The "Strategic Plan to Enhance STEM Education and Research at AAMU," is an innovative, comprehensive, transformative, and focused approach to strengthen STEM education at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (AAMU). The general purpose of the plan is to broaden minority participation in the national STEM workforce by recruiting, retaining, mentoring, and successfully graduating under-represented students. One major component the grant initiative is Supplemental Instruction (SI) in STEM courses, which historically have high failure and drop-out rates. Success in these courses means students can persist in their major courses and graduation. Since the initial implementation of the HBCU-UP grant in Fall 2009, the SI program is proving to be an essential component for student success in STEM disciplines.
Alabama A&M University is the first HBCU in the state of Alabama to implement SI. The initial pilot test of the program in 2008, which included courses in math and chemistry showed promising results. The full implementation of SI across the STEM disciplines as a result of this HBCU-UP grant during the 2009-10 academic year is already showing increased success. Several more classes were added to the SI program for the 2009-10 academic year, including Math 112 (Pre-Calculus Algebra), Math 125, 126 (Calculus I & II), Physics 105, 106 (Physics I & II) Chemistry 101, 102 (General Chemistry I & II), and introductory Engineering courses. These classes are integral to providing the foundation for STEM success. The classes have a strong presence of lower division students. Freshman students constitute the largest group attending SI sessions, with sophomore students comprising the next largest group of participants. The total voluntary attendance SI hours were 2852 with a total attendance of 568 students. Spring of 2009 had a student population of 252, while Fall 2009 showed an attendance of 316 students. We are anticipating even greater numbers for the Spring 2010 semester. These increases are consistent with the overall program’s continued student population growth and additional volunteer study hours. This large increase in hours and student population has shown a consistency in the overall programs growth, recognition and success. This is a testament to the students’ belief in the program and also a verification of their desire for the help they perceive as valuable.
Along with the impressive number of voluntary hours, statistical data shows that students are attending, and more importantly improving their grades in the classes. Overall, the SI Program was successful in more than 90% of the participating classes. Math 112 has also continued to be a success with at least a normal “letter grade” improvement with an average difference of a “C” for SI and a “D/F” for Non-SI participants. Chemistry has shown success with a letter grade improvement to a “B” average in Fall 2009 as compared with that of Spring 2009. There are no SI comparisons for other courses offered in Spring 2009, because all students were participating in the pilot program.
What is most evident in these initial stages of implementing the SI program on Alabama A&M University’s campus is that students are achieving at higher levels. We are anticipating that as a result of their increased success in these STEM courses, we will see a measurable increase in retention from the Fall 2010 semester onward, since many of these students who would normally have dropped out or failed, will be able to continue and advance in their chosen majors.