A Metacognitive Tutoring Model: Linking Thinking, Learning and Performance in a Peer Tutoring Program — Part V: Locus of Control

Tutors provide a valuable point-of-contact service for their institutions. Tutor reports must extend beyond merely reporting the number of students who receive tutoring, quantity of tutor sessions, and other basic information. Metacognitive peer tutors generate indispensable data that can be used to enhance learning center programs and practices, and to inform institutional instruction. For example, students often feel as if they have little control over their performance. Likewise, educators don’t realize that targeted, strategic changes in their instruction can significantly improve student learning. Students feelings of powerlessness and teachers’ lack of awareness of the power they possess to create rewarding learning environments stem from an internal locus of control.

The Locus of Control (LOC) grid is one way that we bridge the gap between tutors and professors.  The grid provides educators and students insights into how various stages of agency affect learning environments. At the heart of the classroom is the relationship between educators and students. I am convinced that locus of control subtly influences the entire teaching and learning experience. Recall from the previous article that Locus of Control or agency refers to the degree to which we believe our actions control our outcomes.  The LOC grid is a useful visualization of how LOC affects learning environments.

  • Quadrant I — This quadrant is colored in green to indicate classrooms that meet these conditions are ideal! Both educators and students operate from an empowering internal LOC.  In this setting, both parties take ownership of the learning process. Educators deliberately work toward helping students learning, while students fully accept their responsibility for developing their knowledge.
  • Quadrant II — In this environment, educators believe that their actions can significantly impact students’ learning and performance. On the other hand, the students discount their ability to improve their learning and performance. Students blame their professors when things don’t go well. They don’t recognize their ability to change their circumstances. These classes are characterized by frustrated professors and withdrawn, apathetic students. However, by using the appropriate set of strategies, educators can help students begin operating from an internal LOC within a couple of weeks.
  • Quadrant III — This quadrant is colored completely red because this environment is bad all the way around! In this setting, neither educators nor students take ownership of the teaching and learning relationship. Things just happen in this class. Good outcomes are seen as resulting from luck, while bad outcomes are blamed on the other half of the relationship. If a lecture or lesson happens to resonate with the class, then the educator chalks it up to luck rather than understanding what occurred to make the lesson more meaningful that others. Sadly, the professor in this setting is unable carry over success from one class to the next one. The inability to capitalize on a powerful moment may stem from a lack of awareness of effective instructional strategies or an unwillingness to adapt instruction.
  • Quadrant IV — Classes that meet these conditions include students who have lots of grit, but the educators don’t take responsibility for their role in student performance.  Educators may have implicitly narrowly defined their role.  They may not appreciate the impact that adequate preparation, and using appropriate instructional strategies can have on student learning and performance. They may be so close, but yet so far away from producing rewarding learning experiences. For example, these instructors may not know how to frame content around organizing principles or may be unaware of how useful this practice can be in helping students process complex content. Others may be unwilling to invest the necessary up-front time to create clear, usable learning outcomes.

The LOC grid is just one way that point-of-contact data generated from metacognitive tutors can be useful. We have used it to improve tutor outcomes, develop innovative workshops and interventions, and inform instruction. We no longer worry about whether students or faculty will attend learning center sessions.  Our biggest concern now is having enough seating and supplies!

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