Supplemental Instruction

Supplemental instruction (SI) is offered for certain chemistry courses, especially for organic chemistry. SI gives the students the opportunity to work in a cooperative setting on problems and is supported by peer instructors. SI works to increase academic performance and retention by utilizing both collaborative and independent study strategies. SI is offered for historically difficult courses - courses in which 30% or more of the students receive D or F grades or withdraw; courses typically where students have little opportunity for interaction with the professor or other students. Labeling a course as historically difficult allows you to categorize the class as challenging without placing blame on the professor or the students. In our department, Professor Issa Salame is an expert on Supplemental Instruction (Salame et al., 2019 and 2021), and oversees running SI for organic chemistry classes.

The Supplemental Instruction (SI) model was initiated at the University of Missouri (Burmeister et al., 1996). SI is a collaborative learning model that is part of the course. It is a type of academic support based on peer-assisted learning. SI has been implemented in more than 29 countries and 1,500 institutions (Martin, 2009). SI has been used across college campuses to increase retention and success rates in challenging courses that have high attrition rates (Widmar, 1994, Etter et al., 2000). The US Department of Education recognized the SI model as an exemplary program worthy of replication at post-secondary education institutions (Martin & Arendale, 1993).

SI participants attend sessions that helps them modify their own learning processes to become active learners based on their group interactions and social interdependence which promote cognitive development. Students in SI are actively involved in the learning processes as compared to passive participants in traditional lecture format. Moreover, working in a group setting, students are more engaged and can benefit from each other which increases motivation and improves learning for each member of the group. SI participants work collaboratively to learn content, discuss course concepts and their relationships to each other, and engage in problem solving.

SI instructors are recruited from a pool of students who have completed the course and received an excellent grade. They are trained as peer leaders and supervised by the course instructor. The SI leaders do not lecture or solve problems. They work on facilitating discussions, group work, and problem solving with the students.

Based on the final grades in Organic Chemistry and the responses to a questionnaire, Supplemental Instruction has been very effective in improving students’ achievement, success, and the learning experience. SI participants have an overall passing average of about 80%, compared to about 50% for non-SI participants. SI participation provided the participants with a unique and individualized learning experience that results in an enhanced conceptual understanding of the challenging organic chemistry concepts and improved study habits, which led to increased achievement and success.


Burmeister, S., Kenney, P., & Nice, D. (1996). Analysis of effectiveness of SI sessions for college algebra, calculus, and statistics. In Research in collegiate mathematics education II (pp. 145–154). Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society.

Etter, E. R., Burmeister, S. L., & Elder, R. J. (2000). Improving student performance and retention via supplemental instruction. Journal of Accounting Education, 18(4), 455-368.

Martin, D. C., & Arendale, D. A. (1993). Understanding the SI model. In D. Martin & D. Arendale. Supplemental instruction: Improving first-year student success in high risk courses (pp. 3–10). Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for The Freshman Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Widmar, G. (1994). Supplemental instruction: from small beginnings to national program. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 60, 3-10. tl.37219946003

Salame, I. I., & Nazir, R. (2019). The impact of supplemental instruction on the performance and attitudes of general chemistry students. International Journal of Chemistry Education Research, 3(2), 53-59. ijcer.vol3.iss2.art1.

Salame, I. I. (2021). The impact of supplemental instruction on the learning achievements and attitudes of organic chemistry students. Interdisciplinary Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 17(2), e2232. 10.21601/ijese/9330

Last Updated: 03/21/2022 11:34