The Effects of Supplemental Instruction on Pass Rates, Academic Performance, Retention and Persistence in Community College Developmental Reading Courses



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The purpose of this research was to measure the effects of the peer tutoring program Supplemental Instruction (SI) on pass rates, academic performance, retention, and persistence in community college developmental reading courses. Prior research indicated that SI improves final grades, attendance, retention, persistence, and graduation rates in college credit-bearing courses. However, the minimal research documented in the literature on the use of Supplemental Instruction in developmental education courses contained conflicting information.
Archival data, collected from five semesters of comparative SI and non-SI developmental reading courses at an urban fringe community college, were analyzed to determine whether a significant statistical difference existed between the two groups. The pass rates, i.e. the number of A, B, and C grades, for the SI and non-SI groups were 75% and 70% respectively. However, a chi-square analysis revealed there was not a statistically significant difference between the pass rates of the two groups (chi-square value .520). The academic performance measure, i.e. a statistical analysis of the SI and non-SI classes’ scores on the developmental reading exit test/final exam, revealed that the mean scores were 82% and 81% respectively. An independent samples t-test confirmed there was not a statistically significant difference between these means (t=.345, α=.05). The retention analysis, i.e. the number of students who attended classes through to the final exam, revealed that 80% of the students in the SI supported classes and 79% of the students in the non-SI supported classes were retained. A Difference in Proportions Test confirmed there was not a statistically significant difference in the retention rates between the two groups (z = .1568, p = .5636). The persistence analysis revealed that 74% of the students from the SI supported classes and 69% of the students in the non-SI classes registered for classes in the subsequent long semester. However, a Difference in Proportions Test revealed there was not a statistically significant difference between the persistence rates of the two groups (z = .784, p = .7823).
The researcher concluded that the widely touted positive effects of Supplemental Instruction are diminished in community colleges with well-developed developmental education programs with courses currently exhibiting pass rates of 70% or higher. Therefore, the researcher recommends targeting the implementation of SI in developmental reading courses with traditionally high failure rates, e.g. courses created during the first week of the semester to accommodate late registering students. Also, community colleges without well-developed developmental education programs could implement Supplemental Instruction to accommodate for a lack of other support services and programs for developmental education students.
In addition, the research revealed that the voluntary attendance aspect of traditional SI programs in developmental reading courses led to low attendance at SI sessions. Therefore, the researcher recommends course instructors assign mandatory graded assignments that require completion with the SI leader to boost attendance at SI sessions. Developmental reading programs could also create a mandatory lab attached to a course dedicated to SI peer led tutoring.
Encouraging serendipitous observations warrant further investigation, including the effects of SI on the affective domain, the SI leader, and the course instructor.



Developmental education, Reading, Supplemental Instruction