students talking, smiling

When Min Webber was a new student at FRCC in fall 2019, she quickly realized the benefit of getting help outside of the classroom. 

“My first math class was college algebra, and I went to my first Supplemental Instruction session right away,” says Min, a 2019 graduate of Centaurus High School in Lafayette. She now attends FRCC at the Westminster campus and also takes courses online. “I wanted help with the homework and thought it could be a good chance to get to know my classmates too.”  

What is Supplemental Instruction? 

Supplemental Instruction (SI) is an academic support program available in many FRCC math courses (and certain science courses at the Westminster Campus). SI is staffed by students who have successfully completed the course in a previous semester—called SI leaders.  

These peer leaders attend class with the other students, which allows them to help their peers during class. SI leaders also host regular study and review sessions outside of class time, which students can choose to attend if they want a little more support. (And the great news is there’s no charge for using these services.) 

SI Helps Students Understand the Material Better 

Students who attend these sessions with their SI leader consistently improve their grades— on average, by a half a letter grade. (That means a high C can easily become a B by participating in this supplemental instruction.)  

FRCC’s supportive SI leaders help the other students build confidence and master the course material. Many students say that working with a peer leader in this way makes the learning experience easier—although it does require a little extra time. 

Min found that using the supplemental instruction option was worth it. She ended up with an A in college algebra at FRCC and was encouraged by her instructor to apply to become an SI leader.  

Taking On a Leadership Role 

“I started [working as an SI leader] in spring 2020,” she says. “It’s a great way to share what you know and help other students see things from a student point of view.  

“As SI Leaders, we’re students too, so we know how to help students think through concepts in different ways than a teacher might show them.”  

In an average week, Min works 8-12 hours helping students both in the classroom and outside of class. She holds two SI sessions a week and is available to students via email as well.  

Another part of her job is to meet with the course’s instructor to talk about class observations and discuss ways that Min can best support students in her SI sessions. Student SI leaders get paid an hourly rate for their work, but they get something else out of the experience too. 

SI Helps Student Leaders to Grow 

Min is taking as many general education courses at FRCC as possible before she transfers in fall 2022—hopefully to the University of Colorado-Denver. She plans to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D graphics and animation.  

Being an SI Leader has opened up a new possible path for her: teaching. “I realize that I actually really enjoy teaching others,” Min says. “That idea was definitely not on my radar before. My role as an SI leader sparked that!”  

Tailoring Instruction to the Individual Student 

Min says that being both a student who has relied on the SI sessions—and an SI leader herself—has opened her eyes to how each student learns differently. “Not everyone thinks the same way, and we all have different backgrounds in how we have approached school and learning,” she says.  

Min adds that instructors teach in different ways—and not all students pick it up easily. “Students sometimes grasp the concept but make mistakes on the homework, or they’ll study one thing really hard that barely shows up on the test,” she says.  

“I try to help them study effectively and apply what they learn across different problems.” 

A Great Experience  

Many students fear math, Min says, and she is happy to help them in her unique way. “I notice that a lot of students come into this class a little timid and desperate for help,” she says.  

“This [college algebra] class is a prerequisite for many other courses, and it isn’t easy, especially for students who haven’t been in school for a few years.” 

She finds her job fulfilling—and it serves as a reminder of how important it is to ask for help in college. “I think I’ve become more motivated and confident as a result of doing this,” she says.  

“As an SI Leader, you need to be patient and willing to make mistakes and learn from them. I’m not a perfect student, but I’m willing to help other students. I enjoy that part a lot.” 

Attend SI Sessions, Improve Your Grades 

Supplemental Instruction is proven to help students raise their grades—and the more sessions a student attends, the better their grade. If you’re taking a 100-level math class (or one of a few science classes at our Westminster Campus that offer Supplemental Instruction), take the time to attend these extra sessions. 

You’ll be glad you did. And once you succeed in your class, why not consider becoming an SI leader? It’s a great way to pay forward the help you received. If you’re interested, contact your campus Academic Success Center for details.  

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