Creating Effective Tours

One of the most powerful uses of digital badges occurs when students present their work. To earn a badge, students can submit a “tour” of their best work to show that they are meeting the requirements. For example, to earn a badge in Spanish, a student could prepare a tour showing their skills as a Listener, Speaker, Reader and Writer of the language. The tour is then reviewed by a teacher to determine if the student has earned the badge.

In the schools using Richer Picture, we have seen many approaches to tours. One common way is the end of year review. Here, a student will go through their portfolio and select their best pieces of work. Schools can provide some structure to this selection – maybe the student needs to select one piece from each class, or connect work to specific skills, such as problem solving or the ability to work in groups.

What has proven to be a  great strategy is for the students to present their tour to one or two teachers. At some high schools, this is an annual ritual – students have a block of time set aside where each student will have an individual review. The teachers listen to the student present their tour, and then provide feedback. What is useful here is that the student is talking broadly about their progress, but tying it to the specific evidence shown in their sample work. It’s a chance for the student and the teachers to talk about the student’s overall growth – not just in one class, but across the board. Particularly in high schools and middle schools, where many teachers see their students for just one subject, this kind of conversation is all too rare; students can talk about how they learn, what they do well and where they struggle, and become more reflective on who they are as learners. Teachers regularly say that this process tells them things about students that they didn’t know – even if the student has been in their class all year.

Of course, this review doesn’t have to be at the end of the year; elementary teachers have used these tours as a part of their student-led conferences with parents, sometimes at multiple points during the year. The overall idea still stands – students select their work, reflect on their progress, and present their tour for feedback.

Other tours can help students show their work to different audiences:

  • Subject area  tours can show the depth of knowledge within a discipline -whether that is showing skills in different genres of writing, or how they apply common skills (such as lab reports / scientific inquiries) in different courses.
  • Project tours can show the steps that a student used to complete a project, from initial idea through the final product. These tours can show the student’s work – and can also illustrate how the student overcame obstacles along the way.
  • Growth over time tours can show a student’s progress. This kind of tour is like time-lapse photography. In music, for example, we can show a student’s skill when they first pick up an instrument, and then the student can add a recording every few months. This tour can show what the student has achieved, and also illustrate patterns in the student’s development.

Our recent webinar on Student Tours goes into this in more depth. You can also learn more from the recent ASCD book on Demonstrating Student Mastery with Digital Badges and Portfolios.