Alternative Assessments, Unintended Consequences: The Promise and Peril of Digital Badges

Lauren Zucker, Troy Wayne Hicks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many educators are looking for alternative ways to encourage and recognize student learning, yet new approaches bring forth new challenges. This article recounts a high school teacher's efforts to implement a digital badging (micro-credentialing) program in the English Language Arts classroom as an alternative to traditional forms of assessment. After participating in an open, online professional learning experience for educators, the Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC), Lauren Zucker hoped to bring some of its playfulness and sense of community back to her classroom through a digital badging program that she co-developed with students. In the process, students were invited to submit their classwork as evidence to claim peer-designed digital badges to document and reward newly-acquired curricular skills. Shortly after one student questioned the initiative, other problems with the badges program quickly exposed themselves related to motivation, autonomy, and the badge-issuing process. Situating this teacher's experience within an educational context that offers numerous alternatives to traditional instruction (e.g., gamification, flipping, project-based learning), and within institutions that still depend heavily on traditional methods of assessment (e.g., summative exams and essays), the authors reflect on the challenges of providing authentic choices to students while maintaining a balance between teacher-led and student-driven pedagogy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-123
JournalTransformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2019


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