Math, Science Classes to Benefit from Awarded Grant

Michael J. Arvizu
El Vaquero Staff Writer

The Glendale Community College supplemental instruction department, one of the largest in the nation, has received a $25,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to enrich the SI program for math and sciences classes. The money will go towards giving student SI leaders advanced training in teaching supplemental instruction in a program called Peer-Led Team Learning.

Several chemists from universties in New York and Chicago petitioned to the National Science Foundation for the grant for this purpose. The grant, disseminated nationwide and targeted toward community colleges, will allow student supplemental instructors to take advanced training courses to better serve students.

“These guys are trying to involve a little more about what we know about how people learn,” said physics professor Jean Lecuyer.

Lecuyer, who was responsible for acquiring the grant for GCC, said that there is more to learning than just sitting in a classroom. He wants to focus on the psychological aspect of learning. By enriching the math and science SIs, he hopes to make his students focus more on solving conceptual problems.

“Instead of a sheet of problems I ask them a set of questions: `Where did you get this?’ and `What would happen if you did this?’ They can discuss these questions and get a better understanding [of the material],” said Lecuyer.

Three times each semester, math professor Sid Kolpas, economics professor Mark Maier, and Lecuyer choose promising SI leaders to receive advanced training. In addition, Kolpas and mathematics professor Gary Massion have applied for the same Peer-Led Team learning grant for math to the National Science Foundation but as of yet have not received word on whether they have acquired the grant.

“It’s basically to enhance the SI program that we already have on campus,” said Kolpas. “I’ve got three SI leaders and two of them are in the advanced training.”

Students training to become advanced SI leaders will learn how to separate students into groups, proper questioning techniques, and how to instill in students proper study skills and learning skills, something that is not normally taught in the pre-semester SI training sessions.

“One of the main guidelines is to not give students the answers,” said Kolpas. “You just guide them along the way and nurture them.”

The advanced training classes will take place for the roughly 12 students that were interested in taking the courses. Beneficial also to taking the advanced training course, says Kolpas, is that a student teaching material in his or her own major can greatly increase how he or she understands material in his or her discipline, adding that one of the best ways of learning material for a class is teaching it to others. “They’re getting practice in their major as well,” said Kolpas.