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Is the title a stretch? Sure, call me out on my puns. But every time I talk about badging, The Infamous Honey Badger video (*language warning*) lives in my head and Im hoping I can do that for you too . On a serious note, youve likely guessed that today's issue is about badging! Specifically, the article this week seeks to answer the following:

  • Do badges improve motivation and learning outcomes for SQL learners?

Join Badging

When talking about gamification, a lot of elements can come into play! Some people might think about streaks, while others might think about leaderboards, badges, or points. When considering learning research, its important to understand the role each of these elements play. The authors of this article aimed to understand the impact of badges on learning from an Intelligent Tutoring System. Specifically, they evaluated whether badges affect learning, motivation, and self-efficacy in SQL-Tutor (Tahir et al., 2022).

The SQL-Tutor program provides learners with practice problems to learn how to phrase queries in SQL. Learners are able to navigate between problems and databases, provide solutions, and receive feedback. Feedback can be provided at 6 different levels - the first three are always available to learners, ranging from simple, which indicates whether the answer is correct or incorrect, to hint, which highlights an error in the solution and gives information about the violated principles. The higher 3 feedback levels require the learner to request them, as they provide much more in-depth information - all the way to the entire solution (Tahir et al., 2022).

To gamify the SQL-Tutor experience, the researchers set a series of goals and relevant learning behaviors that could result in a variety of badges. There were 3 main badge types: primary, classic, and elite. The primary badges were made to be early wins for learners, the classic badges promoted continued practice, and the elite badges aimed to keep learners for a long period of time. See image for badges and achievement rates (Tahir et al., 2022).

Tahir et al. (2022)

Learners were able to access SQL-Tutor for a period of 4 weeks, with half of the learners engaging in the gamified version and the other half engaging with the standard version. All learners completed surveys measuring SQL confidence/motivation before and after the experiment (Tahir et al., 2022).

As the researchers hypothesized, badges indirectly impacted learning outcomes through increasing learners time-on-task. In essence, badges appeared to increase the time spent on practice problems, which in turn improved learner outcomes (Tahir et al., 2022). They also found that badges were effective motivators for learners, but only for those learners that already illustrated higher levels of interest in the topic. Thus, badges may not be an effective tool to generate interest, but can continue to motivate already interested learners (Tahir et al., 2022).

Badges are an interesting gamification tool, allowing learners to feel a sense of achievement and drive motivation. However, badges may not motivate all learners equally. The findings from this study suggest that badges may extend learners time-on-task, as well as push already interested learners - but we likely need to find another way to motivate learners regarding topics they may not already be interested in.

Key Takeaway(s): Badges are an effective way to increase the time learners spend on a given task, which may indirectly improve learning outcomes. Further, badges can help to motivate interested learners! However, uninterested learners show little motivation gain from badges, so other tools should be evaluated for those populations.

Read More (Open): Tahir, F., Mitrovic, A., & Sotardi, V. (2022). Investigating the causal relationships between badges and learning outcomes in SQL-Tutor. Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 17(7).

Park & Kim (2019) also recently published a literature review on badge design that I find intriguing. Im interested in your thoughts on it! Its open access and can be found below:

Also, be sure to check out a previous LSW Special Issue on badges - here!

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week, we have a bow-wearing beauty! Reader Kait S. is an absolute gem and shared her baby, Sadie with us. Sadie is clearly a stylish lady (and an A++ learner)!

Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why were including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But were banking on the baby schema effect and the power of Kawaii. So, send us your cute pet pics -- youre helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is written and edited by Katie Erhardt, Ph.D.

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