Supplemental Instruction

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is an academic support model developed by Dr. Deanna Martin at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) in 1973 that uses peer-assisted study sessions to improve student retention and success within targeted historically difficult courses. The SI program provides by having students who succeeded in traditionally difficult academic courses (e.g., Organic Chemistry, Biology 101, Logic) help other students complete these courses. SI is a non-remedial approach that provides regular review sessions outside of class in which students work collaboratively by discussing readings, comparing notes, working together to predict test items, and sharing ideas for improving class material. Courses selected for SI tend to be “gatekeeper” courses for first and second year students—generally those classes that have a 30% or higher proportion of students who receive a “D”, fail, or withdraw from the course. Out-of-class review sessions are led by “SI leaders,” or students who took the class already and did well. SI leaders attend all class lectures, take notes, and act as models to those currently taking the course.

The SI model is used for selected courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional school levels, and has been adopted by colleges and universities in the United States and internationally. At Fisk University, sessions are mandatory, free, and facilitated by a trained peer SI Leader.  SI is provided to students who want to improve their understanding of course material and improve their grades.  SI is not a substitute for class, doing assigned homework or meeting with the course instructor. 

Basically, SI sessions integrate how-to-learn with what-to-learn.

SI Leader

SI Leaders facilitate group study sessions for selected courses. The leader functions as a “model student” by going to all the classes and taking notes. They help students formulate and answer their own questions, by using collaborative and group study strategies. SI Leaders help students organize class material, compare notes, discuss difficult concepts, develop strategies for studying the subject, and be prepared for taking tests and exams. SI Leaders do not lecture, or re-teach the material.


  1. To increase retention within targeted historically difficult courses
  2. To improve student grades in targeted historically difficult courses
  3. To increase the graduation rates of students


SI is a “free service” offered to all students in a targeted course. SI is a non-remedial approach to learning as the program targets high-risk courses rather than high-risk students. All students enrolled in pre-selected first year sequence courses attend SI sessions, as it is a mandatory program. Students with varying levels of academic preparedness and diverse ethnicities participate. There is no remedial stigma attached to SI since the program targets high-risk courses rather than high-risk students.

What is expected of students?Supplemental Instruction

  • Regularly attend class meetings; SI is support for the course, not a replacement for lecture or faculty contact.
  • Complete all required readings prior to attending class and SI sessions.
  • Bring questions to sessions; participation in sessions is important to understanding difficult concepts.  Be ready to share and ask questions of fellow students.

Key Elements

  • Assistance begins during the first week of the term before students encounter academic difficulties.
  • SI leaders do not lecture, but direct collaborative learning exercises that encourage students to take responsibility for processing course content.

2012-2013 Tutoring Final Grade Outcome by Number of VisitsSI Results

  • SI Students earn higher final course grades and withdraw less often than non-SI participants.
  • Data demonstrate higher reenrollment and graduation rates

Review of Data

Percentage of DFW dinal course grade for SI and non SIAcademic Disciplines Using Supplemental Instruction

Video-based Supplemental Instruction

Video-based Supplemental Instruction (VSI) is a model that combines course content with SI study sessions. University professors capture video recordings of their lectures. Trained facilitators, using the recorded lectures and the SI model, guide students through the learning process while emphasizing critical thinking and study skills. Assessment is provided by the professor keeping the facilitator in the role as a peer supporter and not an evaluator.