Supplemental Instruction as a Successful Academic Support Option UCSC attaches supplemental instruction toapproximately 112 course sections each academic year, an average of 37 courses each quarter.In general, attendance at these sessions is voluntary, but occasionally professors offer students incentives for participating in supplemental instruction on a weekly basis. Based on historic issues
when UCSC first began its supplemental instruction, it was given the name of Modified
Supplemental Instruction (MSI).
Table 5 MSIUtilization Data and Pass Rates ofStudents who Used MSI
# MSI Students
Total # students in class
Percentage of MSI usage
% of Classes Where Students
Using MSI had a Higher Pass Rate Than Students Who did not use MSI
Over the past 3 years, an average of 27%, just over one-quarter of the UCSC students enrolled in MSI supported classes took advantage of the supplemental instruction groups. On average, the students who did use MSI passed their classes at a higher rate than the students who chose not to participate inthe programin 75% of the MSI supported
Although this MSI pass rate data is encouraging, Learning Support Services needs to extend our research efforts to investigatethe relationship betweenMSI utilization and students’ academic success using the correlation between MSI attendance and course grade data. As the Economics major at UCSC has very strict admission policies requiring a 2.8 combined GPA in Economics 1(Introductory Microeconomics) and Economics 2 (Introductory Macroeconomics), and strict major disqualification policies related to failure in Economics 11A (Mathematical Methods for Economists I), Economics 11B (Mathematical Methods for Economists I), Economics 100A (Intermediate Microeconomics) and Economics 100B (Intermediate Macroeconomics), we began our MSI/course grade correlation investigations using Economics classes.
Table 6 Achievement Data for Students Taking Economics Classes and Their MSI Utilization for Academic Years 2007-2008, 2008-2009 & 2009-2010
(B- or above)
(B- or above)
(N grade, N total)
MSI 4 or
(N grade, N total)
63% (235, 371)
64% (356, 557)
88% (248, 282)
97% (427, 441)
MSI > 4 sessions
(N grade, N total)
As Table 6 indicates, students who attendedMSI for Economics 1 and Economics 2 more than 4 timesduring the quarter were more likely to earn a B-grade than students who did not attend MSI more than 4 times. Additionally, in Economics 11A, 11B, 100A and
100B, students who attended MSI more than 4 times were more likely to pass the class. This data begins to indicate that participating in supplemental instruction on a regular basis contributes positively to students’ academic achievement. This is important, as we continually strive to convince professors to more frequently and forcefully recommend MSI attendance and/or build MSI attendance intotheir courses as a means for students to raise a poor homework evaluation, earn a small grade boost to mitigate an exam melt- down, etc.
In a small way Table 7 addresses theproverbially unanswerable question, does participation in tutoring andsupplemental instruction actually contribute to student retention. In comparing the persistence of non-EOP students and EOP students, we discovered that participation in the Learning Support Services tutoring and supplemental instruction programs did seemto increase students’ persistence.
Table 7 Fall 2005 Cohort LSS Utilization Since Fall 2007
Used LSS Fall 2007-
Did not persist
Did not persist
Certainly, in these difficult economic timesas budgets for academic support services programs are necessarily being reduced, this research data may be useful.Yet, we still need to look more closely and critically atthe correlation of participation in Learning Support Services sponsored programs, student retention, and student academic achievement.How do we convince more than 25% of our students to commit to supplemental instruction,and to attend on a weekly, not a hap-hazard basis?
LALS 100A, an Example of Succeeding in Offering Educational Equity Several years ago Professor JonathanFox, Writing Lecturer Dan Scripture and Learning Support Services Director Holly Cordova investigated the relationship between students’ academic backgrounds and their demonstratedwritingabilityintwo LatinAmerican and Latino Studies (LALS) classes LALS 100A (Politics and Society) and LALS 100B (Culture and Society). In order to develop a profile of more and less successful students in these classes, we categorized students by their cumulative GPA ranges using several different markers including area of academicmajor, students’ ELWR history, ethnicity, EOP status, transfer versus native student status, and likely native language other than
English. These data reveal concerns as toeducational equity. Students who entered UCSC not having satisfied the Entry Level Writing Requirement, having EOP status, and having a native language other than English (in this case, usually Spanish), had cumulative GPAs and earned grades in upper division LALS courses lower than their more privileged peers.These data supported our belief that many students seemto require continual instructional guidance as they address the challenges of upper division, content-specific, academic writing tasks. Therefore, we agreed to plan and implement a writing-intensive support programintegratedintoupper-division LALS classes. The course that we selected to focus on is LALS 100A, as it is a major requirement, has a specific focus on teaching analysis of research studies, and asks students to write 3 analytic essays and a take-home final examination including a brief research proposal.
