Instructional Science

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 321–350 | Cite as

Tutor learning: the role of explaining and responding to questions

  • Rod D. RoscoeEmail author
  • Michelene T. H. Chi


Previous research on peer tutoring has found that students sometimes benefit academically from tutoring other students. In this study we combined quantitative and qualitative analyses to explore how untrained peer tutors learned via explaining and responding to tutee questions in a non-reciprocal tutoring setting. In support of our hypotheses, we found that tutors learned most effectively when their instructional activities incorporated reflective knowledge-building in which they monitored their own understanding, generated inferences to repair misunderstandings, and elaborated upon the source materials. However, tutors seemed to adopt a knowledge-telling bias in which they primarily summarized the source materials with little elaboration. Tutors’ reflective knowledge-building activities, when they occurred, were more frequently elicited by interactions with their tutee. In particular, when tutees asked questions that contained an inference or required an inferential answer, tutors’ responses were more likely to be elaborative and metacognitive. Directions for future research are also discussed.


Peer tutoring Tutor learning Tutorial dialogue Explanations Questions Metacognition Verbal data analysis 



Support was provided by the University of Pittsburgh Office of Graduate Studies, and grants from the National Science Foundation to the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Constructive Learning Environments (NSF 9720359, and the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (NSF SBE-0354420, The authors gratefblly acknowledge the assistance and suggestions of Marguerite Roy, Robert Hausmann, Stephanie Siler, Bibinaz Pirayesh, and anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Learning Research and Development Center, Department of PsychologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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