Notes: Tony Scott & Asao B. Inoue, “Assessing Writing Shapes Contexts and Instruction”

Scott, Tony & Asao B. Inoue. (2015). Assessing writing shapes contexts and instruction. in Linda Adler-Kassner & Elizabeth Wardle (eds.) Naming what we know: Threshold concepts of writing studies. Logan: Utah State University Press, 29-31.


Scott and Inoue discuss the ways in which the assessment of student writing impacts the relationship that writers have with writing, the limitations that this relationship brings, and the impacts this relationship brings to genre and the content of writing. Scott and Inoue articulate that this relationship defines the context in which composition occurs, situated in an assessments-oriented environment.

Keywords: composition, first-year writing, genre, pedagogy, threshold concepts, writing assessments, writing program administration, writing studies


Gould, Stephen J. (1981). The mismeasure of man. New York: E.W. Norton.

Hanson, F. Allan. (1993). Testing testing: Social consequences of the examined life. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.


“[A]ssessment is not neutral: it shapes the social and rhetorical contexts where writing takes place, especially in school. Any assessment or evaluation applies specific values and also encourages writers to adopt those values” (30).

“Institutions can use assessments to inform teachers and students while lending them agency, or they can align prescribed curricula with assessment outcomes to determine the focus of teaching and circumscribe the scope of students’ writing. Writing assessment can thereby function as an intentional means of controlling the labor and creative latitude of teachers and students” (30-31).


Is there space in writing assessments to value writing that may inhabit a space outside its defined scope? What might that space look like and how can it be enacted? In what ways would assessing these kinds of writing trouble the tacit values in writing assessments and the expectations of the labor in writing? And in what ways can those performing assessments be reflective about these issues?

If writing assessments determine the contexts for writing and are, in turn, given their own shape within a given context, in what ways are those values enacted–further, in what ways can the values of writing assessment be made explicit to student writers who have to intuitively inhabit this context?

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