Interdisciplinary Assessment of Supplemental Instruction and Attitudes in STEM: Year One

Project No.
PI Name
Sissi L Li
California State University Fullerton


Abstract 1

Interdisciplinary Assessment of Supplemental Instruction and Attitudes in STEM: Year One

Presentation Type

Although there are many reports of the impact of Supplemental Instruction (SI) on grades and retention of students within STEM, the previous SI literature leaves many questions unanswered. Although we know from previous literature that SI has positive impacts on student grades, we have little idea how SI impacts content knowledge or views of learning science and math in SI leaders.


The research team at California State University Fullerton (CSUF) plans to create an assessment model to measure content knowledge gains and attitude changes in students receiving SI and the effects of SI on student peer leaders.

1: Establish a clearer definition of the effectiveness of the SI program. A clearer definition of the effectiveness of the SI program on student knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about their ability to learn science/math will add to the research literature and more explicitly articulate the benefits the program.
2: Document the impact of the SI program on student conceptual understanding and attitudes about learning science. We measure these aspects of student learning using valid and reliable concept inventories and attitude surveys.
3: Documenting the impact of the SI program on leadersメ conceptual understand and attitudes about learning science. We document the extent to which participation in SI as leaders impacts the leadersメ conceptual understanding and beliefs and attitudes about learning science using the same concept inventories and attitude surveys. Additionally, we interview the SI leaders over multiple semesters as they develop as learning facilitators.


By considering the enterprise of the SI program as a social means of promoting cognitive understanding and beliefs about a discipline, we approach the goals and research questions about this community development from many angles. With quantitative data about the students, we learn about the outcomes of participating in the program. From the qualitative data about the SI leaders, we learn about the nuances of different ways a community in the SI program can achieve comparable goals in order to better understand the mechanism(s) by which SI supports student success.


This project will address the need for deeper and more meaningful measures of the effectiveness of the SI program. The findings will broaden the research base on SI effectiveness by constructing and implementing a comprehensive cross-disciplinary program of study to examine changes in content understanding and attitudes and beliefs about learning in science and math courses.

Broader Impacts

Locally at CSUF, the success of SI in STEM has expanded the program to other fields. The primary impact of this project is on the leaders and students involved in this process; preliminary data has been used to inform implementation and training. Across the CSU system, the research has promoted interest and motivation to implement SI at campuses beyond CSUF.

Unexpected Challenges

While we had expected some reluctance and disinterest in participating in a research study, we did not anticipate the number of instructors in some of the departments to be non-responsive when we requested they ask their students to participate in the surveys. In the second semester of surveys, we opted to inform instructors of our plans to contact their students and then directly emailed students to ask them to participate. The the instructors offered no objections and the response rates were much improved.


As this is the first year of the project, we have collected preliminary data to describe the differences in implementation in the participating STEM departments and to describe the baseline for the students involved in courses that have a Supplemental Instruction component. As we are analyzing the data, the findings have not been published although publications are being planned.