Asee peer logo

The Unsubstantiated Cutoff: Deeper Analysis of Supplemental Instruction Sessions on Engineering Courses

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Student-led Research on Engineering Education - Quantitative Methodologies

Tagged Division


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Charles Algeo Wilson IV Louisiana State University

visit author page

Charles is a PhD student in Environmental Sciences at Louisiana State University. In 2012, he earned his master’s degree in Medical and Health Physics and has since been working towards a PhD. During his studies, he has worked actively with the LSU STEM Talent and Expansion Program and LSU Center for Academic Success helping with different methods that aim to improve how STEM college students learn including tutorial centers, PLTL, SI, and recitation programs.

visit author page


Warren N. Waggenspack Jr. Louisiana State University

visit author page

Warren N. Waggenspack, Jr. is currently the Mechanical Engineering Undergraduate Program Director and holder of the Ned Adler Professorship in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at Louisiana State University. He obtained both his baccalaureate and master's degrees from LSU ME and his doctorate from Purdue University's School of Mechanical Engineering. He has been actively engaged in teaching, research and curricula development since joining the LSU faculty in 1988. Over the last 12 years, he acquired funding from NSF to support the development of several initiatives aimed at improving student retention and graduation rates as well as supporting faculty with development of effective learning and teaching pedagogies.

visit author page


Adrienne Steele Louisiana State University

visit author page

Adrienne Steele has over 15 years experience in STEM education. Currently, Adrienne works at Louisiana State University in the College of Engineering, managing all aspects of the STEP project that consists of a large-scale peer mentoring program. Previously, she coordinated the Scope-On-A-Rope Outreach Program (SOAR) in the Department of Biological Sciences for 10 years with funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In this position, she led over 175 professional development workshops for K-12 teachers. Prior to her positions at LSU, Adrienne was the Science Education Curator at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum in Baton Rouge. Adrienne has a Master of Science degree in zoology from LSU, where she studied in the Museum of Natural Science, and an Education Specialist Certification in science education.

visit author page


James Blake Gegenheimer

visit author page

James Gegenheimer is an MSME Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at LSU. When graduated, James will commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He will be stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City, Utah. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. through the Air Force and work with the Air Force Weapons Research Laboratory.
James is currently a Supplemental Instructor at LSU for Thermodynamics where he has served since 2013. He has worked to improve how STEM college students learn through the use of active learning.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Active learning sessions such as those in the Supplemental Instruction model are often reported as successful when incorporated into high DFW, high enrollment courses. Research conducted by The U.S. Department of Education, Redish, Longfellow, and many others have reported significant benefits to students enrolled in courses that incorporate active learning in class and/or in after class sessions. The initial analysis of the impact of Supplemental Instruction on students in the College of Engineering at XX was consistent with these previous findings. However, some researchers like Dawson and McCarthy recognized some sobering truths–many analyses regarding Supplemental Instruction were incomplete and made weak conclusions. The research presented herein investigated two different modes of analysis to determine the effectiveness of Supplemental Instruction (or similar models), taking advantage of the large dataset at XX and attempting to remove the possibility of student self-selection bias. The first mode of analysis used standardized test scores to create a model to predict student success in certain courses and then looked to see if SI attendance affected the modeled prediction. When examining these variables independently, students who regularly attend SI sessions as well as students with higher ACT scores are more likely to pass a given course. However, it was found that ACT and SI session attendance were inversely correlated with each other, thus dispelling the misconception that only “good students” go to SI sessions. The second analysis was conducted in attempt to directly answer Dawson’s comment that SI analyses often choose unsubstantiated cutoffs to define regular attendance; the number of SI sessions a student needs to attend in order to be considered a “regular attendee” varies greatly in the literature and can be defined to meet a researcher’s preconceived notions of success. We created percent attendance bins in order to better unify the dataset, because some courses have more SI sessions than others. The percent attendance was then compared to both passing rates and to course GPA with linearity assumed and no cutoff created. It was found that the trend was strongly linear–students continually improve their passing rates and course GPA’s as SI session attendance percentage increases. In this case, any choice of a session attendance cutoff supports previous conclusions of increased course performance.

Wilson, C. A., & Waggenspack, W. N., & Steele, A., & Gegenheimer, J. B. (2016, June), The Unsubstantiated Cutoff: Deeper Analysis of Supplemental Instruction Sessions on Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27025

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015