Star Trek: First Contact - "We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
Psychologists have conducted numerous studies on the pull between Assimilation and Accommodation. For those unfamiliar, when people are presented with a new concept or idea they often either:
- change their way of thinking, accommodating the new concept into their thinking,
- change enough of the concept so that it fits into their established way of thinking, assimilating the concept or idea into their established beliefs
As more people begin to earn, implement, and investigate badges, there is a danger that what is unique about badges will become assimilated into established, and often flawed, practices rather than people accommodating the benefit of badges into their own thinking.
For example, there is an ever-pressing push by all sorts of educational stakeholders to create more ubiquitous assessments***. While one of the clear benefits of badges is their ability to serve as representations of mastery of skills or knowledge, there is also the potential for them to be co-opted and become simply a synonym for certificates or diplomas. I believe that some of the skeptics of badges beleive this is already happening.
So how can we prevent the Borgification of badges? I believe that one of the best ways is to investigate how badges are different than other established pedagogical and assessment practices. In my next blog post, I will talk about different motivational constructs and how they might provide insight into what's unique about badges.
*** It's important to note that I am by no means degrading the concept of assessment. Formative and Summative Assessments have tremendous value to pedagogical practice. However, the desire for assessing almost every aspect of education and learning can have detrimental effects on motivation.