By Elizabeth Duggins
February 3, 2017
LSU senior Joshua Edwards, of Baton Rouge, La., is this year's recipient of the Saundra Yancy McGuire Outstanding Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader Award in recognition for his love of teaching and learning.
Edwards will graduate in May 2017 with a double major in microbiology and chemistry, and has helped students succeed in their general chemistry classes for seven consecutive semesters.
SI is an exemplary program offered through the Center for Academic Success to help students excel in their classes. SI leaders hold free bi-weekly review sessions in historically difficult classes. SI leaders attend classes and work closely with instructors, so that the sessions are relevant to the material covered in class. The program increases graduation rates up to 34 percent for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) students who use the SI program, over those who do not.
With a strong background in basic biology and with compassion for others, Edwards put together study groups for his classmates who were struggling in their freshman biology class. Edwards’ chemistry professor, Dr. Robert Cook, suggested that he apply to become an SI leader. Edwards explained that being an SI leader is no easy feat.
“When I first started as an SI leader, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I knew I wanted to help the students, but figuring out how to do that was a challenge,” Edwards said. “I literally spent hours planning each session to try to figure out the best way to help students learn.”
Dr. John Hopkins, CHEM 1201 professor, noticed Edward's efforts and worked with him to develop methods to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of student success in large freshman science classes. The two noticed that students dedicated a tremendous amount of time to their studies, but it did not have the intended effect on their test scores.
“We concluded that ‘practice makes perfect’ was not necessarily true in education,” Edwards said. “Students have to go beyond just repeated exercises to truly master the material . . . they have to learn from mistakes they make and take the appropriate action to correct their thinking.”
After countless hours of reviewing and learning about the topics he was teaching to students, Edwards decided to officially declare his second major as chemistry in spring 2016. He plans to continue to study chemistry and biology even further in graduate school.
Edwards’ experience as an SI leader not only led him to pursue another major, but also helped him define a career path.
“SI also made me realize how much I love teaching,” Edwards said. “I want education to be a central part of my future, so I plan to one day teach at the university level.”