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Impact of administrative placement upon programs.


Supplemental Instruction (SI) is an academic support and enrichment program implemented widely in the U.S. This study investigates factors at nearly 400 institutions that may indirectly influence academic performance of students that participate in the SI program. With reorganization occurring at many institutions, the question of the best administrative location for particular functions often is raised. This study may also spur similar studies for other forms of academic assistance.


Supplemental Instruction (SI) is effective in improving selected college student outcomes such as academic achievement and persistence rates (Arendale, 2005, 2004). However, there has been little research concerning critical variables that may indirectly influence SI effectiveness. Of the SI research studies conducted, no research has focused on the potential influence of administrative placement of the SI program within the institution upon student achievement. SI is an academic enrichment program that increases student academic performance by targeting traditionally difficult academic courses that often have 30 percent or higher rate of D or F final course grades or withdrawals. Rather than focusing on high-risk students, all students are encouraged to participate voluntarily in SI. Facilitated by a fellow student, SI provides out-of-class study review sessions that employ active and cooperative learning strategies to create an enriched learning environment where students increase their mastery of the academic content material and concurrently develop cognitive learning strategies that are transferable to other classes (Martin, Lorton, Blanc, & Evans, 1977).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to investigate factors that may have an indirect influence upon the effectiveness of the SI program to improve the academic performance of students. The focus of this investigation was on SI programs at postsecondary institutions in the United States that received training from the National SI Training Center located at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). Exploration of this issue may help to explain why there are differences among SI programs throughout the U.S. regarding various levels of academic achievement for participating students. Data from this study may suggest that there is a preferred administrative placement for the SI program within an institution.

This narrow investigation is part of a larger issue within education. The professional literature, professional associations, and national conferences often identify exemplary educational practices for potential adoption by other institutions who wish to obtain higher student outcomes. However, it is uncommon to read literature that identifies the specific program activities or features that need to be observed to obtain the same results as reported by the original institution that created the educational practice. What practices may actually be ineffective or actually counterproductive to the desired results? What other variables may be involved in the success of the educational practice at the institution that created it that cannot be easily duplicated at other institutions? These are critical questions that must be answered. Data from this study may suggest that there is a preferred administrative placement for SI programs within an institution. It is essential that campus administrators carefully make decisions that maximize the benefit of SI for assisting students to be successful. In addition, increased persistence provides additional revenue for the institution.

Literature Review

There has been no published literature that directly addresses the issue of the administrative placement of SI programs. A limited number of citations address the wider area of academic support programs. Some authors have suggested that close coordination with both academic affairs and student affairs enhanced the effectiveness of the academic support center in meeting the academic needs of students (Martin et al, 1977; Reed & Dozen, 1982; Skarkey et al, 1987). However, these discussions were mostly philosophical and not based on empirical evidence (Reed & Dozen, 1982). Roueche and Snow (1977) argued that both academic credibility and instructional commitment were higher when academic support programs had strong working relationships with academic departments rather than student affairs. Maxwell (1979) observed that a trend among large public universities was for the academic support center to be located under various units within academic affairs. However, Maxwell noted that there had not been significant empirical research concerning the potential impact of this decision.

Due to the limited and dated nature of the previous references, the review of literature was broadened to detect any other examinations of administrative placement of programs in higher education. Greenlaw, Anliker, and Barker (1997) studied the administrative placement of new student orientation programs. Nearly two-thirds of the programs were located within student affairs with the remaining responses divided between academic affairs and other governance systems. While academic affairs provided more stable budget appropriations, higher faculty support, higher credibility, and greater emphasis on academic issues, location within student affairs fostered other advantages according to the researchers. The most frequent responses regarding the advantages of student affairs were more resources to support the program, more freedom to experiment, and greater holistic student development. The authors argued that appropriate placement of orientation programs was often a function of the local campus culture and institutional mission. They did not argue that placement under one administrative unit was universally superior to any other. However, they admitted that they did not test their theory with empirical data.

