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Masters of Fate or Victims of Circumstances? Connecting Communication Centers with Locus of Control

Roy Schwartzman, Karen E. Boger


Longstanding research correlates locus of control (LOC)— the sense of self-
empowerment (internal orientation) versus feeling influenced by events others control (external orientation)—with self-motivation, persistence, high academic achievement, and workplace success. In study 1, undergraduate peer tutors (n = 31) at a midsize, doctoral-granting, minority-serving university completed a variant of the teacher locus of control (TLOC) survey, which measures the degree of internal/external LOC orientation in educational settings. In study 2,
communication center supervisors (n = 12) and undergraduate peer tutors (n = 13) from 14 institutions nationwide completed a qualitative survey describing how they approach consultations with student clientele.

The studies found: (1) Supervisors exhibited slightly higher external LOC than peer tutors, indicating a keener sense of restrictions on their personal agency and deferring more to specific procedures as solutions to challenging situations. (2) Small but statistically significant correlations were found between a tutor’s self-identified race and LOC orientation. White tutors more readily attributed levels of achievement to the nature of the student (external LOC); non-white tutors treated achievement levels more as products of the consultation techniques (internal LOC). (3) Qualitative data show that communication center personnel must balance the tensions between different LOC orientations, perhaps by ranging across the continuum from highly internal to highly external.


locus of control; communication center; speaking center; peer mentoring; self-efficacy; racial identity; communication administration

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Communication Center Journal