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Digital Badges for Teacher Professional Development in India

Digital Shield on abstract technology background

OU researchers have researched the importance of digital badges in support of teacher development in India to decide how they can be developed further.

During November 2020, researchers from The Open University (OU) UK and Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) India brought together national policy makers, state departments, teachers and teacher educators from across India in two events to explore the prospect and opportunities for using digital badges in support of teacher professional development (TPD) in India.

This timely intervention sought to engage key stakeholders in India in a conversation with the OU about the potential roles that digital badges could play as a solution to both immediate policy needs, including National Education Policy (2020) and COVID-19, and more long-term challenges associated with recognition, engagement and monitoring of teacher professional development.

COVID-19 and the need for teacher professional development with digital badges

Open digital badges are a visual digital symbol that allows individuals or organisations to recognise and communicate learning achievements, practice competencies, skills, certifications or other achievements. Globally, studies have indicated that badges can help motivate and empower individuals to engage in their own professional development. This is reflected by the OU’s  Institute of Educational Technology’s (IET) history of supporting different international contexts implement digital badges for TPD.

Dr Simon Cross, Senior Lecturer at IET and Lead of the project, highlights how the project has sought to understand more about how well the concept of digital badge technologies is perceived by stakeholders, how it could be scaled, and the challenges and opportunities for use. To this end, two pilots developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in useful insight. Of particular note was that over half of participants responding to the survey (n=104) said that digital badges had prompted them to engage in aspects of the course they otherwise would not have done and had encouraged them to sustain their effort to completion.

As Dr Cross explains:

“Digital badges have a pedagogic and technological versatility that should appeal to those seeking new means of evidencing, assessing and recognising practice, or where current options are proving impracticable.”

"In our many years working in India, one of the challenges we see is in supporting teachers to improve classroom practice and recognise this. ’Badges could offer a more effective assessment for practice, and improve the assessment of practice, such as to fill a gap in professional recognition in classroom teaching. It is undeniable that the COVID-19 outbreak has become an additional driver that may accelerate uptake of technologies such as digital badges, however, moving beyond pilots will also require a persistent intent on the part of all stakeholders concerned.”

“The aim of our two events, and the two pilots that preceded them, was not to provide an answer, but to sketch a potential landscape for stakeholders to explore and question. It was about bringing people together, sparking a conversation and making connections; be these conceptual and practical.”

Discussing educational policy and teacher professional development

One event had a policy and strategy focus. Here, the standout session was a roundtable panel discussion at which senior government officials were invited to share reflections on TPD in India and offer remarks on the potential for digital badges. The panel comprised the Director, Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Education; Director, Central Board of Secondary Education; Head, Department of Teacher Education and Coordination, National Council of Education Research and Training; Commissioners Office, Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti; and Principal Secretary (Elementary and Secondary) Assam.

The 44 delegates attending also joined workshop discussions and presentations by the project team. This event also made connections between badge-related activities taking place in India and identified some potential future collaborations.

The other event had a practitioner focus and was attended by almost a hundred teachers, teacher educators, headteachers and education department representatives from over a dozen states in India. Over a hundred more viewed the event asynchronously in the subsequent 24 hours. A series of sessions supported knowledge exchange and the team reported preliminary finding from the two pilots that they had coordinated at TISS. Dr Cross was joined at both events by project co-investigators Professor Freda Wolfenden and Dr Lina Adinolfi, and colleagues from TISS.

Announcing a new follow-on project based in Assam, India, and sponsored by The Open University’s COVID Response Fund, Dr Cross remarks:

“Feedback from the event seemed to mirror the interest shown in digital badges by many of our pilot participants. Over 80% of those responding to both the pilot and event surveys believed that digital badges could be of value for supporting teacher professional development in the future.”

“We hope the events will be a catalyst for further collaboration and discussion, and that the project team can consolidate this interest by developing a community of practice. Our new project in Assam will see us undertaking a larger trial of digital badges and again working closely with our partners at TISS along with the state government.”

To find out more about the project contact Dr Simon Cross

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