Gamified PD?


File this one under “above my pay grade,” but this is an idea that I’ve been kicking around since August of last year. The concept is simple: over the summer, school administrators and the professional development team develops a comprehensive “menu” of possible PD opportunities, and on the first day back in August for teacher training days, the faculty is presented with a “choose your own adventure” style approach to yearlong professional development. Immediately, this design eradicates the idea of a compliance model PD — shifting instead to a personally driven model of growth and teacher improvement — and it helps teachers see tangible evidence of success as they’re becoming in-house “experts” with specific skills related to their field. As teachers collect badges, they can then be invited to share with their colleagues and peers to help eliminate this antiquated notion that professional development is just a “top-down” imposition where teachers are told how to do their jobs by overzealous PD professionals and out of touch administrators.

To set up this activity: Publish a simple Google Site with individual pages for each “track” of your PD menu, along with explanations and step-by-step instructions on how to earn each “badge” available in that track. Since each badge has a work product attached to it, teachers can see exactly what they’ll need to do to earn the badge of their choice. And since the entire model is asynchronous, teachers can “level up” their abilities in one of three super-speedy ways:

  • Have a 5 minute activity debrief meeting with PD coordinator or admin
  • Send an email with a link to the work product they’ve collected / created
  • Post a blog entry where they reflect on the menu option they completed

An example:


Track: Project Based Learning
Point Value: 3

Edcamps are “unconferences” where teachers get together to talk shop, share best practices, and brainstorm exciting ways that we can improve the craft of our professional practice. The Edcamper badge is awarded to any teacher who takes time out of their Saturday schedule to attend one of the many Edcamp events that are scheduled at neighboring schools and districts throughout the year (Note: teachers may earn this badge multiple times in a single school year). To view the complete schedule of Edcamps in our area, click here.

Proof of badge completion: take photos of your Edcamp experience, and provide a link to any resources or handouts provided. 

Let teachers pursue ANY menu options of their choice at ANY time, and have your admin / PD team keep a running tally (or “leaderboard”) of who’s working towards what badges throughout the year. Complete the requirements for a badge? Way to go! Check in with the PD team to log your progress and receive your badge. Then rinse and repeat the process and get back out there!

Some ideas:

  • Divide teachers into PLC teams (or by department) to give a friendly sense of competition between them as the year goes on.
  • Carve out 15-30 minutes from each regularly scheduled faculty meeting once a month for teacher teams to showcase and celebrate what they’ve learned.
  • Assign different “point values” to each available badge, such that easier tasks — like joining Twitter and taking part in a Twitter chat — are worth lower values (like 1 PD credit hour), while more ambitious projects (like visiting another school to spend a day observing) are worth more points accordingly.
  • Consider offering digital badges as collectible additions to teacher email signatures, or posting printed badge stickers on door signs so that colleagues can keep clear visual track of which educators are “leveling up” to become in-house experts in various skill sets.

Food for thought, anyway.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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