Digital Badges for Professional Development: Teachers’ Perceptions of the Value of a New Credentialing Currency

  • James DiamondEmail author
  • Pilar Carmina Gonzalez


This chapter discusses findings from a 1-year exploratory study of an online teacher professional development (PD) program, and an accompanying digital badge system. Twenty-nine middle and high school history and social studies teachers from 13 states participated in the design-based research (DBR) study. Data include responses to online surveys, back-end activity logs, and interviews. Because the badge system was based on a mastery-based approach to teacher professional development and required a significant time commitment, relatively few participants obtained badges. Most teachers acknowledged the value of the badges as credentials for external audiences, but none received any formal recognition by their schools or districts. All participants saw value in the competency-based approach to professional development, but without some form of external validation, they felt that most teachers would be disinclined to pursue these types of badges. An important finding to emerge from participants’ comments is the idea of using a badge system to structure professional development activities such that they are linked to a discipline-specific system that builds teacher mastery of content and instructional practices. We discuss the findings in the context of using DBR methods to help construct useful credentialing systems. The findings have implications for designing badge systems that offer solutions to complex educational problems.


Badge Digital badge systems Teacher professional development Design-based research Competency-based learning History education 



We are grateful to the remarkably talented group of social historians and teacher educators at the American Social History Project, City University of New York (ASHP|CUNY)—Dr. Ellen Noonan, Peter Maibli, and Leah Potter (now a game producer and instructional designer at Electric Funstuff in New York City)—for allowing us to be a part of their team as they created the WBA badge system. Without their design and implementation of the badge system, our work would not have been possible. This research stems from a longstanding and fruitful researcher-practitioner partnership between our two organizations. We also are grateful to SOS Brooklyn (, the developers who created the WBA site and enabled much of the data collection for this study. Finally, we wish to thank HASTAC, which—with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—generously supported this research. Thank you.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Education Development Center|Center for Children & TechnologyNew YorkUSA

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