Peer interactions in the process of college tutoring

Lillian Wilhelm Masters, Fordham University


This hypothesis generating study considered the processes which occur naturally in college peer tutoring interactions as peers shared their understanding of course content and assignments. The major theorists and research which informed this study were: Bakhtin's theory of addressivity in dialogue; Bruner's theory of a functional language focusing on intention; Vygotsky's theory of language as an interactive exchange between thinking and speech, shaping thoughts and concepts; Heath's research on the socio-cultural aspects of language development; Schegloff's research on linguistic interactions; and Coulthard's system of discourse analysis. There were 27 distinctive communication purposes identified as affective or instructional in their intent. The communicative purposes functioned characteristically as tutor or tutee behaviors. Although the ratio of affective to instructional behaviors did not vary significantly in the aggregate, it was an important finding to note that specifically tutor driven instructional communicative purposes occurred twice as frequently in successful interactions. Speculation was an important communicative purpose that was identified as tutee behavior and occurring frequently in all interactions. The following hypotheses were generated by this study: (1) There are 2 major types of communication purposes in tutoring sessions: instructional and affective. (2) Successful tutoring sessions exhibit the following distinctive affective communication characteristics: patience (listening), encouraging, and supporting. Successful tutoring sessions exhibit the following instructional communicative characteristics: probing, checking for understanding, clarifying, evaluating, collaborating, and speculating. (3) Tutee speculation is an important component in the tutoring process. (4) In interactions where tutor behaviors included at least 1 of the following purposes: encouraging, clarifying, or evaluating, there were frequent occurrences of speculating by tutees. (5) Unsuccessful tutoring sessions exhibit the following affective communicative characteristics: avoiding responsibility, claiming understanding, interrupting, and confused. Unsuccessful tutoring sessions characteristically use correcting as a frequent instructional communicative purpose.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Teacher education|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Masters, Lillian Wilhelm, "Peer interactions in the process of college tutoring" (2002). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3040398.