Elmira, NY (09/07/2022) — A new pilot program at Elmira College uses a proactive approach to improve academic achievement among its students. Instead of waiting to identify students who are struggling with a course, the Supplemental Instruction program targets courses that typically have higher rates of student failures, low marks, or withdrawals.

"Tutoring is emergency care, but Supplemental Instruction is a preventative measure that will help participating students stay in good academic standing," said the program's director Michaela Johnson '17, Manager of Student Success and Assistant Director of the Center for Academic and Professional Excellence (CAPE).

Here's how it works:

The program identified courses in which students often struggle to do well but are required to take as part of a major. For example, Introductory Chemistry is a required course for nursing students. If a student struggles with the course and fails to get a high enough grade to pass, they cannot progress in the nursing program.

Once the courses were identified, the faculty nominated students who had previously taken the course and performed well to serve as supplemental instruction leaders. Each student received multiple days of training before the start of Term I, learning facilitation strategies, collaborative learning techniques, and learning strategies. They are now sitting through the course again and will model in-class behaviors for the other students and serve as additional resources to students whenever they have questions. In addition, they'll organize and lead weekly group study sessions with the goal of having 25% or more of the students in a course attend at least one peer-facilitated study session.

Currently, there are four supplemental instruction leaders:

Cristy-Lee Webster '25, a Nursing major, was honored to be invited to become a supplemental instruction leader and is eager to share her study habits, including her study sheets, with others.

"This is good for leadership and will help me get out of my shell," she said. "I want to see all of the students in the class studying together and doing better, not just those who are struggling."

Devin Truman '23, a Nursing major, is looking forward to helping his fellow students learn in a fun way. "We have these collaborative learning techniques and activities that incorporate the content so students can really nail down the difficult concepts," he said.

Alexa Sitzer '25, an Adolescence Education and Chemistry major, wants to make sure students have a chance to slow down and not skip over the basics. "Chemistry can have a stigma that it is a difficult course and I want to make students feel like Chemistry is accessible," she said.

Ashton Craver '25, a Nursing major, is looking forward to seeing the program grow. He will help out in the Anatomy and Physiology course. When he took the course the first time he created visual aids to help him understand the content. "I always reviewed the information regularly," he said.

And while the supplemental instruction leaders said their main goal is to help other students, they are happy to retake the courses and refresh their own knowledge. For the nursing majors, this is an additional chance to prepare for their certification exam.

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