Saturday, 1 June 2013

Badges : Communities of Scholarship

I'm not sure where I came across the term "community of scholarship" but it struck me at the time as sounding just a little pompous. But the phrase fastened itself in my brain and won't go away...

Giving badges as awards for achievement has a long history. I had an armful as a Cub. I can still sew on buttons as a result of working for my Housekeeping badge. Even Digital badges have been around for a while but the concept got some turbo-charging when Mozilla announced their Open Badges system a couple of years ago. 

As I work in a non-National Curriculum discipline I decided I needed to design my own assessment system and badges seemed the way to go.  At each stage of the Design Thinking process a badge is awarded. I was aiming for something different from the externally assessed, narrowing target-driven culture, now current just about everywhere.  I intended the award to be mainly a system for formative self-assessment based on evidence and thus were the StarGets born... If you're interested in the thinking processes behind their development see the Badges tab at the top of the Home page.

So our Creative Media scheme of work is waymarked by the awarding of badges, though I struggled to find a really effective way of distributing badges for display while we were using Google Sites. Since adopting Kidblog as our e-portfolio platform, badge awarding has evolved somewhat.  The change has had two catalysts: a media library and commenting on posts.

In common with other WordPress systems, Kidblog has a Media Library which now houses copies of all the badges I've designed. So it's possible for all students to add badges to their own posts. Naturally enough I didn't want students just adding three star badges to every post - which would immediately devalue them for everyone. So this is the protocol I've developed

When  a student completes a stage of the design thinking process they add a self-assessment (based on the StarGets for that stage) at the top of the post e.g. I think this collection deserves 2 stars because it has 20 items and most of them are annotated. 
Once they have had a comment from me and a peer confirming their self-assessment, they can add a badge to the top of their post. So far we've had no disagreements because the StarGets are based on demonstrable evidence rather than debatable criteria - in the example above, either their collection has got 20 items, mostly annotated... or it hasn't.

As well as the additional sense of validation peer assessment brings, it promotes better general understanding of the StarGets and ownership of the assessment scheme. Assessing the performance of peers helps students develop insight into their own performance. 

I had also made a set of badges to award students for positive approaches to learning. Originally these badges were within my gift. Now any student can also give a badge. The badges recipient simply makes a new post with the badge in, explaining who gave it to them and why. The badge is validated by a comment from the giver of the badge. The slideshow below explains the Learning Approach badges. 

What I like most about this approach is the message it gives: learning is not something that is done to you but by you with support from - yep, here it comes - your community of scholarship. I'll need to do some hard thinking about how to widen that community effectively...