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Competence validation in cultural heritage projects – The project BADGES

Imagine a youngster or an adult visiting a museum (or a nature park, a historic site …) to watch, listen, act, participate and … learn.  If planned and delivered in a competence-oriented way, this is certainly a very concrete scenario of what most educational experts would call an important Lifelong Learning activity. It is practical, it creates curiosity, it relates not only to knowledge but also to development of skills, capabilities and also emotions, values and attitudes. It is highly contextualised, it is explorative and invites to share the own impressions and experiences with others.

Monumenti Aperti festival

Now imagine that this person - at the end of the visit, or back at home, gets the opportunity to give proof of what he/she learned and is awarded by a … digital badge.

Would you think this is a fitting environment for „validation“ of informally acquired competences?

In fact, learning at cultural heritage sites is rarely validated – probably because already the term „Validation“ inherits something very formal and standardised. It does not seem to correspond to „cultural experiences“ that a person experiences in his/her „leisure time“.

However, if we consider validation of informal learning also as a means to promote individual and lifelong learning in general, (formative) competence validation can also become an instrument to promote learning, to make visitors reflect on what they have learnt and eventually also to contribute to the competence portfolio of lifelong learners.

Having this idea in mind, a European consortium, coordinated by the County of Kassel (DE), has started a new Erasmus+ project: “BADGES for quality learning approaches and validation of non-formal learning in cultural/heritage contexts”. The BADGES project wants to install a European validation and award system by issuing electronic badges based on quality learning approaches and validation of non-formal learning in cultural / heritage contexts.

BADGES partners

By now, digital badges in cultural contexts are rather „unqualified“ online representations of achievements of various types of learning. The value and ‘weight’ of these ‘cultural badges’, is therefore variable and unstable since, in the present systems, there are hardly any standards set for the organisation issuing the badge, for the learning approaches in cultural settings nor for the quality of the validation processes of this learning.

However, BADGES does not seek to set up standardised learning outcomes like in formal learning- nevertheless it aims at a standardised procedure which promotes certain quality criteria while issuing badges. Instead of a badge which merely conveys the message “I was here” (issued based on the simple presence at the spot) the project is about to develop and pilot a badging system which relates to the competences of the individual – or in other words: what an individual knows, is able to do after the visit and how his/her attitudes have changed. Unlike in formal education validation in the cultural heritage sector should be more formative and give a feed-back on the learning process rather than on “performances” of the visitors.

The BADGES project started in Autumn 2017.

The results of the first European wide stocktaking phase carried out in the first quarter of the project reveal a high interest of cultural organisations in the theme and also a big curiosity. Badges are seen as a “modern” way to connect to the visitors, and they are considered innovative since they are issued based on digital media and platforms. Eventually they also have a potential to connect to other likeminded operators of cultural sites, which delivers a strong marketing argument among the community of organisations working in cultural heritage sector.

On the other side, nearly all respondents pointed out that learning and validation at cultural sites may by no way become “formal” – some even would completely avoid the word “learning” to keep the audience interested and not to raise the suspicion of being another “education institution”.

Based on these findings the BADGES development team has drawn the conclusion that the validation and badging approach needs to be interwoven with innovative and exciting didactic approaches and competence-oriented learning.

As if this conclusion would have needed a further vivid emphasis, the consortium was invited to visit Monumenti Aperti in May 2018– a large festival organised by the Italian partner Imago Mundi.

For the partners it became an unforgettable experience since Monumenti Aperti in its 20th year mobilised nearly 100.000 inhabitants of the regional capital Cagliari to participate as active visitors in the “open monuments”. Since 1997, founded by a small group of students, Monumenti Aperti has become a large-scale movement covering most villages on Sardegna with more than 350.000 visitors and 6.000 volunteers and a majority of schools and students who become the guides and patrons of their monuments.

Monumenti Aperti festival

With its unique approach Monumenti Aperti just won the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards - Europe’s top honour in the field.

We are proud that Imago Mundi is part of the consortium and plays an active part in the BADGES project.

What’s next?

At present the partnership designs potential cultural learning scenarios based on the extensive experiences of its members who all are long-term experts in designing cultural events, exhibitions, festivals and touristic networks. Based on the scenarios the consortium will develop a competence-oriented learning and validation system which includes the badging system. In a next step the approach will be piloted in a short-term learning event, evaluated, adapted and finally mainstreamed in the second project year.

Interested? You are warmly invited to get in contact with us.

Visit the BADGES website

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