University Learning Center

Partners in the Process

The SI Leader and the Professor

What would YOU do in these situations?

  1. The professor asks you to do something the SI supervisor has asked you not to do (example: lecture for him or her during a time he or she will be absent).

  2. The professor offers to show you some of the test items from an upcoming test.

  3. The professor asks you not to pass out old exams in SI. A student brings one to the SI session

  4. The Professor asks you to help distribute handouts in class.

  5. The professor asks if they can visit one of your SI sessions.

  6. The professor wants to know which students have been attending the SI sessions.

  7. The professor asks for feedback about content related difficulties the students are experiencing.


  • Treat the instructor as your ally, never your adversary.

  • Meet with the professor during his or her office hours to clear up any uncertainties you may have regarding material discussed in the SI or in the lectures.

  • Provide the instructor with feedback about how the sessions are going. Although it is not recommended that professors attend SI sessions, most SI programs will not self-destruct if the professor elects to visit one or two sessions.

  • Show the professor the handouts you plan to share with the students in SI. He or she can help make your handouts more appropriate to the course material.

  • Ask the professor for permission to make announcements to the class. Even though your professor agreed in advance to allow you time to survey the class and to make necessary announcements, it is always good policy to request permission before doing so.

  • Be helpful to the professor whenever possible. You do not have to assume the role of being the professor's assistant, but offer to assist the professor in tasks such as passing out materials or other similar kinds of activities.

  • Prepare a short speech to introduce SI to the class. Organize your presentation as though you were attempting to answer questions students might ask or have about the program.


  • Criticize the professor during an SI session. Students will report this to the professor and it is not helpful. Students are responsible for their academic performance, regardless of the professor's style.

  • Grade papers or tests or be involved in constructing test items.

  • Set yourself up as a teacher. Your purpose is to facilitate the learning of the material, not to do or evaluate the teaching.

  • Hesitate to refer the professor to the SI Coordinator if he or she requests anything about which you are uncertain or with which you are uncomfortable.

  • Answer questions the professor poses to the class or involve yourself in class discussions unless the professor directly invites you to do so.

The SI Leader and the Student

SI should remain student centered. Your primary focus should be on the needs of the students. Get to know the students' names and use them.

Be supportive, encouraging, and demanding. You are there to guide student efforts to learn, to clarify, and to promote involvement with the course content.

DO NOT be led into re-lecturing on the content or simply answering questions. Insist on and plan for student participation in every SI session.

Students will vary greatly in their relationship to you. Some will trust you with personal confidences; others will simply come to the sessions and leave without comment. Some will perceive you as another instructor; others will see you as a compatriot. Be sensitive to these individual perceptions. Strive for a good blend of leadership and friendship. As an SI leader, you are a resource for students and their learning. Your role is to facilitate their learning process.

What would YOU do in these situations?

  • A student asks for a copy of your lecture notes because "his or her mom is in the hospital."

  • A student asks you for the handouts and offers reason why he/she can't stay for the SI session.

  • A student repeatedly arrives late for the SI session.

  • The handout you have created is on the reading that was required for the last class session. No one in the group has done the reading.

  • A student tells you: "I got a 90 on my last test, and I don't need to come to SI anymore."

  • A student confides personal problems - registration difficulties or marital abuse problems.


  • 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 on exams. Many things can contribute to attrition.

  • 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 who are recognized experts with the problem the student describes.

  • Attempt to treat all students as you would treat a friend.

  • Provide straightforward, truthful responses.


  • Allow yourself to be drawn into an argument with students. Even if they are clearly wrong, or start it first.

  • Demand that students have to defend themselves to you. For instance, if they miss a session, act concerned but don't demand an explanation.

  • Say anything that makes you sound like a parent, teacher, police officer, judge, or 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.

The Inside Scoop on Working with Students

The relationship SI leaders have with their fellow students is critical to the success of SI. Above all, students should always feel welcomed, accepted, and believed by the SI leader. If a student is repeatedly disruptive, the SI supervisor should be consulted to help deal with the problem student. SI leaders are more effective when they are not perceived as authority figures.

The Inside Scoop on Group Discussions

Group discussion is probably the most common activity associated with collaborative learning. As such, we tend to take it for granted and rarely give much thought to the dynamics of facilitating a successful group discussion.

However, even slight changes in the way we approach a group discussion can make an important difference in the manner in which group members elect to become involved themselves. For instance, note that in the material you just discussed, you were NOT asked to simply read and discuss it. Instead, you were asked to underline the key ideas and THEN discuss it. In this case, underlining the material as you read it encourages active reading rather than passively skimming the material.

Sometimes the LEAST effective way to start a group discussion is to throw out a question and wait for a response. Why do you think that is the case?

Adapted from the University of Missouri, 2003

Preparing for the Semester