In the context of increasing wellbeing challenges for students in higher education, we argue that pedagogic partnership has the potential to help students recognise and work positively with their emotions. We present a case study exploring changing student emotions and learning behaviours linked to a student-faculty dialogic assessment approach implemented in a second year undergraduate geography course at a large teaching-oriented British university. Students write a considered draft of an essay, which is discussed in an individual face-to-face meeting with the tutor. These ‘feedforward’ meetings encourage collaborative co-learning and candid exchange of ideas through dialogue. The assessment approach uncovered the inherently emotional experience for students of receiving assessment commentary. Through these meetings, negative emotions such as apprehension and anxiety were transformed into positive emotions such as enthusiasm and pleasure. The relational interactions and collaborative reflections in the meeting also had longer-term effects on student self-regulatory and self-efficacious behaviours, relating not only to the specific assessment task but beyond to other second year assignments and into their third year of study. By creating a safe and nurturing learning environment, positive beliefs were built and/or strengthened, empowering students to develop resilient academic behaviours, leading to positive wellbeing. Instead of neglecting emotions, our research demonstrates that we can use partnership to positively harness their central role in teaching and learning, maximising the potential for sustainable learning and academic success.