22 SES 06 D, Student Learning and Performances
Across Europe students entering higher education often have maths knowledge which is below university requirements. University teachers face a challenging task of teaching such students: students with poor maths knowledge tend to struggle with assessments and are more likely to drop out. To remedy this situation, maths support provision was widely introduced alongside university courses, but the type of provision varies across countries and universities, often limited by academic staff availability and other resource constraints.
This paper explores the opportunities for implementing a Supplemental Instruction (SI) peer-tutoring system in teaching mathematics aiming at improving students’ performance and reducing a drop-out rate. It evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of two different SI models and discusses the ways SI could be used in achieving a range of objectives in improving students’ performance in studying maths.
There is a growing volume of literature that demonstrates the effectiveness of SI (e.g. ) as a form of learning support provision. SI originated in US in 1973 and aimed at decreasing students’ drop-out rate, improving students’ performance in ‘high risk’ courses, and developing students’ competences and skills ([2-4]). The SI model is underpinned by social constructivist learning theories [e.g. 5, 6], which emphasise that learning is constructed in an interactive social context. As a result, students who collaborate with their peers and take an active approach to their learning earn higher grades and develop a deeper understanding of content. The SI method has become widely used in the higher education environment.
SI sessions are led by peer students who act as facilitators in the learning process. There are different models of peer tutoring. The most popular one is where senior students act as student learning facilitators for junior students. However, another model where students from the same cohort act as learning facilitators has also been used.
Learning facilitators attend training sessions where their role is explained and have regular meetings with course leaders. During the SI sessions a peer tutor explains difficult questions, initiates group work and coordinates problem solving process. Students work in a supervised environment where they are at ease to ask questions and work collaboratively with peers. The SI learning facilitator acts as a role model for student learners demonstrating a successful progression on a course as well as the importance of learning, confidence and competence development and how the knowledge the students gained can be applied in practice.
This paper evaluates the outcomes of two pilot projects where two different SI models were introduced into teaching mathematics at University West, Sweden. This study is part of on-going collaboration between University West, Leeds Beckett and Lancaster University, UK.
The first SI programme was introduced at University West in 2008-2009 on “Algebra and Calculus I for engineers” module on BSc Land Surveyors programme where the students from the same cohort acted as learning facilitators. The objectives of this project were to improve students’ motivation, develop their competences and independent learning [7, 8].
However, in recent years the objectives of using SI at University West shifted towards bridging the gap between the maths knowledge level of school leavers and university requirements. In 2014-2015 the SI programme was implemented on the “Algebra and Calculus I for engineers” module again. This time this module was taught to first year students on two programmes: BSc Land Surveyors and BSc Industrial Economics. The students on this ‘high risk’ module were showing a high failure rate and were struggling to progress into the second year. In this second SI programme the model where senior students acted as learning facilitators was used to provide additional maths support for students.
1. Topping, K.J. 2006. Trends in peer learning. Educational Psychology 25, no. 6: 631–45. 2. Hurley, M., Jacobs, G. and Gilbert, M. 2006. The basic SI model. In Supplemental instruction: New visions for empowering student learning. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 106, ed. M.E. Stone and G. Jacobs, 11–22. San Francisco, CA: Wiley. 3. Malm J., Bryngfors L. and Morner L. 2012. Supplemental Instruction for improving first-year results in engineering studies. Studies in Higher Education Vol. 37, No 6. Pp 655-666. 4. Ning N.K. and Downing K. 2010. The impact of supplemental instruction on learning competence and academic performance. Studies in Higher Education Vol. 35, No 8. Pp 921-939. 5. Vygotsky, L.S. 1978. Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 6. Inhelder, B., & Piaget, J. The growth of logical thinking. New York: Basic Books, 1958. 7. Luchinskaya E, Nilsson G., Kristiansson L., ‘Higher Education in Change: Peer-assisted learning applied to Mathematics and Physics for engineers’. Paper presented at the annual European Educational Research Association conference, ECER 2010, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, 2010. 8. Luchinskaya E. and Nilsson G., ‘Using Problem-based and Peer-assisted Learning in Teaching Mathematics to University Students: Focus on Competence Development’. Paper presented at the annual British Educational Research Association conference, BERA 2009, Manchester University, Manchester, UK, 2-5 September 2009.
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