Last quarter the College of Science and Mathematics put $200,000 into Student Academic Services to increase the number of study session opportunities available for Cal Poly students for the rest of the 2010-2011 year.

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The study sessions help new students get their bearings in college courses and teach them to study successfully.

“The College of Science and Math is the foundation of a polytechnic institution,” said Philip Bailey, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. “We feel a particular responsibility to get new students off to a good start and that means helping them learn how to study.”

The study sessions help students learn how to reach their potential because they interact with peers and asking each other questions, instead of just sitting in their dorms memorizing material, said Don Rawlings, chair and professor of the mathematics department.

“People at different levels are able to help each other learn,” Rawlings said. “We are really making an effort to make this an option for as many students as possible.”

The push to expand the number of study groups has created 118 groups that are coordinated by Student Academic Services. At the same time last year, there were 81, an increase of 45 percent, said study sessions coordinator William Sydnor.

Sydnor said the money donated by the College of Science and Mathematics will continue to fund study groups in winter and spring quarters.

Sydnor said he hopes to have 110 to 120 study groups this quarter, though that number may shift depending on student demands.

In the study sessions, students study material from a class in the company of peers. A facilitator hired by Student Academic Services helps guide the group and answers questions they have, Sydnor said.

“When I need further help on homework or when I’m studying for a test, it’s really nice to be able to go to my study session and ask fellow students,” said Raana Radfar, a Math 141 study group member and architectural engineering freshman.

The facilitators are upper division students from the College of Science and Mathematics or the College of Engineering. They must have a grade point average of 3.0 and need to have demonstrated proficiency in the area of study to be recruited, Sydnor said.

The leaders also need to possess the ability to work well with people, said mathematics senior Ryan Milhous, a Math 141 group leader.

“I try to make it so that it’s an environment that they want to come to and ask each other questions about math,” Milhous said. “It also helps them to see someone like me having a positive attitude about math and enjoying it.”

The math and science classes that are supplemented by the study groups are chosen based on student performance, Sydnor said.

“We did some studies and found there are some classes people tend to struggle with,” Sydnor said. “We look for courses that have 20 percent of students receiving ‘D’ or ‘F’ grades annually. We make study sessions available for those classes.”

But study groups are not exclusively for students who are struggling to earn good grades. Study groups are for any student who feels they could use some additional help in adjusting to the demands of college courses, Bailey said.

“We want to cut down on ‘D’ and ‘F’ rates, but supplemental instruction is not just for students who are not doing well,” Bailey said. “These study groups help students adjust to college and reach their potential in any class.”

If the expansion of supplementary instruction has a positive effect on students, Bailey said the college would make it a permanent part of the College of Science and Mathematics’ budget.

“We have to remember our priorities and one of our priorities is to give every Cal Poly student the math and science classes they need,” Bailey said. “Another is we need to guide them to be successful in those classes so they can graduate and supplementary instruction can help us achieve this.”

This article was written by: Russell Peterson

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