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DSU starts ‘students helping students’ program

January 17, 2018

To help students succeed in class, Dakota State University has implemented a new program called supplemental instruction, or SI.

SI uses the group assistance model sometimes referred to as a “near peer” program. This type of academic support program is popular at many universities, said Kacie Fodness, Activity Director/Learning Support Specialist with the Title III/Academic Support department. “We are excited to make it part of the campus culture at DSU.”

“What is great about DSU’s SI model is that it focuses on how we can fill the need students may have for additional resources in areas such as reading, writing and critical thinking,” Fodness said.

SI is made possible through a $2.3 million, five-year grant through the U.S. Department of Education’s Title III Part A Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP). DSU is in year two of the grant, and over the remaining years, SI will support a number of courses identified as those in which students may need extra assistance.

Students who have successfully completed one of these courses can apply to be a supplemental instruction (SI) leader, Fodness said. These leaders attend and participate in the class so their peers get to know them. The SI leaders then host 2-3 sessions per week outside of class, where they meet with students to review course concepts, prepare for exams or other major assignments, and provide other support or resources that may be needed.

“Because I attend the classes, I am familiar with the students and am well aware of all of the assignments and expectations,” said SI leader Kennedi Ford, a senior English for New Media major from Redfield, S.D. Because she takes extensive notes during class sessions, she can remind students of due dates, and create study guides for the midterm and final exams. During the extra sessions, she works with the students to hone grammar and writing skills, but instead of simply editing their work, “I provide them with the techniques and resources to do the editing themselves.”

She likes the idea of focused tutoring, helping students fulfill each assignment as a peer leader. Feedback from her student peers has been positive as well, Ford said. Personally, the extra time involved has been well worth her efforts by refreshing her own skills, she added, so she would recommend SI as either a leader or as a participant.

“SI is open to any student who would like to improve both their grade and skills,’” Ford said, “because those who attend definitely take away something from each session.”

SI leaders for the 2017 fall semester were Jalen Boyd, Kennedi Ford, Carl Poss and Hope Juntunen. Participating faculty include Dr. Stacey Berry, Dr. Justin Blessinger, Ms. Deana Hueners, and Dr. Kurt Kemper.

The grant also provided for the establishment of an on-campus writing center.