SI Sessions Inside and Out

Each of the following sections has suggestions or guiding questions to help you make the most of your SI sessions.

Setting Expectations with Students in Sessions

Once students arrive at an in-person or Zoom session, SI Leaders may want to take a few minutes to facilitate a “setting expectations” activity. Below is a list of suggested expectations that you may need to go over with students in the first few weeks of sessions:

  • Don’t expect a lecture. The purpose of the session is not to “re-teach” students or “tell them” the material again but rather provide the students with the tools they need to understand and process the material themselves. Sessions are more interactive and empower students to become critical thinkers and independent learners.
    • Zoom Sessions: students are not required to have their video camera on if that doesn’t feel comfortable for them, but they should be ready to actively engage in the session by utilizing the audio feature, the chat, and participating in any activities the SI Leader has planned.
  • Have your notes, the Course Canvas page, and any other course materials ready (PPTs, texts, worksheets, etc.). Students will refer to course materials and notes throughout the session. SI Leaders plan activities such as note reviews and Divide & Conquer under the assumption that students will have these materials. Student’s notes also provide a resource to check if there is a disagreement about an answer during the session.
  • Don’t expect a worksheet at every session. Often students feel they should be given a worksheet to complete during the session. Typically, this type of worksheet has leading questions (related to questions in a predetermined order, chronological or other) and an emphasis on lower-order questions (T/F, multiple-choice, or yes/no). Such worksheets do not require the student to process the material themselves: therefore, they are not always the most helpful tool during the session. This kind of worksheet also makes the students feel like they need to get all of the answers before they leave and can isolate students from one another. An SI Leader may use a handout or Google Doc/PPT slide for various processes (matrix, vocabulary development, etc.) but this should not be expected at every session.
  • Expect the SI Leader to be prepared and plan something to organize the time. SI Leaders come to the session with a plan to cover specific content from class. This gives the session structure and direction. Students often have questions about material not related to the SI Leader's plan, and it is up to their judgment whether or not to incorporate that material. Having a plan allows for the student to arrive at the session even if they don’t have any particular questions or “problem areas.” By having a plan, the SI Leader structures the session to maximize the student to student interactions during the session.
  • Be ready to talk to your classmates in group discussions and breakout rooms. One of the key components of SI sessions is the student to student interactions, or students teaching other students. However, students often come to sessions expecting to sit quietly and just listen. Many are reluctant to participate in the discussion, but students benefit the most when they talk to each other about the material. SI Leaders work hard to create a supportive environment where students can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and will provide several pair or small group activities for shy students.
  • Sessions are the best place to make mistakes. Making mistakes and struggling is a natural part of the learning process. We can learn a lot from our mistakes and SI sessions are the perfect place to ask questions, make mistakes, and try out new ideas. Students are never graded on anything you do in an SI session, so making a mistake or coming up with a less than perfect answer won’t bring down your GPA. Making mistakes in sessions gives you and the other students a chance to work through the challenge and come up with alternative approaches or more complete answers.
  • We will work on large, complex ideas in sessions, not just yes/no questions. In-depth problems allow for more discussion and for students to delve deeper into a subject. Instead of just memorizing answers, students will participate in a dialogue about the material, debate, trade ideas, understand the foundation underneath the subject matter, and obtain a thorough understanding of the material.
  • Feel free to eat snacks during a session, wear comfy clothes, and be yourself. As mentioned before, sessions aren’t lectures, they’re study sessions. Students should come to socialize a little, relax a little, and learn a lot.
  • SI Program/LARC staff will occasionally attend sessions to observe and give feedback to the SI Leader. The observer will introduce themselves and then turn off their video, OR sit in the back of the classroom, during the session to cause the least disruption. The observer will not share who attended the sessions with the faculty member or report back on their interactions in sessions. The LARC staff member is there to support and consult with the SI Leader.
  • Your SI Leader is qualified because they have taken the same class or a higher level class and done well. The instructor approved their content knowledge, and the SI Leader has been trained in group processing strategies. Sometimes the SI Leader may not answer questions; that isn’t because the SI Leader doesn’t know, but because they want you to answer.
  • You don’t have to have questions, be done with homework, or have finished your reading to attend (although it helps!) Students tend to miss sessions just because they didn’t finish the homework or they did not read the chapter yet. Although reading and being familiar with the class material does help a lot, the students do not have to complete their studies before coming to a session. The SI Leader will have chosen a difficult part of the chapter/course material to cover, using very helpful strategies. Students will need to be involved in discussions during the session, but they will not need to prepare anything before coming to the session. Even if you have done all of your studying and don’t have any questions, you can still benefit from the perspectives of other students who attend the session.
  • You will get a better grade no matter what grade you want. There are some students who think that SI sessions are only for “A” students, and there are some students who think that you should only go to SI if you are about to fail the class. SI is designed to help students at every level of knowledge. There is a strong correlation between frequent SI attendance and higher grades. 
  • You choose the time for SI sessions. During the second week of class, the SI Leader surveys the class and asks to share the times they are available for sessions. Then, the SI Leader tries to pick times that the majority of the students interested in SI can attend. Most of the time, even if all the times do not work for a student’s schedule, attending only one session per week can help the student earn a better grade. If students’ schedules change and the majority cannot attend sessions, the SI Leader can reschedule the sessions to accommodate most of the class.
  • The SI Leader attends class weekly for three important reasons: (1) The SI Leader models good student behavior. (2) The SI Leader keeps up with the instructor’s curriculum. This is to make sure the SI Leader knows what the professor is stressing in lecture so they can plan effective sessions that will review the most challenging concepts. (3) The SI Leader will also build connections with students either through live, synchronous courses, or through the course Canvas page. If the class is over asynchronous, the SI Leader watches the lecture and engages with the Canvas course.
  • The SI Leader is there to make sure that the session is efficient. They have taken the class before and therefore know which material is the most important and the most difficult. They are able to make plans to cover this material in sessions and leave the less important and the less complex material for the student to cover on their own. In this way, the students are concentrating on the essential material and not wasting their time on superfluous material.
  • SI sessions are free to allow students from many different backgrounds to attend. Students pay fees that help fund these academic support programs, so since they are already paying for it in a sense, they should take advantage of the services.
  • SI Leaders do not grade assignments or report to professors on student performance or attendance at SI sessions. This is important because it helps to make sessions more relaxed. Students don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes in sessions. If they do not perform well in a session, it does not attach a negative stigma to them, and they should be more willing to ask questions and make sure they understand the material. Because the leader does not grade, the relationship between the students and the SI Leader is more friendly and relaxed, providing a more productive atmosphere in the session.

