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What is SI

What is SI?

”Supplemental Instruction” (SI) was developed in1973 at the University of Missouri in Kansas City in order to increase student throughput in “difficult” courses. The SI concept has since had major impact and established itself in more than 1500 universities and colleges of further education in around thirty countries.

There are other names for SI such as PASS - Peer Assisted Study Sessions and PAL – Peer Assisted Learning, but the fundamental principle of the method is the same.

So, what is SI? First and foremost it is not just a method, rather an approach to learning where inner motivation and curiosity are the central driving forces, and where the emphasis lies on self-managed and collective learning. SI is, as expressed by its name, a complement to the conventional instruction offered in a course. The thinking behind SI is that learning a subject is strengthened by means of exchange of thoughts and ideas between students.

The SI programme is attached to a “difficult” course that has traditional teaching techniques and a low throughput. SI usually takes place in a group of circa 5–15 students, where discussion is led by an older student. The older student is not there to be a teacher, but to help clarify difficult issues within the subject area by posing questions, acting as a sounding board, initiating work in small groups and coordinating the presentation of conclusions. The older student undergoes introductory SI training to acquire the tools that will be needed during a sojourn as an SI leader.

The Benefits of SI

Well developed SI sessions, when attached to a course, normally lead to significantly improved throughput. An example from Lund University is shown in the figure below. In addition, students develop their study technique and their ability to critically review, work in a team and make presentations.

If SI is introduced at the beginning of a course, one may also achieve positive effects in the form of a reduced drop-out rate, as well as better credit levels for first year students.

 SI leaders are perhaps the biggest winners. These older students are trained in modern leadership and group dynamics, practical teaching, speaking in front of others and handling unexpected situations.


Relation between SI attendance and the result on the first major exam in the course Calculus in One Variable. Results from in total 762 students registered on the course during the first quarter of the academic year 2009/10.

What is SI? Watch the movie about SI.

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