Enabling Meaningful Labor: Narratives of Participation in a Grading Contract
Grading contracts value labor and make it a central or sole determinant of grades. However, the labor of learning is not all the same; in writing courses, labor includes the work of producing writing, as well as the work of participation in class. This article, authored by a writing instructor and three former undergraduates, reflects on participation labor in a course that used a labor-based grading contract, Teaching Writing. We describe our attitudes and purposes going into the course, make observations about our labor during the class, and offer reflections on the impact of that labor after the class from our various subject positions: Gomes writes about assessing participation in Teaching Writing. Bellati describes how she was able to participate in a community of learners, Hope writes about developing skill around peer feedback, and LaFerriere describes how she was able to learn from peers and develop her knowledge of pedagogy. Our experiences suggest that participation labor in writing classes can be meaningful and that offering many structured options for participation can enable meaningful course engagements. Our narratives also suggest how experiences with contract grading can inform future teaching, learning, and professional activity.
Keywords: participation, meaningful, labor, grading contract, agency, SLAC