The SI Session

Opening the Si Session

The following questions can help guide you in thinking about how you begin your SI sessions. These questions will be discussed during training or a staff meeting, and we recommend you take notes:

  1. How will you set in-person community expectations or Zoom etiquette/community expectations?
  2. How will you introduce the group members to each other?
  3. What will you do if students come to the first session and seem upset when you explain that you will not “tutor” them?
  4. How will you encourage students to actively participate in person or in the Zoom session (mic on, camera on, etc.)?
  5. If a student comes in halfway through the session, how will you catch them up to speed?
  6. What will you do if you only have one student show up for a session?
  7. What will you do if no one shows up for a session?
Conducting the SI Session

What would YOU do in these situations? Again, the following questions can help guide you in thinking about how you conduct your SI sessions. These questions will be discussed during training or a staff meeting, and we recommend you take notes:

  1. One person is dominating the conversation of the group.
  2. Remote scenario: One of the students is having technical difficulties (this could range from connectivity to audio/camera issues).
  3. All of the interactions in the SI/LC sessions are between you and the students. In other words, you are doing most (or all of the talking). There is no student-to-student interaction.
  4. Every time you ask a question about the course content, the group becomes very quiet.
  5. You have one student in the session who rarely turns on their mic, or talks in the session.
  6. A student becomes confrontational and suggests the sessions are a waste of time.
Closing Sessions/Reviewing for Exams

These final questions can help guide you in thinking about how you close out sessions. These questions will be discussed during training or a staff meeting, and we recommend you take notes:

  1. Why is it generally important to provide “closure” at an SI session?
  2. If things are really going well during a session, should the SI Leader stop to do closure? Why or why not?
  3. Many SI Leaders report that they find it difficult to use closure techniques at a session because they run out of time. What recommendations can you offer to avoid this problem?
  4. When is the best time to offer a review session for a major exam? Right before the exam or several days in advance?
  5. How would an SI session that takes place right before a major exam differ from a regular session?
  6. If you have a two-hour marathon session before the exam, would you count this as one or two sessions?
  7. What would you do if you typically have six to nine students show up for a session and twenty-five show up right before the exam?

