Although I have been teaching with badges for years, my love for them has only grown. I first started using badges to recognize student contributions and participation in class (see Using Badges to Assess a Class Community Assignment). However, through the years, I have come to better understand the many ways that badge awards support our class community. Badges help me see the individual contributions of my students and badges help my students see each other, but, perhaps most important, badges are mirrors that show students their strengths and successes.
There are many reasons to assess using badges (see Grading With Badges Revisited) which I have shared with many other educators both on my blog and at conference presentations (see Badges, Blogs, and Google+: Clicking in an Online Learning Community), but even if you don’t see the value in using badges to crowdsource your workload and provide an authentic audience I hope you will consider this one thing: badges help you celebrate what is going right in your classroom. Every time, every single time, I download my students’ badge votes the evidence they share about the work that their peers are doing makes me cry. Badges help me, help us, celebrate what is going right in our classroom.
George Couros recent wrote a blog post “Nobody Wants to Be “Fixed”” that really spoke to me as an educator as well as a leader. He notes: “By looking for, and starting with a culture that builds on strengths and what we do right, you are more likely to have a group of people that feel valued.” I believe this because I have lived it. I know when I do not feel seen and valued then I am much more resistant to “improvement” or “fixing.” After all, how can someone who does not know our strengths truly help us with our weaknesses? I love that badges offer students the opportunity to show their peers that they are valued. I know I try to show my students what I value about the work they are doing in my class, but simply thinking about this idea has made me realize I don’t offer my students enough opportunities to tell me what strengths they possess. I will need to rethink my self-assessment journal prompts and/or assignment reflections to open up that dialogue.
How do you celebrate your students’ strengths? What are the benefits of using badges in your classroom?
Through the years my essential badge award procedure has stayed the same – students are given a list of badges and descriptions (developed by earlier classes) and they award the badges, including evidence to support the award, to their classmates for their contributions to the class via discussion, class blog, and/or workshops. I usually hold a badge award ceremony at midterm and the end of the semester – usually offering candy or some other treat along with the badges earned.
I have gone through various iterations of how students vote, because tracking and counting badges can be incredibly time consuming. Last year, I started using a Google form (another obsession of mine – see Grading Using Google Forms) and that has offered two benefits. First, it makes it super easy to count up badges and scan evidence in one quick glance because those votes can all be downloaded in an Excel file. But the real unanticipated benefit is that it makes it easy for me to share not only the badge votes, but also the evidence with the students. Reading the evidence brings tears to my eyes every time I read through the list and students are similarly touched by what their classmates have to say. Such a wonderful and unexpected benefit of grading with badges.
This semester I switched back to require weekly badge votes, because even with a worksheet students were losing track when we awarded badges for each unit. I tally the votes every four weeks (our semesters are 16 weeks long). My new plan, which seems to work really well, is that I create new sheets in my excel file (created by the Google form) for each badge vote so students can more easily see who earned each badge and why.