E-STEM Badges

ESTM-PD Mapping Badge Click for more information.

ESTEM-PD Field Notes Badge Click for more information.

ESTEM-PD Hydrology Badge Click for more information.

ESTEM-PD Ecology Badge Click for more information.

Motivation and Overview

The traditional college transcript, with cryptic course titles, credit hours, and grades, is not particularly informative outside the degree-granting institution. Students' transcripts may not include or adequately convey the skills and conceptual knowledge that employers find valuable. As a result, students may have a difficult time describing to potential employers the skills they have acquired and how they could be transferred to the workplace, which creates a gap in communication between employment seekers and potential employers. Education badges provide a way of recognizing skills, knowledge, or accomplishments acquired over multiple courses or through activities completed outside of a traditional classroom setting.

Students gain tangible documentation of their progress in mastering skills and developing core competencies in a badge program. Documentation of learning outcomes may be particularly helpful for students who receive interdisciplinary degrees in fields like environmental science. To market themselves to employers, students can use badges to summarize the specific skills and abilities they have obtained from a wide range of curricular and co-curricular activities. When implemented effectively, badges may act as an extrinsic reward that increases intrinsic motivation for learning (Abramovich et al, 2013, Hamari et al, 2014).

Stakeholders and potential employers find value in badge programs that align badge criteria with competencies that professional stakeholders are looking for in their employees. If badges are to certify mastery of learned skills, knowledge, or accomplishments acquired, it is important to provide transparency by describing the issuance criteria, assessment rubrics used to evaluate student work, and examples of tangible evidence submitted by students.

Badge Development

Badge Evaluation »Informed by stakeholders from a diverse suite of geoscience fields (academia, research, K-12 education, government, consulting, industry, non-profit sector, etc.), we identified key skills, competencies, concepts, and learning outcomes for E-STEM students that relate to potential career opportunities and were achievable in the context of the field course. These components were then incorporated into the badge assessment rubrics used to assess student work. Consequently, badges were developed for mapping, field notes, hydrology, and ecology.

Badge Implementation

The badges serve as a transparent document of learning outcomes; a means with which students reflect on their progress and synthesize E-STEM skills and abilities; and a jumpstart to conversations about vital skills between students and faculty as well as between students/faculty and stakeholders (potential employers, graduate schools, and transfer schools).

In year one of the program, we identified key considerations for badge implementations.

  • What does proficiency mean (at different levels)? The majority of students in the field course were second year students and expecting professional proficiency was unrealistic.
  • How long does it take to reach proficiency in a skill? If a skill takes more time than available contact hours, the students will not reasonably be able to reach proficiency during the course.
  • What can reasonably be achieved in your field course? There are factors to consider such as location, weather, and hazards. In the first year of the program, a historic snowpack made it unsafe to complete many of the hydrology activities and therefore the Hydrology badge material went largely unused.
  • How will students who go further in a given assignment but make mistakes in the process be assessed, especially in comparison to those who do less but do it correctly? This was possible in the field course due to the holistic nature of the badges. If the badges were more binary in nature, this would be less of a concern. For example, changing the badge criteria to, "This student completed 10 hours of stream gauging."
  • On what scale is success assessed? In this field course, the same four badge rubrics were used throughout the course allowing the students could track their progress.

During the second year, the badges were used throughout the field course and students received regular and timely feedback serving as documentation of student progress in real time. The field course activities were designed to provide students with ample opportunity to practice these skills during the course, culminating in a final synthesis project which that was assessed with all four badge rubrics. No badges were officially conferred at the end of the field course. Ultimately, the badge rubrics served to assist students in synthesizing their E-STEM skills and abilities and provided an opportunity for us to consider and refine how skill-building is taught, assessed, and documented in early undergraduate training.

Works Cited

Abramovich, S., Schunn, C., and Higashi, R.M., 2013, Are badges useful in education?: It depends upon the type of badge and expertise of learner: Educational Technology Research and Development, v. 61, p. 217–232, doi: 10.1007/s11423-013-9289-2.

Hamari, J., Koivisto, J., and Sarsa, H., 2014, Does gamification work? - A literature review of empirical studies on gamification: Proceedings of the Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, p. 3025–3034, doi: 10.1109/HICSS.2014.377.

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