Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Date of this Version



Essays on Teaching Excellence" Toward the Best in the Academy (1994-1995) 6(1)

A publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education


Copyright 1995, the authors. Used by permission


The "under-prepared student" once something of an oddity on American campuses, now seems omnipresent. And not only in undergraduate institutions, not only in America. The government of Great Britain ordered a 25% increase in university enrollment. Black South Africans will occupy a majority of the places in previously white and apartheid universities. The Association of American Medical College will triple minority representation in medical schools in their 3000 x 2000 campaign, drawing heavily on the urban areas that have been on the receiving end of the wrenching body blows of poverty, unemployment, and despair, the areas that have provided many of the under prepared students that higher education is currently endeavoring to educate.

Or is it a matter of the "over prepared professor" one who understands the appropriateness of using the nominative case following the intransitive linking verb? There continues to be, however temporarily, a professorate steeped in the academic tradition that values correctness in diction, precision in syntax, rigor in research, a foundation in liberal studies, and the ability to trade puns with a Shakespearean scholar. All right, there have been lapses in research. And perhaps not all are as well read as they might be. And yes, an Ivy League supreme court nominee was heard to use the repetitive "what it is is..." Academic writers have been known to begin sentences with conjunctions. Some of our most celebrated researchers have agreed with Hemingway that plagiarism is stealing from some who is better than you are. But the point is not that academics have shortcomings and aren't above reproach. The point is, what happens when the under prepared students meets the over prepared professor? Who gives way? Who accommodates? And how?

From the collision between under prepared and over prepared has emerged an instructional medium designed to build bridges over the chasms that separate the two. Supplemental instruction (SI), a widely used academic support program, has taken root in hundreds of US. colleges and universities, dozens in the UK., and has received the endorsement of the local A.N.C. groups in such disparate places as Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein in the Republic of South Africa.