The Supplemental Instruction program at UT Austin is an off-shoot of the model created in 1973 by Dr. Deanna Martin at the University of Missouri-Kansas City in response to the high failure rate of minority students in her university’s medical school. The methods and philosophy of the SI program spread quickly out of health and professional schools to other colleges within the university and then nationwide. Today, more than 1,800 institutions in 27 countries have active SI programs, and SI’s positive impact on student grades is widely accepted.
At UT Austin, we have retained key elements of the original program: establishing regular sessions that promote a deeper understanding of the material itself as well as supplemental skills necessary in college. One notable difference is that supplemental instructors in other programs are peer undergraduates, while at UT Austin, they are usually graduate students. SI leaders have expertise within their disciplines, and they are being trained in educational tools and pedagogy that can help benefit students in their discussion sections. This approach assists both students receiving SI support and SI leaders; for graduate students who plan to continue on an academic path, gaining teaching experience aids professional growth.