Badges as Alternate, Real-World Assessment

Today, my students and I were talking about alternatives to standardized tests. I was making a case for local, authentic forms of assessment, developed and analyzed by individual schools and districts. The example I used was portfolio-based grading in an English language arts class. This way of measuring student growth in writing, I argued, lets students write with real purpose and audience, while letting them develop their own writing process and experiment with multiple genres. Teachers within the school could devise a means to measure student success–and the results would be more reliable than writing scores on standardized tests.

On the way home, I was mulling over other forms of assessment, and I began to think about the relatively new concept of badges. If you haven’t heard of a badge–other than the kind that police officers wear–the idea seems to have emerged from the open-source culture on the web. The most substantial badge project is the Mozilla Open Badge project

A badge is a reward for an achievement of distinction, given by a professional organization or entity that is removed from traditional educational settings. Badges are developed by companies are other entities that want to encourage particular kinds of skills or accomplishments.

So, for example, if a student creates a brilliant YouTUbe parody, he theoretically could submit his work to a badge-granting organization who could evaluate his work and reward the badge. The student could then display the badge or multiple badges on a range of social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

The whole thing sounds just a bit like the Boy Scouts, but I like the idea as an alternative or addition to a traditional grade. I also like the idea of students creating badges, judging submissions, and rewarding badges. This could be pretty easy to do in a course management system, a multiuser blog, or a wiki for that matter.

About RR

Assistant Professor of English Education at Grand Valley State University.
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