Understanding tutor learning: Knowledge-building and knowledge-telling in peer tutors' explanations and questions

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402 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-574
Number of pages41
JournalReview of Educational Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Explaining
  • Knowledge-building
  • Learning strategies
  • Metacognition
  • Peer tutoring
  • Questioning
  • Tutor learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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