Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials
Session 8: Assessment Strategies for Effective Badge Systems
Session Recording: http://bit.ly/OBmooc8
This week was the second 2014 session of the #openbadgesMOOC, New Currency for Professional Credentials with a presentation on Assessment Strategies for Effective Badge Systems led by Anne Derryberry,.
When building badge systems, assessment is one of the key components that must be considered. Before a badge can be awarded, issuers must have a way to verify that a badge earner has acquired the skills or competencies represented by the badge. That verification happens through evidence-based assessment, placing the emphasis on a demonstration of mastery rather than the recall of learned information. As Anne pointed out in her introduction, “badges don’t care where the learning happens” - as long as the individual can demonstrate competence and provide evidence to back it up, they have earned the badge. Those badges can then be stacked, representing granular achievements that combine to lead to mastery of a complete skill set.
During this session, we looked at various strategies for assessment, including traditional vs. authentic assessment.
Most of us are familiar with traditional assessment: taking tests where learners don’t have to know the answer to questions as long as they can recognize it from a selection. Learners may have to write short answers or essays that require the recall or regurgitation of information, providing indirect or abstract evidence, in an environment structured by the assessors or instructors. These tests can be largely evaluated by non-experts, and are frequently scored by ‘machine readers’ using keywords to determine competence.
By contrast, authentic assessment focuses on learners’ abilities, and includes performance tasks, capstone projects, and portfolios. It requires demonstrating the application of learned skills and essential knowledge in real-world scenarios using direct evidence in an environment structured by the learner. Rubrics are often used to evaluate these tasks to determine the assessment outcome.
You can see the differences laid out in this graphic below:
Authentic assessment tends to be the preferred type for badge systems, but as Anne Derryberry noted, it can be harder to evaluate and score within this kind of assessment framework. Many use a combination of traditional and authentic assessment methods when designing their badge systems for learning - as long as learners can demonstrate competence and evidence of mastery, the means of establishing this can fall anywhere on the spectrum between traditional and authentic assessment.
Many in our community are familiar with Dan Hickey’s work at Indiana University (alongside Rebecca Itow, Nate Otto and a team of others) on the badge Design Principles Documentation Project. Through looking closely at the developing badge systems that grew out of the Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, they have identified a set of principles for assessing learning that leads to digital badges, including the use of ‘leveled’ badge systems to show progress, aligning assessment with existing standards, the use of e-portfolios and rubrics, and getting students involved in designing badge criteria at the granular level.
Anne introduced the group to a real-world example of one of these badge systems being built at UC Davis for the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Major (SA & FS). These efforts are led by Joanna Normoyle, the Experiential & Digital Media Learning Coordinator at UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute.
The SA & FS badge system has five types of badges: skill, knowledge, honor, experience, and competence. Each type has a set of pre-determined badges that were designed based on program requirements, but the system also allows both faculty and students to develop other badges within each badge type.
Assessment within the program includes a portfolio component as well as the badges, and the plan is for the system to allow for peer assessment and review of portfolios as the program and badge system grows. Currently, badges are earned through the evaluation of an application that uses portfolio work as evidence of learning that is evaluated by faculty and mentors:
The assessment itself is still primarily offline - students present their work to a panel of faculty who evaluate the badge submissions - but the online platform allows for the collection, documentation and distribution of students’ work. Through the community elements of this platform, students are able to access other students’ shared work and learning pathways, to see connections to their own work and opportunities for further growth, and allow students to create a learning experience that suits their interests.
The SA & FS system allows students to design badges as part of the system, which opens up the discussion of the vigor of the badges being created. As Joanna pointed out, there are many ways that students are learning that mentors and instructors are not always aware of - particularly in a more independent learning environment like the one fostered at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute. These student-designed badges (which are moderated by a faculty member, currently Joanna) can reflect the learning happening in other courses, internships, or informal experiences that have value to the students.
Currently, the SA & FS badge system and online platform is not connected directly to university and graduation requirements. The program itself has been working towards competency-based learning and self-assessment for a number of years, and so they wanted to treat the badges as an extension of this exploration of students’ interests and development. Rather than tying them to traditional grades, they have chosen so far to keep them in the realm of ‘alternative’ credentials.
To find out more about the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute, check out the website: http://asi.ucdavis.edu/students/front-page
We look forward to continuing this course with you! See below for details of the next session.
Go to http://badges.coursesites.com/ to access more resources, information, and challenge assignments to earn badges.
Monday, March 31, 2-3:00 ET:
Introducing Mozilla’s BadgeKit
BadgeKit is a new set of open, foundational tools that will make the badging process easy and simple. BadgeKit will be launched by Mozilla’s Open Badges team in March of 2014. This session will provide a general overview of BadgeKit, including: Why BadgeKit? What is BadgeKit? A deeper look at BadgeKit tools, and more!