Other authors have extolled the benefits of programs that drew upon resources from both academic and student affairs (Brown, 1989; Gardner, 1986; King, 1993; Mullendore & Abraham, 1994; O=Brien, 1989). Schroeder (2005) echoed these recommendations by arguing for close collaboration between academic and student affair=s units. From Schroeder=s perspective, collaboration requires significant involvement by both units rather than a simple cooperative arrangement where one institutional unit is permitted to exercise operational control within another unit=s traditional territory. A review of the ERIC database found several references to reports concerning administrative placement of student service programs within the institution. Liston (1982) presented a rationale for placement of counseling functions under student affairs. Ebersole (1974) explored the relationship of the dean of student services and their direct reporting status within the institution. However, if both of these cases, little empirical data was presented to verify the assumptions of the authors. Two national surveys studied the administrative placement of academic support programs. However, neither of them studied the relationship between administrative placement with student outcomes (Boylan, Bingham, & Cockman, 1988; Lissner, 1980). When national research has been conducted concerning the effectiveness of academic support programs, the administrative placement of the unit had not been a variable considered in terms of understanding the differences in program effectiveness (Kulik, et. al., 1983; Morante, 1986; Rosen, 1980; Roueche, 1983; Somers, 1987).


This study assessed SI program implementation through its administrative placement within the institution. King, Morris, and Fitz-Gibbon (1987, p. 9) argued that limiting evaluation to only program outcomes can potentially answer only the question of wether the program worked or not. They argued that the focus should be placed on the deeper question of what worked and what did not and how those variables contributed to the final outcome. Program implementation research focuses on the process of the intervention rather than only on the final product and potentially can yield much valuable information to permit program revision and improvement. This type of research has never been conducted regarding the implementation of the SI program.

There were four dependent variables. The first was the mean grade difference between the SI and Non-SI participants. This displayed the difference in mean final course grade between students who either did or did not participate in the voluntary SI program. A higher positive number suggested that the SI program was more effective in increasing mean final course grades for participants. The second variable was the mean percentage difference of D and F final course grade and course withdrawal rates between SI and Non-SI participants. This displayed the mean difference in the grade between students who either did or did not participate in the voluntary SI program. A higher positive number suggests the SI program was more effective in reducing unsuccessful final course grades. The third variable was the SI participation rate. This was the mean percent of students who voluntarily participate in the SI Program within a class that offered the program. A higher number was desirable since it indicated that more students participated and used in the program. The final variable was the satisfaction level of the SI program. This rating was determined by the campus SI coordinator. This variable sought to ascertain the satisfaction level of this administrator with the SI program regarding whether it had reached its optimal operating level and was achieving desired student outcomes.

There was one independent variable. This was the administrative placement of the SI program within the institution. There were six categorical choices for this variable: academic affairs, administrative affairs, enrollment management, joint reporting to academic and student affairs, student affairs, and other.


The list of faculty and staff from the 735 institutions who received training by SI staff was obtained from the National Center for SI at UMKC. Each person on the list received a packet containing: a cover letter from the researcher and a copy of the survey instrument. The instrument included various types of responses to the questions: fill-in-the-blank (e.g, contact information, mean difference in grades, percent utilization of SI), Likert Scale (e.g., satisfaction rating of the SI program), and forced-choice (e.g., administrative location of the SI program). The subjects who did not return the completed packet within three weeks of the due date received follow-up encouragement to participate. The completed questionnaire packets were returned by administrators flora 380 institutions during 1999. SI programs which had been cancelled were eliminated from the study since most reported that the original SI coordinator had left the institution and program records were not available.

Data Analysis

The research question was investigated through a one-way analysis of variance between the one independent and four dependent variables. The independent variable was the administrative placement of the SI program (academic affairs, administrative affairs, enrollment management, joint reporting to academic and student affairs, student affairs, or other). The four dependent variables were the SI program outcome variables (mean final course grade difference, mean percentage of D, F and W final course grade, SI participation rate, and SI satisfaction level).


The SI programs were analyzed regarding the relationship of SI program administrative placement (independent variable) with the student outcomes (dependent variables). A one-way analysis of variance was used with the data. There were no statistically significant results between the independent and dependent variables at the .05 level of significance.


