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The Carbon Atom Does What?

July 1, 2004

The Carbon Atom Does What?

Supplemental instruction program offers peer tutoring

By Kaitlin Solimine
July 2004

Going from high school classes to college lectures is a scary transition for most. For Tania Mitsinikos, a Pre-Med USC College sophomore majoring in biology and minoring in economics, the adjustment was especially daunting. Fortunately for Tania and the many other students like her, the College offers Supplemental Instruction (SI), a peer tutoring program that matches struggling students in traditionally difficult courses (such as organic chemistry) with upperclass students who have previously taken the courses.

This fall over 35 student SI leaders will tutor fellow students in 16 classes, mostly in the natural sciences and mathematics. The program and its student leaders do not focus simply on helping a student to receive a good grade. Instead, the program delves deeper, increasing a student’s retention and instilling better study skills that will remain with them throughout their academic careers.

“Peer tutoring helps students figure out how to become independent learners,” says SI Director Judy Haw. “SI leaders get students to talk among themselves and figure out difficult problems by building on existing strengths. They aren’t there to lecture the students.”

Indeed, many of the SI students believe that peer tutoring is more beneficial than traditional tutoring because of the approachability of their peers. “Because the tutors are also undergraduate students, they can relate to how another undergrad would feel about a class and how they would learn from it,” says Linda Tran, a SI participant and biology major.

And while supplemental instruction, is just that — supplemental — many students feel that it should be a fully integrated aspect of all traditionally challenging courses.

College senior Karl Balch is insistent. “SI instruction for a class such as organic chemistry is so important it is nearly mandatory,” says the psychology major who participated in SI groups in chemistry, organic chemistry and biology. “Although theoretically you could take the class without these resources, you are at a tremendous deficit without them.”