Roles of a Tutor

There are many roles a tutor can fill; some are more effective and helpful than others. I will endeavor to explain a few of these roles and how they help the writer better understand their own writing.

It is important that the tutor not take on the role of expert. Learning is more collaborative and the session more successful when the writer is the expert, and the tutor is the learner. If a tutor can let the writer teach them about their writing, and why they wrote the way they did, then the writer is more in control and therefore feels less inferior and more comfortable.

A well-seasoned tutor will tell you that their most successful sessions have been when they, the tutor, acted as more if a facilitator of learning, and the writer was the expert of his or her own writing. Writers are more likely to be open to questions, suggestions, and ideas when they feel that collaborative atmosphere come into play; as opposed to the attitude of "I'm the tutor, you're the student, do what I say and you'll pass your class."

Another important role a tutor must fill is that of a peer. We are all writers, and we have all been in the position of needing guidance or feedback on our writing. When tutors are also peers, there is a sense of camaraderie and empathy involved that can take the session to a new level of learning. Trust is also built. Minds grow and prosper in this kind of atmosphere.

-Alexandra Fleischel


  1. Hi Alexandra, I think you carved out a real gem when you said "When tutors are also peers, there is a sense of camaraderie and empathy involved that can take the session to a new level of learning. Trust is also built. Minds grow and prosper in this kind of atmosphere." I love that and would just echo your statement by saying that comfort levels, mutual respect, understanding, and empathy can really open a highway between two minds, focusing each party's invested energy more completely towards their mutual task. I think any workplace could use your counsel.
    In my learning so far, I have come to believe that if you can bring those conditions to a tutoring session as a tutor, perhaps by observation and reflection of each party's backgrounds, needs, and expectations during the session, and then through post analysis as well, then you can have the ingredients for success as a Writing Tutor. I would add that discussion among fellow Tutors is also an excellent resource for learning. I love how in "The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring, 2nd ed." by Gillespie and Lerner it illustrates the ideal working atmosphere of a Writing Center in this way: "...tutors--new and experienced--learn from observing one another. Thus, the contrast between novice and expert is blurred, as the writing center becomes a site for collaborative learning, not just for writers, but for the staff as well. (pg. 61)" That quote actually really makes me happy.

  2. I completely agree with your comment about being a peer, Alexandra. I think this goes for full-blown professors of English or writing too. For example, I strive to give student writers real, honest, writerly feedback rather than just correcting or grading them. What does that mean? It means I respect them as writers and they are "peers" in that sense. Sure they have a lot to learn about writing, but who doesn't? I get really suspicious of anyone who claims to be an expert in writing.

  3. The roles that tutors have are so important to remember. I really enjoyed reading this post; you were able to break down the roles into very understandable terms. Tutors hold this challenging role since we have to balance the multiple roles required from us. At my school, Nova Southeastern University, we have an embedded fellow program, which entails that each fellow attends a first year composition course which we work with throughout the semester. Since we work frequently with the same students we create a bond. This makes our role become complicated and very difficult to maintain. I'm curious to know if you have you had any situations where your role was questioned either by you or a student? If so, what did you do about that situation? Since we carry multiple roles, how can we maintain each role without overstepping?


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