Hi from San Diego! Hope all's well up in Portland.
In my experience, from the students' perspective, adding SI to your learning assistance program is unlikely to decrease tutoring usage; in fact, a high-quality SI program can increase the likelihood that students will seek tutoring. At least, this was the case for us at San José State and seems to also be the case at Southwestern College, where I am now working.
There are some key considerations, however, from
the perspective of your tutors and SI leaders
and the tutor / SI coordinator's perspective. These are some quick takes based on what I have observed coordinating the tutoring program in a learning assistance department that also had SI and in my current role as both a writing center tutor and SI leader:
Tutors' / SI Leaders' Perspective
- Natural Limitations. Tutoring and SI each have their strengths and limitations. Most notably, a tutor working with students in individual sessions cannot help students make friends (with each other) or form support groups the way an SI leader can in weekly sessions. (The ability of SI leaders to help students form social groups that will enable the students to persist and pass their historically difficult courses is the core mission of the SI model.) On the other hand, an SI leader is dependent on the students helping one another in a group setting, and occasionally interjecting their own advice, rather than being able to devote sustained attention to a single student for a substantial period of time the way that I tutor can.
In other words, when I am working as an SI leader, I have different tools that I can and can't use to assist students compared to when I am working as a tutor. (This can be challenging to accept, because I know that I have the skill set to help the student, but, due to format and time constraints, I might not be able to use the tool in that moment.)
Tutor / SI Coordinators' Perspective
- Hiring. You're increasing the number and variety of positions you are hiring for and this can impact your hiring pool (especially if it is small) and your interview process.
- Training. While there is some overlap, tutor training and SI training needs are distinct, so you are doubling your training demands as well.
- Challenges of Having Staff in Dual Roles. This is where it gets the stickiest. I highly recommend, if possible, not to hire current students as both peer tutors and SI leaders. If you must do this, it is vital to spend a substantial amount of time in training distinguishing between the roles and simulating scenarios peer educators will encounter in which the lines might be blurred. It is hard to break the dependency cycle, as the SI literature talks about so much, if students see one person as fulfilling all of their academic support needs.
- Assessment. The format of SI makes for clean assessment data; you have a built-in intervention group (sections of a course with SI) and control group (sections without), making for the types of data administrators love to see. (This is, indeed, another pillar of SI and a big reason for its growth as a learning assistance model since Deanna Martin created it in 1973.) Next to this shiny, easy-to-understand data, your tutoring program data can look inexact and messy (due to the nature of tutoring not being as tidy); so, it is important to consider how you will make your tutoring program assessment data more user-friendly in comparison to your SI data.
There is a lot more I could say about how best to marry tutoring and SI, including the third and distinct option of embedded tutoring--which is not the same as SI!
For example, what I've written above doesn't take into account faculty, staff, and administrators' perspectives, which are also vital to consider before adding an SI program to your learning assistance offerings. I will leave it here for now, however, for the sake of time. I am happy to keep the conversation going here or off-list.
CRLA Level 3 Master Tutor
Certified Learning Center Professional - Level 2