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New report unpicks the use of digital badges within assessment

A new report investigating the impact of replacing marks with digital badges has been released following a year-long study.

The following news story was originally published on FE News on 10 May 2023.

Funded through the educational charity NCFE’s Assessment Innovation Fund, the pilot project by the University of Newcastle Australia set out to explore the positives and negatives of the approach on courses within an initial teacher education programme.

The findings show that awarding digital badges has considerable potential to improve the student experience when it comes to engaging with feedback, linking work in specific assignments to career goals and outcomes, and even reducing grade anxiety and increasing student self-confidence. 

However, it was also shown that these benefits can be overshadowed by student anxiety and dissatisfaction if the badging system is not properly conceptualised and executed.

James Goulding, Acting Project Lead at the University of Newcastle Australia, said:

“Assessment can be an emotional experience for educators and learners alike, with students sometimes perceiving results as a personal reflection on of themselves. To encourage deep learning, students need to be provided with opportunities to demonstrate learning outcomes.

“The digital badges project afforded an opportunity for researchers at the University of Newcastle, Australia to trial awarding micro-credentials to students based on assessments where the criteria is linked directly to the professional standards that all graduating initial teacher education students are expected to meet.

“Awarding digital badges was designed to encourage students to focus on their written feedback—the qualitative aspect of their assessment – rather than simply look at their raw mark and move onto the next assessment task. However, there were limitations, including increasing student uncertainty about their progress in the course and increased staff workload.”

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