Part of me likes the idea of badges, for the reasons the Chronicle of Higher Education gives in Grades Out, Badges In. But I worry that we may be replacing on proxy for another.
The point of grades, as I see it, was to give a short hand for qualifying millions of students in when it would have been impossible to give a personal recommendation. That is, as much as a grade might be a measure of knowledge or ability, it is also a proxy for a social relationship and a recommendation or reference from one individual, the teacher, about another, the student. Before public education, such assessments were given personally, but the number of students or apprentices was relatively few compared to today.
I wonder if some combination of social media and a semantic web might eliminate the idea of grades and badges completely and return us to the good ol’ days. It would be possible to make all my work transparent so that I establish my reputation as a good teacher: you could see not only what and how I teach, but most importantly how well my students do. Then, I could personally recommend a student to another teacher and that recommendation would carry weight. The accuracy of my recommendations themselves enhance–or detract from–my reputation. Grade inflation becomes meaningless.
Maybe, however, there are just too many people for this to work?