Responsibility Badges in Physical Education

For the past few weeks, I have been working on a behaviour management system that I am calling the Responsibility Badges in Physical Education.

The idea behind this system comes from three separate sources:

The first comes from a mobile/social game called Foursquare that I play on my phone. Foursquare uses the GPS in your phone to identify where you are and allows to to “Check In” to that place. In return for your check in, Foursquare rewards you with points and the occasional badge. When you unlock a badge, the game sends you a notification and adds that badge to your profile. Stupid though it may sound, its enough reinforcement to make me want to check in to every venue I go to in the hopes of moving up the leaderboard and unlocking these ever-elusive badges.

The second source comes from a blog post by an Australian teacher named Brendan Jones (or @jonesytheteachr on Twitter). Brendan has done some work with gamification in education (the concept of turning educational elements into a game so as to increase student motivation) and created an achievement-based system. Basically, students were presented with an achievement progression path that was broken down into various levels. Each level contained a certain amount of reward badges that could be unlocked only if the student exhibited a certain set of behaviours (e.g. The Chameleon badge was unlocked if a student changed into their PE clothes 5 classes in a row).

Finally, the third source behind this idea of mine comes from the work I did with Hellison’s Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility educational model while teaching at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute. As part of a Special Topics practicum, our team used physical activity sessions to help children diagnosed with ADHD learn important concepts such as responsibility, respect, and self-control. Although the model we applied in those sessions was a variation of Hellison’s original model, I still had a chance to familiarize myself with his work through my class readings. In a nutshell, Hellison combines awareness talks, along with the dynamic nature of physical activity settings, group discussion time, and individual reflection time to provide students with situations through which they can develop a sense of responsibility. Hellison’s model outlines different “levels of responsibility” through which students can progress. These levels are:

  1. Respect
  2. Participation
  3. Self-Direction
  4. Caring
  5. Outside the gym

Level 1 (Respect) involves respect for the rights and feelings of others and has three related components: self-control, the right to peaceful conflict resolution, and everyone’s right to be included.

Level 2 (Participation) is there to help students get to experience program content in a positive way. Level 2 is composed of self-motivation, the importance of experimentation, and the courage to persist.

Level 3 (Self-Direction) promotes a “complimentarity of excellences” (Norton, 1976), which means treating each student’s self-directed goal as equal instead of deciding that one is better than another based on its popularity in society. Level 3 involves on-task independence (i.e. students working without supervision), goal-setting progressions, and working towards an understanding of one’s needs.

Level 4 (Caring) puts an emphasis on sensitivity and compassion. Key elements include interpersonal skills and contributions to society.

Level 5 involves taking the 4 previous levels and applying them outside of the program (or, in my case, my gym). At level 5, students are working on being able to transfer what they’ve discovered in your gym to the reality of their life outside of your PE program.

Ok, longest intro ever.

My idea for all this is to create an achievement-based system that will involve badges and levels. The levels will basically map all five of those outlined in Hellison’s model. Each level will contain a set of badges that students can unlock by demonstrating certain behaviours. When a student unlocks a certain badge, they receive an email notification from the teacher (or, for elementary students, their parents will) explaining which badge they unlocked, how they did so, and showing what other badges they’ve unlocked in the past or could unlock soon.

Email Mockup

Example of an Email Template

Once a student has unlocked enough level 1 badges (say 5), they may start to unlock level 2 badges. They may continue to progress up these levels doing so. Basically this turns Hellison’s levels into a game: the children think they are just unlocking badges and levelling up, but they’re actually allowing me to track their behaviour and progress in the class.

To be honest, the Responsibility Badges are a work in progress. I created a Google Doc to be used as a common brainstorming document (you can find the doc here) and a few #PEGeeks have already started adding to it.

I have also created a Responsibility Badges division in our Resources section and have started uploading Badges and support documents there.

Hopefully, and with your help, we’ll be able to turn this system into something teachers want to use and something that students love.

So what do you think? Is this something you would consider using? Are there modifications you would make to the system? I would love some feedback on this, so please leave and idea/opinion/thought in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!


Joey Feith is the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com. Having taught elementary physical education for 10 years, Joey is now focused on helping physical educators grow their confidence and competence as teachers.