The SI Leader & the Student

No two SI sessions will operate in the same way. Although most sessions will probably go smoothly, there will be times when it seems little progress is made. It helps to be familiar with different types of obstacles that can hinder the progress of sessions and have a few strategies and approaches in your back pocket in case issues arise. Here are some situations that might come up. Review these, and be prepared to discuss them with your fellow SI Leaders during training or at a staff meeting. If you’re unsure of how to approach the situation, review the General Recommendations table below, the Peer Educator Do's & Don'ts, and/or Setting Expectations with Students in Sessions for tips.

  1. A student asks you for a copy of your lecture notes because they couldn’t attend the in-person or live Zoom lecture that week.
  2. A student asks you for copies of the materials you have prepared for the session but says they can’t attend the actual session.
  3. The material you have created for the session is on the reading that was required for the last class session. No one in the group has done the reading.
  4. A student tells you: “I got a 90 on my test. I don’t need to come to sessions anymore.”
  5. A student confides personal problems. (This could range from registration difficulties to marital problems).
  6. A student attends your in-person or Zoom sessions but doesn’t type in the chat, speak, or participate in session activities. They just observe the session.

The Inside Scoop on Working with Students

The relationship SI Leaders have with their fellow students is critical to the success of the program. Above all, students should always feel welcomed, accepted, and believed by the SI Leader. If a student is repeatedly disruptive, please consult with Molly or Loriann to troubleshoot the situation. SI Leaders are more effective when they are not perceived as authority figures. 

General Recommendations
Say “yes” to students’ requests whenever it is reasonably possible to do so
Remember that the goal of SI is more than simply helping students score well in examinations
Be empathetic and recognize that students will adjust to a remote learning environment differently and at different paces. Some students may also have access issues, if a student discloses this to you, please let LARC Admin Staff know right away, so she can refer them to appropriate campus resources
Recognize the limits of your job description and training. You are a recognized expert on the course, but that’s as far as you have to go. Listen patiently to all other problems and refer the student to those persons or campus resources who are recognized experts with the problem the student describes. When in doubt, contact your supervisor immediately if you are concerned about the students’ safety. This also goes for technical issues; if a student experiences technical difficulties during the session, do you best to assist them in the moment, but feel free to also refer them to IT for further support
Attempt to treat all students as you would treat a fellow student on campus
Provide straightforward, truthful responses
Allow yourself to be drawn into an argument with students
Demand that students have to defend themselves to you; if they miss a session, act concerned but don’t demand an explanation
Say anything that would make you sound like an authority of any kind
Feel obligated to fix problems that students create and can solve for themselves. Just remember to be diplomatic when you must decline the invitation to get involved

Feel obligated to be available to students 24/7. You are a student first, and your work and well-being must take priority.

On that note, we highly encourage you to NOT give out your phone number. Students may take advantage of this and text you at all hours asking for help with the course material. Remember, our goal is to empower students to become independent learners. Encourage them to attend additional sessions, attend your office hours, or the professor’s office hours, or utilize other campus resources, like one-on-one tutoring through the Tutorial Program, if they need more specialized support.


The SI Leader & Instructor Do's and Don'ts

  • Treat the instructor as your ally, never your adversary.
  • Communicate or meet with the instructor during their office hours to clear up any uncertainties you may have regarding the material discussed in the session, their lectures, or in the course Canvas discussions.
  • Provide the instructor with feedback about how the sessions are going.
  • Ask the instructor for permission to make announcements in class. Even though your instructor agreed in advance to allow you time to survey the class and make necessary announcements, it is always a good policy to request permission before doing so.
  • Be helpful to the instructor whenever possible. You should not assume the role of being the instructor’s teaching assistant, but offer to assist the instructor in facilitating small group discussions in breakout rooms, etc.
  • Criticize the instructor during a session.
  • Grade papers or tests.
  • Set yourself up as a teacher. Your purpose is to facilitate the learning of the material, not do or evaluate the teaching.
  • Hesitate to refer the instructor to Molly, Loriann, or other LARC Admin Staff if they request anything about which you are uncertain or with which you are uncomfortable.

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