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SI Sessions Are Peer-Facilitated
The ideal SI Leader is a student who has recently taken the class from the same instructor and received a high final subject grade. All SI Leaders should be approved by the faculty member for content competency. The SI Supervisor interviews and selects SI Leaders through a rigorous process which helps determine if the candidate possesses qualities and characteristics needed to be an effective SI Leader.
The SI Leader neither re-lectures nor introduces new material; instead, the SI Leaderís responsibility is to organize and add structure to the SI sessions. The final responsibility for processing course material and answering questions generated by the students remains with the students themselves. The primary function of the SI Leader is to facilitate critical thinking and discussion among SI participants through the use of learning strategy activities. The Leader models appropriate learning strategies at key points in the SI sessions.
The SI Leader Attends the Targeted Class Lectures as a Model Student
The SI Leader serves as a "model student" by attending all lectures for the targeted class. When the SI Leader attends the course lectures, the Leader becomes knowledgeable about what is occurring in the class sessions and has an opportunity to model "good student" behavior in the class. The SI Leaderís presence in the classroom also serves to market the SI program to students. The Leader should regularly meet with the supervisor or other staff to plan strategies to use in sessions. Additionally, the SI Leader functions as a "model student" of the discipline rather than an authority figure. SI Leaders help students formulate and answer their own questions. This process helps students develop a more sophisticated approach to learning, while maintaining the focus on difficult course content mastery.
SI Sessions Integrate Content and Learning Strategies
The SI sessions integrate the review of lecture notes, textbook readings, problem solving, outside readings along with appropriate use of learning strategies. "How to learn" is embedded into SI sessions along with "what to learn." Through practice and mastery of effective learning strategies, students can adopt and transfer these strategies to other subjects and content areas. Collaborative learning strategies are used in SI sessions as a means of creating a more active learning environment for student participants.
SI Leader Receives Training
The SI Leader receives training on how to plan for and lead dynamic SI sessions prior to the beginning of the term. Ongoing training continues throughout the academic term. These training sessions include specific learning theory and strategies.
The SI Program Is Supervised
A trained professional staff or faculty member supervises the SI Leaders and the program. Among other duties, the campus SI Supervisor and staff regularly attend SI sessions throughout the academic term to observe the sessions and provide helpful feedback to the Leaders for the improvement of the program. To assure the success of the program, the SI Supervisor should have attended the SI Supervisor workshop conducted by a staff member from UMKC or another Certified Trainer. All Leaders should be observed for their first three sessions; new Leaders should then be observed once per week for the remainder of the term; and returning Leaders should be observed once every other week for the remained of the term.
Faculty Support for the Course
Faculty should understand the SI program and support its attachment to his or her class by actively encouraging all students to attend. Faculty should also play a role in selecting and screening SI Leaders for content competency.
Regularly Scheduled Sessions
SI starts the beginning of the academic term. Generally three or more sessions are offered each week but the number of weekly sessions will vary depending on student demand or specific issues related to the course. Students should attend SI sessions on a voluntary basis.
It is important to evaluate the overall quality of the program and to gather information about its strengths and weaknesses. It is necessary to inform college administrators about the overall impact of the program. The SI program should be evaluated appropriately by assessing institutional outcome measures (e.g., final subject grades, subject withdrawal rates, institutional dropout rates, institutional graduation rates). Assessment is an increasingly critical issue in higher education and has a direct impact on funding. More and more institutions are asked by administrators and state legislators to evaluate learning outcomes as well.
SI Targets Courses Rather Than Students
While higher education has historically created academic improvement programs that attempt to diagnose students who may have academic difficulty, the SI program targets courses in which a number of students may experience academic difficulty. SI avoids a remedial stigma by focusing on courses, rather than individual students. The SI program provides change in the learning environment for students enrolled in the targeted class. While all students may not take advantage of this voluntary service, it often attracts an equal proportion of students from differing ability and cultural groups.
SI does not segregate students based on prior academic performance or predictions of academic success. SI sessions work best with heterogeneous groupings of students. Participating students receive higher measures of academic achievement in comparison to their nonparticipating counterparts (according to research from the US Department of Education from 1981).