Targeted Micro-Credentials Can Improve Professional Development for All Educators
May 30, 2018
Professional development can be uninteresting, irrelevant, and ineffective; or it can be exciting, meaningful, and impactful. The type of PD educators that experience depends on several factors, including the topics, mode of delivery, format, timing, level of interaction, and relevance.
There are many options that can work in a comprehensive PD plan, including large group trainings; small team collaboration; topic-specific conference sessions; coaching and feedback; or book studies. When district or campus teams work together to develop a professional development plan, micro-credentials as part of the overall plan can meet several specific needs. Micro-credentials can fill in the gaps and provide access to specific content, while giving learners the opportunity to learn and engage at their own pace. Here are some suggestions for how to use targeted micro-credentials in PD so that everyone benefits:
Target skills that everyone needs.
There are some skills that should be considered non-negotiable. For example, many districts and campuses require teachers to understand and use formative assessments on a regular basis. Formative assessment is a proven strategy for assessing student learning and making quick adjustments to instruction. All teachers and coaches should be able to demonstrate formative assessment strategies and show how the results positively impact instruction. Requiring everyone to earn a formative assessment micro-credential ensures consistency and promotes equity.
Target skills that only some people need.
There are specific groups of individuals who can benefit from self-paced, online learning that targets skills other educators have already mastered. Examples of these groups include brand new, inexperienced teachers; teachers new to a district; and educators who have changed campuses or positions like instructional coaches who have moved from the classroom to a coaching position. Topics relevant to specific educators can include effective lesson design or building teacher-student relationships. Micro-credentials are flexible, and learning can take place anywhere and any time.
Use micro-credentials for skills that require repeated review and practice.
There are some education competencies that are essential but difficult for individuals to master. While teachers or coaches may know what to do, they may not have internalized the concept or practiced enough to implement some practices consistently and automatically. For example, training in team collaboration has been provided to many educators in many formats. However, there are lots of grade level or content area teams that still struggle with effective common planning. Micro-credentials that are competency-based can require learners to demonstrate their teamwork skills by creating a video of their team in action.
Use micro-credentials to personalize learning.
When campuses or districts want to personalize learning for their educators, micro-credentials can be a great vehicle. For example, allowing teachers of students with disabilities or educators who work with gifted and talented students to master new differentiation strategies, co-teaching processes, or collaborative planning can enhance their skills and build their confidence. Many educators take pride in being life-long learners. Giving these professionals choices and supporting their initiatives in becoming master teachers helps everyone!
Use micro-credentials for administrators, not just teachers.
Education leaders have limited time to pursue professional development but that doesn’t mean it is no less important for them than for teachers and coaches. Topics that interest administrators might include effective communication, team leadership, coaching skills, and scheduling. The self-paced nature of micro-credentials is a real advantage for busy leaders. It is also helpful to administrators to participate in or monitor the micro-credential learning of others, even if they do not complete the same requirements.
Use micro-credentials for follow-up.
After large group, single-day trainings, educators are often energetic, excited, and enthusiastic. However, once they return to their campuses, people don’t know where or how to start. While educators want to implement new practices, they may need additional information, support, and detailed processes to make the changes they envision. Micro-credentials can be the bridge between the “big picture” and the “daily details.” Because they are competency-based and cost effective, micro-credentials are a good fit for follow-up and can integrate district-specific information to maximize relevance.