Digital badges for collaborative problem solving

In my last post I suggested that although open badges are a powerful credential and those working with them are making excellent use of them, badges will struggle to find traction as a replacement for existing reporting systems.

I went on to suggest that badges were ideally suited to credential skills currently classified as 21st century skills. In this way open badges can form a parallel system to the reporting systems currently in use in most jurisdictions. While an assessment for maths provides evidence on the level of numeracy a student has reached, a badge would provide evidence of  global citizenship, research skills or collaborative problem solving. Arguably, these 21st century skills are rarer and say more about a graduate than a traditional school report.

In order to receive broad acceptance, however, the badges need to be based on an objective measure of the skill it is awarded for and in the case of 21st century skills this is difficult. Fortunately work is being done on the assessment of 21st century skills by the ATC21S project, headquartered at Melbourne University. In March of this year ATC21S released an empirical progression for collaborative problem solving, which can be the basis of an assessment rubric.

Based on the collaborative problem solving empirical progression I have developed a series of open badges, from basic (blue) through bronze, silver and gold, to recognize the level of development a student has achieved. These badges provide evidence of a student’s skill level and also identify a zone of proximal development for the student. For instance a student at the bronze level can see from the  silver level criteria what their area of development is.

Each of these levels is supported by more detailed descriptors in the ATC21S documents, but I believe the badges have more utility if a simplified version is attached to the badge, while still maintaining clear developmental stages. An assessor would refer to the more detailed descriptors when awarding a badge. In the empirical progression the basic badge corresponds to level C, the bronze badge level D, the silver badge is level E and the gold badge is at level F.

Collaborative problem solving badges

Basic badge


When solving a non-trivial problem in a collaborative context the recipient

  • Recognizes the role of others in solving problem
  • Shares resources
  • Communicates strategies to achieve a common understanding of the problem

Bronze badge


When solving a non-trivial problem in a collaborative context the recipient

  • Shows perseverance and commitment to solving the problem together with peers
  • Approaches the problem systematically, setting goals and evaluating different strategies
  • Can make connections between different pieces of information
  • Is aware of the performance of their peers, and can see their own performance objectively

Silver badge


When solving a non-trivial problem in a collaborative context the recipient

  • Acts with planning and purpose, drawing on prior knowledge and experience
  • Can adapt and change with new information
  • Initiates interactions and responds to contributions from peers but may not resolve differences or change plans

Gold badge


When solving a non-trivial problem in a collaborative context the recipient

  • Assumes group responsibility for the task
  • Works through the problem efficiently using only relevant resources
  • Tailors communication and incorporates input from peers, changing plans and resolving conflict as necessary
  • Can reorganize the problem in an attempt to find a new solution path

There still needs to be some thought put into refining these badges and techniques for assessment must be developed, but I believe that there is enormous potential for open badges in this area. As the work of developing empirical progressions for other 21st century skill areas continues, this badge system can be expanded.


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