A quantitative and qualitative examination of supplemental instruction and its relationship to student performance

Date of Completion

January 1998


Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Curriculum and Instruction|Education, Higher




Academic support programs are well entrenched on virtually every college campus. These programs have not always been warmly received, however, and their place on many campuses is a source of constant debate. They have to be evaluated effectively and often to determine if they are achieving their intended goals and contributing to the overall mission of the institution.^ Supplemental Instruction (SI) is one example of a support program intended to improve students' academic performance. SI is unique among support programs because it utilizes peers to foster a collaborative learning environment and targets high risk classes as opposed to high risk students. SI provides students with the opportunity to attend weekly, l-hour study groups which are led by fellow students who have been trained to foster a collaborative learning environment in each SI session.^ Quantitative and qualitative methodologies were employed in this study. The sample for the quantitative component included 2295 cases of a student completing 1 of 12 introductory level Biology or Chemistry courses in which SI was offered at a large New England Research University. From the total sample, there were 860 cases where a student attended at least one SI session. Qualitative techniques were employed to collect data from both participants and non-participants of SI during one semester.^ The primary statistical technique employed in this study was direct regression where the independent variables of Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, cumulative grade point average, and semester standing were entered into the equation first. The independent variable--level of participation in SI--was entered last. The dependent variable was student performance in the class as measured by average exam scores. Analyses of data found that in 7 of the 12 classes involved, level of participation in SI explained a significant additional amount of variation in exam scores. Qualitative findings revealed core categories related to why students elect to attend and persist in SI; what they perceive as the benefits of attendance; their impressions of the SI leader; the characteristics of an SI session; and whether or not SI represents collaborative learning. ^