Improving Professional Learning for Educators Through Micro-Credentials


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This guest post comes from Jennifer Barnett, a services specialist at the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ). Views expressed in guest posts are those of the author.

Today, educators from all 50 states are taking steps toward earning one or more micro-credentials — having already earned more than 8,000 in the last three years. With more than 550 educator micro-credentials available on several platforms, enthusiasm for personalized, competency-based recognition has ticked up.

A Micro-Credential Refresher

Micro-credentials recognize discrete skills of educators, related to their practice, based on evidence that demonstrates competency of that specific skill. Educators select a skill, collect required evidence, upload and submit evidence, and share results. They’re not seat time-based or one size-fits-all, bound by availability, minimal in public value or limited in contextualized learning. Micro-credentials feature competency-based recognition, personalized choices, on-demand opportunities, job-embedded experiences and shareable currency.

The Appeal of Micro-Credentials

Teachers, principals and administrators like micro-credentials. While the value proposition varies among these groups, enthusiasm for micro-credentials is consistent, as shown in comments from educators from pilots CTQ supports in Tennessee, South Carolina and Arkansas:

Teachers: “Sit-and-get PD must go. I want to grow and improve my skills but in my classroom with my students.”

Principals: “I lack time and, sometimes, the expertise to help my teachers improve. Now, I have a resource that helps me do my job.”

Administrators: “Micro-credential data tells us who has proven expertise on a variety of skills. So often we made assumptions. Now, we can know.”

Yet, for states and districts eager to redesign learning systems to include educator micro-credentials, questions persist, such as:

  • Are micro-credentials worth it? Do they make a difference?
  • What’s the incentive? For teachers? For administrators? For a district or state?
  • How do we get started?

To support those exploring these questions and more, CTQ recently released a field-tested, user-approved strategy framework of micro-credential tools and resources. The framework draws on CTQ’s work as authors and issuers of micro-credentials for teacher leaders — figuring out answers to everything from platforms and reviewer training to planning and executing pilots — as well as the experiences of partners who’ve developed another 200 micro-credentials.

So no matter where you are in your process — curious about micro-credentials, planning a pilot or thinking about redesigning your system to integrate a more personalized approach — the framework can help.

Challenges and Implications

While micro-credentials make sense to educators, challenges still persist. For example, what is the currency, and how do states create it? A growing number of states offer continuing education credits or other forms of credit, and some universities offer graduate credit for micro-credential submissions. Some districts and states are also considering other incentives, such as financial compensation, re-licensure and licensure, pre-service credentialing and/or career pathways. But no coherent framework for valuing micro-credentials exists. Improving the assessment infrastructure, establishing financial feasibility and ensuring technical functionality continue to challenge the new ecosystem as well.

To make micro-credentials part of the professional development landscape, shifting policies in how educators use their time requires consideration. Educators need time and space to develop and practice competencies, as well as to collect and submit evidence of mastery. While educators are enthusiastic about micro-credentials, they wonder what is going to be taken off their workload so they may fully engage in this competency-based learning.

Getting Started

CTQ’s Micro-credential Strategy Framework guides leaders and their teams through the decisions and tasks associated with planning, launching and implementing a micro-credential pilot or initiative with educators. CTQ hosts a private, virtual community for leaders.

Micro-credentials offer a promising opportunity to improve professional learning for educators. Education leaders eager to spur improvements in how educators are supported are investigating this personalized, competency-based approach.

As you move forward, the staff at CTQ hopes to hear from you and include you in our network of leaders who are sharing strategies for improving professional learning.

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