21 December 2015

What Students Really Think about Badges

"I thought it was really cool, it gave me something to strive for."

"I feel like they are an effective way to let the student know how they are doing."

"I like these because it helps me see my growth."

"They are great because I feel like I learned something."


"I feel special."

On the end-of-course survey, I asked all 46 of my Spanish students from this semester,"How do you feel about BADGES & PROFICIENCY LEVELS?" 

Nine felt ambivalent about badges, mostly citing the need for more information to improve and the situational nature of the requirements for earning certain badges (which was kind of the point--varied contexts and all). Most here still agreed that they were helpful indicators, though.

Of the 46 students surveyed, only four felt completely negative about them, and I think those were a little sensitive about not getting badges, claiming it was too hard or that badges shouldn't be announced. Mind you, I only announced who had earned badges, and I seriously doubt anyone had the time or inclination to track each of the NINE sets of announcements throughout the semester to keep track of who didn't get what.

The other 72%?

They dug the badges.

From their responses, it seemed to me there were three main reasons they liked badges:
  • They could see where they were.
  • They could see where they were going.
  • And they could see where they'd been.

Where they were

Several cited a sense of contentment at knowing where their abilities fit in the continuum, being able to "Keep up with their level" and "to get a general feel of where you're at." I'm proud of these little buckaroos for that kind of focus on growth. I think this really does indicate a stronger focus on proficiency over grades. 

I printed their final badges on
nametag stickers to put on their
interactive notebooks.
I mean, the 10-point grading scale made it pretty easy to relax about grades, since even by the end, all they needed to do was break out of Novice Low to get a 70, which is now a low C. But you know what's super cool? THEY ALL DID break out of Novice Low! Even in speaking and listening! And the vast majority hit Novice High or better on their final IPA in most sections!

Still, to give a more holistic view--breadth as well as depth--I looked at ALLL of their IPA scores and portfolio scores on my handy dandy spreadsheet. I had each kid's scores separated by reading, listening, speaking, and writing for each IPA and portfolio gathered in one line for comparison. I eyeballed them, looked for trends, and settled on a level I wanted them to maintain for the year they would be out of my class before we met again in Spanish II. (That's right, English teachers can assign summer reading--I'm assigning summer portfolios! Which, of course, they can start now, should they so choose...)

Where they're going

More than one student described badges as giving them "Something to strive for," and indicated that they "make people try harder." Many liked being recognized when they done good, and some said it even gave them "something to look forward to."  A few also said that the badges also helped them see the next step, how to improve with "guidelines for the next level to strive for."

I think I owe that aspect of the badges' success to a combination of ForAllRubrics and the motto I learned from  Karen Tharrington's FLANC presentation: close the feedback loop. The easy rubric setup on ForAllRubrics makes it easy for me to indicate where they're lacking and add a quick comment to suggest what they could do about it next time. And setting up a context that actually required them to look at and respond to feedback really did help them set their sights higher.

I plan on revising the rubrics just a little bit over break to be more precise, adding an "emerging" level before "sometimes," since I want to give them credit when they show a little bit of an objective. Just maybe not as much credit as for those who are almost there (which really makes a better classification too, don't you think? "Almost" instead of "Sometimes"...) 

I may also add a step to the VoiceThread portfolios where students add comment to their title slides about what they have improved, in addition to a comment indicating each sample's objective(s).

Where they've been

After the final reading IPA, I had students pull up their first reading IPA. Their chuckles were the best reward I could hope for.

They really came a long way.

As they said in their surveys, being rewarded "creates a sense of motivation and accomplishment." Each badge represents a step away from that kid they were that didn't know quite as much. And they owned that and could see that step. They had something to point to as proof of their advancement, their growth. And that mattered to them.

Of course Ninja Turtles and kitty stickers are delightful in and of themselves. But knowing that your work has paid off?

That's something worth showing.

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