SI Sessions hurting grades instead of helping them

Students enter the Office of Supplemental Instruction. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

Students who take certain introductory philosophy courses, such as PHIL 1010, at Georgia State are now required to attend supplemental instruction sessions in which their attendance is factored into their final grade.

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The sessions began as voluntary across nearly all subjects offered by Georgia State. The philosophy department made them mandatory following a several-semester trend of declining attendance and overall lack of interest in the sessions several years ago. Students have to attend at least five sessions throughout the semester to get full credit. Not every introductory philosophy class requires their attendance.

“No one would show up. No one was taking advantage of it,” Sandra Dwyer said, principal senior lecturer and coordinator of graduate teachers within the Philosophy department.

With a lack of attendance, the students who taught the SI sessions had nobody to teach.

Dwyer said the sessions were made mandatory to help increase the passing rate of students who take introductory philosophy courses.

The supplemental instruction office provides data on the effect the SI sessions have had on students GPA. In the spring semester of 2016, the average GPA without SI sessions was 2.91, which increased to 3.33 for students who attended them.

Regardless of a student’s previous performance in their classes, they still had to attend the sessions.

A Reddit user who goes by Midnight_Karma said that the sessions should not be mandatory because they are there to help students who need the increase in their GPA.

“It’s one thing to force us to go to SI sessions if I failed the class, have a low GPA, or if I was consistently doing poorly on the assignments/tests. But to say that I have to go to them from the start of the class when the professor says, ‘If you come to class and read, you will not fail this class,’ is absurd,” Midnight_Karma said in a reddit thread.

Some students refused to go to the sessions just out of apathy. Others could not go due to work or other scheduling conflicts, such as night classes when the SI sessions are not offered.

Professors were able to work with students and exempt them from the required sessions if they could not make them due to a scheduling conflict, according to Dwyer.

Towards the end of the semester, many students had still not attended the required sessions.

“At the end of the month, it’s a lot more crowded,” Dwyer said.

This resulted in too many students attempting to attend the already overcrowded sessions.

AN SI OVERFLOW

“If anyone else tried to come in, the SI instructor would throw a fit and kick anyone else out.”

According to Dwyer, up to around 100 students would pile into a small classroom or into the meeting rooms at 25 Park Place to attend the SI sessions, resulting in a serious breach in buildings’ fire codes, which needed to be addressed by a local fire marshal last spring.

This led the SI leaders to downsize the sessions to only hold 30 students. With massive overflow, students were not able to attend them in the final weeks of the semester.

“Anywhere from 60 to 100 students” were waiting out in the hallway during the last few weeks that the SI sessions were offered said freshman Jace Mozeko.

Even though the sessions were moved to bigger classrooms such as in Langdale Hal, the SI leaders still limited them to 30 students, Mozeko said.

The sessions that primarily were meant to increase grades resulted in them falling for some students who waited until the last few weeks.

The SI session office may have also had issues with miscommunication towards the end of the semester due to a change in head director of the administrative portion of the office.

Within the SI session for a critical thinking class, two students expressed their concern about the instructor of the session and the material being taught.

“If anyone else tried to come in, the SI instructor would throw a fit and kick anyone else out. They capped them at 30, which makes zero sense. If they’re using a lecture hall that’s meant to host 120 to 140 students, I don’t see why they can’t do an SI session for as many people that show up,” freshman Colten Sweeney said.

Maddie Olejnik is a Georgia State freshman who took an SI session for a critical thinking course with her Freshman Learning Community. She doubts how effective the sessions were.

“We actually scored pretty high on all of our exams, even when we didn’t really go to the SI sessions because the tests were open book. It was just a review. You only have to stay for 25 minutes to get counted, so we would just stay for 25 minutes and then leave,” Olejnik said. “The SI leaders…didn’t really help. The book was more helpful than the actual SI leaders.”

The Philosophy department is now working to improve the conditions of their SI sessions to allow students to attend them.

“Different instructors [now] have deadlines at different times in hopes of spreading out the students so that they sessions are not overflowing anymore,” Dwyer said.

The administrative office for the SI sessions said that they had no control over the decision to make them mandatory. The Philosophy department is the only one to adopt a mandatory session policy.

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