Transforming Assessment: Embracing a Student-Centered Approach to Grading

Robin Harwick, Ph.D.
3 min readFeb 12
Photo by Khamkhor on Unsplash

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” Sir Ken Robinson

Grades and traditional assessment forms have been a staple in education for decades. However, as the quote above highlights, we must reassess our methods of measuring student performance and growth, and explore alternative approaches that foster creativity and ingenuity in students. Students must be able to take risks and make mistakes in order to be innovative and prepared for the future. One such alternative is the “credit or no credit yet” approach.

The “credit or no credit yet” approach focuses on student-centered learning and personal growth rather than solely grades and points. In this approach, students are expected to engage in self-reflection to determine if they’ve done their personal best. Educators act as mentors during this process. When this approach is first implemented, I recommend that this occurs in a 1:1 conversation instead of as a written activity the student does alone.

This assessment approach benefits students as it encourages self-awareness and helps them take responsibility for their learning. It also increases intrinsic motivation, as students can see their progress over time and feel a sense of accomplishment from their progress.

The emphasis is on process over product –allowing all students to demonstrate growth.

The emphasis on the learning process is why I choose to use “credit or no credit yet” instead of the traditional pass-or-fail assessment in my classes. The word “fail” carries a negative connotation and can damage a student’s self-esteem and create feelings of shame; these effects are not conducive to learning. In contrast, the “credit or no credit yet” approach provides students with the opportunity to set goals and strive for improvement. For this to work, educators must provide specific, detailed feedback and resources to guide students toward success. The conversations during the process foster a supportive and empowering learning environment that encourages students to strive to do their best continuously.

Robin Harwick, Ph.D.

Author, Educator, Researcher, Survivor, and Youth & Family Advocate.