Doing “okay”: On the multiple metrics of an assessment


This article examines “okay” deployed as an assessment of student performance in parent–teacher conference interactions. By elucidating what is being done by a speaker who terms a student’s performance “okay” and a recipient who accepts or resists it so termed, this investigation shows “okay” to be directly and overtly rele- vant to and for the parties and the activities in which they are engaged. Data drawn from 35 videotaped and audiotaped conferences are presented to demonstrate that “okay” participates as a value in two distinct metrics of assessment—one binary, one gradated. Analysis reveals parties’ organized, systematic means of recognizing which metric is being made relevant in and through their talk on a local, moment-by- moment basis. By interactionally situating “okay” as a value within a binary or gradated metric, parties imbue it with a locally calibrated valence that can directly impact the social and educational lives of children.


Communication, Sociology

Publication Date

Fall 2003

Journal Title

Research on Language and Social Interaction


Taylor & Francis

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Document Type