What Are Micro-credentials and Why Should Teachers Get Them?
February 18, 2018
Traditional professional development (PD) for educators usually involves single-day workshops or presentations in which teachers sit and listen to a stranger tell them what they should do in the classroom. This type of PD is expensive, and according to most research, ineffective (Darling-Hammond et al, 2009). Earning micro-credentials is a departure from this old-school model and holds great promise for teachers, coaches, and administrators. So, what exactly are micro-credentials and why should teachers be interested in earning them?
What Micro-credentials Are (and Are Not)
Micro-credentials are certifications for small increments of learning. They recognize the study and mastery of specific competencies. For educators, micro-credential content is usually related to curriculum, instruction, or assessment. For example, educators who work with PD Anywhere can earn micro-credentials in topics like Backwards Design Planning, Differentiating Instruction and Boosting Engagement Through Student Choice, or Easy and Effective Formative Assessment. Earning micro-credentials typically involves accessing content online, but good micro-credential programs are not just online learning. High quality micro-credential programs can also include:
- On-site PD
- Opportunities to collaborate with peers
- Observations, coaching and feedback
- Problem solving.
Effective micro-credentialing is also competency-based. This means that earning a micro-credential requires a demonstration that the learner has mastered the content—a departure from traditional PD that requires only that the educator stay awake in a PD session. This is one of the key characteristics that differentiates micro-credentials from other “sit and get” models of PD. Educators, like the students they teach, have to show that they learned something and that they know how to use that knowledge!
How Micro-credential Programs Work
The most effective PD models for school districts are not generic, but rather meet the district’s specific needs and personalize learning for participants. Identifying the needs of district personnel be accomplished by analyzing student data; surveying staff, parents, and community members; and reviewing current educational research. Once needs, topics, and strategies have been identified, districts need a program that has rigorous, user-friendly content supported by knowledgeable professionals. Some districts have chosen to create micro-credential programs for small groups like new teachers, instructional coaches, or administrative interns. Requirements for learners can also be tailored for specific groups and often include lesson plans, designs for differentiation, demonstration videos, student work samples, sample assessments, data analyses, presentations, and other products. Educators who demonstrate learning by meeting rigorous standards can earn their micro-credential quickly and those who do not get coaching, feedback, and additional support from both PD Anywhere and their district personal. Working with a micro-credential provider like PD Anywhere to create and coordinate a personalized comprehensive PD plan makes sense and gets results!
Finding Time for Micro-credentials
Time is always an issue for educators. They never have enough of it, whether it is time for classroom instruction or time for PD. So, when considering micro-credentials as a PD option, the obvious questions are, “When do I work on my micro-credential?” and “How do I complete a micro-credential without losing instructional time?” Fortunately, the format for micro-credentials ensures flexibility! The model recognizes that some educators have more prior knowledge than others and allows each educator to learn at his or her individual pace and at a time and place that is convenient.
While districts will set a completion date for micro-credentials, each learner is treated like a professional and can access, review, and master the content individually. Live chat rooms ensure that collaboration and discussion are possible for grade level or content area teams and PD Anywhere sets up private sites for each district or group. PD Anywhere can also invite participation and collaboration by posing weekly discussion questions. Evidence of learning requirements can be submitted for evaluation as learners complete them. Many school districts choose to provide additional PD time for their teachers and coaches during planning periods within the school day and others provide stipends as incentives for completion.
Do Micro-credentials Mean Anything to Anyone Other Than My Superintendent, My Principal, or Me?
While micro-credentials are relatively new to PD for educators, they already have value. The PD Anywhere platform, BloomBoard, has worked with several state departments of education to secure agreements related to continuing teacher education hours or credits. Educators in states with pre-approval can automatically convert micro-credential hours into PD continuing education hours. In other states not yet pre-approved, BloomBoard provides a certificate that can quickly and easily be emailed to your district’s human resources department as evidence of participation and completion of the micro-credential.
How to Get Started with Micro-credentials
Trying something new can be a little scary. When educators begin to reduce their dependence on ineffective old models of PD and start to engage with micro-credentials, there may feel intimidated or unsure of what to do and how to do it. PD Anywhere can provide the support needed to get your district or school micro-credential program off the ground. Working as partners, first steps include decisions on participants, topics, support components like coaching or problem solving, timelines, personalized content, and on-site follow up activities. Once learners are registered and online, PD Anywhere takes over. District administrators can access program analytics and PD Anywhere will maintain communication and support throughout the process.
Micro-credential content is varied and engaging. No more listen, read, and leave! Sources for micro-credentials include videos, articles, book excerpts, interviews, exemplars of lesson plans, and a variety of other materials. For those interested in deeper learning, research, position papers, and more in-depth online information is available. Learners move through the content at their own pace and make their own decisions about what to review, repeat, or highlight. Evidence that demonstrates competency is easy to submit and feedback and support are provided quickly so that educators can revise, adjust, and re-submit. Coaching and additional on-site PD are always options so that all educators demonstrate what they have learned and all educators succeed!
PD Anywhere provides not just sources but original content for our micro-credentials. A Strategy in Action Guide, which is a practical source of key information is provided for our micro-credentials and can either be downloaded and printed or accessed online.
Darling-Hammond, L., Chung Wei, R., Andree, A. & Richardson, N. (2009). Professional Learning in the learning profession: A status report on teacher development in the United States and abroad. Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council.