Project Q&A With: Pathways to Global Competence: A Badge System for Students

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What are the 3 most important things about building a badge system you would share with another organization just getting started?

Our best advice to future badge system builders:

1.     Maintain a clear focus on the learning targets your badges are designed to represent,

2.     Learn from other members of the badge ecosystem, and

3.     Keep the learner’s experience at the heart of your design process.

We have been able to develop and refine our Global Leadership Badge System based on Asia Society’s definition of global competence <http://asiasociety.org/education/partnership-global-learning/making-case/global-competence-prepare-youth-engage-world>.

Who were you addressing with your badge system design?

Asia Society’s Global Leadership Badges System is designed for secondary students, primarily grades 9-12.

What were your initial goals for the badges? Did those goals change at all throughout the design process?

The goal of our system is to provide a means for students to develop and certify their global competence in four areas: investigating the world, recognizing perspectives, communicating ideas, and taking action. The goals and target audience have remained consistent amid the evolution of other aspects of the system.

What types of badges are you using (participation, skill, certification, etc.)? Are there levels or pathways represented in your badges?

The Global Leadership Badge System is primarily a proficiency-based system with a final task leading to the ultimate certification: Global Leader Badge. A student earns the first four competency badges – Global Researcher, Global Integrator, Global Communicator, and Global Contributor  – by completing Global Leadership Challenges that address one or more indicators from among Asia Society’s Global Leadership Performance Outcomes. After completing each Challenge, the student must upload evidence of his/her accomplishments to his/her digital portfolio and write a reflection describing how this experience helped him/her develop the targeted areas of global leadership.

To demonstrate proficiency in a given domain of Global Leadership – investigating the world, recognizing perspectives, communicating ideas, and taking action – a student must earn three scores of Proficient/College Ready or higher on each of the four Performance Outcomes associated with that domain. If at least two trained educators rate the student’s work as Proficient/College Ready or higher on the Asia Society Global Leadership Rubric, the student will achieve milestones towards the corresponding badge(s). One of the two trained educators who rate the student’s work can be the student’s teacher; the other must be an educator in another ISSN school.

Students will work on all four badges simultaneously and may complete them in any order. Earning all four badges unlocks the Final Challenge, which enables the student to earn the Global Leader Badge (See Figure 1). The Final Challenge is a public exhibition of the student’s portfolio that highlights the accomplishments that led to each badge and presents a synthesis and reflection on his/her development as a globally competent youth leader. If the student’s exhibition is rated as Proficient/College Ready or higher by at least two trained educators, he or she will earn the Global Leader Badge.

What pedagogies (if any) informed the learning and badge system design?

Pedagogies that informed the design of our badge system include experiential learning, performance assessment, and proficiency-based pathways.

What are three things you learned about badge system design? What would you do differently if you were to start over?

Our key learning as the project progressed was the complexity and flexibility required in order to make the system truly proficiency-based (as opposed to task-based). We also learned more about student motivations as we sought to create an appropriate balance between challenge and reward. In addition, thinking through the badge system gave us further insights into the role of student portfolios as a means for students to track their progress in the development of global competence.

Outstanding questions/requests: What is left to do? What is left unanswered? What might help you continue to succeed?

What we have yet to do at this point is to pilot the system in a few of our schools and then fully implement the system across the Asia Society International Studies Schools Network: http://asiasociety.org/education/international-studies-schools-network. Through the pilot process, we hope to learn more about how challenging and motivating our system is and what students need in order to be successful in earning the badges.

What are the 3 main challenges to widespread adoption of your badge system for your organization?

The main challenge to widespread adoption of our badges system will be that it is dependent on the participating school’s/teacher’s/student’s use of the technology infrastructure, ShowEvidence. Our schools have begun to use the platform this year, but implementation has been slow and significant training is needed for teachers to become proficient in using the system.

A second challenge will be the limited number of Challenges (curriculum modules/summative tasks) currently available as part of the system. Although these are designed for maximum flexibility across multiple grade levels, subject areas, and learning contexts (both in an outside of school), more challenges will need to be developed to make the system flexible enough to meet the needs of all students.

A third challenge will be the requirement for two trained teachers to score each piece of student work that is submitted to the system. We will need to incentivize this in order for it to be scalable and sustainable.

What is your badge system testing strategy? How have you or will you be testing your badge system prior to deployment?

We will be piloting our badge system in five schools in the fall of 2013. After providing initial training to teachers, we will conduct field visits to survey and interview the participants. These results will inform revision and refinement of the system for broader implementation.

What factors is the success of your badge system contingent upon?

1.     interest and motivation among students to participate and persist to achieve all five badges,

2.     willingness and ability of teachers to fulfill their role in rating student work as it is submitted towards earning badges, and

3.     initial positive experiences by individual teachers and students so that implementation will scale to school-wide use of the system.

Please describe any impact your badge system may have already had on your organization and your learners. How would you characterize the impact your badge system will have on the badge ecosystem?

So far, our badge system has primarily impacted our own thinking around proficiency-based pathways, learner motivation, and the role of student portfolios. We are excited to see the impact on our learners when we begin piloting in fall of 2013.

What plans do you have to scale your badge system? How successfully are you getting institutional buy-in, or adoption from your learners?

We plan to scale our system by making it available to all students in the 35 schools across our nationwide International Studies Schools Network in the spring of 2014. It should be relatively easy to get buy-in from our network schools because the badges system is so clearly tied to and a natural extension of the Graduation Performance System: http://sites.asiasociety.org/pglonline/about/our-initiatives/graduation-performance-system/that they are already implementing.