Perceptions of pre-service English teachers towards the use of digital badges

Countries: 
Published: 
2020

Source: Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 57:2, 148-162

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aims to fill a portion of the gap in the existing literature by investigating the usage of badges within the pre-service teacher education.
Involving teacher candidates’ voices and investigating their perceptions may contribute insights into the current literature about digital badges.
Research questions are:
(1) How do teacher candidates perceive the use of digital badges in a learning management system (LMS) in their courses? (Questionnaire)
(2) What concepts/beliefs/ideas about digital badges do teacher candidates hold, and how do they view these concepts/belief/ideas within the context of education? (Open-ended questions)
The authors applied a mixed research design (Creswell, 2009) which was well suited for this study as it enabled them to get more comprehensive data and gain an in-depth understanding of teacher candidates’ perceptions of and beliefs about digital badges.
This design allowed them to combine concrete quantitative measures of participants’ perceptions, beliefs, and assessments with qualitative evidence of these aspects in their own words, triangulating their findings and producing more robust results.

Method
This study investigated the perceptions of pre-service English teachers at a state university in Turkey of the use of digital badges in a learning management system (LMS) in their courses.

Participants
Initially, 97 prospective English language teachers at a state university in Turkey were invited to participate in this study, of whom 79 voluntarily accepted to participate in the study.
Participants were enrolled in two 14 week courses in the fall semester of the academic year 2017–2018: Advanced Reading and Writing I and Language Teaching Materials Adaptation.

Data collection and analysis
Data were gathered with a questionnaire comprising 13 items using a Likert Scale ranging from strongly agree (5) to strongly disagree (1) and four open-ended questions.
Qualitative data were gathered with four open-ended questions to support the questionnaire data and to learn more about the perceptions of participants about the digital badges.
(1) How do you feel when you earn a badge?
(2) What are the possible benefits of the use of badges? Please explain.
(3) What are the possible disadvantages of the use of badges? Please explain.
(4) When you become a teacher or instructor, would you like to use badges? Please explain why or why not.

Findings and discussion
Findings derived from both the qualitative and the quantitative data support many aspects of the given conceptual framework.
Overall, participants of the current study had positive perceptions of the use of digital badges, which supports the studies of Gibson et al. (2015), and Hense and Mandl (2012).
In this study, participants reported feeling motivated and encouraged when they were awarded digital badges.
For these participants, one of the advantages was receiving immediate feedback on their performance, a finding that supports Hense and Mandl’s (2012) argument that badges strengthen the self-efficacy of learners by providing them meaningful and timely feedback.
In addition, their sense of happiness and enjoyment in the class, which contributed to a supportive learning environment, stood out in participants´ positive perceptions of digital badges.
As predicted in the conceptual framework, their responses indicated that the advantages of badges were generally in the sphere of interrelated positive emotions and experiences.
As earning badges triggered participants’ sense of happiness, enjoyment, and efficacy, it also increased their interest and classroom participation by encouraging and motivating them.
Also, some participants’ identification of the right degree of rivalry as a motivator, leading students to put in extra efforts to attain their learning goals.
Although the advantages of all positive emotions and experiences were explained individually, they were interconnected and mutually reinforcing.
For instance, sense of encouragement and efficacy impacted classroom participation.
Similarly, an optimum degree of rivalry serves to be a motivator contributed to their sense of efficacy.
Overall, the advantages of badges worked together as a motivational system.
However, it should also be noted that creating competition also emerged as a disadvantage.
Because digital badges are inherently competitive, it is important to design systems that serve the needs of students with different ability levels and learning styles and do not marginalise some while promoting others.
Overall, the findings of this study support many aspects of the conceptual framework, however there is one issue that the participants raised concerns. Gibson et al. (2015) argue that public announcement of badges can provide recognition of students’ achievements.
In this study, however, some participants focused more on the feelings of students who had low numbers of badges or who had introvert personalities and might suffer embarrassment or envy of classmates.
Considering these concerns, the decision to publicly announce badge recipients should be carefully considered.
Although no public announcement of the badges was made in the current study, the concerns of the participants about the announcements of the badges indicates the depth and complexity of the issue.
These concerns suggest the importance of participants placed on the needs and feelings of all students.
Also because students in this study had to deliberately visit their peer’s websites to learn about their badges, the badges might have contributed to the social cohesiveness of the class and increased curiosity among peers, thereby enhancing the social context, which can also be considered an effect of digital badge programs.

References
Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). London, UK: Sage.
Gibson, D., Ostashewski, N., Flintoff, K., Grant, S., & Knight, E. (2015). Digital badges in education. Education and Information Technologies, 20, 403–410.
Hense, J., & Mandl, H. (2012, October). Learning in or with games? Quality criteria for digital learning games from the perspectives of learning, emotion, and motivation theory. In D. G. Sampson, J. M. Spector, D. Ifenthaler, & P. Isaias (Eds.), Proceedings of the IADIS International Conference on Cognition and Exploratory Learning in Digital Age, Madrid, 19–26. 

Updated: Jan. 04, 2021
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