The joys of Supplemental Instruction

Get that extra boost of confidence with your writing

Let's face it, we all have a certain subjects that may not come as naturally to us as others. And for many students, writing is that subject. Fortunately, Arizona Western College has a relatively new academic-assistance program called Supplemental Instruction (SI).

Currently spreading throughout the campus, the SI program aims at a variety of historically difficult courses focusing on student writing. This year the program targets English and Writing Intensive courses.

The SI program operates through group study sessions, or SI Sessions, which are associated to a limited number of sections for certain courses. The sessions are free and voluntary to students, and their activities are not reported to instructors.

During sessions, SI Leaders plan and organize educational activities based on the current topics discussed in the course. Under the guidance of the SI Leader, students collaborate with classmates who are also enrolled in the course section.

"As a freshman, the SI sessions were so helpful for my first semester because I was really nervous to speak out loud in front of the class," says AWC student Catrynna Acosta. "However, with the aid of my SI Leader, I felt comfortable asking questions and received that extra help that I needed."

Students may wonder how this program is different from tutoring in the Student Success Center.

"Supplemental Instruction offers an opportunity for students to have an ally with them in the classroom, who understands what's expected of them and what their teacher is looking for," says Blake Grimes, an SI Leader for two years in English courses.

The SI Leaders also have weekly meetings with the professor to discuss what material the students had the most difficulty understanding and what material should be focused on during SI sessions.

The day and time of these meetings are set according to what is most convenient for the students in the class, who are surveyed about their schedules during the first week of class.

Although the SI Leaders already have successfully completed that particular course, they are still required to attend monthly trainings with the other SI Leaders, run by the SI coordinator and Professor of English, Hollie Villanueva. During these trainings they learn new strategies, discuss any issues or questions that may have come up, and brainstorm different ideas to benefit the students further.

Even if students do not have an SI course, they are still given the opportunity to attend group study sessions known as Writing Studios.

"Unlike a SI session that focuses on a particular section and professor, the Writing Studios are open to all students enrolled in the course campus wide," says Villanueva.

If you would like to learn more about Supplemental Instruction and the Writing Studios, or if you are a professor looking to become involved in this program, feel free to contact Hollie Villanueva at (928) 317-6480 or email her at

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