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Specialist or Generalist?

Should tutors be specialist tutors or generalist tutors?
Depending on the goals and missions of your writing center, students can range from specialist to generalist. There are definite positives and negatives to having both kinds of tutors, though generalist tutors are often easier to find and train.

Specialist Tutors...
... can be a great asset in that the information written about in the papers they tutor will be familiar. Specialist tutors will be familiar with the genres and ways of knowing in specific subject areas, so certain aspects of tutoring may be easier for them than for generalist tutors. However, specialist tutors also run the risk of taking too much control of the paper and tutoring content instead of writing.

Generalist Tutors...
... can be also be a great asset to a High School Writing Center. By knowing a little bit about many things, tutors can provide an unbiased ear to students and focus on their writing. The downfall of having only generalist tutors, though, lies in the troubles that can arise when the tutor is completely unfamiliar with a particular subject area.

"Generalist tutors are often easier to find.'"


Our handpicked group of writing center staffers represented a cross-section of the student body. However, these young people had one common trait: Other kids liked them.
-- Richard Kent,
author of
Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers: Grades 6-12