Understanding Tutor Learning: Knowledge- Building and Knowledge-Telling in Peer Tutors’ Explanations and Questions


Prior research has established that peer tutors can benefit academically from their tutoring experiences. However, although tutor learning has been observed across diverse settings, the magnitude of these gains is often underwhelming. In this review, the authors consider how analyses of tutors' actual behaviors may help to account for variation in learning outcomes and how typical tutoring behaviors may create or undermine opportunities for learning. The authors examine two tutoring activities that are commonly hypothesized to support tutor learning: explaining and questioning. These activities are hypothesized to support peer tutors' learning via reflective knowledge-building, which includes self-monitoring of comprehension, integration of new and prior knowledge, and elaboration and construction of knowledge. The review supports these hypotheses but also finds that peer tutors tend to exhibit a pervasive knowledge-telling bias. Peer tutors, even when trained, focus more on delivering knowledge rather than developing it. As a result, the true potential for tutor learning may rarely be achieved. The review concludes by offering recommendations for how future research can utilize tutoring process data to understand how tutors learn and perhaps develop new training methods. One of the most intriguing aspects of peer tutoring, in which students tutor other students, is its potential to support learning for both the tutees and the tutors. The belief that tutors benefit academically, along with lower costs and the large pool of potential tutors, has provided a long-standing justification for peer tutoring pro-For example , the 17th-century philosopher Comenius argued that " the process of teaching. .. gives a deeper insight into the subject taught " (as quoted in Wagner, 1982, p. 31). Similar ideas were echoed two centuries later by the Swiss educator, Johann Pestalozzi, who wrote that his students " were delighted when they knew something they could teach to others. .. and they learned twice as well by making the younger ones repeat their words " (as quoted in Wagner, 1982, p. 118). More Roscoe & Chi 2 recently, researchers have demonstrated empirical evidence of learning gains for tutors compared to nontutors (P. Cohen, Kulik, & Kulik, 1982), which we refer to as the tutor learning effect. Previous reviews have described the scope of the effect and contributed to our knowledge of effective program design. In this review, we critically examine research on the actual tutoring process to better understand how tutor learning occurs. We focus on how tutors' explaining and questioning activities during …

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