Publication-Ready Author Bio

Amy Flick is a lecturer in the Composition Program at the University of Pittsburgh. She teaches in the Public and Professional Writing major and directs the Public Communication of Science and Technology certificate program. Her current research examines public health rhetoric and the communication of risk.

Sommer Marie Sterud is a professor of English at Henry Ford College. A feminist researcher who studies the literate activity associated with social movements, she spent a year conducting ethnographic research on a prominent pro-life organization. Her current research interests are the rhetoric of protest, activism, and civic engagement.


During the pandemic, we, like many others, found ourselves reimagining the practices we engage in to best meet the needs of our students. While adjusting to a new class structure was challenging, we found that writing assessment was particularly fraught. To create the most equitable assessment practices, we implemented Inoue’s conception of labor-based grading. Inoue (2019) argues, “A grading contract based only on labor is better for all students and undermines the racist and White Supremacist grading systems we all live with at all levels of education” (p.16-17). These circumstances motivated us to employ labor-based grading given the difficulties many of our students were experiencing as a result of the changed learning environment, as well as the social, economic, and health implications resulting from the pandemic.

As one might expect, there was substantial emotional labor that accompanied letting go of old values and assessment practices. Newman, et al. (2009) ask, “How do emotional labor and artful affect translate into our understanding of leadership?” (p. 6). This is an instructive question for many reasons. For one, many writing teachers don’t often think of themselves as “leaders” per se, especially those of us who value collaborative learning and are averse to the banking concept of education. That said, the decisions about assessment are ours to make. While we feel our students benefited from the practices we employed, actually assessing work in this way was often uncomfortable and left us wondering, “Am I doing this right?” This article will address the tensions we experienced and how to better navigate them moving forward. More importantly, we will discuss the ways in which this has allowed us to engage in the necessary but vulnerable work of reflecting on our own internalized hegemonic value systems and how these systems have inadvertently influenced our assessment strategies.



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