As a Supplemental Instruction (SI) Coordinator, I hear the question almost daily. “So, how is this different from tutoring?” I basically have an elevator pitch ready to go now, but I hope that writing the differences here will help others who come across SI at their institutions explain it as well.
What is Tutoring?
Tutoring is highly-specialized teaching or support of a student in a particular subject that takes place outside class time. Tutoring can also be targeted at assignments or assessments, such as entrance or certification exams. A professional or qualified peer tutor may tutor a student. Group tutoring is also offered to students in some subjects where the tutor considered a content expert to assist students. Sometimes, teachers are aware of which students are receiving tutoring. Tutoring sessions often focus on questions brought to the tutoring session by students. However, tutors may provide practice assignments for students to work on as well.
What is Supplemental Instruction?
SI is similar to tutoring because it supports students in a specific course outside class time. Study sessions (called SI sessions) are led by model students, or SI Leaders. SI Leaders have proven to be successful in the course they are leading sessions for and are not expected to be content experts. Rather, they are experts on study skills, how to study effectively, and how to be a successful student. SI Leaders create session plans with activities based on difficult concepts. Attendance to sessions is 100% voluntary and anonymous.
So, is one better than the other?
Generally speaking, no. I encourage all students to take advantage of resources early on in their college careers and continue visiting those that prove to work best with their learning styles and needs. If you are a student with a lot of questions about homework, quizzes, or exams, you will benefit from SI sessions, but will also want to take a trip to the appropriate tutoring centers on campus. If you have general questions, want to learn how to study for the course efficiently, and want to meet others in your class to form study groups, SI is a must-have. A final note: both of these programs will help you succeed in college, but neither of these support programs will substitute for attending class and asking the instructor questions!
Tell us about your experience with academic support programs!
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Podcast With Tyler Miller on Student Development Theories, Part I