This investigation of Supplemental Instruction programs at nearly 400 postsecondary institutions in the United States tested with the following null hypotheses: There is not a statistically significant relationship between administrative placement of the SI program with higher academic achievement of SI participants in comparison with Non-SI participants, higher SI program participation rates, and higher satisfaction ratings with the SI program by the campus SI coordinator. The null hypothesis was accepted.

The question of administrative placement is a common one raised during SI Supervisor training workshops at UMKC. Some reports in the professional literature had speculated that placement under academic affairs would have been more beneficial since the perception was that this unit commanded the most prestige and financial resources. Others had suggested that student affairs would have been the better site since academic support programs are often located within this division due to its= focus on student development. There are several possible explanations for no statistically significant difference between the different categories of administrative placement and the four SI program outcomes. The first is that there actually is no difference and that the findings are valid and reliable. The second is that the unique campus culture on individual campuses is more important to support of a successful SI program than administrative placement. The third possible answer is that the methodology for collecting the information was flawed through both the survey instrument due to its moderate level of reliability. The final potential reason for not finding a relationship is that more information must be collected for a more sophisticated analysis. Perhaps placement of the SI program under academic affairs at public four year institutions would result in statistical significance while placement under student affairs might be significant at public two year colleges. This level of analysis may require cross-institutional variables such as institutional characteristics, curricular characteristics, faculty environment, and the student peer environment.


While there has been many studies concerning the effectiveness of SI programs regarding student outcomes, none has been published about institutional factors that may have a director indirect influence over the same outcomes. This study selected one potential factor, the administrative placement of the program within the institution, for investigation. Results from this national study failed to identify a statistically significant relationship between administrative placement and student outcomes. This was a surprise considering the debate within the professional literature about the purported advantages of preferred administrative placement of programs. This finding encourages a more sophisticated program implementation analysis of the SI program to identify and understand the activities within the program as well as outside factors that may influence the student outcomes.

Implications and Importante of the Study

The result of this study added new knowledge regarding variables that influence the effectiveness of SI programs. This study also presented more questions that need to be investigated to confirm this study and to extend it with more sophisticated levels of inquiry. As a result, more encouragement is provided for further research that investigates other campus cultural factors that might have a more influential role with success of academic support programs like SI. This study may also spur similar studies for tutorial and other forms of academic support.


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Greenlaw, H. S., Anliker, M. E., & Barker, S. J. (1997). Orientation: A student affairs or academic affairs function? National Association for Student Personnel Administrators Journal, 34(4), 303-313.

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Liston, E. J. (1982). Point counterpoint: Separation of academic and counseling functions fosters professional pride. Unpublished manuscript. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED262002).

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Mullendore, R. H., & Abraham, J. (1994). Organization and administration of orientation programs. In Designing successful transitions: A guide for orienting students to college (pp. 61-77). Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for The Freshman Year Experience, University of South Carolina.

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Reed, M. B., & Dozen, P. (1982). New partnerships in academe. In H. R. Boylan (Ed.), Forging new partnerships in learning assistance (pp. 17-29). New Directions for College Learning Assistance. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rosen, S. S. (1980). College level developmental reading and study skills programs: Survey report and overview. Forum for Reading, 12(1), 3-12.

Roueche, S. D. (1983). Elements of program success: Report of a national study. In A new look at successful programs (pp. 3-10). New Directions for College Learning Assistance, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Roueche, J. E., & Snow, J. G. (1977). Overcoming learning problems. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schroeder, C. C. (2005). Collaborative partnerships between academic and student affairs. In M. L. Upcraft, J. N. Gardner, & B. O. Barefoot (Eds.). Challenging & supporting the first-year student: A handbook for improving the first year of college (pp. 204-220). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Sharkey, S. J., Bischoff, P. M., Echols, D., Morrison, C., Northman, E. A, Liebman, A., & Steele, B. (1987). Pioneer programs for retaining at-risk students. In M. M. Stodt & W. M.

Klepper (Eds.), New directions for higher education: Increasing retention, academic and student affairs administrators in partnership (pp. 61-68). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Somers, R. L. (1987). Evaluation of developmental education programs: Issues, problems, and techniques. Research in Developmental Education, 4(2), 1-6.

David R. Arendale, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Arendale, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Social Sciences in the General College and Advisor for the Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy
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Author:Arendale, David R.
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2005
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