture.
“I’m not one who likes to study outside of class,” S.I. attendee Brice Harris said. “I’d be drowning in that class if it wasn’t for the S.I. session.”
“It’s hard to remember from Tuesday to Thursday what we learned in class,” Sheena Holt, an earth science S.I. attendee, said. “It reinforces what we learned.”
At MCCC, the five S.I. leaders are assigned to the more challenging courses.
The current classes that have S.I. leaders assigned to them are Biology 151, Chemistry 150, Earth Science 151, Economics 251, and Philosophy 152.
“It’s nice because the student (S.I. leader) already knows where the pitfalls of the class are,” Kamprath said.
The S.I. leaders operate out of the Learning Assistance Lab (LAL) on the second floor of the C-building.
They are trained and observed by Kamprath, their liaison.
“Twice a semester I go in and observe their S.I. sessions to make sure they are following the S.I. model,” Kamprath said. “We have eight hours of training before the semester begins.”
“I expect the S.I. leaders to be prepared for every study session with handouts and extra things for test preparation.”
S. I. is a certified national program. S.I. leaders must reach 25 hours of contact with students and 10 hours of training to be certified by the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA).
Two of MCCC’s current S.I. leaders are already certified, Kamprath said. The rest will be certified by the end of the semester.
The S.I. leaders are required to spend one hour to prepare for each lesson.
“Each leader devotes at least 7-8 hours to S.I., including three hours attending the S.I. class,” Kamprath said. “It takes a special student.”
Some S.I. leaders attended S.I. sessions themselves when they first enrolled in the class.
“When I took earth science, I attended the S.I. sessions. It was there that I realized how important this service was for student success,” Jeannie Connelly, an S.I. leader at MCCC, said. “I became an S.I. because I wanted to help people succeed and because I liked the class.”
Connelly currently has about six students who regularly attend her earth science S.I. sessions.
“It is a rewarding experience,” Connelly said. “I am able to see students progress in ability and knowledge, and become more confident in themselves.”
Kamprath said the S.I. program is dependent upon cooperation from not only students and S.I. leaders, but instructors as well.
“Without them the program wouldn’t be nearly as successful,” she said. “I couldn’t ask to work with better professors.”
The professors seem to agree.
“I’ve had an S.I. leader in my class for 8 years now,” Lisa Scarpelli said. “It’s been a really positive thing for me, the students, and the S.I. leader. I’ve never had a bad experience.”
Kamprath stressed the fact that the S.I. program does not target one particular group of students.
“S.I. is for everyone,” she said. “Everyone enrolled in an SI supported class is encouraged to attend, no matter their self perceived academic ability.  
“There should never be a stigma attached to seeking help in any way, but unfortunately there is.  We hope that S.I. will help break down this stigma.”