Badges bring out students’ best


Badges bring out students’ best

Badges are a familiar recognition of achievement in video games, scouts and guides. But what happens when they are used in the classroom?

Brad Cunningham, English teacher and department head of the Flexible Studies Program at Reynolds Secondary School in Victoria, B.C. is finding out.

He is using badges with his Grade 9-10 students in the program. Badges recognize learning occurs via cross-curricular activities. For example, English skills are demonstrated in writing essays and making presentations. Badges recognize the skills-based outcomes of student projects.

Badges also tap into something teachers hope to nurture in their students – passion.

“I’ve heard from students that they can be afraid to bring some of their passions forward. Once something is evaluated, it’s no fun anymore. It’s too much a part of their identity. What excites me most is that it honours what interests students. They can pursue what interests them, and display their passion and skills,” says Cunningham.

Cunningham says he was concerned about establishing badges instead of using more traditional forms of assessment. “You have to be careful not to recreate grades in a new format, or have it become ‘the smartest kids get the most badges,’” he said. Badges are a reflection of skills vs. a reflection of assessment. For example, students could chose their a goal and achieving it would be considered successful, vs. “you got an 86% so that means you were successful.”

Using them also means relinquishing a measure of control, something that can be uncomfortable for both teachers and students, said Cunningham. “Students take ownership of learning.” Learning and achievement become collaborative instead of prescriptive.

Using QUIO has made it easier for students to monitor their progress earning the badges, said Cunningham. The software’s Learning Maps platform tracks the big ideas across subject areas, and also stores evidence for achieving badges. “It’s a living document, as inclusive as possible,” said Cunningham.

Some students experienced a “deer in the headlights” look, after seeing the maps initially, joked Cunningham. But once they realized one project could earn multiple badges, they were reassured.

Badges are one way to reimagine and transform how we teach and assess, he said. “Students should have the opportunity for input and to have their voices heard.”

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