Development Article

Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 217-232

First online:

Are badges useful in education?: it depends upon the type of badge and expertise of learner

  • Samuel AbramovichAffiliated withLearning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh Email author 
  • , Christian SchunnAffiliated withLearning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh
  • , Ross Mitsuo HigashiAffiliated withRobotics Academy, The National Robotics Engineering Center, Carnegie Mellon University

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Educational Badges are touted as an alternative assessment that can increase learner motivation. We considered two distinct models for educational badges; merit badges and videogame achievements. To begin unpacking the relationship between badges and motivation, we conducted a study using badges within an intelligent-tutor system for teaching applied mathematics to middle-school students. Our findings indicate that badge earning could be driven by learner motivations and that systems with badges could have a positive effect on critical learner motivations. However, badge acquisition patterns were different across learners with different levels of prior knowledge. Different badge types also affected different learners motivation. Additionally, we believe that our findings are compatible with the research finding that extrinsic motivators have a negative influence on learning. The implication for educational badge designers is that they must consider the ability and motivations of learners when choosing what badges to include in their curricula. We believe our findings exist as one piece of the large research base needed to understand educational badges.


Badges Alternative assessment Motivation Intelligent tutors