Self-Issuing Digital Badges for my Performance Review

In an earlier post I described an idea for how the Open Badges 2.0 standard and a pathways standard might enable a person to reputably self-issue badges. Thanks to some excellent feedback in the comments of that post, I have revised the idea:

Step 1: A learner identifies a competency or goal that she is interested in developing or achieving, or that she believes she has already developed or achieved.

Step 2: The learner adds that competency or goal to a learning/development pathway. The learner may write the competency statement herself, or she may find and use a competency statement already written by an authoritative source, e.g. a recognized competency standard. That competency or goal then acts as a node on her pathway.

Step 3: The learner begins to earn badges that support the claim of the competency statement, or that serve as evidence of progress toward the stated goal.

Step 4: The learner’s supporting badges are endorsed by others.

The competency node is similar to a meta-badge in the sense that it signifies an overarching competency that is supported by a collection of “child” badges. However, it differs from the “conventional” understanding of how a learner earns a meta-badge and progresses along a pathway. That’s because, in what I’m describing, the learner can acquire the competency node before earning the supporting child badges. The learner then earns badges in order to support the claim made by that competency node. The more supporting child badges the learner earns, and the more those badges are endorsed by others, the more credible the claim made by the learner’s competency statement begins to look. Because the supporting badges can be stacked under the competency ad infinitum, I called it downward stackability.

How About We Try It?

I’d like to try this idea, and if you’re looking for a way to get involved with badges, I hope you might try it with me. I work as an instructional designer at the University of Wisconsin, and I have struck a deal with my supervisor and my human resources department to incorporate badging into my annual performance review. Do you have a supervisor, an HR department, or even colleagues that’d be willing to play along? Then you have the required ingredients to try it! What do you have to lose? As far as badge “pilots” go, this one is fairly low-risk, low-cost, and I imagine many working professionals could ask their organization to try something like this. What you get out of the deal is some lasting value from performance reviews in the form of open digital badges. What your organization gets out of the deal is a demonstration of the potential value for training and development that digital badges have to offer. What the digital badges community gets is a sneaky way to penetrate what has proven to be a challenging barrier to the wider adoption of digital badges: employers’ and human resource departments’ understanding of digital badges.

Here’s how I envision this working, at least in my case.

  1. Competencies and Goals: I will find competencies to incorporate into my learning/development pathway. For instance, my instructional design department has documented competencies that it wants its instructional designers to possess. I will also find instructional design competency standards from other sources -perhaps from the Association for Talent Development’s Competency Model. I also have professional goals that I already defined for this year of 2018. Both competencies and goals will serve as nodes in my learning / development pathway.

  2. Earn or Self-Issue Badges for Training: When I take part in training that relates to those competencies or goals, I will collect evidence from training and issue myself a badge. Of course, in cases where the organization offering training is willing to issue me badge, I won’t need to issue my own.

  3. Earn or Self-Issue Badges for my Work: what’s more interesting (in my opinion), I will reflect and take stock of my regular work at UW-Extension. If specific instances of the work I do represent progress toward my goals, or evidence that I am acquiring (or have acquired) a particular competency, I will collect rich evidence and issue myself a badge.

  4. Seek Endorsements: In both the case of training and regular work, I will seek endorsements from colleagues, collaborators, and/or supervisors. Endorsements is an awesome new feature of the Open Badges 2.0 standard. However, not all Open Badge 2.0 vendors have added endorsement features to their platforms yet. I believe Credly and Digitalme have added the ability to endorse others and/or their badges. Nonetheless, I’m curious to see if Badgr’s Pathways feature will be compatible with this notion of downward stackability. And I don’t imagine Badgr is too far away from offering the ability to endorse. In the meantime, my plan is to simply ask people to endorse the badges by writing a brief description of how they know me, how they know my work, and why they think my work demonstrates a competency. Then, once I finally settle on a badge platform, I’ll ask my endorsers to add the endorsements that they’ve already written.

  5. Incorporate Badges into my Performance Review: At least twice per year, I will present my badges to my supervisor and HR department and seek their endorsements. If they’re willing, I might ask my supervisor and HR department to issue me badges. But… maybe not. Digital badges are still unfamiliar territory for my colleagues, and I must continually remind myself to take baby steps. Patience is a virtue!

That’s it, at least for the badging part. I’ll continue to blog about this experiment as it unfolds, and I plan to keep a reflective journal throughout the experience. If you are willing to try this with me, maybe you can do something similar? I’d be very curious to learn from you and from others.


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