The academic support model that we use involves offering students the choice to enroll in a two-unit writing support component embeddedinto the course. Students who choose to enroll in thiswriting support are required to meet with an undergraduate Writing
Assistant each week in groups of approximately ten students and to produce drafts and rewrites of their course-assigned papers. For each of the three major writing assignments in the class, students are required to produce a complete rough draft to be submitted to their Writing Assistant, a revision of the draft to be turned into their Teaching Assistant for feedback and grading and a rewritten revision of the graded paper to be given to their Writing Assistant. Therefore, students produced 9 rather than 3 papers for submission.
The following two tables compare the performance of the students who chose to enroll in the two-unit writing assistance programwith the students who did not make this choice. Table 8 focuses on the positive effects ofthis support model on EOP students using the
2010 LALS 100A course as a snapshot of this comparison. Table 9 illustrates the increasing student interest in this writing support model and the educational equity that it seems to be producing. It is important tonote that during the last three years of the program, EOP students comprised the majority of the students that participated in the 2 unit writing support option (2009- 61% EOP, 2010- 80% EOP, 2011-65% EOP). Each year more students enroll in the course option with the writing support, and each year the academic performance of the two groups, those with and without the additional writing support become more similar.
Table 8 Winter 2010 Percent of EOP and Non-EOP Students with As and Bs in LALS
100A with 2 Unit Writing Support and Without Writing Support
LALS 100A Without Writing Support
N (As & Bs)
% A & B
N (As and Bs)
% A & B
Table 9 Grade Distribution of LALS 100AStudents with 2 Unit Writing Support and
We used an in-class self-evaluation process to encourage students to assess their demonstrated writing competence and confidenceand to decide whether to participate in the course option including the 2 unit writing support. We hope and assume that many of the students who chose to enroll in the writing support programfelt that they needed assistance to become more successful writers. If our supposition that students who most needed writing assistance chose to enroll in the two-unit writing support program
attached to LALS 100A is valid, then the writing-intensive support produced positive results. The grade data indicates that the LALS 100A attached writing support model has equalized the grade outcomes for EOP and non-EOP students when the EOP students have chosen to enroll in the course-embedded writing support.
As of fall, 2010, as part of the new General Education Requirements approved by the UCSC academic senate,LALS 100A has become one of the courses required to fulfill the Disciplinary Communicationrequirement. Disciplinary Communication is an upper- division writing requirement in each academic major.
Final Comments Learning Support Services at UCSC remains committed to using careful research studies of students’ academic achievement trends to inform our practices. Based on data that continue to support our contention that participation in our programs does increase students’ academic achievement and does increase the opportunities for initially educationally underprepared students to maximize their likelihood of attaining academic excellence, we have begun to use a case management approach for entering EOP students and EOP students in academic difficulty wherein we provide these students with individual Academic Success Plans each quarter. Based on their previous high school
and UCSC academic histories, we requireparticipation in appropriate academic support activities for each of their courses each quarter. For example, we might require twice-a- week section enrollment for Math 3, individual tutoring for Writing 20, and weekly attendance at MSI for Chemistry 1A. Additionally, we use our data to encourage academic departments and individual professors to integrate supplemental instruction, group tutoring, or a combination of multipleacademic support options into their course syllabi. And, perhaps of primary importance,we rely on our data to keep us informed, honest, and innovative.When the data confirmsevidence of our success, we can use it to
justify budgetary decisions, and, as also happens, when our data illustrates our need to rethink our programmatic decisions,we mustrespond to its compelling evidence of a need for improvement. Continual research allows us to make data-driven decisions, thus using our limited resources in the bestinterests of our students.