"It's About the Journey, Not the Destination"
In recent years, trauma-informed instructional practices have garnered significant interest among educators, researchers, and instructional designers, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic ushered to the forefront the harsh realities many students were facing. As educators grapple with these challenges, we focus on a critical feature of a trauma-informed approach, specifically care and care for students’ well-being. Current assessment practices that emphasize the role of grades in student learning cause grade-related traumas, including negatively impacting students’ mental health and academic motivation. Through in-depth interviews with eight graduate students, this article reports on the students’ perceptions of being in a course with grade-free assessments. Analysis reveals students perceived the ungrading process as a stress-free experience compared to their experiences with grades. More specifically, analysis of students’ accounts identified that students perceived ungrading to foster collective reflection and feedback, encourage the pursuit of personal and professional interests related to course material, and restore a growth mindset toward assessments and learning, in general. We use this special issue as an opportunity to recognize ungrading as an assessment option in a trauma-informed approach and question how assessment, and instructional practices more broadly, fit within a system of care.