Browse all articles

Make Learning Transparent with Badges

Students find value and motivation in mastering the steps toward a goal.

Anthony Chuter | December 1, 2016

Let be honest: We all -- students, parents, and teachers -- know that grades and report card comments don’t tell the full story of a student's achievements and hard work. Digital badging is a new practice worth examining that can make students' discrete learning goals and accomplishments more transparent and concrete. Badges can be a helpful way to motivate and assess students. It's also a valuable tool for keeping parents informed about what kids are learning.

Badging values the learning process, not just the final product.

Badging recognizes students for specific achievements within a unit or course of study. In a mark-based system of assessment with rubrics, students may be reluctant to work toward something that isn't graded, or they move on to the next topic without fully learning the content. Instead of focusing solely on the final product or assessment, badging encourages kids to find value and motivation in mastering the steps toward a goal. For example, in learning to craft an argument, students might earn badges for mastering different types of persuasive appeal, such as emotional appeal, logical appeal, and establishing credibility. As kids earn badges for the discrete skills and concepts, they build their mastery of the larger task -- in this example, writing a persuasive argument. Badging recognizes students for what they’ve learned and offers motivation to learn more.

With badges, I can provide feedback earlier in the learning process than with a traditional model, making the process more formative.

How badging works for me and my students.

Students can use a variety of free digital spaces to display their badges and even link to their work, showing files, images, or other media. Teachers can curate the sites for younger students, and older students can manage their own. I use the free version of KidBlog and Google Sites, but other options include Wordpress and Blogger. I currently use badging with students in grades four and five and in grades 11 and 12, as well as with educators for professional development. For the students, I retain full editing rights to their Google Sites for the specific purpose of adding comments and embedding badges. I can also use this combination of badges and eportfolios to record their ongoing learning and achievement and create a digital record of our dialogue.

I choose tasks and badges that require rigor but can be completed in a short time span. This way, I can provide feedback earlier in the learning process than with a traditional model, making the process more formative. I like to be transparent with students, letting them know the specific time I will explore their portfolios. It's also fun to create badges on the fly, too, to recognize students who demonstrate creativity, critical thinking, and other 21st-century fluencies that I hadn't even considered. For example, a team of fifth-grade students added an embedded Google map to an "uncharted island" as the location for their website on a fictional country; I created a badge to recognize them for demonstrating this skill. An 11th-grader added his own screencasts on PhotoShop techniques, going beyond what we covered in class, so I created a badge to recognize the "digital artist."

Two easy ways to create badges for your students.

I’ve created some videos to show you how to make your own badges, too: video 1 and video 2.

Photo from Mozilla Labs.